Step-By-Step Guide to Cooking Rice Perfectly

Photo courtesy of Conde Nast Digital ArchivePhoto courtesy of Conde Nast Digital ArchiveBy Danielle Walsh , Bon Appétit

This past month, cooking grains has been our jam. Oddly enough, one of the most common grains--rice--is the trickiest to get right. Knowing this, our test kitchen set out to find a master recipe: We made nearly a dozen pots of long-grain white rice in different ways for a side-by-side comparison. Here were the variables we played with:

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1. Rice to liquid ratio

With one cup of long-grain rice, we tried 1 cup of water, 1 1/4 cups water, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 3/4 cups water.

2. How much salt
We tried 1/8 tsp, 1/4 tsp, and 1/2 tsp. of salt.

3. Stirring or no stirring
We tried both.

4. Fat or no fat

Before adding them to the liquid, we toasted kernels in oil, and we toasted kernels in butter.

5. Cooking time and steaming time

We cooked pots between 15 and 20 minutes and experimented with steaming the rice between 5 and 15 minutes.

Of course, in this cruel world, the rice that was toasted in butter tasted the best by itself. But ultimately, we wanted a basic recipe that could act as a foundation for flavor. We were looking for fluffiness, and for kernels that didn't clump together but had a satisfying texture.

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In the end:
No stirring (it awakens the sticky starch). A little salt to elevate the flavor. Less water than you might think. And a little nifty trick with a dish towel under the lid as the rice steams to stop excess liquid from dripping back onto the rice. And our test kitchen didn't mind experimenting, either. "Sometimes you need to do a deep dive into a singular subject as a reminder that simple is never simple," said food editor Hunter Lewis. "It was a fun problem to solve."

The Perfect Pot of Rice (Makes 3 cups)
Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen
June 2012

1 cup long-grain white rice (not parboiled, converted, or quick-cooking)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine rice, salt, and 1 1/4 cups water in a 2-3-qt. heavy saucepan. Swirl pan to combine-do not stir. Bring rice-and-water mixture to a boil. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low, aiming for the barest simmer. Cook, without uncover-ing pot, for 18 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Uncover; place a kitchen towel over pan to keep moisture from dripping onto rice. Cover tightly with lid. Let rice stand, covered, for 10-15 minutes to firm up.

Remove lid and fluff cooked rice with a fork, then serve immediately or chill. This separated rice is just right for use in grain salads.

Hungry for More? If you have a question about this recipe, contact our Test Kitchen at To see more recipes like this one, check out more Rice Recipes.

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