In which I answer a leftover question from a previous week’s chat:
I’m trying to prep further in advance, so I made brown rice for a set of lunches this week. I don’t have a rice cooker, so I followed the instructions on the bag, and my rice came out mushy, soggy and a little bit sticky. I let the rice soak for 30 minutes, drained it, cooked it on low heat for 50 minutes and then let it sit for 10 before putting it in my container (which is what the instructions stated). What did I do wrong and what I can do to fix it next time? Or would it be easier for me to just get a rice cooker?
Sure, you could get a rice cooker, but why spend the money? I’m going to tell you about a foolproof technique that has won a lot of fans.
But first, let’s talk about your mushy rice.
You followed the package directions for cooking, which is a good thing to do. But I’m wondering about the aftermath. Once the rice sat in the covered pan for 10 minutes, did you put it into your container and close it up? Your rice — still very hot at that point — would have stayed hot and steamy for a while, and if you then put it in a large, closed, airtight container, that could very well account for the mush you ended up with.
Next time, try this: After the 10 minutes, empty the rice into a few shallow containers, let them hang out on the countertop for a few minutes, and then put them in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the rice is cold. (You could put the containers directly in the refrigerator, but because they’re so hot, that might adversely affect the other foods in there.) Then you can transfer them to your container and close it up for storage.
But wait! Many folks, me included, have grown fond of a different way of cooking rice: treating it like pasta. In other words, instead of following the traditional ratio of rice to water, you boil up a big pot of water, as you would for pasta; cook the rice until almost done; pour it into a strainer to drain out the water; then return the rice to the hot pan, cover it and let it steam (off heat) for a while. I’m telling you, it’s foolproof. It works for white and brown rice.
You’ll find everything you need to know in this article in Saveur. Click on the link for a clear explanation of what is really a very simple method. Try it, and see whether your brown rice isn’t perfect from now on. And to put it to good use, plan to put Ellie Krieger’s Vegetable Fried Rice into your lunch rotation.
While you’re waiting for the water to boil, don’t forget to check out this week’s Free Range chat, undoubtedly the world’s best regularly scheduled live food chat (and possibly the only one). Today’s special guests: cookbook authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, who wrote this week about adapting recipes for different cooking devices, including the hot new Instant Pot. Also up for discussion: Tim Carman’s story about how some local restaurants are expressing their political opinions during the run-up to the presidential inauguration. And you can check the progress of the WaPo 5 Diets Project: Five staff members, five different diets, one month to see how well each one works.
It all starts at noon and lasts for just one hour. See you there.