Growing up in Thailand, I ate rice every day of my life; it's an essential component to any multi-dish Thai meal. Cooking rice was as natural as breathing, and part of our daily routine—rinse the rice, add water until it reaches the appropriate line, click the “cook” button, and done! Yes, like most Asians, I grew up using a rice cooker, which turns out perfectly steamed rice every time. So the first time I left Thailand and had to cook rice on the stovetop, I was completely lost. But this forced me to think about what the rice cooker is actually doing, and how to get the same result without one.
First, let me tell you that a rice cooker isn't performing any culinary magic, it just knows when to turn itself off once rice is done cooking. But how does it know? It’s simple, yet brilliant: Even the most basic models of rice cookers are outfitted with a thermostat that switches off or lowers the intensity of the unit's heating element once the internal temperature of the cooking chamber rises above 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). As we know, that temperature is the boiling point of water at sea level. The heating element kicks on when you start the rice cooker, eventually bringing the liquid in the pot to a boil. This temperature is maintained until all of the liquid in the rice cooker has been absorbed by the rice or evaporated in the form of steam. With no more water to boil, the internal temperature of the rice cooker spikes, triggering the thermostat's shutoff feature. Pretty simple! (Unless you live at high altitude, in which case you need to do some more tinkering to compensate for the lower boiling point of water.)
Cooking jasmine rice on a stovetop is also very simple; it just requires a little more attention on your part. Once you understand the keys to making good rice, with a little practice, you, too, can turn out perfectly cooked batches of rice that can rival the results of a rice cooker.
When purchasing jasmine rice, look for jasmine rice from Thailand, which should be labeled “hom mali” rice; you should also look out for "new crop" rice, which is fresher, fluffier, and more fragrant than rice that has been aged for a longer period of time. This recipe can easily be scaled up by following the same ratio of rice to measured water.
Here are the three keys to making perfect stovetop jasmine rice:
Use the Right Amount of Water
The ratio of water to rice is the single most important factor for producing well-cooked rice. For jasmine rice, the ratio of 1 part rice to 1.25 parts water (by volume) is a good place to start, and you can adjust from there. If making fried rice using a batch of freshly cooked rice, adjust the ratio to 1:1 for slightly drier grains. And use a ratio of 1:1.5 for brown jasmine rice, which requires a longer cooking time.
Rinse the Rice to Remove Excess Starch
Rinsing rice in cool water before cooking helps to remove excess starch that’s left on the surface of the grains by the milling process. The starch makes the cooked rice gummy and sticky, not the desired texture for cooked jasmine rice. For best results, rinse uncooked rice in a large container of cool water, swishing the grains around by hand to release excess starch, and repeat the process at least once more. For plain cooked jasmine rice, two rinse cycles should be sufficient, but for fried rice we recommend washing the rice until the water runs clear, which will ensure they cook into individually distinct grains.
Cook Low and Slow
Cook rice on low heat for even doneness, and to give yourself a bigger margin of error. With high heat, the exterior of the grains can overcook by the time the inside is cooked through. It can also cause too much water evaporation, if your pot doesn't have a tight-fitting lid. Finally, low heat cooking provides a big window of time between “done” and “burnt.” We’ve all been there: You turn away from the stove for a minute to work on another component of a meal and the next thing you know you’re smelling something toasty!
Why It Works
- Rinsing the rice before cooking gets rid of excess starch, which would make the rice gummy and sticky when cooked.
- Cooking the rice gently over low heat ensures evenly cooked grains, and prevents excessive water evaporation.
- Fluffing the rice as soon as it's done cooking keeps the grains separate and fluffy; failure to do so will result in the rice compacting as it cools.
- Yield:Makes about 3 cups. Serves 4
- Active time: 5 minutes
- Total time:25 minutes
- 1 cup (185g) Thai jasmine rice (see note)
- 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
Place rice in a large bowl and cover by 2 inches with cool water. Using your hands, vigorously swish rice in the water until water turns cloudy, about 30 seconds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, drain the rice, discarding the cloudy soaking water. Refill the bowl with cool water, and repeat rinsing and draining process. Transfer drained rice along with 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water to a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid; a glass lid will help you visually monitor progress of rice as it cooks.
If cooking rice in a saucepan with a glass lid, bring to a simmer, covered, over low heat, and cook until rice is tender and no water remains in saucepan, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce heat to low, and cook until rice is tender and no water remains in saucepan, about 20 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a rubber spatula against the side of the pot and pushing the rice aside to see whether there’s any water left at the bottom of the saucepan. If the bottom is dry, but the rice still looks a bit wet, remove saucepan from heat and let rice rest, covered, until lingering moisture has been absorbed by rice, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste, and if you prefer a softer texture, sprinkle 2 tablespoons (30ml) water over rice, cover, and cook over low heat, checking occasionally to make sure rice at bottom of saucepan doesn't scorch, until it reaches preferred level of doneness, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Once rice is cooked, fluff gently with a rubber spatula or fork to separate grains, and cover to keep warm until serving. Serve. Leftover rice can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.