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Boiled or Steamed Rice, How to cook it perfectly?
Uble Chawal

Mamta Gupta

Rice is eaten boiled for everyday Indian meals. It is one of the dishes that I get asked about most in my mail box. Many different types of rice are available in India, but Basmati is perhaps the best known one, at least in North India. Previous year’s rice is better than the ‘new’ rice. It is more expensive to buy than the new rice. My mum always saves some of the previous year’s rice for cooking on special occasions.

It is difficult to generalise cooking different varieties of rice. The method below is best for basmati or other long grain rice. Brown rice needs more water and longer cooking times. Serves 4

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2 cups Basmati rice, approximately 1/3 cup or 60-70 gm. rice per person.
3 1/2 to 4 cups water (1 3/4 cup water for each cup of rice). Less water is needed if you have soaked the rice in advance, only 1 1/2 cups water per cup of rice. Thicker grains of rice need slightly more water, follow instructions on the packet.


1.Clean, wash the rice gently in cold water, until water runs clean. This is to remove excess starch, so the end result is not sticky. Soaking it for 30 minutes or so makes it longer and fluffier.
2.Now strain in a wire strainer or sieve, to remove all water. If it is not drained fully after soaking for 20-30 minutes, you have to reduce the amount of water in boiling, or you end up having too much water and soggy rice.
3.Absorption Method:
4.Measure and boil water in a flat bottomed pan that has a tight fitting lid. If you don’t want to measure the rice, you can have roughly 1 1/2-2 finger’s width of water above the level of rice. Adding salt or oil to water is not generally practiced in Northern India.
5.Add rice and bring to boil. After about 20 seconds of brisk boiling/bubbling, close the lid and reduce heat to minimum. Lid should be tight fitting.
6.Cook for 10-15 minutes, on minimum heat, until all water is absorbed. If you have an electric hob where it is difficult to reduce heat instantly, it is a good idea to have another hob on at minimum, and simply transfer the pan to this hob at this stage. Do not keep opening the lid, keep peeking to nil or a minimum.
7.Open the lid slightly at the end of the boiling time and pick up a couple of grains of rice. To check if it is ready, squeeze the picked grains of rice between your forefinger and thumb, no ‘grit’ should be felt. Some cooks prefer to leave one ‘grit’ when they turn the heat off, to give ‘al dente’ rice. If it has 2-3 ‘grits and feels undercooked, sprinkle a little water on top, close the lid and cook for further 5 minutes.
8.Allow to ‘rest’ or ‘stand’ for a 5-10 minutes. This makes sure that all the rice is evenly cooked.
9.Lightly fluff up with a fork and serve hot with dal or a meat/chicken/fish/vegetable curry.
10.Pasta Method, boil rice in a lot of water: If you want to reduce the carbohydrate content of the rice, boil 1 cup rice in approximately 5 cups of boiling water. Bring to boil and continue to boil briskly for 6-7 minutes, until rice is nearly cooked or one 'grit' is left.
11.Drain off all the water completely through a strainer.
12.Transfer rice to serving bowl and cover with a lid. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Indians do not run cold water on cooked rice, as it is almost always served immediately, fresh and hot. However, this is a good thing to do, if you are going to use the rice for a stir-fry, which requires cold rice.
13.Microwave Method:
14.Place 1 cup of washed rice with 2 cups of cold water in a large microwave pan. Close the lid (or cover with a microwave suitable cling film, with 1-2 holes pierced for steam to escape). Cook on maximum (800-1000) for 6 minutes.
15.Open and stir the rice with a fork.
16.Cook for another 6 minutes on full.
17.Allow to rest for 5 minutes, then fluff it up and serve.
18.Pressure Cooker Method; Indians of often cook rice in a pressure cooker. You need to add less water, 1 1/4 cup water to 1 cup of washed and drained rice. Place rice and boiling water in the pressure cooker. Close the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes under full pressure. Cool down the pressure cooker quickly by placing it under running water, ensuring that water is falling away from the steam vent. If you don’t cool it quickly, rice will continue cooking and will get mushy.
19.You can cook another way in pressure cooker; boil 1 cup water in the pressure cooker. Place the ‘trivet’ in and then 1 cup rice and 1 3/4 cups water in a metal bowl on top of the trivet. Cover. Bring cooker to full pressure and then reduce heat to minimum. Cook for 4 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to cool. Open the lid and take the rice bowl out. Fluff up rice with a fork and serve.
20.Oven Cooked Rice; this is not a method I use myself very often, it just takes too long, but rice can be cooked in an oven, if you wish.
21.Preheat oven to 180-200°C, 370-400°F. Wash and drain the basmati rice. Place in an oven suitable container. Add 1 3/4 cups boiling water to 1 cup rice, cover and cook 35-40 minutes in the centre of the oven. The pan should have a tight fitting lid, or your oven will get covered in boiled over rice water.
22.Rice Cooker: Cook as per instructions of your rice cooker. Then switch it off just before it is ready. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. If you leave the cooker on, the rice becomes over cooked and sticky, especially towards the bottom, close to the heat source.


If using other varieties of rice, follow instructions on the packet. Short to medium grain rice take longer to cook and brown rice still longer. Wild rice needs to be cooked for upto 20 minutes or even longer.
Adding a teaspoon of oil to boiling water helps to keep the grains separate, but this not a common practice amongst most Indians.
You can flavour the water with stock, salt, saffron, cardamoms and even herbs. Again, this is not a common practice in Indian households.
Boiled Rice as a Dessert:
Freshly boiled, steaming rice tastes very good eaten with a knob of butter/ghee and a good sprinkling of any brown or muscovado type of sugar or 'boora', the Indian raw sugar. They melt and seep into the rice and taste delicious! Serve it at the end of a meal. This is quite popular in North India, specially amongst children.
Boiled rice with natural yoghurt, sugar and a pinch of salt(dahi):
This combination is very soothing to an upset stomach and easy to digest and it replaces some of the electrolytes. We Indians use it all the time. Travellers to India, remember it!
What to do if your rice doesn’t come out perfect?
If it has ‘caught’ or burnt at the bottom; Sit the pan in a sink of cold water. This will stop the rice cooking further. Then gently lift out the rice from the top, leaving the burnt bit behind. Taste before serving, to make sure that it doesn’t have the ‘burnt’ smell.
Rice is undercooked and grainy; Sprinkle 2 tbs. water on top, cover and cook on minimum heat for another 5-6 minutes.
Rice is beginning to get too soggy; Take the lid of and let it sit on minimum heat for a few minutes. Do not stir or it will break and become gooey! Alternatively, use it to make rice pudding, but only if you have not salted it first.

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