Tired of burnt rice? Mushy rice? Undercooked rice? Cooking rice seems simple enough, but a lot can go wrong! That may sound like the prelude to an infomercial, but it’s true! While Sarah’s already published her method for cooking rice without a rice cooker, I’ll teach you what I think is an even more foolproof method…how to steam rice!
Steaming Rice: A Lesson Learned Early
Believe it or not, I grew up on undercooked and burnt rice. I’d almost forgotten about such childhood details, but thanks to this blog, all these little pieces of memory are re-surfacing.
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We cooked our rice on an old-fashioned Chinese brick stove, fueled from below with dried cotton plants or loose sticks I picked up on the way home. It was very difficult to regulate heat-the knobs on my stove now work much better!
I learned to cook rice by steaming when I was in middle school in Shanghai. During the winter months, kids were allowed to stay at school for lunch. We didn’t have PB&J or bologna sandwiches. Instead, we would bring metal lunch boxes with rice and leftovers.
Like many kids, I would bring uncooked rice to school, in a rectangular aluminum lunch box with a lid. We’d wash the rice, add in the right amount of water, cover, and place it in a huge bamboo steamer together with everyone else’s lunch boxes, stacked high.
After cooking, the lunchboxes were piled high on a huge table. At lunchtime, everyone would rush to the cafeteria to claim their box of rice. Though the leftovers you brought were served cold, the rice was piping hot!
That was some of the best rice I had, because my grandmother’s rice was always kind of mushy and soft. At school, I experimented on my own with reducing the amount of water in my rice so I would get perfectly cooked individual rice kernels. That’s how I prefer my rice to this day!
Why Steam Rice?
I know many of our readers probably have a rice cooker at home, which is also how we cook our rice most days. However, this method is perfect for:
- Anyone who does not own a rice cooker, whether you don’t make rice often enough to justify the purchase, or you simply don’t want another countertop appliance!
- If you do happen to have a rice cooker, but the power goes out and you need a method of cooking rice on the stove (and you have a gas stove).
- If you’re cooking while on the road, camping, or otherwise traveling. (Though I do know some Chinese folks who travel with a rice cooker!)
- Cooking rice in small batches if you’d like to cook 1-2 servings and don’t like to deal with leftovers.
- If you’d like to reduce the number of dishes you have to wash! You can steam individual bowls of rice, like I did with the serving below!
Ways to Make Steamed Rice More Interesting!
If you’d like to jazz up the rice you’re making, here are some everyday ideas to try:
- Replace water with tea or coconut milk for extra fragrance and flavor.
- Use chicken stock, pork stock, vegetable stock, or mushroom stock for more umami.
- Add salt and a splash of oil in addition to water.
- Add fried onions, tomato, spices, or other flavor agents according to the cuisine you’re preparing.
Note: I used a metal multi-tiered steamer for this, but you can also use a bamboo steamer, or even a makeshift steaming method. Learn more in Sarah’s post on how to steam food.
How to Steam Rice On the Stove: Instructions
Note that the rice to water ratio should be: 1 (rice) : 1.3 (water). You can make it 1:1.5 if you like your rice soft. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the rice texture they like! Also, if you’re making short grain rice, you can reduce the ratio to 1:1.1.
Pre-soak your rice for at least 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a shallow, heat-proof container that will fit in your steamer, and add the water to the rice.
Place in a steamer filled with cold water (the water should not be boiling when the rice is placed into the steamer).
Turn on the heat to high, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the steamer with the lid on for at least 5 more minutes. You can also keep it in there to stay warm until you’re ready to serve.