If brown rice is your nemesis, there is one method I think you'll agree is a winner: cooking brown rice in the oven. We're so used to cooking rice on the stovetop that I know sticking it in the oven can sound a little odd, but I swear by this method. It takes a little more time, but you can make a larger batch, and the even, steady heat of the oven works magic on stubborn grains of brown rice. Here's what to do.
Cooking Rice in the Oven
This method has had many champions over the years, from America's Test Kitchen to Alton Brown, and I am happy to add my name to the list. Brown rice cooked on the stovetop is perfectly fine for a weeknight side dish or some burritos, but when I really want fluffy, distinct grains for something like a salad or a rice bowl, I turn to the oven.
The oven gives the rice even, steady heat on all sides as it cooks, and the foil wrapped over the baking dish traps in all the steam. Combined, this means the rice cooks at the same rate on all sides without risk of scorching. I have also rarely ever wound up with gummy brown rice with this method — oven-baking feels like rice-cooking magic.
Improving a Classic
There's not much here to improve on the basic technique, but there is one little change I've made over my years of following this method: Instead of melting butter with the water and then pouring it over the rice, as Alton Brown does, I use oil instead and just stir it right into the rice before adding the boiling water. It's one less dirty dish, and I like that all the grains get evenly coated with fat. (If you prefer butter, just melt it in the microwave first and then stir it into the rice.)
If you're making your rice in a dish that can go on the stovetop, like a Dutch oven, it's also nice to toast your rice in the oil for a few minutes before adding the water and baking. It gives the rice a deeper, more toasted flavor. You can also add some chopped onions or garlic to make this more of a pilaf.
Heat the oven to 375°F: Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Pour the rice into the baking dish.
How To Make Brown Rice in the Oven
Makes about 4 cups
What You Need
1 1/2 cups medium-grain or long-grain brown rice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups water
8-inch x 8-inch baking dish, or similar-sized pan
Small saucepan or tea kettle
Clean dish towel
Heat the oven to 375°F: Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
Prepare the rice: Pour the rice into the baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil or melted butter over top, and sprinkle with salt. Stir with a spatula until the rice is evenly coated with oil.
Boil the water: Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan or tea kettle.
Pour the boiling water over the rice: Do this carefully to avoid splashing or burning yourself on the steam. Stir the rice once to mix, and then spread it into an even layer with a spatula.
Cover tightly with foil: Make sure the foil forms a tight seal around the pan; use two overlapping sheets of foil if necessary. If your pan has a heavy lid, put that on top as well.
Bake for 1 hour: Carefully transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 1 hour.
Fluff with a fork: Remove the foil (be careful of the escaping steam), and fluff the rice with a fork.
Cover and steam the rice for 5 minutes: Cover the rice with a clean dishtowel and let stand for 5 minutes. This helps prevent the rice from being mushy.
Serve the rice: Serve the rice right away. Leftovers can be kept for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Freeze leftover rice: If you have leftover rice, transfer it to freezer containers and freeze it for up to three months. See how: How To Freeze Cooked Brown Rice.
(Image credits: Christine Han)