Cooking Rice: Do You Use the First Knuckle Method?

updated Sep 2, 2022
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(Image credit: Dana Velden)

A friend reminded me yesterday of an old trick used to get the correct water-to-grain ratio when cooking rice. It’s simple: pour the rice into the pan you’re going to cook it in. Level it out and place your index finger so that it is touching the surface of the rice. Add enough water so that it comes up to your first knuckle — I usually use the crease on the palm-side of my finger. Do you use this method?

I don’t know the origins of the first knuckle method but I suspect it’s ancient, probably from China where it is believed rice was first cultivated. People have been cooking rice for several thousands of years, long before cup measurements and electric rice cookers were available, so no doubt something as practical as using one’s first knuckle was the preferred method.

I know that people are different sizes and one person’s first knuckle is a different measurement than another’s, so it’s a little puzzling how this can be a universal method. Yet I know it works for me and my considerable shorter/smaller friend and her 6-foot tall husband. Bottom line, it works!

I’ve also seen a variation on this where the rice is poured to your first knuckle and the water to your second. In some ways, this makes more sense to me because it’s about the ratio of water to rice which is more important that measurements.

Do you use the first knuckle method?