What is the Knuckle Trick for Cooking Rice? And Does it Work?

updated Sep 2, 2022
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A pot of cooked white jasmine rice.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: James Park

Cooking rice on the stovetop isn’t always straightforward. The cook times, heat levels, and most crucially, liquid amounts can vary from recipe to recipe. It can seem like everyone has their own opinion on the perfect ratio of liquid to rice. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a rule of thumb you could rely on to get the correct liquid-to-grain ratio when cooking rice? Enter: the knuckle trick.

Quick Overview

What is The Knuckle Trick for 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.

A Note on Hand Sizes

People are different sizes and one person’s first knuckle is likely a different measurement than another’s, so it’s a little puzzling how this can be a universal method. However, it seems to work well for lots of different people, no matter the size of their hands. I know it works for me and my considerable shorter/smaller friend and her 6-foot tall husband.

(Image credit: Dana Velden)

Knuckle Trick Variations

I’ve seen a few different variations of the knuckle trick. One calls to pour the rice 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 than specific measurements. There’s another variation that gets even more specific. You start with 2 cups of rice, then pour water up to the second knuckle.

Have you ever tried the knuckle trick? Is there a different version that you swear by? Shout out in the comments!

More Ways to Cook Rice

If stovetop cooking is not your method of choice, try one of these other ways to make a batch of rice.