Everything I Know About Cooking Rice I Learned from Alton Brown

updated May 8, 2020
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Despite my two years of culinary school, I spent most of my young adult years eating poorly cooked rice. I burned rice, overcooked it into paste, and, in the case of almost every pot of brown rice, undercooked each grain in a way that could not be fixed. Then I went to work for Alton Brown.

My first week on the job, I had to cook brown rice for the Good Eats crew lunch and someone on the team suggested Alton’s baked brown rice recipe for ease. Despite my nerves (and what I believed to be cursed rice-cooking for life), the rice came out perfectly — tender, fluffy separate grains with less water. Alton’s secret for better rice? Start the rice with boiling water.

Alton Brown’s Smart Trick for Cooking Rice Faster

Most recipes for plain white or brown rice call for you to bring the water to a boil, add the rice, and then reduce the heat and cook the rice until the water is absorbed. Some methods call for cooking the rice like pasta, boiling and then draining for heartier brown rice grains. Both Alton’s Baked Brown Rice and Rice in a Rush call for the opposite: boiling the water first and then adding it to the rice in its pot or pan. This cuts down on the water called for and reduces the cooking time for some rice varieties in half. Both of Brown’s methods that start with boiling the water produce buttery, fragrant, and fluffy rice with less fuss.

In the case of Alton’s Baked Brown Rice, the boiling water is added to a baking dish of uncooked rice that is then covered and baked. The resulting rice is perfectly plump and tender without having to tend to stovetop cooking or draining it (like pasta) after cooking. I’ve scaled this recipe up for meal prep and cooked it in everything from commercial test kitchens to minimal vacation rentals.

Alton’s Rice in a Rush is the real showstopper, though — a recipe I recommend to anyone who thinks they can’t cook rice, because it never fails. While the water for the rice boils, you sauté the uncooked rice in a little oil. You add the boiling water to the hot rice, much sputtering ensues, and then you clamp the lid on and the rice cooks expertly in less time than traditional stovetop methods!

More Ingenious Tips from Alton Brown

You can watch Alton make his Rice in a Rush on a recent YouTube episode of his Pantry Raid Series.