Knowing how to cook a good pot of brown rice is an essential kitchen skill. I'm talking about tender, chewy brown rice that goes equally well with a quick stir-fry as it does with slices of roasted chicken. Forget the crunchy or mushy stuff that you may have suffered through in the past — we've got our method locked down. It's time to discover how great brown rice can be.
Which Brown Rice to Buy
Look for medium- or long-grain brown rice. (Short-grain brown rice cooks slightly differently, so skip it for this method.)
Uncooked brown rice can be stored in the cupboard, but is best used within a few months of purchasing. If you don't cook with brown rice very often, storing it in the fridge will help keep it fresh for longer. If you have an open bag of rice, or if you bought your rice from a bulk bin, transfer it to an airtight container for storing.
If you've had some brown rice sitting in the back of your cupboard for more than a year, it's probably best to toss it and pick up a fresh bag. The oils in the rice go rancid over time and can make the rice taste overly bitter and unpalatable.
Rinse and Toast for Better Brown Rice
Rinsing your rice before cooking it washes away any grit or dust that may have gotten mixed in during production. I also find that rinsing helps improve the texture of the rice; it's less crucial than rinsing white rice, but still helps to make each grain distinct.
Toasting the rice won't change its texture, but it gives the rice a more deeply nutty, toasted flavor. Just sauté the rice in a little olive oil before adding the water, and stir until the rice smells fragrant and you can see a touch of golden color here and there. This is a totally optional step, but if the earthy flavor of brown rice is what has kept you from eating it in the past, then you might find that you like brown rice better after toasting.
Don't Skip The Resting Step
And finally, after cooking, let your rice rest off the heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes. This pause before serving helps the rice absorb the last of the moisture in the pot. If you skip it, the rice can be a little sticky and gummy when scooping it from the pot instead of light and fluffy.
Ways to Enjoy Brown Rice
Brown rice is truly a kitchen staple — willing and able to be used in all sorts of ways. It's a side dish on its own, the base of a grain bowl or an easy lunch salad, a filling for burritos, or the start of a casserole. I often make a double batch for dinner and keep the leftovers in the fridge to use up during the week.
Since brown rice takes some time to cook, I also freeze bags of cooked grains for nights when I don't have time to cook a fresh batch. It's an easy way to make sure I always have some grains on hand when I need them.
Best Recipes with Brown Rice
- Brown Rice Bowl with Lentils, Caramelized Onions, and Fried Egg
- Brown Rice Bowl with Chard & Nutty Tomato Romesco Sauce
- Chopped Brown Rice Salad with Grapes and Pecans
- Brown Rice Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Cherries
- Fried Brown Rice with Ginger and Scallions
- Fried Brown Rice with Asparagus, Bell Pepper & Cashews
How To Cook Brown Rice
Makes about 3 cups
What You Need
medium- or long-grain brown rice
olive oil or sesame oil, optional
Strainer or colander
1-quart (or larger) pot with tight-fitting lid
Rinse the rice: Place the rice in a large strainer or colander and rinse it thoroughly under cool water. There is no need to dry the rice before cooking; a bit of moisture on the rice is fine.
Toast the rice (optional): Warm a teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat in the pot where you'll cook the rice. Add the rice and toast until the rice is dry and starting to look slightly toasted on the tips. It will also start to smell fragrant and nutty.
Combine the rice and water: Slowly pour the water into the pot with the rice — if you toasted the grains, the water will steam and bubble at first. Stir in a teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Make sure the liquid stops boiling and has reduced to a bare simmer over low heat, then cover the pot.
Cook for 45 minutes. Do not uncover the pot to check the rice during cooking.
Check the rice: At the end of the cooking time, remove the cover and check to see if all the water has been absorbed; a little water on the very bottom is fine, but if there's more than a tablespoon, drain off the excess. At this point, the rice should also be chewy and tender, and no longer crunchy. If it's still crunchy, add a little more water (if needed) and continue cooking; check every 10 minutes until the rice is done.
Cover and let stand another 10 to 15 minutes: Take the rice off heat, and place the lid back on top. Let the rice stand another 10 to 15 minutes, covered. This last step prevents the rice from becoming overly sticky and helps it lose that wet, "just-steamed" texture.
Fluff and serve: Use a fork to fluff the rice, then transfer it to a serving dish. Serve while warm.
Store the leftovers: Let any leftovers cool completely, then transfer to storage containers. Refrigerate rice for 3 to 5 days. Brown rice can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
This post has been updated — first published April 2010.