We Tried 4 Different Methods for Cooking Brown Rice in the Instant Pot and Found the Perfect One
One of the many reasons we love Instant Pot cooking is its ability to streamline arduous, lengthy kitchen tasks, like cooking brown rice. What takes 40 minutes on the stovetop or an hour in the oven can be cooked in less than 30 minutes under pressure. The challenge with any Instant Pot technique, though, is that you can’t check on the food while it’s cooking or adjust the cook time like you can with the stovetop or oven. That’s why it’s extra valuable to let us do the work of finding that unicorn method — the one that works every time, in any model, with any kind of rice, and delivers perfect results.
And sure, maybe it feels a little granular (see what we did there?) to find the best method for cooking brown rice in an Instant Pot, but this rice is a meal-prep staple and the base of some of our favorite weeknight meals. We put four highly recommended methods for Instant Pot brown rice to the test to find the perfect method.
How We Tested These Brown Rice Methods
Each of the four editor-recommended methods were tested with two cups of the same long-grain brown rice and cooked on the same day using the same eight-quart Instant Pot Max. After we cooked each batch, we cleaned and dried the Instant Pot and let it cool for 30 minutes before beginning the next test. We judged the rice on timing — both how long it took the Instant Pot to reach pressure as well as cook time — and the texture of the rice. What we’re looking for with brown rice is chewy but not too chewy grains that don’t clump together. And since we love brown rice for meal prep, we also included some notes on how well each rice fared when we microwaved it the next day.
Instant Pot Brown Rice Method: Rinsed, 26 minutes high pressure, quick release
- Rating: 4/10
- Timing: 40 minutes, including 8 minutes to come to pressure
About this method: This rice-cooking method, which comes from Instant Pot’s own database, is the one you’re most likely to see in your Instant Pot manual. You start by combining 2 cups of rinsed rice with 2 cups of water, but rather than using the rice function, Instant Pot suggests using the manual function and cooking the rice under pressure for between 22 and 28 minutes. We split the difference and went with 26 minutes. After a quick release, the rice is ready to eat.
Results: This method took the least amount of time to come to pressure — just 8 minutes, thanks to less water — but left us with overcooked grains and excess water in the pot. The worst of both worlds! The rice was edible once we drained it, but it didn’t hold up well to reheating — the leftovers were more like porridge than rice.
Instant Pot models vary, which is why the recipe gives a range of cooking times. The issue is that the recipe didn’t offer any guidance about which times might be best for your cooker, which leaves the cook guessing. A shorter cook time of 22 minutes in our Instant Pot Max might have produced perfectly cooked rice, but who wants to experiment with seven different cooking times to find the right one? Luckily, many other recipes had much shorter cook times and performed better under pressure.
Instant Pot Brown Rice Method: Rinsed, 20 minutes high pressure, quick release
- Rating: 8/10
- Timing: 32 minutes, including 10 minutes to come to pressure
About this method: This method from Minimalist Baker was suggested by Kitchn’s Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand. You rinse the rice, combine it with 2 cups of water, cook it under pressure for 20 minutes, then do a quick release at the end of cooking.
Results: This pot of brown rice had nice, tight individual grains, but the rice was slightly undercooked, making it chewier than we’d like. We have mixed feeling about this method: It’s ideal for meal prepping because the slightly chewy rice is excellent for reheating or for using in cooked dishes, but it’s not the best for eating freshly cooked rice. This method is excellent if you plan on reheating the rice or cooking it further (say, in a fried rice dish).
Instant Pot Brown Rice Method: Rinsed, 10 minutes high pressure, 10 minutes natural release
- Rating: 9/10
- Timing: 30 minutes, including 10 minutes to come to pressure
About this method: This method comes from Kitchn’s own guide to cooking rice in the Instant Pot. While it calls for rinsing the rice (as all the other methods do) it also has slightly more water than any other method, calling for 2 1/4 cups water for 2 cups of rice. The rice is cooked for 10 minutes under pressure and then rests for an additional 10 minutes of natural release before the pressure valve is opened.
Results: Cooking brown rice with this easy-to-remember method gives you rice that’s perfectly cooked. It’s soft with a slight chew, and the grains hold their shape. The combination of a little extra water and the high pressure/natural release combo turns out a pot of rice that works just as well for dinner tonight as it does for meal prepping brown rice for future meals. Still, it didn’t take the lead as the winning method — as we only tested this method in an 8-quart Instant Pot, while the winning method gave more exact directions for any electric pressure cooker.
Instant Pot Brown Rice Method: 15 minutes high pressure, 5 minutes natural release followed by a quick release
- Rating: 10/10
- Timing: 30 minutes, including 8 minutes to come to pressure
About this method: Amy and Jacky of Pressurecookrecipes.com are one of the most trusted sources for Instant Pot cooking methods, so, of course, we had to put their brown rice technique to the test. While this method doesn’t call for rinsing the rice, the recipe notes include instructions for reducing the water slightly to account for additional moisture if you prefer to rinse. Using a one-to-one water-to-rice ratio, the recipe calls for cooking the rice for 15 minutes under high pressure and using natural release for just 5 minutes to finish cooking.
Results: This method produced the most ideal brown rice: soft and slightly chewy, with separate grains that didn’t become sticky or overcooked in reheating. Plus, we loved that there was no rinsing required.
Keeping the rice to water at one-to-one — even if you do rinse the rice — and doing a short natural release gives you brown rice that’s perfectly cooked every time. Amy and Jacky include lots of detailed notes from their testing that can help you adapt this recipe for different electric pressure cookers, too.
While we loved finding a method that cooked perfect brown rice in the Instant Pot in 30 minutes from Pressurecookrecipes.com, the biggest takeaway from this experiment was how much a natural release of pressure improved the texture of the rice. If you’re still fighting to find a method that works for you at home, shifting some of the cook time to natural release is an easy way to get better rice without trying out too many other recipes.
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