How to Cook Brown Rice: Tips & Tricks

Brown rice.

Brown rice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife and I switched to brown rice a little over a year ago. We don’t get as much fiber in our diets as we really should. Plus complex carbs boost serotonin production in the brain.

Unfortunately, I’ve found brown rice to be much more difficult to cook. In the past year, I’ve burned a fair amount of rice. Granted, I live at a higher altitude, so I generally need to use more water when cooking rice. But I was still boiling my rice dry long before the rice was fully cooked. So when I needed to cook rice for last night’s dinner of stuffed peppers, I thought I would try to experiment a little. My experiment was a success, and I have finally figured out the trick to tender, fluffy brown rice. So how do you get moist brown rice that doesn’t ruin your pot? The trick is dramatically more water and plenty of TLC.

Brown Rice Requires More Water

According to the directions on the package, cooking brown rice is pretty similar to cooking white rice. You use twice as much water as you do rice, bring to a boil, and then simmer for a length of time. Brown rice takes longer to cook (45-60 minutes as opposed to 20-30 minutes for white) because it takes longer for the water to soak through the bran. In white rice, the bran is removed and the water is easily taken in by the endosperm. For a quick lesson on the parts of a grain that are removed in the process of turning brown rice to white rice, see this annimated image from Wikipedia:

See above

Parts of a grain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can see from the image, whole-grain brown rice has considerably more volume than white rice. So it should make sense that more water is required per grain of rice. But the directions insist it takes the same amount of water as white rice.

I have no clue why the packaging doesn’t recommend more water. What I have found is that brown rice needs twice as much water and white rice. If white rice wants double the volume of water as rice, then brown rice wants four times the volume. That’s right. If you are cooking a cup of brown rice, use a quart of water. When cooking for two, a half cup of rice is usually sufficient, so you would need to pour in two cups of water.

Brown Rice Requires More TLC

For some reason, brown rice just seems to need to be stirred more often than white rice. With white rice, I could get away with stirring it once the water came to a boil and not needing to look at it again for 15 minutes when it was nearly done. At that point, most of the water had been absorbed and you had to stir it to keep the rice on the bottom from sticking to the pot. It also didn’t have a lot of guess-work. On my stove it took precisely 25 minutes, every time. Get the rice to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, give it a stir, set the timer and walk away.

Brown rice is more temperamental. I’m guessing that since all that bran takes longer to absorb the proper amount of water. So you will want to stir more often with brown rice. Get that rice all mixed up once every 10 minutes or so. What I did while making my stuffed peppers was basically stir it once in between each other task I did. Blanche the peppers, stir the rice. Cook the ground beef, stir the rice. Measure out the sauce, stir the rice.

Brown rice is also a lot more finicky. Today, my rice was perfect at 48 minutes. The previous time I cooked rice, it was still undercooked at 55 minutes and took a full 65 minutes to taste right.

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