Cooking Brown Rice is Simple with These Two Methods

When you’re cooking brown rice, does it come out mushy or lumpy? When you follow the brown rice instructions, do you get inconsistent results? Despite what everyone on the internet says, there is more than one way to achieve firm but fluffy results when cooking brown rice.

All the brown rice instructions on the internet will say their method is the best. Ultimately, it’s up to your own tastes and desires how you like your grains cooked. A perfect method for one person may be unacceptable to another. Understanding HOW the rice cooks will lead you to the results that fit your tastes. This is one of the 7 Skills Chefs Use to Cook Food Consistently.

Brown rice differs from white rice in that it’s less refined. The outer skin or “bran” is left on. It’s like a scuba suit for the rice, making it harder for water to enter. Thus, you must find a way to crack that outer layer, or unzip the scuba suit.

Cooking brown rice will generally take you in one of two directions. Either bring the liquid AND the rice together to a boil, OR boil the water first and THEN add the rice. What’s the difference?

The science of cooking behind rice is “gelatinization of starches”. At 150F (65c), starches will begin to absorb liquids and swell. This is how sauces are thickened, and why the water disappears and the rice gets bigger under cooking.

Different rices have different starch contents. Sushi rice is very sticky. Jasmine rice is very fluffy. Once the bran is cracked on brown rice, the starches gelatinize and make them stick together in lumps.

You can avoid lumpy rice by adding acids or fats in the cooking. Whether you choose to boil your liquid separately from the rice, or together, you can inhibit gelatinization and stick-factor.

If you coat the grains in fat, as in making Risotto, they won’t be as sticky. Try a simple sauté method with butter before adding hot liquid. Acids like rice wine vinegar are often added to sushi rice to reduce sticking and add flavor.

When you’re cooking brown rice, you have the options and the power. Experiment with different methods and decide which is best for your tastes. Brown rice instructions can’t always tell what is unique about your kitchen and cooking style.

Which method works best for you? Or have you invented a new way of cooking brown rice? Share your new ideas with everyone by commenting below:

Cooking Brown Rice is only one kitchen skill. Get my cooking DVD for much more!

About Chef Todd Mohr

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.


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  • Eldridge King
    12:18 AM - 8 August, 2011

    Hi Chef Todd:

    I have a quick question about cooking rice. When I do it in a pot, it seems to work best starting on a low heat and keeping it that way. I put the rice and cold water in the pot, put the cover on and keep an eye on it.

    When the water gets hotter, the bubbles from the hot water seem to want to escape, so I just take off the cover for a few seconds and then put it back on. It prevents a potential mess and works fine.

    Is this wrong? I look at it as steam escaping from a rice cooker. The rice tastes great, so I imagine it's okay.

    How do you know if you should rinse the rice? I have a Ming Tsai dvd series (yours are better!) and he rinses the riced four or five times. I'm always confused! Should you rinse brown rice, quinoa and then soak the quinoa for 15 minutes or so? Other folks say yes, but I"m gonna listen to you. You are my cooking guru.

    Let me know when you can.



    • cheftodd
      9:39 AM - 8 August, 2011

      I'm sure Ming Tsai knows a lot more about rice than I do. However, perhaps his methods aren't to your liking.

      Here's how I make rice. For white rice, it's a simple 2:1 ratio. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, add the rice.
      Brown rice is a 2:1 ratio plus 10% liquid. You can either start both in cold water, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat. Or, bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and add the brown rice.

      There's also a pilaf method where you'd saute raw rice in oil and aromatics, then add the liquid.
      Or, you can do it in the oven like we used to at the catering company. Simply add rice and water to a casserole dish, cover tightly and place in 350F oven until all the water is absorbed.

      In any of these procedures, you want the rice to absorb as much liquid as possible. The key is a tight fitting lid. The only mistake I can see that you're making is "letting the steam escape". Keep it tightly covered and reduce the heat to very low. You'll get better gelatinization of starches at a lower temperature.

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  • john hailey
    5:55 PM - 4 September, 2010

    Great tips, I have always cooked White Rice in cold water, added oil and salt. Never know why, just taught that way. Now, from what I can tell, the difference with brown rice is to crack the husk you must cook it longer using the same method? My wife method is to bring water, butter and salt to a boil, pour over the Brown rice in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake in the oven one hour at 375. It seems to come out good. Any comment on this method and how can we improve? Thanks

  • Lorraine
    10:59 AM - 24 August, 2010

    You are indeed an excellent teacher!
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I intend on buying your system when I get my next check. I am on limited income and have disconnected my TV service, opting to use my computer for everything. I am learning many new things and finding great joy and entertainment as I learn from experts, such as yourself. My retirement years are taking on a whole new dimension. Thanks first to the Lord and then to you Todd.
    My Sincere Thanks,

    • cheftodd
      9:15 AM - 25 August, 2010

      Thank you for your kind words. The greatest blessing I can receive is helping someone add "a whole new dimension" to their lives. I'm glad you're finding great joy and entertainment in the METH0DS behind cooking. I'm proud to have you as a student.

  • Chef Wannabe
    9:38 AM - 17 August, 2010

    I use a cheap push-button rice cooker/steamer with 1:2 brown rice to water. I use a short-grain brown rice to make sushi with, it gives a really nice nutty flavor to the sushi. My wife loves it. While not quite as sticky as the short-grain white rice, I find it easier to handle and work with.

  • Betsy
    1:37 PM - 10 August, 2010

    Actually, in South India we eat a lot of brown rice called "boiled rice". The name has got nothing to do with rice being cooked, but actually a process where rice is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice (during the milling stage). This rice takes a long time to cook. Traditionally it was cooked on wood charcoal fires, now people use pressure cookers. There are a whole variety of rice preparations depending on the state you come from. The cumin seed seasoned rice is called 'jeera rice'. The cumin is not just bunged into the water. We first add a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pan, add the cumin and when it splutters and gives out that aroma, we add the basmati rice . Thanks Chef for all the tips!!

    • cheftodd
      12:33 PM - 11 August, 2010

      This is one of the unique aspects of Indian and Middle-eastern food, you toast the spices FIRST.
      I was educated in a French cooking style where all the seasonings come at the very end.

      I love cooking spicy Thai or Indian where the pepper flakes permeate the oil before any cooking begins.
      Then, it's hot all over.


  • Betsy
    9:55 AM - 10 August, 2010

    Hi Chef Todd,
    What we do in India is boil the water first, add the brown rice, add salt once it is cooked and then drain out the water!

    • cheftodd
      10:03 AM - 10 August, 2010

      When you make brown rice, is the water seasoned in any way? I've actually catered an Indian Wedding and learned a tremendous amount about ingredients.
      I now add whole cumin seeds to the water before adding rice. It gives a great fragrance, especially with Jasmine white rice.

  • cheftodd
    4:32 PM - 6 August, 2010

    Dan -
    You're right about making up any explanation, the "celebrity chefs" do it all the time on TV. I see so many of them repeating what their grandmothers told them without checking WHY you do what they say.

    A little background goes a long way in the confidence to create what you'd like.

  • cheftodd
    4:30 PM - 6 August, 2010

    Hey Bill! Thanks for the great comment.

    I love your combination of mushrooms, almonds, shallots and ginger with shrimp stock, sounds fantastic!

    It's amazing how many things you can come up with when your creativity takes the place of recipes!

  • Bill Blunt
    3:50 PM - 6 August, 2010

    Chef Todd...Glad I saw this video...Just last week I was making some rice pilaf using both white and brown rice...I knew it would take longer for the brown rice...but what I didn't count on was when I finally added the white was still too soon...After watching this video...I understand better how to combine the two and get the consistency that I want using this combination...And to tell wife and kids loved the mix....I added some mushrooms, roasted almonds...shallots and some ginger....and I used shrimp was so tender and good...!!!!...Thanks...seems that whenever I run into something that I have had trouble with in the past have the resolution for it....

  • Dan Bear
    7:09 PM - 5 August, 2010

    Chef Todd, you cut to the heart of things again! I didn't know before about acids and fats inhibiting gelatinization - now I have another tool to fine tune my rice dishes. And I'm glad to have the question answered about why some rice instructions have you start cold and others have you start hot. I thought maybe it had to do with the type of rice! (You can make up almost any explanation when you don't know the fundamentals.)

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