Monday, October 17, 2011

Simmering Basics: Cooking Brown Rice

Cooking rice with water and heat does two things:

- Gelatinize rice starches. This is the same process that thickens a liquid like a sauce or gravy. Soaked wet brown rice cooks in only 20-30 minutes, compared to dry brown and wild rice which cooks in 40-60 minutes. Starches gel at 55 to 85 C, which is a gentle simmer.
- Pulls additional moisture, from 20-30% to 60%. Fresh or soaked rice has moisture of 20-30%. Cooked rice has moisture of 60%.

The amount of water needed to cook wet rice is equal to the amount of rice. The wet rice to water ratio is 1:1. An equal amount of water was already used to soak the rice, so the total amount of water for soaking and cooking is twice the amount of rice. Instructions for dry rice use twice the amount of water. Half that water rehydrates the rice, the other half cooks the rice.

Simmer brown and wild rice for 20-30 min. Simmer is a very gentle boil. The bottom of a pot, closest to heat, just starts streaming tiny bubbles, and the top of a pot remains below boiling, with steam gently coming off the top. Simmer is typically achieved by bringing water to boil and turning down heat.

Rice is done when starch is just finished cooking, both inside and outside. The grain should be softened but still firm.

Cooked rice expands to about twice the volume of wet or dry rice.

Measure wet rice into pot, and add measured water, to cover the rice. Bring to slow boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered to make it easy to watch the simmer, check water level, and test doneness. Simmer uncovered 20-30 min.

Occasionally check water level. Check bottom of pot with wooden spoon. There should be visible water. If dry, add just a splash of water, 1/8 − 1/4 cup.

While checking water level, check rice for doneness.

Measure wet rice into rice cooker, and add measured water, to cover the rice. Don’t bother with the rice cooker marks or measuring cup. Close the lid and turn on the rice cooker. The rice cooker will simmer the rice, at the right temperature, without boiling.

The rice cooker stops when the cooking rice has absorbed all the water. The dry pot, without any cooling water, suddenly begins to heats above 100 C, which a thermostat detects and turns off the heat.

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