Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steaming Basics: Don't Burn

Steaming finishes to cook the rice gently while avoiding burning and sticking. Steam brown or wild rice for 10-15 minutes. While steaming, the doneness of rice changes from firm to tender, and the finish of rice changes from moist to fluffy.

When rice becomes firm remove heat. Drain any remaining water. Cover pot and steam rice until tender in its own heat and moisture. While steaming, the moisture finishes moving from outside to inside of the grain, making the rice fluffy, moist but not wet.

Keep the pot covered to keep the rice warm until ready to serve.

Tip: Add a paper tower or thin dish towel between pot and lid to keep steam. The towel will become moist and trap the steam.

Tip: Suspend rice in colander, and simmer small amount of water, covered, to steam cold rice.

Tip: With the perfect amount of water, the rice becomes firm just as the pot becomes dry. It’s difficult to measure the perfect amount of water, because water is lost to steam. Uncovered pots loose more water than covered pots. Wider pots loose more water than a narrow pots. Rapid boil looses more water than simmer. Longer cooking brown and wild rice looses more water than fast cooking white rice. A good rice cooker controls these different variables. Until the perfect amount is discovered, just use extra water, and drain.

Trouble: Once water is gone, the dry pot, without any cooling water, suddenly begins to heat above 100 C. This is when rice begins to burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. If this happens, add enough splashes of water to cover the bottom and begin simmering again. Use a wooden spoon to move some rice and check the water at the bottom of the pot. Don’t scrape or use the burnt rice.

Tip: With source heat removed, the pot and rice retain heat, and the rice continues to cook. As pot and rice gradually cool from simmer temperature (85 C) to hot temperature (50 C), the rice continues to cook. Remember that starches begin to gel from 55 C to 85 C, so they also continue to cook from 85 C to 55 C. If your rice has cooled too quickly, use a warm burner or warm oven to add enough heat so the rice finishes cooking. A rice cooker warm setting adds just enough heat so the rice doesn’t cool too quickly and finishes cooking.

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