Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Food
A&E >  Food

Add another job for the indispensable microwave: Cooking rice

When it comes to consistency, a microwave is a weeknight meal’s best friend when it comes to cooking rice.  (JULIA GARTLAND/New York Times)
When it comes to consistency, a microwave is a weeknight meal’s best friend when it comes to cooking rice. (JULIA GARTLAND/New York Times)
By Priya Krishna New York Times

I cook my rice in the microwave. Not because the microwave makes it taste extra special, but because it is one of the most convenient ways to achieve consistently well-cooked rice.

The microwave can be essential for putting together meals on busy nights. Yet in many kitchens, it is merely a tool for reheating leftovers or making popcorn.

“There is a stigma to using your microwave” for cooking, said Ali Rosen, author of the cookbooks “Bring It!” and “Modern Freezer Meals.” And that’s especially true of cooking rice. “Because rice is such a deeply ingrained part of so many cultures, it takes on this mythical quality; it is not the thing you should be using the shortcut for.”

When she was a young food writer, Rosen said, she believed – as did many chefs and cooking experts – that using a stovetop “must be the correct way” to cook rice.

But as she advanced in her career, she realized that microwaving rice was more practical. It doesn’t require monitoring or stirring, and “you aren’t worried about it sticking to the bottom,” she said.

Microwaving rice also results in more uniformly cooked grains than the stovetop method, said Kevin Pang, the digital editorial director at America’s Test Kitchen. Whereas stovetops can often heat rice unevenly, causing some of it to get either scorched or undercooked, a microwave, which operates via electromagnetic waves that vibrate water molecules in the food to create heat, cooks from all sides.

Pang also owns a rice cooker, which has its own benefits: It automatically adjusts the cooking temperature and keeps rice warm for a long time. But unlike a microwave, rice cookers take up counter space and have only one function, he added.

In reporting for this article, I tried about a dozen different methods of cooking rice in the microwave. Some involved changing the power settings partway through; others instructed covering the rice for half of the time. One even called for boiled water.

But the method that worked every time was also the simplest: rinsing the rice thoroughly, adding double the amount of water and microwaving, uncovered, for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the wattage of the machine. It may take a few attempts to figure out the exact timing for your microwave – in my 700-watt machine, it takes 22 1/2 minutes – but once you do, you won’t have to think twice about it.

Newer microwaves may cut that time even further, said Eric Brown, a principal research scientist at the consumer packaged goods company ConAgra Brands. Many newer microwave models have fans that move air around more efficiently and turntables that rotate faster, resulting in quicker cook times.

Once you find a cook time that works, you can attempt more dressed-up rice dishes. When I was growing up, my father would add cumin, turmeric, ghee and frozen vegetables to the rice before placing it in the microwave to make a quick pulao. Pang likes to place marinated chicken pieces over the rice partway through cooking, letting the chicken steam while infusing the rice with its juices.

Of course, your microwave will never be able to provide those irresistibly crispy grains at the bottom of the pot. But on a weeknight, I’m willing to take shortcuts for expediency. And I certainly never miss scrubbing the pot.

Microwave Rice

If you want to jazz up your rice, try adding a pat of butter, a drizzle of olive oil or even a pinch of a spice blend like ras el hanout before microwaving.

1 cup long-grain white rice (such as basmati or jasmine)

Rinse the rice: Add the rice to a sieve and run water over it while swishing it around with your hands. Do this until the water below the sieve looks clear, a few minutes. Drain well. Alternatively, place the rice into a large bowl, add water to cover it, swish the rice around a few times with your hands and drain it out. Do this 3 to 4 times until the water you drain runs clear.

Transfer the rinsed rice to a large (2 1/2- to 3-quart) microwave-safe bowl and add 2 cups of room-temperature water. Microwave, uncovered, on full power for 15 to 25 minutes. If you have a powerful microwave (1000 to 1200 watts), start with 15 minutes. If you have a less powerful microwave (700 to 900 watts), start around 20 minutes. The rice will be done when the grains are poking up like grass and are tender and the water is fully absorbed; the grains shouldn’t look wet or mushy. If the rice isn’t done, keep microwaving it in 1- to 2-minute increments. After the rice is cooked, let it rest, undisturbed, in the closed microwave for another 5 minutes, then fluff it with a fork or rice paddle. (Some condensation may collect in the interior of the microwave but can be easily wiped dry.)

Yield: About 3 cups cooked rice (about 4 servings)

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.