Growing up in an Asian family, one can say that when it comes to food, rice is like the main staple. Rice is typically eaten with many types of side dishes from various stir-fried meats, eggs, vegetables, soups, sushi, you name it! The possibilities of side dishes are just endless!
When transitioning to the college apartment life, one of the cooking tools I would bring with me would be (you guessed it), a rice cooker! Over the years, my main meals that I cooked at the apartment included rice and a random side dish. Every once in a while per week, I would go out and grab some casual food like Mexican food or pizza.
An Interesting (Crisis?) Moment
There was this one year though where I decided to cut down on carbohydrates and I believe rice was one of the foods I put on hold. Coincidentally, my roommate wanted to eat rice with various side dishes as part of his healthy eating routine.
Unfortunately, he assumed that because I was Asian, I would carry a rice cooker and didn’t bother purchasing one. I only found out because he told me he looked for a rice cooker around the apartment (after buying a 10 lb. bag of rice) but could not find one. He felt a bit bad and thought about getting one for us.
Little did he know…he did not need to do that. My mom showed me an “ancient art” during her childhood days. It was how to cook rice in the case of an emergency if the rice cooker had somehow broken down. I showed my roommate how and I will show you too.
How to Cook Rice WITHOUT a Rice Cooker
Although it may sound complicated, it is actually easier than it sounds.
Here are all the things you will need:
- Stove top (electric or gas)
- Saucepan, or any pot you have with a lid
- Measuring cup
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Preparing the Rice
- Your first step would be to scoop the amount of rice you want into the saucepan. I typically cook about 1.5 to 2 cups of rice.
- I used to rinse the rice to remove the powder. At the time, I thought it was dust that gathered from the manufacturing company. I learned from one of my science classes that the powder was vitamin B powder. The manufacturer sprinkled this to give the rice more nutritional value.
- BUT, if you are already used to washing your rice, feel free to continue doing so. You’ll probably still get more nutrition from the side dishes.
- Anyways, in terms of the amount of water needed to cook the rice, I just use my hand as a measuring tool (traditional hand method). With the hand method, you basically place your hand on the level of the rice in the saucepan (without digging your hand into it), and fill the saucepan with water until the water level goes up to your knuckle (about 0.75 to 1 inch of water, not the most accurate for some).
- That is usually my starting point for the water measurement, if I cook less than 2 cups of rice, I would reduce the water level, if more rice, I would increase it. There is a bit of a trial and error.
- If you would like an exact measurement of water, I would say for every 1 cup of rice, you’ll need about 1.5 to 1.75 cups of water. Same thing with the hand method here, there is a bit of a trial and error. If you want softer rice, use more water, and for firmer rice, less water. (Up until here, this should be similar to cooking rice with the rice cooker.)
Cooking the Rice
- Next, you’ll want to bring that saucepan of rice and water to a boil on a stove top. By this point, you’ll need to cover the saucepan with a lid to create pressure system (acts like that lid cover with the rice cooker). Once the water begins to boil, bring the heat down to low/medium. Let’s say if the max heat is a 9….I would use a 2 or 3.
- As you pressure cook the rice in this manner, water may start leaking out of the pot, but just open the lid for a little (it’s all from the pressure built up). From here, allow the rice to cook for 10 to 15 minutes. It’s actually a bit longer, but this is where you will need to be present during the final cooking process to taste test (with the spoon) and make sure the rice cooks well and not accidentally burn at the bottom.
Taste Test and Adjustment
- When you taste it, if the rice is too firm, you can add more water. If too soft, it may be hard to adjust from here. But you can try opening the lid and let the water evaporate a little (it helps a little, or you always have the option to make it into congee/porridge). This is the great thing about this method of cooking rice, it’s very adjustable!
Summary of Directions
The directions above was kind of long so here it is again but summarized:
- Scoop X amount cups of rice into a saucepan (i.e. 2 cups)
- Fill saucepan with water up to 1.5 to 1.75 times the number of cups of rice (i.e. 3 cups) (or use hand method and aim for 1 inch)
- Cover the saucepan with the lid
- Put saucepan on stove top and bring solution to a boil
- When it starts to boil, bring heat down to medium/low heat
- Cook for 10 to 15 minutes
- Come back around then to taste test, check if rice is right for you (add more water if needed, or remove lid)
- Turn off heat, and remove saucepan from stove top
- Enjoy your rice!
Cooking rice in this manner is actually quite fun. To make it more fun (and tasty), what you can do is instead of water, you can add chicken or beef broth. This will change things around and make your rice much more flavorful You can do this too with the regular rice cooker. You can apply this concept with pasta as well!
I still have yet to experiment a little more but perhaps you can throw in other ingredients along the way too like various meats or veggies like tomatoes. To reduce starch/carbohydrate content, you can even add beans while reducing rice content to cook. I know Korean restaurants sometimes do that and provide that purple rice with beans.
There are many ways to go about things even with cooking rice. To some, cooking rice with the rice cooker has always been the way to go. But in the case of an emergency where the machine breaks down or is unavailable, there are other methods too and this saucepan method is one of them.
It’s very similar to preparing rice with the rice cooker, the only difference is that you will be controlling the cooking temperature and will need to taste test often towards the end of the cooking session. There are advantages to cooking in this manner which include more precision with the texture of the rice and even control of the flavor.
Of course, if you still prefer the usual rice cooker method since it saves you time and effort, here is a rice cooker from Amazon. If it is your first time cooking rice (with either method), there is a little trial and error period but do not be afraid to make mistakes. Know that you will get better with time and practice. Other than that, no matter which method you prefer, please enjoy your rice!
Did you enjoy this life hack on how to cook rice WITHOUT a rice cooker? Please leave a comment below!