For Perfectly Cooked Rice Every Time, Try Your Microwave
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, the 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.”
As a young food writer, Ms. Rosen said she believed — as did many chefs and cooking experts at the time — 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.
Mr. 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 and a half 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. 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. Mr. 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.
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