If you’re one of the millions of Western World cooks who doesn’t own a rice cooker (and I’ll admit, I’m one of them), you’ve probably struggled with making ‘perfect’ rice all your culinary life. Now celeb chef Jamie Oliver has shared his guide to ‘flawless’ rice…
I’ve been cooking rice according to what I’ve considered a ‘progressive’ and scientifically-sound method for a couple of decades, now. But I’ll admit, my protocol has never produced what I’ve idealized as ‘light, fluffy, perfect’ rice. So you’ll understand that sitting down to a feast of great Asian food triggers mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I love the genuinely perfect rice that good Asian restos always serve – apparently effortlessly. But in the same bite, I’m reminded of how far my own rice falls short.
My method is okay
Just okay. Not spectacular. But better than many other folks’ less calculated, more ‘casual’ ways. There is one central element of my traditional rice-cooking method that seems to define it. I try to manage the fluffiness of the rice by carefully measuring the amount of water I cook it in. The aim is to have all the water absorbed by the rice producing a damp but fluffy result.
But I’ve never managed to achieve rice that’s as good as that which comes from a proper rice steamer.
“You could rig up a steamer…”
Yes, I’ve tried that. My most successful one consisted of a deep pasta pot and a large strainer, to hold the rice. It sounded like a good idea, except the rice came out under-cooked and sticky, even after half an hour on the boil. At the price of energy today, rice quickly morphs from a cheap, versatile starch into an relatively expensive side, based on the cost to produce all that steam!
Jamie to the rescue!
Then I read, in the Express, about Jamie Oliver’s ‘foolproof, hassle-free way’ to make ‘perfect light and fluff’ rice ‘every time’. Of course, I was skeptical at first. Wee Jamie is cute and perky, and filled with boyish charm (even though he’s now pushing 50!). But he’s still an upstart little twerp to me. Heck, I’m old enough to be his…
It’s really just common sense
The kid makes some common-sense points about rice. And I’m a great fan of common sense. Even if I have to have it pointed out to me, sometimes.
First, rice sticks together because it comes with a load of surface starch. Jamie says go ahead and rise it off under cold running water, in a sieve or small-gap colander. It just takes a minute or so.
Second, he pooh-poohs my measured-water method (sort of), instead suggesting you use lots of water, on a rolling boil, so the rice grains start ‘dancing around’. At that point boil for just a further 5 minutes.
After the 5 minutes, he drains the rice and sets it aside. And measures 2.5 cm / 1 in. of fresh water into the pot. Then he brings it back to the boil, and immediately turns it back down to a simmer for the long haul: 10 more minutes. With the sieve or colander (as the case may be) sitting above the water and a lid on the pot to hold in the steam.
This whole procedure takes all of 25 minutes. About the same amount of time as my measured-water technique. But the two results are worlds apart!
I was so excited!
I’ve just read the Express article, and I haven’t yet had the chance to try the Jamie Oliver method for making ‘perfect’ rice. But I was so excited to discover it, I had to share it with you immediately.
The idea that one should rinse the rice before cooking makes eminent sense. I think I must have been brainwashed about rinsing starch off of foods. All my cooking life, I’ve been careful NOT to wash the starch off pasta before cooking. The starch helps sauces stick, and thickens them as well. It’s a rookie mistake with rice, though.
And Jamie’s use of a steamer rig to finish his rice is also bang-on authentic, right in line with the classic Asian method.
I predict I’ll be making rice dishes more often and in greater profusion now, thanks to the upstart little twerp!
~ Maggie J.