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Without using (read: buying) a rice cooker, what methods can I use to reduce active cooking time for brown rice? Does pre-soaking help? Should I add the rice before or after bringing the water to a boil? I'm interested in both fitting my cooking into a busy schedule and minimizing the amount of heat I add to my small un-air-conditioned apartment this summer.

I would like solutions that work for both weekend batch cooking and "need more rice mid-week" cooking.

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How much time does it take you to make rice now? How fast are you aiming for? What kind of rice are you making? It only takes about 20 minutes for white rice, is that fast enough? –  talon8 Apr 19 '13 at 18:58
    
I'll go ahead and specify brown rice, because it takes a lot of time to cook (edited to reflect this). I'm looking to minimize time because I already get home late and I have a lot of other activities on weekends. And I have 25lbs of brown rice that are allowing me to eat inexpensively. –  Evan Johnson Apr 19 '13 at 19:15
    
I've experimented with several ways of cooking rice and found that I use my rice cooker more frequently unless I need to cook a large batch where I cook it in the oven. I know you said you didn't want a rice cooker but for $30 you can't beat it. Brown rice just takes longer but at least you can set it and walk away with a cooker. Here is a link to my post on cooking rice in the oven. –  user17957 Apr 20 '13 at 20:00

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Harrold McGee indicates in On Food and Cooking that soaking brown rice for 20-30 minutes can speed the cooking. However, he doesn't give any specifics.

In looking to what I consider highly credible cooking web sites, I have not found any definitive answers.

Cook's Illustrated's recommended method for the fastest, best tasting brown rice (no link since it is probably on the pay site) is:

Boiling the rice for our brown rice recipe until it is almost tender (about 30 minutes), draining it, then steaming it until done (another five to 10 minutes) is by far the best stovetop method for brown rice.

Martha Stewart's recommended technique (50 minutes steaming, 10 minutes resting) is quite similar.

Alton Brown recommends baking technique which may be delicious but is almost certainly the one that will heat your house the most: putting rice in a casserole covered with boiling water, and baking at 375°F for 1 hour.


You have actually asked two different questions:

  • What is the fastest way to cook rice (duration)?
  • What is the most energy efficient way to cook rice (least heating of your house)?

These are not the same thing.

Something to consider: of all liquid non-metals (and I don't think any of us are going to cook in molten iron), water has the the highest capacity to transfer heat.

It is going to be very difficult to find a way to cook rice that is faster (at least for actual time cooking the rice, when not counting bringing water to the boil) than the traditional pasta method, as often employed in some parts of India: Bring water to a boil, add the rice, cook until done, and drain. However, the energy required to bring all of the surplus water to the boil and the enthalpy of vaporization will make this fast, but not efficient.

Your most energy efficient rice production method (and this is by the very laws of physics which govern our universe is also the one that will add the least heat to your home) is almost certainly a rice cooker, which will heat only until it senses the rice is done. (Of course, what the rice cookers are really measuring is the rise in temperature when the water is all absorbed or evaporated, and so the temperature can rise; therefore, starting with the correct ratio of rice to water is critical).


The bottom line: brown rice takes time to cook. Some rice cookers, however, let you set a timer so that the pot will have the rice ready when you come home. This might be your best bet.

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I disagree that speed and energy efficiency are entirely separate questions. If soaking reduces cooking time without changing the cooking temperature, less energy is required. That's what I'm looking for--methods to optimize both at the same time, if possible. Right now it looks like soaking is the best (and maybe the only) option for that. –  Evan Johnson Apr 19 '13 at 21:32
    
Being different doesn't mean necessarily being mutually exclusive :-) –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 19 '13 at 21:47
    
In that case I completely agree. I asked the two questions together because I'm looking the overlap between them. –  Evan Johnson Apr 19 '13 at 21:49

You might not have one, but for fastest, use a pressure cooker. See this link for examples.

  • white rice, 1 cup/250 ml rice, 1.5 cup/350 ml water, 5-6 minutes under pressure.
  • Brown rice, 1 cup/250 ml rice, 1.5 cup/350 ml water, 12-15 minutes under pressure.

For most efficient, i.e. energy efficient, use a induction cooker.

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When I cook rice, I usually sautée it (Wiki article) and later boil it.

How do I do it (white rice, can be applied to brown but needs more time):

  1. get a small pan, put 3 or 4 oil teaspoons
  2. Measure the rice
  3. Add the rice
  4. put maximum heat
  5. Stir constantly
  6. wait 1-2 minutes (rice is starting to get toasted, a little bit)
  7. Add water: two times the amount of rice
  8. Water will start boiling almost instantly as the pan is very hot
  9. Cover the pan, put the heat to minimum and don't touch. Don't stir. Let it rest for 8-10 minutes
  10. When the time has gone by, you'll see the rice a bit dryer, that's good, taste it.
  11. Remove from heat and let it rest for 4-5 minutes more
  12. Enjoy!
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This was a question about fast/efficient methods of preparing the rice, not a general question about rice cooking. Is this method particularly fast or efficient compared to other methods? Does sautéeing actually speed up the rest of the cooking? Please explain your answer. –  Aaronut Apr 22 '13 at 23:18

I hear you! I didn't want a rice cooker either. I don't have a lot of kitchen storage let alone an appliance that only does one thing. But then I burned so many brown rice batches I almost gave up. I always ordered extra brown rice from the Chinese take-out and froze it.

Then I happened to buy a small Electric Pressure Cooker. I can now cook brown rice in under 30 mins. 30 MINITUES! No soaking or precooking. It doesn't add heat to the kitchen, the little pot is Teflon, comes out, I use it on the stove for a quick sauté (light duty) for dirty rice or brown garlic, then transfer back to the cooker and the best part, it can be used for other dishes. It comes out a little wet, but I fluff it up and by the time dinner is served it's perfect.

This one appliance stays on my counter, all the part and accessories store inside. It's a little bigger than the rice cooker however, you can cook so many other things in it so quickly.

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Pre-soaking will help. But, try this:

  1. 1 cup of brown rice in a container.
  2. Rinse and wash the brown rice, drain the water.
  3. Put in 1.5 cup of water in to the same container.
  4. Put it in the freezer overnight.

This will reduce the cooking time.

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