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I just realized that I don't know if I should add more or less water next time. What sort of signs would indicate that I should add less water and what signs would indicate that I am using too little water right now?

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There's not enough information in your post. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Describe your current results and include the type of rice you are using and any other relevant facts like high altitude, etc. –  GdD Jul 2 '13 at 8:21
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2 Answers

Rice cookers usually use the "absorption method", in which by the end of the cooking, all of the water has been absorbed into the rice.

If, by the time the rice is the texture you want, there is still liquid in the pan, then you used too much water. But it's OK; just pour the excess away and leave it a couple of minutes for the rest to absorb/evaporate.

If there is no liquid left, but the rice is not as soft as you would like, then you did not add enough water. Sprinkle with boiling water and allow to cook for longer.

With the absorption method, rice is pretty foolproof: twice as much water as rice -- by volume, and one teaspoon of salt per cup of rice. The packet will tell you how long your rice should take.

Things that can go wrong when using the absorption method in an ordinary pan:

  • burning due to having the heat too high when there's not much liquid left. Once the water is boiling, you only need the tiniest amount of heat.
  • burning due to cooking for too long - don't forget to check when the time's up!
  • loss of water as steam - due to cooking without a lid, and boiling too vigorously. Turn the heat right down, leave the lid on, don't peek until towards the end of the cooking time.
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The 2:1 ratio is not fixed, I don't think. It is effected by the type of rice, and whether it is pre-soaked (which is common in Asia). –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 2 '13 at 12:04
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For basmati rice, I use my g/fs tried and tested handed from generation to generation method of:

  1. Fill cooker with rice and pour some water into the cooker
  2. Place your middle finger in the centre of the cooker so it's touching the base of the cooker
  3. while your middle finger is at the base, place your index finger so it's on top of the layer of rice
  4. keep fingers in the same position and lift out and place your middle finger on top of the layer of rice. The water should now be at the tip of your index finger. no more no less
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