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I've seen some videos where people recommend the "finger rule" (as opposed to measuring) when figuring out how much water to put in a pot to boil rice. However, the explanations are pretty vague. Can someone explain this?

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This rule is a good approximation for "usual" quantities of rice, and I've used it successfully a lot of times in the past few months after hearing about it.

As Jeroen explained, put your rice in the container you want to cook it in (pan or rice cooker with maybe 2-4 litres of total volume). I'd recommend washing your rice at least once, discarding the starchy water. Then, evenly spread the rice and cover it up with water until it hits a level where your fingertip touches the rice and the water level goes to your first knuckle. Note: afaik this method assumes you steam your rice, limiting the loss of water.

Now, some caveats: this doesn't work too well with very small or very large quantities of rice because the relation between "rice level" and water level skews more towards rice the more rice you cook; or if your hands are abnormally small or large ;) It's good enough for most uses in everyday cooking though.

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    I guess this also assumes a certain ratio between rice quantity & pot size, right? As in, if I have a very wide pan, won't the volume of water needed to go up to the height of my knuckle be different to if I had a pan with a smaller diameter? Aug 13 at 9:13
  • @anotherdave That's what I was thinking. On the other end of the spectrum, you could cook rice in a test tube! To be fair though, one will usually use a "logical" container, maybe where the rice fills like 25-60% of the pan I guess. Aug 13 at 9:15
  • @GeorgeMenoutis yeah, that's the reason I don't like these methods to be honest — they're given as a helpful rule of thumb for beginners but only work when you know the hidden constraints :) We use a volume method of rice-to-water, but still has issues at very large or very small quantities (I find the ratio needs to be changed as you up/down the amount of rice to be cooked), but works for me day-to-day. Aug 13 at 9:22
  • Melania: "Now I know why he always burns the rice!" Aug 13 at 13:46
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    @anotherdave You're right. Assuming A) 10cm square pot, 3cm rice + 2cm water; B) 20cm pot, same volume rice + 2cm water. A: 350cc water (assuming half the rice volume is air that gets replaced by water). B: 950cc water. This is 3x the water but evaporation is initially 4x greater because top surface area is 4x. C) & D) are same pots as A & B, double the rice: C: 500cc water, D: 1100cc water. Only 2x water but still 4x evaporation. Compare A & C: 2x rice, same area, 40% more water. Compare B & D: 2x the rice, same area, only 16% more water. Rule does not scale for pot diameter or rice amount. Aug 14 at 2:35
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Put your rice in a pan. Spread out the rice to it is evenly spread out in the pan. Put the tip of your index finger on top of the rice and then add water until the water level is at the first knuckle of your finger.

Personally I don't use that technique, if you don't pay enough attention the rice might burn, but this is the idea. I usually just throw in too much water and get rid of the left-over water afterwards.

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This process works because of the space between the grains, the specific gravity of rice etc... In general, it only really works for regular white rice. If you look at the ratios of water to rice by volume, it starts with brown rice at 2.5 water to 1 rice. White rice at 2 to 1, and highly polished rice like sushi and Vietnamese broken rice at 1.75 to one.

Round rice such as Calrose needs a little less water than Basmati or Jasmin etc.

So, your mileage will vary depending on the rice you want to cook, and the size of your fingers.

I have been eating rice mixed with barley, quinoa and wheat to balance my protein and carb intake, and the finger rule has gone out the door.

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