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Lately, I've been struggling to cook rice at the kitchen I work at. We cook the rice by putting it in a hotel pan, put water on top, plastic and foil wrap it and throw it into the oven. One cook says I should just use 2:1 water:rice ratio, but another chef showed me how washing rice makes it much better.

The chef uses an artsy method to measure the water: put your hands on the rice in the water and if its past a certain knuckle, it's good. I've tried that and failed so many times. I then tried measuring the water and it's always too much because the washed rice is wet and already contains water. We have no china hat to strain it properly so I have to use my hands to stop the rice.

Now my question: does anyone know how much less water I should put on the rice after I washed it?

Thank you!

  • Water ratio depends on the rice in question, and after you wash the rice, you're rinsing it, right? – Ming Feb 2 '16 at 6:54
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    Sorry really tired, i mean somehow straining the rice after washing. Invest in a sieve? – Ming Feb 2 '16 at 7:08
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    All these Byzantine methods for cooking rice with ratios of this and that... 1. Wash rice 2. Boil a pan of water 3. Chuck rice in 4. Bring to boil 5. Strain when the rice is cooked. Basically, cook it like pasta. – ElendilTheTall Feb 2 '16 at 9:14
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    Have to ask: A professional kitchen, and no sieve? – Willem van Rumpt Feb 2 '16 at 10:40
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    If you check asian markets, you can typically find 'rice washing bowls', which is a bowl with some holes on one side, so if you tip it in that direction, it'll act as a collander so you can drain the water without losing the rice. Of course, a mesh strainer works just fine, too. – Joe Feb 2 '16 at 13:33
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The problem is that the 2:1 ratio just doesn't hold true. Alton Brown hinted at this in Power to the Pilaf:

Now, the second secret to happy rice is finding the right ratio of rice to liquid. The instructions on your average bag of rice always says the same thing, "1 cup rice, 2 cups water." If that were right, and I don't think it is, one could deduce that a 2 to 1 water/rice ratio would always be the way to go no matter how much rice was involved. Well, it isn't that way. Not only are 2 cups of water more than any respectable cup of long grain rice needs, but the proportion of water to rice actually goes down the more rice you cook. Here's how we see it.

Now, for the sake of argument we will restrict our demonstration to American long grain white rice. One cup of rice will cook very nicely, thank you, in 1 1/2 cups of water. It seems pretty simple, right? But, the plot thickens. Two cups of rice will cook perfectly in 2 3/4 cups of water. Wait, it gets even weirder. Three cups of rice can be cooked to perfection in 3 1/2 cups of water.

Which obviously makes it seem apparent that the more rice you cook the less water you need. Now, if you have a slide rule and you know how to use it you could probably figure out some handy formula or at the very least come up with a good comedy routine. "Hey, Abbot. When are we going to have more rice than watuh?"

America's Test Kitchen did some further study, and figured out what the problem is -- you need 1 cup of water per cup of rice (for the varieties they used), plus the amount that's lost through evaporation.

I suspect that the reason that the 'up to the (first|second) knuckle' trick works is that those people are most likely cooking in the same pan, with the same lid (and so the amount of water lost through evaporation is more constant), and cooking nearly the same amount of rice each time. Of course, a constant head space would actually mean less water for evaporation each time (as not all of it will fit between the grains of the rice), so there must be some range of acceptable water to rice, rather than it being a rigid fixed number.

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Simply use a scale. Weigh the dry rice first, note the weight. Then wash it. Put it back on the scale and add water until you have 3 times the original weight, that's a 2:1 ratio.

That being said, a sieve is probably also a good thing to have. The reason washed rice is better is that you're removing starch from the surface. If you don't throw out all the starchy water, part of the starch stays back, reducing the effect of the washing.

If your management objects to buying a sieve, tell them that you're losing quite a bit of rice grains through your fingers.

  • I do like the sound of this method. Unfortunately, we only got an ounce scale >.< – dbzgod9 Feb 2 '16 at 15:23
  • A quick measurement suggests that 500mL of rice is ~425g. So if you went by weight from what you're suggesting, you'd get 850:500, or 1.7:1 (which I'd argue is better than 2:1, as I explained in my answer, but still might not be the best way to handle it). – Joe Feb 2 '16 at 17:15
  • @Joe I found your post very interesting. I've always used the 2:1 ratio by weight for Western style rice, and I'm very happy with the results. The restaurant is certainly making a larger amount at once. But if the 2:1 ratio has worked before for the OP, then it might be good enough for them in the future. Alternatively, they might need to tweak the ratio according to the post, to find the best amount for their context. – rumtscho Feb 2 '16 at 18:02

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