On my next Catering job, I was asked to cook a large amount of rice. I will probably use about 15 to 20 cups of Basmatti or Risotto rice.

  • For the Basmati, my options are to either cook the rice 4 cups at a time (re-season, clean the pots, etc) or use my large soup / gravy pot to do the rice.
  • For the Risotto, I'm not really sure if cooking that much risotto is even possible simultaneously.

My question in a nutshell is how much water and salt should I put in?

Now I know that water and seasoning depends on humidity, weather condition, type of rice, where was it harvested from, was it drained ? washed ? drained and washed? soaked?, the moon and earth cycles, night and day, and that the amount of water decreases significantly as the amount of rice increases. I'm looking for a ballpark figure (+/- 1 cup)


I'm sorry to be a pain in the rear; however, there is definitely a difference between cooking 2 cups of rice and 20 cups of rice. I ended up resorting to making my spice mix ahead of time and cooked the rice 4 cups at a time with about (5-6 cups of water for each batch).

I'll keep researching this and see what I can come up with


6 Answers 6


I would definitely not do the risotto, very hard to get and hold the right texture in those kinds of quantities. The basmati rice will work fine in a large pot. Cook it by the absorption method (bring to a boil with 1 3/4 cups of water per cup of rice, reduce to a simmer, cook covered, without stirring, until all of the water is absorbed).

  • 35 cups o water seem to be a very large amount for 15-20 cups of rice
    – dassouki
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 16:58
  • 1
    It may seem like a lot but it might even be on the small side. I normally use 2 cups to a cup of dried rice. Dried ingredients can suck up a lot of liquid. Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 22:56

One great way to cook rice is the iranian style chelow or polo. Rice is soaked in salted water for a couple of hours then it is boiled the same way as pasta 'al dente'. Finally it is drained then steamed for about one hour. The question of how much water doesn't hold.


For your basmati rice, Cook's Illustrated has a baked rice recipe that - with a large enough pot - you should be able to adapt. You can find it in their New Best Recipe. There's a similar recipe that was written up in Gourmet (via The Wednesday Chef).

I'd skip the risotto.


If I was going to cook rice for that many people, I probably wouldn't use stovetop method -- I'd use a pilaf method, and do it in the oven, hopefully in a large, wide pan.

The only issues I can think of when doubling amounts of rice, as I know that the more rice there is, the lower the ratio of water to rice needs to be is that maybe as the water gets deeper, the extra pressure allows the rice to cook faster? I'm not sure if the pressure differential of an inch or two would be that significant, but I'd think that a large bottom area and not cooking the rice so it's too deep would help offset this potential issue ... but you could also use multiple smaller containers, if you're worried about doubling, as the oven's going to give you a consistent temp.


I cook mine in a Rice Cooker, good quality with variable settings for white and dark rices. Comes out great.


The best answer I can offer is two inches and go from there. Let me clarify put your rice in your soup pan cover it with water until it is two inches over the top of your rice on medium high heat and check and stir it until it is to the right consistency. Once the rice has absorbed all the water fluff. I know it is not a very accurate number but as you said there are a lot of factors involved. For the Risotto the most I have managed to cook at one time was six servings and that was difficult to get the proper consistency, I just don't have a pan large enough to cook it properly over that amount so have never tried.

  • I think this method works perfect on a small amount of rice, or the "water the size of your thumbnail over the rice", but does it work for a large quantity of rice.
    – dassouki
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 17:09
  • That is why it becomes a little more complicated than letting it sit, you have to tend to the rice and add more water if necessary. There really is no way to accurately measure a rice to water ratio when you are cooking that large of a quantity. Like Michael said 35 cups of water may be exactly right if you have a large enough cooking vessel to spread the rice out in, but if you don't then there is more stirring involved and you may need to add water as you go.
    – Varuuknahl
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 22:22
  • Two inches? I usually use one inch, and it comes out great. Looking online, I found some recommendations for 1.5". Maybe there's differences between varieties of rice? (actually, looking again, I use low heat, not high heat, and don't stir)
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 11, 2010 at 11:42
  • @dassouki : I've never cooked 20c. of rice before, but I've done between 2-5c. with the 'water level' method, low heat, not stirring, and it comes out fine. I'd guess that part of the issue is the total depth of the rice, so I'd go with a large, wide vessel if you could.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 11, 2010 at 11:45

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