When I learned to cook rice in the New Orleans area, I used the following recipe:

In a big sauce pan measure 1 cup long grain rice to two cups room temperature water, salt to taste.

Bring to a boil, turn heat down to simmer, cover with lid for 30 minutes and rice is done. Never use a spoon in rice, only a fork. This is the way I was taught and it worked perfectly every time.

I moved to Indiana and tried the same method, same rice brand, same water, approximately the same type of stove. Now I have to use more water and less cook time, about 20 minutes total, instead of 30.

I know that Indiana is more than 700 feet above sea level, and parts of New Orleans are actually below sea level. But from what I have read, you ought to add to cook time when at a higher altitude, not subtract.

What causes this difference? Is it really due to altitude? Perhaps relative humidity? New Orleans has a very humid climate, Indiana is usually much drier. Today for example, I checked and Indianapolis has 39% relative humidity, and New Orleans – 90%.

Has anyone else heard of such a difference in cooking times? I would like to see if there is any kind of table giving cooking times based on local climatic differences. Please confine answers/comments to either experience or research.

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    Are you using the same stove? If not, I'm guessing that your burner is hotter in Indiana... It's much more likely that it's the method that has changed, not the climate.
    – Catija
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 18:36
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    @Max I'm not sure how that matters? It's the OP who's having to alter their method, they're not generally asking about how to make rice in Indiana.
    – Catija
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 18:40
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    Humidity will affect the natural moisture content of the rice but not so significantly between the two places. Besides, New Orleans ought to need less time. Altitude is not enough (and wrong way round as you noted). 700ft would change boiling point by 1.2F or 0.7C, not a discernible difference. Are you using the same rice? Mineral contents of water or water pH is different? (although doubt if that is significant either)
    – user110084
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 19:44
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    Burner output will indeed change the time it takes to bring water to boil. Also, is the starting temperatures of the water the same in both places? Is the a chance that somehow your water in New Orleans is cooler than that in Indiana? Same type of stove?
    – user110084
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 19:48
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    For the 1 cup rice and 2 cups water you have, a 500W net output burner will take nearly 6 min to go from room temperature to boiling. A more efficient and more powerful burner giving a 2000W net output would do that in 1.4 min. That could well account for most of the difference. Add to that, perhaps a different pan (heavier one will take longer), you can easily get 10 min difference.
    – user110084
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


Humidity and altitude both can have very large effects on cooking times and methods, especially with methods that are moisture-sensitive, like baking, braising, etc.

In your case, since the altitude difference is negligible, the rice is probably being affected by the ambient humidity; in Indiana, the rice is in a less humid climate and will thus be drier; it will require more water than rice which is stored in a naturally wetter climate like Louisiana. The difference in cook time could be either due to a difference in your stove's efficiency in heating the water, or possibly due to drier rice being more efficient at absorbing water, I'm not sure (and can't find any real references either way).

I live in a place which is high in altitude (around 4800 feet/1460 m) and very dry (it's classified as a desert), so I have to heavily adjust any recipe involving rice, baking, etc to use more moisture and often cook longer (boiling rice I usually add about 25% more water and it takes about 25% longer, sometimes more, than the instructions specify).

Generally, if you move from one climate or elevation to a very different one, you have to experiment a little to figure out how to adjust for your specific circumstances.

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    OP is looking for an explanation. Elevation change of the magnitude you described will have a significant impact: water boils at 95C or 203F. However, as OP pointed out, the shorter cooking time was in at a higher elevation, and a 700ft change is not noticeable.
    – user110084
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 19:42
  • I added a link to a similar discussion regarding the effects of ambient humidity on sushi rice. Commented May 30, 2017 at 19:45
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    Indiana is also on a giant limestone bed putting a lot of calcium in the water. It is possible the differences in water are making some differences in the chemistry. My first look though would be to look for stale rice causing an issue,
    – dlb
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 21:41
  • @technophile your answer gives me the technical side I was looking for, and thanks very much for the link!
    – Vekzhivi
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 11:13
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    A chance in pot can also have an effect. (width of the pot affecting how thick of a layer the rice is in, how well the lid fits affects moisture loss & evaporative cooling)
    – Joe
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 12:52

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