Several years ago I wanted to try brown rice, but I didn’t want to wait forever for it to cook, or run the risk of ruining it because I was inexperienced in cooking it. I had only ever cooked white rice until then, and I still use the technique my mother taught me when I make any dish that calls for white rice. However, there’s really only one way to make brown rice: in the microwave.
Hear me out. Cooking brown rice in the microwave produces consistent results every single time. It also takes way less time to cook. We’re talking 25-35 minutes instead of 45-60. The process is simple. Rinse your rice very well. A lot of people don’t really know what that means. You rinse it under running water until it runs clear, right? Well, not exactly. I rinse it in a colander under running water several times, running my fingers through the rice to toss it around in the colander as the water runs. Between rinses, I turn the water off and let it drain a minute or two. You really need to pay attention to this step when making any kind of brown rice, because if you don’t rinse it well enough it’ll smell (and taste) mildly mildewed. Yuck!
Another aspect of any kind of rice cooking that a lot of people get wrong is the rice to liquid ratio. The standard ratio for basic long grain white rice is usually thought of as being one cup of rice to two cups of liquid. Not so fast. Rice is hygroscopic. This means that it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, which affects how it cooks. This is the main reason why a range of cooking times is often given in the directions. You can tweak the rice to liquid ratio, and the final product will turn out better.
It just so happens that half a pound of rice is slightly more than one cup. This is the amount of rice you should use, rather than a level cup. Keep the same liquid amount that is indicated in the directions. To make basic long grain brown rice, the ratio will be ½ pound of rice to 2⅓ cups liquid. After you’ve rinsed it properly, transfer the rice to a 2-quart bowl and add liquid. If you want, you can add seasonings or substitute water with broth. I usually add a bit of butter and salt.
Cook the rice on high power for 5 minutes. Stir, then return to the microwave. Reduce the power to medium and cook 20 minutes more or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, adding more time in 5-minute increments on medium power if needed. Leave it in the microwave for five minutes before serving. That’s it.
This technique can be used for any variety of brown rice. Just use ½ pound of rice instead of one cup, and the amount of water indicated in the package directions for cooking one cup of dry rice. To make larger quantities of brown rice for the freezer, just remember to weigh out half a pound of rice for each cup, or one pound for every two cups that you would usually make. Portion your rice out in serving sizes that are appropriate for your family/usage, label and date the storage containers or resealable bags, and freeze for up to three months. You can reheat it from frozen, or simply let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Always remove any food from resealable bags before microwaving; the bags don’t belong in the microwave.
I always portion my rice in either 1-cup, 2-cup, or 4-cup portions. The 1-cup portions are for eating, and the 2-cup and 4-cup portions are for using in recipes that call for cooked rice. Chill rice in the refrigerator for about an hour or two before portioning it out for the freezer. Place the 1-cup or 2-cup portions into a gallon-sized bag that has already been labeled and dated; lay the gallon bags flat for freezing. Once frozen, you can set the gallon bags upright in your freezer, either right on a shelf or in a freezer bin.
Foolproof Brown Rice Recipe (Makes 4 servings)
Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 25-35 minutes Total: 30-40 minutes
½ lb. uncooked brown rice, rinsed thoroughly and drained
2⅓ c. water or broth
Unsalted butter to taste, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional
Stir together all ingredients in 2-quart microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power 5 minutes. Reduce power to medium; microwave 20 minutes more or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, adding more time in 5-minute increments if necessary. Let stand in microwave 5 minutes; fluff rice with fork and serve. This recipe can be scaled up to any amount as desired.
To freeze, portion into serving sizes according to your needs. If using resealable plastic bags, first label and date a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag; include reheating directions if desired. If using lidded containers, first label and date each container with a food-safe label or piece of freezer tape; include reheating directions if desired. Fill desired containers and freeze up to 3 months.
To reheat from resealable bags, first remove from bags and place rice in serving bowl. Microwave frozen rice on high power 2-3 minutes or until heated through, stirring once halfway through time. Microwave thawed rice on high power 1-2 minutes or until heated through, stirring halfway through time.
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