The best way to cook brown rice depends on what type of brown rice you have – and I cooked a LOT of brown rice to figure this out! Did you know brown basmati rice cooks in half the time of long grain, and short grain brown rice is better baked than cooked on the stove?
BIGGEST TIP – ignore the packet directions, DO NOT use the absorption method. And make this Brown Rice Salad!
How to cook brown rice (perfectly)
This is a recipe for how to cook brown rice so it’s fluffy and tumbles out of the pot like THIS ↓↓
The challenge with cooking brown rice is that it has a harder hull than white rice, being the nutritious bran layer than is left on during milling. So all too often, recipes will lead you down a path to either overcooked mushy surfaces with cooked insides, OR the surface might be perfect but the inside is still hard.
The brown rice cook time varies drastically depending on what type of brown rice you have.
Well, you can ignore all those other recipes you’ve used in the past. This is all you need to know about how to cook brown rice perfectly and consistently, every single time:
- Determine what type of rice you’ve got; and
- Cook it according to the table below:
Using these methods, your brown rice will be….
- Perfectly cooked all the way through – not overcooked and mushy, nor undercooked in the middle;
- Will have a perfectly cooked surface that is neither gummy/slimy, nor unpleasantly wet and soggy;
- Will have the slight chew that we love about brown rice, from the layer of bran that is kept on during milling – the good stuff, the flavour and nutrition!
- Will be beautifully fluffy – if you used medium/long grain or basmati rice; or
- Will be a bit sticky and clump together as intended – if you used short grain rice.
If you don’t know what type of brown rice you have, match it as best you can to the photos above.
Boil and Drain Method
Use this for: medium grain, long grain and brown basmati rice.
Overview: This method is for long rice grains that cook up fluffy and separated, rather than clumping together. The rapid boiling keeps the grains agitated so they don’t stick together. This “hard and fast” boil method is ideal to cook through the tough, nutritious bran layer on the outside of brown rice.
The Boil and Drain method is just like cooking pasta – with one very important difference: resting. When the rice is drained, you will notice the grains are unpleasantly soggy. When you return it to the pot and leave it covered for 10 minutes, the grains will absorb the excess water and transform into fluffy perfection!
- 30 minutes – medium grain and long grain brown rice
- 12 – 14 minutes – brown basmati rice
This is brown basmati rice that’s been cooked using the Boil and Drain method:
Use this for: short grain. Also very good for medium grain and long grain (though Boil and Drain is better for these).
Overview: Excellent entirely hands off method to evenly cook through brown rice. Marginal bits of crispy brown rice on the rim of the surface, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. (In fact, I want to pick them off for myself!)
This massively overlooked method of baking rice is ideal because the baking vessel is not in direct contact with the heating element (like with stovetop cooking) so you don’t have to worry about a scorched base, and the long, slow 75 minute cook time allows for the tough outer layer of the brown rice to cook through perfectly.
NO to the Absorption Method!
The Absorption Method of cooking rice is the method whereby rice and water is put in a saucepan and cooked over low heat so the rice absorbs the water, and it is NOT drained. This is how I cook all white rice – everyday rice as well as Jasmin and Basmati.
While it can work if you soak the rice for 2 hours, then cook on a low heat for 30 minutes, I concluded that it was not the best nor easiest method for brown rice because of the following
- It’s difficult to achieve consistency – sometimes the rice comes out pretty good, cooked through with a nice surface on each grain. But sometimes, it came out with a slimy or gummy surface which is really unpleasant. A perfect result is highly susceptible to minor variations in pot size and stove strength. I also got friends to try, and had mixed results;
- Not as good as Boil & Drain or Baking – even when I “nailed it”, the rice isn’t as good as using the Boil & Drain or Baking Methods. The rice in the lower part of the pot was always more wet and slightly softer than ideal.
Conclusion: give the absorption method a miss!
Why is it so hard to cook brown rice using the Absorption Method?
Because brown rice grains have a hard nutrition hull (the bran layer which is removed for white rice). This is tougher and takes longer to cook. It is very hard to find the perfect balance using the low-heat absorption method such that the hard hull is perfectly cooked in the same time it takes for the inside cooks through. All too often, you end up overcooking the hull in order to cook the middle (ie mushy outsides), or undercooked hard inside with perfectly cooked outsides.
Here’s a “successful” pot of brown rice cooked using the Absorption Method. It’s hard to tell from a photo, but these rice grains were softer and far less fluffier than using the Boil & Drain Method AND Baking Method (this is medium grain brown rice).
Different types of brown rice
Technically, any rice that doesn’t have the hull removed is a brown rice, so this includes things like red rice, black rice etc. But for the purpose of this recipe, I’m covering the four common types of brown rice (all pictured in graphic at top of post):
- Short grain brown rice rice – short and stubby, this cooks up sticky so the grains clump together, making it ideal to pick up with chopsticks and use for things like sushi where you want the rice to stick together. This is rare in Australia, I’ve only used it a handful of times, always from speciality stores or markets. And I’ve also read that it’s common for short(ish) medium grain rice to be labelled “short grain rice”. Most sushi shops in Australia appear to use medium grain brown rice;
- Medium grain brown rice (below left) – slightly longer than short grain, this is a great all rounder that is slightly stickier than long grain, but not as sticky as short grain (just sticky enough to make sushi rolls). Most common rice type in Australia;
- Long grain – longer still, cooks up fluffy and doesn’t stick together as much (though it still does a bit). Ideal for salads (think – tossing with dressing); and
- Basmati (below right) – the least sticky of them all! Traditionally from the Indian sub-continent so ideal with all things curry as well as Middle Eastern foods.
When to use which rice?
When used cooked – like serving with stir fries, or in rice salads and rice soups – the type of brown rice doesn’t really matter except for things like sushi when the rice needs to stick together (use short grain).
However, it does matter when uncooked rice is used in a recipe because the cook time and liquid amounts required depends on the type of brown rice used. The recipe author should (hopefully!) specify which type of rice to use.
What to make with brown rice
Ahh, the possibilities in your newfound perfectly-cooked-brown-rice life!! To smother in stir fries, make fried rice, rice salads (this one or this fabulous new one), and the hundreds of recipes on my website that end with the words “serve with rice”.
Basically, anytime a recipe calls for using or serving with cooked white rice, switch it out with brown rice for the added health benefits and flavour!
PRO TIP: Fried rice is excellent made with brown rice because the grains are a little firmer than white rice so you don’t even need to refrigerate overnight! I have quite a few for you to choose from:
FRIED RICE RECIPES to make using brown rice
Also, if you clicked on the brown rice testing matrix and are wondering what on earth I did with all that rice (especially the many batches of mushy rice!), it just so happens that Dozer’s homemade dog food includes soft cooked brown rice so it all went to him!
That’s why I didn’t mind experimenting – because I knew none would go to waste. As a child, we were scolded for leaving a single grain of rice in my bowl. “A rice farmer picked that with his bare hands!” my mother would tell us, guilting us into respecting every grain of rice.
I do think that even back then, the farmers had a little help from machinery. 😂 But it was still a lesson well learned! – Nagi
Watch how to make it
How to cook brown rice
Boil and Drain (for fluffy rice):
- 1 cup brown rice - medium grain, long grain or basmati
- 8 cups water (Note 1)
Baked Rice (for stickier rice):
- 1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice (medium grain ok too)
- 2 1/2 cups BOILING water (Note 2)
Will NOT work for / not yet tested:
- Quick cooking rice (ie par boiled) - will not work
- Brown jasmine - not yet tested
- Rinsing rice: only required if you purchased from bulk bins. If you rinse, reduce water by 1/4 cup for baked version.
Boil and Drain:
- Boil water: Bring water to a boil in a small pot or large saucepan over high heat.
- Boil rice: Add rice, then boil rice until just cooked, a tiny bit firmer than you want (it gets softer during Rest step). Use these times as a guide (Note 3):- Medium and long grain rice: 30 minutes- Basmati rice: 12 minutes (1st check) to 14 minutes
- Drain VERY well (key tip! Note 4): Drain rice in a colander, shaking the pot well to remove as much water as you can, and shaking the colander to remove excess water from the rice. Pot should steam dry from residual heat.
- Rest: Return rice to now-dry pot. Put lid on and put it back on the turned off stove. Leave for 10 minutes.
- Fluff and serce: Fluff rice with fork and serve.
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (all oven types).
- Combine rice and water: Pour rice and boiling water into a 20cm/8" square pan or round casserole pot. Cover with lid or foil.
- Bake 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Rest, fluff & serve: Remove from oven, stand 10 minutes then fluff with fork and serve.
- Short grain - this sticky rice is best baked. Boil and drain isn't suitable for sticky rice.
- Medium grain - sits between sticky short grain rice and fluffy long grain rice. Boil and Drain is best (fluffiest result) but baked is very good too (useful hands-off method).
- Long grain and basmati - these long slender grains of rice are most definitely best cooked using the Boil and Drain method for the fluffiest result. Baking works too, but the texture of the rice at the base ends up stickier than ideal, while the rice on the surface is closer to what it should be.
1. Water volume - as you scale up the recipe, you don't need to scale up the water volume as much. You just need plenty of water that the rice can absorb (it will almost triple in volume) and enough extra bubbling water to keep the rice bouncing around. Think of it like pasta! So for 1 cup rice, you need 8 cups water, but then for 2 cups of rice, you need only 12 cups of water. And so on. 2. Boiling water - important to use boiling water to skip the time it takes for water to heat up in the oven. If you don't use boiling water, the rice is just soaking in water for 20 minutes or so until it starts cooking, and you'll end up with soggy rice (as well as increasing cook time). 3. Why do you have to check early when boiling? Because I've found that from brand to brand, the perfect cook time can differ. It's utterly frustrating! But there seems to be no universal standard for brown rice grain sizes, and rice can go from perfect to overcooked in mere minutes. So the golden rule is - CHECK EARLY! (And once you've perfected your preferred rice brand, you'll know the perfect boil time - stick it on your fridge!). 4. Excess water - shaking off excess water from rice and pouring out every drop of water from the pot so it steams dry in seconds with the residual heat are two key tips for perfect rice using the Boil and Drain method. If the rice is soggy or if the base of the pot is covered in water when you return the rice to the pot, it will absorb that water and end up over bloated. Resting rice after cooking is especially critical for Boil and Drain because the rice is "wet" straight out of the pot. During the resting phase, the water on each rice grain gets absorbed into the rice, leaving you with perfect rice grains! 5. Rinsing rice - You don't need to rinse brown rice for it to be fluffy with these cook methods. You only need to rinse if you are concerned about cleanness - eg if you purchased from bulk bins. How to rinse rice: Place rice in bowl, fill with water, swish until murkey, drain, repeat 3 more times. Water will never be fully clear. If you rinse, DO NOT leave rice soaking in water before cooking, it will affect the cook time (soaked rice cooks faster). In fact, you should rinse immediately prior to cooking. If you rinse rice, REDUCE water in Baked Method by 1/4 cup (65 ml). 6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 1 cup of uncooked rice serves 3 people.
More Life-Essential Rice recipes
Because nobody likes mushy rice…nobody!
Life of Dozer
I went searching for a photo of Dozer’s homemade food mix which includes soft cooked mushy brown rice (the perfect use for all the failed batches of brown rice!). This is the only one I could find – from that time I was putting his bowl together and a bit of his food flew into my mouth!! 😂
For those who are interested, here is his homemade dog food recipe, but please do not use it without consulting your own specialist or doing your own research because I am not an expert (only an expert on Dozer’s food!).