Technical Troubles: Cooking Rice in a Pot

done with words

Most asians (I think) nowadays have a rice cooker at home to cook rice because rice is such a staple. But over in my house, we do not use a rice cooker. We use this magic cooker thermal pot thing so we’ll have to cook the rice on a stove first before putting it into the thermal pot. The whole point is to save energy (aka gas bills) because the rice just needs to be around half-cooked and putting it into the thermal pot (which doesn’t use any electricity at all) will do the rest of the cooking. Therefore, I am quite familiar with cooking rice without using a rice cooker and am rather proud of this fact haha. Most of my friends of around my age do not really know how to do it so let me boast a little and show how it is done.

I was cooking brown/cargo/red (?) rice but the steps are the same for white rice.

Step 1 (skip if cooking white rice): Soak the rice at least 30 minutes before cooking it, else the rice will turn out hard or even burnt!

Step 2: Wash the rice inside the pot you’ll be using.  If you’re cooking the rice with the magic cooker thermal pot thing, use the shallow pot that comes together inside the thermal pot. Add water to the rice and swirl the rice around with your hand before pouring the water away. Repeat at least three times or until the water runs clear.

unclean rice

In this photo, the water is not clear and the rice is not really cleaned yet. Pour the murky water away and continue washing!

clean rice

Until the water stays clear like this even after swirling around.

Step 3: Add adequate amounts of water. As a general rule of thumb, the water and rice ratio should be 1:1. For non-white rice, add a little bit more of water. There’s no need to add exactly one part water to one part rice, just roughly will do. For me, I’ll use ‘eye power’ to judge how much water to add.

amount of water

Generally, the water should be around this much higher than the height of the rice. I’m not sure how this works out for pots of different diameters but I’ve cooked with 2 different pots of very different diameters and this general guide works. If you want to be extra cautious, stick to the 1:1 rule. If you’re adventurous and do not mind ending up with slightly softer rice (if there isn’t enough water, you can always add more before it burns!), you can try using your eye power. Once you get a feel of it, it’ll make you look (and feel haha) like a pro.

Step 4: Bring the rice and water to a roaring boil on high heat and let it boil for a few minutes. (Generally, I go with my feelings as to how long I should let it boil for. Again, there’s no need to be precise but do not let it boil for too long. Around 5-7 minutes will be acceptable.)


How a vigorous boil should look like – lots and lots of fierce bubbles. I’m using an ceramic hob here and I boil it on 9.

Step 5: After the few minutes that you’ve decided to let it boil, turn down the heat to low and allow the rice to simmer.


It’s difficult to see how it looks like when it’s simmering through a picture but generally, the bubbles should be smaller and gentler. Basically, the activity inside the pot should look cuter and less fierce. When using a gas stove, I’ll turn the fire down to the smallest possible and when using the ceramic hob, I’ll put it on 3 or even 2.

Step 6: Let the rice simmer and there’s two ways of doing this part (at least from what I’ve learnt). The first way is to never ever open the lid. Never ever ever. So you’ll either use your magical professional cooking feeling to tell when the rice will be done or use a see-through lid.
The second way is to open the lid and give the rice a good stir half way into the cooking.

Both ways work actually so…

Step 7: If you’re using the magic cooker thermal pot thing, take the rice off the stove and transfer it into the pot (with boiling water inside the bigger pot and hence underneath the rice) when the water is about to dry up. Basically, it’s when the top of the rice looks kind of dry but if you tilt the pot a little, plenty off water still comes out from underneath the rice, just like in the picture below which is really hard to see and understand. And if you’re using the thermal pot thing, you won’t be cooking your rice in any other pot. Use the top shallow pot that comes together inside the thermal pot.

almost done

If you’re not using the thermal pot thing, continue simmering the rice until all the water has dried up. If you tilt your pot slightly, there should be no water coming from underneath the rice. The rice will look fluffy and expanded.

And you’re done with cooking rice on a stove! It’s really simple and takes just about 30 minutes or so. If your rice turns out a little too hard but still acceptable but you’ll want it fluffier the next time round, simply add more water and let it boil on a high heat for a slightly longer time the next time round. If it’s too soft for your liking, simply add less water the next time round. Basically, there’s no precise formula to follow like in baking so just play by ear and practice makes perfect.


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