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Rice 101

The Martha Stewart Show, February 2009

In many parts of the world, particularly Asia, rice plays a central role in most meals. In fact, there are more than 7,000 varieties of rice grown around the world. 

Rice has the ability to carry the flavor of a sauce, tame the fire of spicy food, and lend satisfying substance to lighter dishes.

Most rice is classified as either brown or white; the color is determined by the way the grain is processed. White rice is stripped of its outer husk, as well as its bran and germ. Brown rice has its bran and germ left intact, has more vitamins and fiber, a stronger flavor, and a chewier texture. It also takes longer to cook, and is more perishable, so it is best bought in smaller quantities and kept refrigerated. All rice is classified by grain size; the shorter the grain the more starchy it will be.

Absorption Method
Rice is most commonly cooked on the stove top or in the oven by the absorption method, in which liquid is completely absorbed by the grain. This method is easy, as long as you leave the lid on while cooking to trap as much steam as possible and avoid overcooking. Be sure to let the rice sit after cooking to absorb the water completely, and fluff the rice with a fork just before serving. Although many recipes call for a ratio of 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, using less water produces lighter, fluffier results.

Pilaf, the second method of cooking rice, is similar to the absorption method, but the grains are toasted in oil or butter before the cooking liquid (usually stock) is added. Many grains can be cooked into a pilaf, but rice is the most common. Toasting the grains keeps them from sticking to one another and helps maintain their shape once cooked. Pilafs often include other ingredients, such as onion, small pastas, or dried fruits. After the initial toasting, pilafs can be finished on the stovetop or in the oven.

Rice can also be prepared as delicious risotto. Rice prepared by this method is cooked slowly and stirred frequently while a flavorful stock is added gradually until the dish is rich and velvety. Medium-grain rice varieties such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano, are used for making risotto. Cheese and seasonings are common additions, but you will also find vegetables or seafood; these are usually cooked separately before being stirred into the dish. Although the consistency will be different (but just as delicious), risottos can be prepared from other grains, such as barley or farro.

Try making rice with these three simple recipes: The Perfect Rice, Rice Pilaf, and Risotto. For more information, download the rice-cooking chart. Learn more Cooking School lessons to practice at home, and test your Cooking School knowledge in our quiz.

Comments (6)

  • 22 Sep, 2010

    I learned from my Chinese mother-in-law basically the same thing... cook for 16 minutes on top of the stove. Ratio of 2 cups water to 1 cup rice... we mix the brown and jasmine rice and cook together. The mixture ends up having a little more body and nutrition.

  • 5 Feb, 2009

    I'm surprised she doesn't have a large turn over of people because of her rudeness and the way she talks down to everyone. She even does it with celebreties. She's a a very intelligent person, but unfortunately she can be very crass. No wonder her daughter disses her all the time, yet she is a pea from the same pod with the way she treats Jennifer.

  • 4 Feb, 2009

    Martha interrupts all her quests especially those that are cooking along side her. The other day a quest was cooking some meat, he was about to tell everyone how you know when it's done and Martha interrupts him, I never learned when you know that it's done. She is very rude to her quests and doesn't listen to them. It very frustrating!

  • 4 Feb, 2009

    I agree,so often I have felt so very bad for Sarah. What a terrible feeling it must be to do your best in front of thousands of viewers and be constantly overshadowed by your boss. With all the "Savoir Faire" that Martha has I would think she should know better. SAVOIR FAIRE in this case could mean proper etiquette or how to be polite. If Martha is the boss and she knows best why doesn't she do the presentation herself?

  • 4 Feb, 2009

    I totally agree, I thought it was just me who noticed it. She seems to do it all the time. She should take a step back

  • 4 Feb, 2009

    Poor Sarah. Martha constantly interrupts her and interferes with her presentation of the information of the segment. Sarah seems so nervous and MS so disrespectful that is it painful to watch.