Brown rice, once the darling carb of the health conscious, has been upstaged by spelt, quinoa, and farro -- ancient grains with intriguing textures and tastes that now hold pride of place on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves. By comparison, brown rice seems dutiful and a little dull. Although the end result is still less processed (thus more nutritious) than white rice, it's often overcooked and mushy ... and ripe for reinvention. When our food editors decided to ignore the cooking instructions found on most packages, they had a revelation, and you will, too. Using less water and cooking brown rice for less time yields deliciously fluffy, nutty-flavored grains that hold up well in the refrigerator or the freezer -- that is, if you have any left.
Master Recipe: Brown Rice
1. The Right Ratio
Trust us: Though it's printed on the package, the standard 2-to-1 ratio makes mushy rice. For long-grain brown rice, use 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup rice. For short-grain, use 1 1/2 cups water.
2. Quick Cooking Time
Bring rice, water, and coarse salt (1/4 teaspoon per cup of rice) to a boil. Cover, and reduce to a slow, steady simmer. Many recipes call for 50 minutes, but we think 30 minutes is plenty. A wide, shallow pot with a tight-fitting lid ensures evenly cooked grains.
3. Steam and Fluff
Let the cooked rice sit for 10 minutes, covered, to absorb maximum moisture; then remove the lid, and fluff the grains with a fork. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
More Brown Rice Ideas
Rice with Greens and Eggs
Saute spinach, collards, kale, or any other hearty green in olive oil with sliced garlic, salt, and pepper. Serve over rice with a fried egg on top. Season with red-pepper flakes.
Stir-fry chicken, tofu, or shrimp until cooked. Remove from the pan, and add sliced vegetables. Cook until crisp-tender, remove, and then add chopped ginger, scallion, and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add vegetables and protein back to the pan, along with some rice, and toss. Finish with soy sauce.
Hot Rice Cereal
Heat rice with milk and a pinch of salt in the microwave or on the stove top. Top with cinnamon, bananas, maple syrup, nuts, or seeds.
Store and Reheat
Refrigerate brown rice in an airtight container for up to five days. If you freeze it in an inch-thick layer in a large resealable plastic bag, you can easily break off individual portions as needed. Whether frozen or refrigerated, reheat rice in the microwave, covered, until steaming, one to three minutes.