Worldwide there are more than 120,000 different varieties of rice, though only a small number offer the quality acceptable for commercial growth in the United States. These varieties can be divided into long, medium and short grain rice. An increasing number of sweet, aromatic and arborio rice varieties are also produced in the U.S.
The principal differences in these varieties are their cooking characteristics, texture and some subtle flavor variation. From a nutritional standpoint they are equal and can be used interchangeably, depending on the recipe.
TYPES OF RICE
Long grain rice has a long, slender kernel three to four times longer than its width. Due to its starch composition, cooked grains are more separate, light and fluffy.
Medium grain rice, when compared to long grain rice, has a shorter, wider kernel that is two to three times longer than its width. Cooked grains are more moist and tender than long grain, and have a greater tendency to cling together.
Short grain rice has a short, plump, almost round kernel. Cooked grains are soft and cling together, yet remain separate and are somewhat chewy, with a slight springiness to the bite.
(There are so many specialty rices; I am showing ones that I know we would all use.)
Jasmine rice is aromatic long grain rice that has a distinctive aroma and flavor similar to that of popcorn or roasted nuts. Cooked grains are soft, moist and cling together.
Basmati Type Rice
Basmati rice is aromatic long grain rice that has a distinctive aroma and flavor similar to that of popcorn or roasted nuts. When cooked, it expands only lengthwise, resulting in long slender grains that are dry, separate and fluffy.
Arborio rice is large, bold rice with a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain. In terms of length/width ratio and starch characteristics, it is classified as medium grain rice. Primarily used in risotto, this rice develops a creamy texture around a chewy center and has exceptional ability to absorb flavors.
Sweet rice is short and plump with a chalky white, opaque kernel. When cooked, sweet rice loses its shape and becomes very sticky and glutinous. It is used in commercial product formulations, such as gravies and sauces.
Other Specialty Rice:
Aromatic Red Rice
Della, Delrose, and Delmont
At Room Temperature: 1 year, in an unopened packet away from heat and humidity.
In The Fridge: a few days, cooked, in a closed container. Keep brown rice in an airtight container (to prevent it from spoiling.
In The Freezer: cooked; 6-8 months.
It is not necessary to soak parboiled rice, white rice or quick-cooking rice before cooking. Medium- and- short-grain rice should be washed before using for that the grains don’t stick together during the cooking process. Put the rice under running water until the water that runs from the rice is clear.
Basmati rice (and Thai rice or perfumed rice, according to taste) should be soaked in cold water before being cooked. Stir the rice and when the water becomes milky, drain and refresh the water 4 or 5 times until it is clear. Rinsing the rice gives it a lighter rather than creamier consistency.
(There are so many different ways to cook rice; depending on the rice you are making. Reading and following this section is not meant for instant rice.)
Boiled rice is cooked in water, stock, juice, or milk (especially to make desserts). Several methods can be used.
- Measure out 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid. The rice can be cooked in two ways: (A) place both rice and liquid in a pot and bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook gently; (B) or bring the water to a boil before adding the rice. Cook until the liquid is completely absorbed.
- Put the rice in a pot, cover with a large quantity of water and bring to a boil; lower the heat, cook uncovered and drain when the rice is done. If desired, dry the rice in the oven (350˚) for 7-15 minutes.
- Soak brown rice for 1 hour (for non-sticking rice). Cook in its soaking water for 35 minutes, turn off heat and leave the pot covered for 10 minutes, or cook for 45 minutes
- The absorption or “Indian” method produces light and non-sticky rice. Put the rice in a pot and cover with cold water until the water level is ½” above the rice. Bring to a boil covered over high heat and then cook over medium heat without stirring until small holes appear in the rice. Reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the rice, as it will stick to the base of the pot. Do not stir the rice (or stir once) after the small holes appear, if non-sticky steamed rice is desired.
- Basmati rice cooks in 1-1/3 cups of liquid) water or milk) for 1 cup of grains if it has been soaked, a little more if not soaked. Soak the rice for 30 minutes in 2 cups of water, drain and let rest for 10 minutes. Put the rice in the pot; add the liquid and cook, covered, for 20 minutes over very low heat. Turn off the heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
The following cooking times are only approximate; brown rice, 40-45 minutes; parboiled rice, 25 minutes; white rice, 15 minutes; instant rice, 5 minutes.
When cooking rice in a pot:
- Reduce the quantity of water and be careful not to overcook the rice if firmer rice is preferred, or slightly increase the quantity of liquid to obtain a softer rice.
- If the rice is not served immediately, reduce the cooking time slightly. The larger the quantity of rice, the longer the heat remains trapped and the more cooking time should be reduced. Uncover the pot once the cooking is finished.
- If some liquid remains after the rice is cooked, remove the cover and increase the heat so that the liquid evaporates quickly (be careful that the rice does not stick).
- If there is a larger amount of cooking liquid left over, drain the rice (use the cooking liquid to make soup, sauce, stew). The rice can be heated for a few moments to dry out.
- Avoid stirring rice while it is cooking unless sticky rice is desired.
Put the rice in a steaming basket, place above boiling water, cover and keep the water boiling over medium-high heat. The rice can be blanched for a few minutes beforehand, but this reduces its vitamin and mineral content.
IN FAT OR OIL:
Rice is cooked for a few minutes in fat or oil and constantly stirred. Twice its volume in liquid is then added, the rice is covered and the cooking continues until the liquid has been absorbed. This rice retains its firmness and shape better (it is the traditional method for preparing risotto, paella, Greek rice, pilaf, and Creole rice).
Serving Ideas For Rice
Rice is used in soups, croquettes, stuffing, salads, puddings, pies, and cakes. It is used to stuff veggies. It is the basis for risotto, pilaf, paella, and curries. It is made into noodles (rice noodles), dried cereal, syrup, wine, vinegar, miso, and alcoholic drinks. Rice can replace potato and accompany meat, poultry, fish and seafood. It is traditionally served with broiled fish and kebabs. It is served plain, cooked, or stir-fried. Milled into flour, rice gives a slightly dente texture to cakes and pastries and can be used to bind sauces. This flour is not suitable for making bread, as it does not contain any gluten.
Wild Rice 101
Grains of wild rice acquire their blackish color after being hulled, cleaned and dried. The have a fairly strong, nutty flavor and a crunchy texture.
Preparing Wild Rice
Wash the wild rice to remove any foreign matter. If the grains have not been hulled already, they can be spread on a cookie sheet and dried for 2-3 hours in a 200˚ oven, stirring them occasionally, or leave them 2-3 days in a warm place. They can also be dried in a pan, stirring continuously. Hull them by beating or rubbing the grains; the light husk will separate from the grain. Dry these again for 1 hour in the oven at 250˚.
Cooking Wild Rice
Boiled: In water or stock; soak wild rice for several hours or quick-soak for 1 hour. In a pot, put 4 parts of water for 1 part rice and bring to a boil; add the rice then let it boil for 5 minutes; remove from the heat. Cover and leave to soak for 1 hour. Drain. Put the pot back on the heat, add 3 times its volume in water (or less if drier rice is desired), add ½ tsp. of salt and bring to a boil reduce the heat and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes).
Avoid overcooking wild rice.
The cooking time for unsoaked grains is about 40 minutes (cook the rice in 3 times its volume of water).
Serving Ideas For Wild Rice
Wild rice accompanies poultry, seafood, and game. It is served by itself or mixed with other types of rice. Cooked wild rice is used in stuffing and crepes. It works well with mushrooms, veggies, fruit, and nuts. It can be popped like corn or milled into flour.