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How to Cook Brown Rice: 5 Tips & 4 Methods

Brown rice is a staple food in many countries. Places such as Japan, China, India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, and the US all consume vast amounts of brown rice. In this article we’ll explore the best way to prepare brown rice, why it’s so good for you, plus some tasty recipe hacks.

Many have done so for thousands of years, while others have added brown rice to their diets more recently. Regardless of the length of time it’s been enjoyed, brown rice is widely consumed for its health benefits, easy preparation, and versatility.

Brown rice is an ideal food for when you’re dieting or even if you’re just looking for a simple side dish that’ll readily absorb sauces.

You can prepare it in a variety of ways using just a few basic tools, and it’ll turn out perfectly even if you’re a total cooking novice. 

Interesting Facts about Brown Rice

Interesting Facts about Brown Rice

Brown rice has been consumed for thousands of years and is widely enjoyed all over the world. It’s well known for its health benefits, nutrient density, and high fiber content.

Brown rice is an excellent diet food as it makes you feel full for longer and slows your digestion, helping you eat less.

Brown rice is full of beneficial nutrients, including manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B3 (niacin), and more.

It’s also gluten-free and full of helpful antioxidant properties, which aid your body in neutralizing free radicals.

This, in turn, may reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes, and even have preventative effects on cancer.

Interestingly, brown rice appears to store a little less effectively than white rice. It naturally contains more oil, which means it may turn rancid at a faster pace. So long as you store your brown rice in an airtight container and keep it in a dry, cool, dark place, you shouldn’t face any issues, however.

There’s also less of an environmental impact when it comes to brown rice versus white rice production. Brown rice requires fewer resources and is less heavily processed than white rice.

What Brown Rice Is

What Brown Rice Is

Brown rice is the same grain as white rice — it just retains the germ and bran. These outer layers of the rice are removed when the grains are refined to make white rice.

Beyond this, there is no difference to the actual plant and product.

The plant itself is the same Oryza Sativa grain, which is native to much of Asia.

History and Origin

History and Origin

Brown rice was first brought to Europe from India by Alexander the Great and his vast armies. It soon found its way all around the Mediterranean area, and Arab seafarers later distributed it across the Middle East.

Nutrients in Brown Rice

Nutrients in Brown Rice

When compared with white rice, brown rice is generally regarded as being more nutritious. It contains more magnesium, fiber, and various other nutrients.

Brown rice also doesn’t tend to be artificially enriched with extra nutrients, as is sometimes done for white rice.

This clever whole grain is also naturally gluten-free, so it works well for a variety of diets.

Health Benefits of Brown Rice

Health Benefits of Brown Rice

Brown rice may be better when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, controlling your weight, and diminishing the risk of developing heart disease.

It helps with appetite control, as brown rice generally keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time.

The only potential downside to brown rice is that it sometimes contains higher levels of naturally occurring arsenic. This is because inorganic arsenic accumulates in the outer layers of rice (the germ and bran).

When these are removed to refine it and make white rice, more of the arsenic is removed. In brown rice, some of this will remain.

This isn’t really cause for concern in the average diet, though some advise pregnant women to limit their intake of brown rice.

At the end of the day, you’d want to speak to your Doctor if you’re at all concerned, as eating whole grain, healthy foods will probably still provide more benefits than any serious risks.

How Long It Takes to Cook Brown Rice

How Long It Takes to Cook Brown Rice

Boiling brown rice tends to take longer than white rice. This is, understandably, because brown rice still contains its outer layers which are tougher and take longer to soften.

Most recipes and rice packets will advise around 30-35 minutes of cooking time. The hack here is to simmer your brown rice for the majority of that time, then take it off the heat and leave it for the remaining 5-10 minutes.

Make sure you keep your rice well-covered and wait for it to absorb all of the remaining water. That way you’re almost guaranteed to get delicious, fluffy brown rice.

Tips for Cooking Perfect Brown Rice

Tips for Cooking Perfect Brown Rice

Brown rice is relatively easy to prepare, though you can take extra steps to ensure it turns out perfectly every time. Below are some of our top tips for preparing brown rice, so it’s fluffy, soft, and delicious, making the ideal accompaniment to your best dishes.

Rinse the Rice Before Cooking

Rinse the Rice Before Cooking

Rinsing your brown rice before cooking it ensures that you remove any unwanted grit and materials you wouldn’t want to eat.

Some suggest looking at rice as you would at a bag of potatoes or apples.

You’ll want to wash it well to get rid of residual bugs and dirt that may have been picked up when the rice was harvested and processed.

Choose the Right Ratio of Water to Rice

Choose the Right Ratio of Water to Rice

Many packages of rice apparently suggest a simple 2-to-1 ratio of water to rice. However, cooking experts recommend going for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of water per 1 cup of brown rice.

Longer grain rice generally seems to require less water as compared with short-grain varieties.

Using less water will ensure that your boiled brown rice will still retain a bit of bite rather than turning mushy. When in doubt, you can always taste your cooked rice and add a little bit of extra boiled water.

Use the Appropriate Cooking Method

Use the Appropriate Cooking Method

This is largely down to taste and what you have available to use in your kitchen.

Some prefer to cook their brown rice on the stovetop, allowing them to watch it closely and taste as they cook. Others like the simplicity of a rice cooker or instant pot.

We cover the differences between each cooking method further on in this article, so you can decide which cooking method suits you best.

Allow Proper Resting Time after Cooking

Allow Proper Resting Time after Cooking

One top tip experts recommend is to take your boiled brown rice off the heat once cooked and allow it to rest.

Leaving the rice to sit, covered, for around 5-10 minutes will give it the chance to absorb any residual cooking water and steam.

This results in extra fluffy brown rice that’s light and tasty, and ready to soak up any delicious sauces you may serve with it.

Cooking Methods for Brown Rice

Cooking Methods for Brown Rice

The most widely used method to prepare brown rice is probably to just boil it on a stovetop.

With that said, there are other kitchen gadgets you can use to make the process easier for you.

Whether or not they actually result in better-tasting brown rice is debatable. We cover each of the most popular rice-cooking methods below.

In Instant Pot

In Instant Pot

An instant pot is ideal for making brown rice when you really don’t want to stand over the stovetop watching it (or don’t have the time to).

All you need is an instant pot or pressure cooker, a cup of brown rice and a cup of cold water.

Pressure-cooking the rice for around 15 minutes means you reduce the overall cooking time, plus you don’t need to worry about the rice burning or turning mushy.

In the Rice Cooker

In the Rice Cooker

Rice cookers appear to be slightly slower at preparing your brown rice, but they do take out any kind of guesswork.

It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to create perfectly cooked, fluffy brown rice in a rice cooker.

The general advice seems to be to use a 2:1 ratio of water to brown rice when using a rice cooker, though you may wish to experiment with a little less first to avoid mushy rice.

On Stove

On Stove

Most people cook their rice on a stovetop, simply because it’s the most readily available and easiest to control method.

Cooking your rice on the stove means you can keep an eye on it and add a little more water if necessary.

Start with less water (around 1 ¼ cups per 1 cup of brown rice) then add more if you feel it still has too much ‘bite’.

Oven-Cooked

Oven-Cooked

Did you know that you can easily prepare brown rice in an oven? All you need is a baking dish, some aluminum foil, and of course your main ingredients.

Add around 1 ½ cups of brown rice to your dish alongside 2 ½ cups of water, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or butter, and a teaspoon of salt.

Cover with the tin foil and ‘bake’ at 375 F for about an hour. Check occasionally to see that there is still water in your pan.

This is a particularly good method when you don’t have an instant pot or rice cooker at hand but can’t keep an eye on your rice while it’s cooking anyway.

Tasty Recipe Ideas with Brown Rice

Tasty Recipe Ideas with Brown Rice

Brown rice is hugely versatile as a side dish or as a key ingredient in a yummy stir fry.

Here we list some of our favorite recipes and hacks to make the most of your brown rice. From simple side dishes to delicious comfort food, brown rice can be made into just about anything you crave.

Brown Rice Pilaf

Brown Rice Pilaf

Pilaf is actually a Greek dish that refers to soft, fluffy rice that has been cooked in a delicious broth or meat-based stock. It’s neither sticky nor soupy in consistency and usually served as a scrumptious side dish.

One of the best recipes we came across incorporated long grain brown rice with chicken broth, plenty of minced garlic, onion, olive oil, and just a touch of salt and pepper to taste.

Done correctly, this makes for a flavorful side dish that isn’t just suitable for Greek cuisine, but for a variety of meat, fish, and veggie dishes.

Toasted Brown Rice with Mushrooms and Herbs

Toasted Brown Rice with Mushrooms and Herbs

The easiest way to make toasted brown rice is to first heat some diced onions and minced garlic in a saucepan alongside a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Add the dry rice and ‘toast’ lightly for a minute or so. Next, add some vegetable or chicken broth, mushrooms, and herbs such as parsley and thyme. Season with sea salt and black pepper and enjoy.

Top tip: this is even better if you top it with some more fresh herbs and shaved parmesan before serving.

Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice

We’ve likely all had a veggie fried rice at some point. Usually it’s served as a slightly lackluster side to Chinese or Indian food.

Homemade fried brown rice is much better and more satisfying.

It incorporates plenty of vegetables, such as onions, carrots, peas, broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, and more.

The key is to cut your veggies into even sizes so they all cook at the same rate and you don’t end up with some hard and some soggy veg.

You may also wish to incorporate scrambled eggs and spices, and use sesame oil for extra flavoring and a delicious fragrance.

Healthy Alternatives to Brown Rice

Healthy Alternatives to Brown Rice

Brown rice is a healthy grain to add to your dishes, but it does come with a few downsides: for a start, it takes quite a long time to cook.

It can have naturally occurring arsenic, and it also contains what’s called an ‘anti-nutrient’ (phytic acid) which can make digestion trickier and reduce your body’s absorption of zinc and iron.

All that being said, it’s still a brilliant addition to many meals, but you may wish to try alternatives. Here we list some of our favorite ones.

Quinoa

Quinoa

Quinoa has a fun naturally occurring ‘timer’ you can go by when cooking it: simply simmer your quinoa grains for around 15 minutes or until you see a white sprout or ‘tail’ appear on the sides of the grains.

This is actually the seed’s germ, which is very nutritious.

Overall, quinoa grains contain more micronutrients, protein, and amino acids than brown rice. They’re also lower on carbs, making them a diet-friendly food.

Fun fact: quinoa is actually a seed, but is classified as a nutritious whole grain.

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat is another great substitute for brown rice that cooks quickly and is nutritious. To cook bulgur, simply boil it in water for around 10-15 minutes or soak it in just boiled water for 20-30 minutes.

Either way, wait until all of the water is absorbed and your bulgur wheat is nice and fluffy, and use it similar to brown rice.

Compared with the latter, bulgur wheat contains more fiber (more than twice as much) and four times the amount of folate — making it particularly good for pregnant women.

Shirataki Rice

Shirataki Rice

Shirataki or konjac rice only takes around 3 minutes to cook. You don’t boil it but rather saute the ‘rice’ until it begins popping, signifying that the moisture has been fully removed.

Shirataki rice is made using the konjac plant, which is a kind of root similar to yam or taro. Compared with brown rice, shirataki actually doesn’t have as much fiber, so it won’t keep you feeling full for as long.

With that said, shirataki rice is very low in calories and has a low glycemix index, making it ideal for people with diabetes.

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