brown rice – perfect every time

perfect brown rice

One of the most frequent questions I get in class is how to make perfect brown rice. So many people invest in space-hogging contraptions or end up with sticky over-cooked rice. My first tip is to stop following the instructions on the packet, because this easy-peasy method gives you perfect rice every time with minimal fuss.

My stash of frozen, cooked brown rice is a life saver as it means I can swipe half an hour off my cooking time for many meals. When my boys were smaller it saved my sanity many an evening by providing the backbone of quick meals for them. Now I find it really useful when they come home from sports and are starving hungry.

What type of brown rice to buy and how long to cook it

In the UK I buy brown Thai Jasmine or Tilda’s brown basmati rice. In the US I’m partial to the big bags of Trader Joe’s brown Thai Jasmine rice. These brands usually takes around 30 minutes to cook using my perfect brown rice method. White rice will take around half that time to cook.

White vs. brown rice and how to make the switch

We never buy white rice because I love the taste and general nuttiness and texture of brown rice. And because the nutritious outer layer has been left intact, you get the fiber that will keep you full for longer and keep your blood sugar levels steady. This outer layer also contains proteins, thiamine, calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all of these are lost when white rice is processed.

My children have always had brown rice so they don’t know any difference – I’m a big believer in giving children real wholegrain, good quality versions from day one as I see so many people struggling to wean older children off white pasta, white bread and white rice later.

If you want to move away from white rice, I recommend cooking a batch of brown rice and adding it in increasing proportions to cooked white rice. Don’t mention it when you serve it and gradually add more. They’ll soon get used to the difference (and really its not that different especially when its served with a sauce).

brown rice

Cook brown rice in bulk and freeze for super-speedy meals

I always cook more rice than I need so that I can freeze some. I keep a big bag of cooked brown rice in the freezer to speed up all manner of meals. It is a great habit to get into – just cook double the rice you need and freeze it after it has gone cool.

I freeze our leftover rice in plastic storage bags. Be sure to flatten it as then you can just break off a chunk and defrost it rather than trying to defrost a big lump of it. Then you can just microwave it or stir fry it for a quick dinner.

The frozen rice can be used in all sorts of ways from frozen and thrown into pasta sauces for a quick faux-risotto. It is also brilliant for speedy fried veggie rice or my brown rice rice pudding. Scroll down for all the other recipes I use it in.

Busting the leftover rice myths

I’ve heard lots of the misconceptions about using leftover rice from my students and know many people are nervous about reusing it – so listen up.

The problem around rice causing food poisoning comes from people using leftover rice from a take out. Because many restaurants keep their rice warm during service it isn’t a good idea to reuse it for another meal at home. Warmth plus moisture is bacteria heaven, so warm rice is just dreamy for the little buggers. However as long as you’ve cooked the rice yourself, let it go cold quickly (I usually spread it on a plate and pop it in the fridge) then bag it up in whatever serving size suits you, and freeze it straight away, you’re good. Then when you reheat it just make sure it is steaming hot and you’ll be fine.

How much water to use in your perfect brown rice

I find it easier to measure my rice by volume rather than weighing it. Plan on 1 cup (240ml in a measuring jug) of uncooked rice for 2 people and follow my method below. It is important to remember the ratio 1 cup (240ml) of rice to 2 cups (480ml) of water (or fill 1 coffee mug with rice then use 2 of the same coffee mugs of water). And to use a small pan with a lid. The bigger the pan the quicker the water will evaporate and the rice won’t cook as evenly.

How to cook your brown rice

  1. Put your rice in a small saucepan and add cold water. Swish it around then use the lid as a strainer and pour off the water. Then add the correct volume of hot or boiling water to the rice, put a lid on and put it on a high heat (see the paragraph above for how much water to rice).
  2. When the water starts to boil (check this by listening rather than keep lifting the lid which will slow it down) transfer the pan to your lowest heat ring, on the lowest flame (the smallest one on your hob).
  3. With the heat on the lowest setting, leave the rice to barely simmer for between 20-40 minutes. The cooking time will depend on which type of rice you are using, your pan and your heat.
  4. Do not take the lid off for the first 20 minutes as you want the rice to steam and you will lose the steam each time the lid comes off. Also, don’t be tempted to stir it as you will make your rice mushy.
  5. After 20 minutes take a quick look and taste one of the grains of rice from the top of the pot. You should see little holes in the rice where the steam has forced its way out (see picture below). This will show that most of the water has been absorbed by the rice. If it is cooked, turn the heat off, if not, pop the lid back on and continue cooking. The cooked rice will happily sit off the heat with the lid on for half an hour before serving.

perfect brown rice

Try some of my recipes that use brown rice:

Wholegrain pancakes

Brown rice pudding

Speedy pilaf

Roast chicken with sticky garlic brown rice and greens

Sesame wasabi crusted fish with kale fried rice and ginger cucumber salad

Salmon and avocado speedy vegetable rice


You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools. You can also buy my other bits of essential kitchen equipment through this post.

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