How to Cook Brown Rice
How to Cook Brown Rice
Also called “hulled rice,” brown rice is basically unmilled or only partially milled rice. No different from standard white rice except for the fact that it is virtually unrefined, brown rice is a healthy alternative to good old white rice.
Besides being healthier, brown rice has a more pleasant texture (more al dente) and has a nutty flavor that white rice lacks. To make white rice, the “germ” inside a grain of rice is milled out. In brown rice, that germ is still intact, which gives brown rice the flavor, health benefits, and texture it is famous for. This germ also makes brown rice more susceptible to spoilage than white rice, so buying and storing brown rice properly is important.
Why Is Brown Rice Healthy?
Brown rice is not the healthiest grain, by a longshot. That honor goes to my personal favorite grain quinoa. But it is healthier than white rice and many people prefer its taste and texture.
Actually, brown rice and white are nutritionally pretty similar. They contain an almost equal amount of calories, carbohydrates, and protein.
The big difference between brown and white rice is in the vitamin and mineral content. Lots of good vitamins and dietary minerals are milled out of brown rice to make white rice. Vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and iron are the biggest losers in the milling process, so sometimes white rice has nutrients like iron added to it, and the white rice is then called “enriched” white rice. All white rice sold in the US is required to be enriched this way, as part of the rice milling restrictions put in place by the FDA.
One mineral that white rice totally lacks that you can find in brown rice is magnesium. One cup of brown rice has 84 milligrams of magnesium compared to trace amounts found in white rice. Magnesium is important for many bodily functions and processes.
Magnesium builds strong muscles and improves nerve function. Magnesium keeps the heart healthy, provides a steady heart rhythm, supports the immune system, and strengthens bones. Magnesium regulates blood sugar levels, so brown rice is a big part of diabetic diets. Magnesium helps normalize blood pressure, and is crucial for protein synthesis. Brown rice in combination with meat produces some of the best protein in the dietary world.
Cooking Brown Rice
Because brown rice isn’t milled or is only partially milled, it takes longer to cook. I used to shy away from brown rice just because it takes so darn long to cook, but once you learn the proper way to prepare brown rice, you’ll never worry about a slightly longer cooking time again.
I find brown rice more “moody” than white rice. If you don’t do everything exactly right, you’re going to get undercooked and hard rice or mushy soggy rice, both of which are pretty much inedible.
I’ve found the best way to cook brown rice is on the old stovetop. Proper preparation of brown rice takes 35 minutes from when you start to when you’re ready to eat it. Some people have been told that brown rice takes an hour to cook, but using my method, you’ll shave almost a half hour off that time. My brown rice method works for short grain and long grain brown rice, though most recipes call for (and most people prefer) the long grain version.
Start by putting your brown rice and water in the pot, making sure to leave the pot uncovered, but keep a lid andy. My special brown rice prep method requires a ratio of 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups of water. I get my brown rice ready early in the wook, cooking 6 cups of rice with 9 cups of water. That way I can use it throughout the week.
Put the burner on max heat and bring your mixture to a boil. After it boils, put your lid on your pot and drop the heat down to low or even “simmer.” Your rice needs to simmer for 20 minutes exactly–I’ve tried 25 and I’ve tried 15, but 20 minutes is the ideal simmer time with this ratio of water to rice.
When 20 minutes is up, let the rice sit covered in your pot for another 10 minutes. If you’re like me, you like slightly chewy brown rice, so I usually take the lid off the pot at precisely 10 minutes. Make perfect slightly more tender than al dente brown rice.
Adding Brown Rice to Food
The simplest brown rice preparation is usually my favorite. Growing up in the south, I loved a snack of white rice and butter, but here’s a healthier (and yummier) version of that snack with brown rice.
Scoop some cooked rice into a bowl, add soy sauce and a handful or two of sesame seeds. You don’t need to go any farther if you don’t want to–the sesame and soy adds a ton of flavor to the rice–but you can add steamed veggies (like broccoli or even tomato) and fried or baked tofu or tempeh.
Cooked brown rice keeps for up to a week if properly stored in the fridge.
Leftover Brown Rice Recipe
I almost always have extra rice left over from my batch, so I like to make this quick meal when I’m in a hurry to get out the door.
In a small pot, heat a tablespoon of oil for a minute on medium. If you want to stick with the Asian theme, use a dark sesame oil. Otherwise, a healthy oil like canola works well and stands up to the heat.
Throw in chopped veggies and saute them for four or five minutes. My “go to” veggies for brown rice are onions, bell peppers, jalapeno, and green onion. You can use whatever veg you have in the fridge.
Scoop in your leftover brown rice after the veggies are done. I use a 2:1 ratio of brown rice to veggies, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Mix the rice and veggies quickly so they stick to each other rather than making a messy “stew.”
Cook this mixture on medium or even low heat for another five minutes, letting the rice get hot and the oil and seasonings to coat the rice. Pour in soy sauce or your favorite hot sauce and “sear” the flavor in by turning the heat back up for another minute.
Brown rice is adaptable and delicious as well as healthy.