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Rinse the rice: Put the rice in a wire mesh sieve or strainer and rinse it under cold water for about 10 seconds. Swish it around to get the excess water off.
Combine the rice and liquid: In a medium saucepan (about 2 quarts), combine the rice and water. Add the salt, if using.
Cover and bring to a boil: Put on the lid. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the rice to a boil. The liquid can quickly boil over and make a big mess, so watch the pot for steam, or listen for the lid making jiggling sounds.
Turn down the heat and set the timer: Once the rice comes to a boil, set a timer for 35 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, or as low as it can go while still maintaining a very gently simmer (look for wisps of steam around the lid). It’s okay to take off the lid a few times to check on the progress of the rice, but try to keep it to a minimum.
When the timer goes off, open the lid: Check on the doneness of the rice. You should see crater-like steam holes in the surface of the rice, and there should not be any liquid sloshing around in the bottom of the pot. If you taste a grain, it may be a little toothy, which is fine. If the rice is still outright crunchy, return it to the burner on medium-low in increments of 5 minutes.
Turn off the burner and let the rice steam: Turn off the heat. Let the rice sit with the lid on for 10 minutes so it can steam. Even though the pot is not on the heat, this is part of your cooking time.
Fluff and serve: Use a fork or spoon to fluff the rice before serving it.
Freeze cooled leftovers, if you like: Brown rice freezes great! Put the cooled rice in a zip-top freezer bag. Press out as much air as you can, seal it, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or plunge the bag in a bowl of warm water and massage every few minutes to break up the grains. Here's more on freezing rice.