If you want a little more control over how your rice comes out, a rice steamer is an excellent choice for cooking perfect steamed rice. But when a conventional vegetable steamer is your only option, here's how to steam your rice for the best results.
Some appliances include a rice cooking bowl, which makes the steaming process even easier. You can also steam rice using something more traditional, such as a bamboo steamer ($22, Amazon).
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To make your perfect steamed rice extra fluffy, rinse it before you cook it. This eliminates the layers of starch between the grains that make the rice sticky — unless, of course, your steamed rice recipe called for sticky rice in particular.
Steaming Rice in a Rice Cooking Bowl
The average vegetable steamer will have a grid or mesh bottom, which is supposed to let steam pass through while firmly holding the vegetables in place. The openings, while small for most vegetables, can easily let rice fall through into the water reservoir of the steamer. That's why it's not a good idea to pour rice into the steamer basket.
For that reason, many steamers come with a rice cooking bowl, which is solid but still allows steam to come in via an open top. Here are the steps you should follow when steaming rice with a rice cooking bowl:
- Measure rice and water: Put some rice and water into the bowl and add a pinch of salt. The exact ratio depends on the type of rice you are cooking and the kind of outcome you want. For regular long-grain white rice, the ideal ratio is two parts water to one part rice.
- Fill the steamer's water reservoir: Fill the water reservoir in the rice steamer up to its maximum level. Once you've done that, assemble the drip tray and compartments of the steamer in the correct manner and position the rice bowl inside its rightful compartment. You can then either cover it with its lid, or with another steamer compartment with other foods, for stacked cooking.
- Let the rice cook: Now it's time to let the rice cook. The amount of time the rice needs to be cooked depends on the type of rice you're cooking. Regular white rice will need about 15 to 30 minutes to be ready, while brown, red and wild rice will need between 45 minutes and an hour. Set the timer for the appropriate duration, and wait. If there are specific settings on your steamer for cooking rice, use them.
- Check the rice: When the time is up, open the steamer to test the rice. Be very careful when you do this, as the hot steam that escapes may scald you. If the rice isn't evenly cooked, put the lid back in place, and wait for at least another 5 minutes before checking again.
- Let the rice stand for a while: Once the rice is perfectly cooked, you should remove it from the steamer and let it stand for between 5 and 10 minutes, untouched. At the end of this period, fluff it with a fork to get perfect steamed rice. You can then use it in any steamed rice recipe of your choice.
Directly Steaming Rice in the Steamer Compartment
While it's advised that you cook your rice in a steamer using a rice-cooking bowl, you can also steam it directly in the vegetable steaming compartment. With this method, at least you don't have to worry about how much water to add to the rice. The rice will simply absorb as much steam as it needs to cook during the steaming process.
Here's how to steam rice directly in the steamer:
- Line the bottom of the steamer with cheesecloth: Start by unrolling the cheesecloth and folding it so that it lines the compartment of the rice steamer with at least three layers. Dampen the cloth a little bit, and then press it back into the steamer.
- Pour in the rice: Once the cheesecloth is in place, pour the amount of rice that you want to cook into the compartment of the steamer. Make it an even layer by spreading it around.
- Fill the reservoir: Fill the water reservoir in the steamer to the maximum level, set the timer, and turn it on. The timings for white, brown, red and wild rice are the same as those mentioned earlier.
- Let the rice stand: Once the rice is ready, lift it, along with the cheesecloth, using the corners for handles. Tip the rice into a bowl, and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes before fluffing it with a spoon or fork. You can then use it in any steamed rice recipe of your choice.