Josh Pelham’s guide to making perfectly fluffy rice

Living Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 27 July 2020

Say goodbye to soggy grains with Josh Pelham’s secrets for foolproof fluffy rice.

Cooking rice is something even the most novice home cook should be able to master, right? Just throw it in a pot, add water, et voila - your rice is ready. Well, if Google is anything to go by, cooking this humble grain has clearly slipped our culinary grasp. Searching "how to cook rice" returns more than one million results, and interest in the not-so-simple technique continues to grow. Whether your wondering about the best way to cook rice or the ideal grain-to-water ratio, this starchy staples has us confused. 

To help end the angst, RACV Cape Schanck executive chef Josh Pelham, who honed his craft working alongside culinary stars including Scott Pickett and Gary Mehigan, shares his expert tips for creating perfectly fluffy rice that won't stick to the pot. 

Fluffy rice


Josh Pelham’s ultimate guide to cooking fluffy rice



What is the best way to cook rice? 

When it comes to cooking rice, there are generally two main camps. There are those who swear by the absorption method and those who are still stuck in the rice age: boilers. “Boiling rice in a bucket load of water just isn’t the way to do it,” Josh says. “It doesn’t do you any favours and you don’t get the result you may be looking for.” 

When you boil rice in an excess of water – similar to the way you might cook pasta – you risk overcooking it and, instead of fluffy rice, ending up with gluggy rice soup. While boiling is easy because you don’t have to worry about rice-to-water ratios, to nail boiled rice, timing is crucial. 

The absorption method, on the other hand, involves measuring correct quantities of rice and water to a pot and bringing to the boil before covering and allowing the grains to soak up all the liquid, then turning off the heat and letting it steam. 

What is the golden water-to-rice ratio? 

For white rice, the general rule is always one part rice to two parts water. An easy way to remember it is to use the 1-2-3 method. One cup of dry rice cooked with two cups of water makes three cups of rice – or about six servings. For brown rice, you need to add between a quarter to half a cup more liquid. And always add a pinch of salt to the water. 

What happens if you don’t wash your rice? 

If you don’t wash your rice you don’t get a good finished product, Josh says. You can end up with inconsistencies or, worse, gluggy rice. “Rinsing gets rid of some of the starch which causes the rice to stick together and be a big ball or lump,” he explains. “This means you’ll end up with fluffy granular rice instead of clumps of starchy boiled rice.”  

Do you need to soak rice?

While not absolutely essential, Josh says soaking the rice for about 15 minutes before cooking can make all the difference. “This gives the rice a chance to absorb some of the water, which allows for more even cooking,” he says. “It reduces the likelihood of cooking rice that is fluffy on the outside but still crunchy in the centre.”  

Why does my rice turn out gluggy/mushy? 

Mushy rice, Josh says, is simply the result of overcooking. To avoid this, he says, timing is key. If you’re boiling rice, you need to drain it as soon as the grains are cooked through. For absorption, be careful not to use too much water and don’t over-steam the grains. 

Fluffy rice in bowl on white background
Mixed rice


What is the difference between short and long-grain rice, or jasmine and basmati?

Not all rice is created equal and knowing the difference between varieties is key. Short grain rice, Josh explains, is extremely starchy, which makes it ideal for things like risotto, sushi and rice pudding, which require soft, slightly sticky grains. Longer-grain rice is less starchy and better maintains its shape and texture when cooked, lending itself to pilafs, stir fries and salads. “When I am cooking rice to accompany a dish, I always select either a jasmine or basmati,” Josh says. “Both are long-grain types, but jasmine is slightly shorter and rounder, while basmati is very long and slender.” 

Can you serve rice al dente?

Unlike pasta, al dente when it comes to rice just means undercooked. “Rice should be fully cooked, it shouldn’t be al dente,” Josh says. “Undercooked rice is basically a cooking sin.”

How do you stop rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan?

Forget soaking crunchy rice pots overnight. As well as being the superior cooking method for fluffy grains, Josh says the absorption method, when executed correctly, also doubles as one of the greatest cooking hacks. “Once you turn off the heat, let the rice sit in the pot for 10 minutes to steam,” he says. “Not only does this make it more fluffy, it also stops the rice from caking to the bottom of the pan.” Genius.

Josh’s foolproof instructions for cooking fluffy rice on the stove


Prep time | 15 minutes | Cooking time: 40 minutes | Serves 3-4 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup of white, long-grain rice – such as jasmine or basmati 
  • 2 cups of water/liquid (such as stock or coconut milk)
  • Pinch of salt

Method  

  1. Put the cup of rice into a sieve and rinse thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear, then transfer to a bowl to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the rice to a medium-sized saucepan with two cups of water and a pinch of salt. If you want to add any other flavours – such as turmeric or cumin seeds, this would be the time to do so. If you are making a pilaf, you could also add some fried garlic to the pot, or use stock instead of water.
  3. Bring to the boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, put the lid on and let it cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit, lid on, for a further 15 minutes to steam through.


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