How to cook rice

As a dietitian, I often get asked how to cook certain things. The other day, someone asked “How do you cook rice?” and “How much does one cup of rice yield once cooked?” Fortunately, I have a number of excellent resources (Joy of Cooking and On Food and Cooking are just a couple of books that I like to keep on hand).

In culinary school, we were taught to cook rice in a pot using a ratio of 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid (water, chicken stock, etc). However, they never mentioned how much rice yielded once cooked. The Joy of Cooking states that 1 cup of rice yields 3 to 3 ½ cups cooked which made me wonder if different cooking methods lead to different results. I started asking my friends how how they cooked rice. It turned out that every single person had a different way of cooking rice!

Directions on how to cook rice – from the Joy of Cooking

Some people used rice cookers, some people used the simmer method (you bring a pot of water to a boil, add the rice and then turn it down to a simmer) and other people used the spaghetti method (you cook it the same way you would pasta).

And there were even variations around this. Some people cooked their rice in chicken stock, some people added butter and salt to the cooking water, others added the water in stages (similar to how you would cook risotto), and one individual even fried their rice in a pan over low heat in some vegetable oil before cooking it (similar to how you would make rice pilaf).

So I, being the curious culinary student that I am, decided to hold an experiment.


I gave each person a small bag of Basmati rice and told them to go home and cook it the way that they usually do. Three people used their rice cookers, three people used the simmer method and two people used the spaghetti method.

They each recorded how much rice they used, how much liquid they used, their cooking method, how long they cooked the rice for and how much cooked rice they ended up with. They brought the cooked rice in the next day for everyone to try and compare.

Rice taste testing in progress

Here is what we learned:

  • The Joy of Cooking is correct in that 1 cup of long grain white rice yields 3 to 3 ½ cups cooked rice regardless of which method (rice cooker, simmer, spaghetti) you use.
  • A rice cooker is the easiest, lowest maintenance way of cooking rice because you don’t have to watch it (it turns off automatically once the rice is cooked). However, it also takes the longest – about 40 minutes.
  • The spaghetti method is the fastest way to cook rice and only takes 10 to 12 minutes. However, you have to keep a close eye on it because it’s easy to overcook rice this way. An extra 1 to 2 minutes can be the difference of your rice being firm or being mushy.
  • The simmer method is somewhere in between in terms of time and attention required. It’s difficult to get mushy rice this way. However, it’s easy to end up with burnt rice once all the water evaporates. It takes about 20 minutes to cook rice this way.

I would personally use my rice cooked to make rice because it’s one less thing I have to worry about. I would use the simmer method if I didn’t have access to a rice cooker and I would use the spaghetti method if I was making brown rice (brown rice takes twice as long to cook as white rice).

Directions on how to cook medium or long-grain white rice using all the different methods:

Using a rice cooker
Measure out 2 parts water to 1 part rice. Place water and rice in the cooking pot. Place the cooking pot in the rice cooker, cover and turn on. The rice cooker with automatically turn off when the rice is cooked (around 40 minutes). Allow the rice to rest for 10 minutes before opening the lid and fluffing with a fork.

Simmer method
Measure out 2 parts water to 1 part rice. In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains.

Spaghetti method
Measure out 1 cup of rice. Fill a large pot with at least 4 cups of water and set on the stove over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Pour the rice into the pot and use a wooden spoon to stir the rice once. Boil the mixture uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Pour the rice into the strainer, draining all of the excess water. Fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains.

The bottom line:

Whether you decide to use your rice cooker, the simmer method or spaghetti method, they all make perfectly good rice.


  • When cooking medium or long-grain white rice using a rice cooker or the simmer method, use 1 ½ – 2 cups of liquid for each 1 cup of rice depending on how firm or soft you like your rice.
  • You can use chicken stock instead of water, or add salt and butter to the cooking water for flavour as a matter or preference.
  • 1 cup of Basmati rice (and other varieties of medium or long-grain white rice) will yield 3 to 3 ½ cups cooked. This is often marked as 4 servings on rice packages (so ¾ cup = 1 serving). However, according to Canada’s Food Guide ½ cup of cooked rice counts as one serving or grains so keep that in mind if you are a dietitian or nutritionist who is counselling clients.

For more information on how to cook rice (including different types of rice) check out this article.

How do you cook rice? Do you find it difficult?

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