Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Playing Nice with Rice.

So, my co-worker yesterday confessed that rice is a little befuddling to her, because when she cooks it at home without using a rice cooker it turns hard and not fluffy like Chinese takeout.

Well lets tackle the structure of rice first, the varieties second, and rice cooker versus just plain old-fashioned stove top cooking.
Rice falls into 3 categories. 1. White rice which makes up about 90% of rice consumption, this rice has its bran and hulls removed and is enriched or rather injected with various vitamins and minerals
2. Brown rice has double the fiber and contains more vitamin E and magnesium, this rice has the hull but not the bran. But Whoa,whoa, whoa!!! What is the bran and the hull anyway? When rice is harvested it contains a tough outer shell called the hull, rice millers remove parts of that and we have brown rice, still further, millers remove the rest of husk or bran and we have white rice.
OK, so we know what the hull and bran is, the third type of rice you see in supermarkets is converted rice. You know, Uncle Ben's and Minute Rice. This rice is parboiled or pressure steamed before milling thus making it higher in nutrients.
So now let's explain the grain types. First there are the long grain varieties, they include Basmati,Jasmine, Texas and Carolina. This rice is high in amylose starch. So in layman terms that means that when the rice starts to cool the starch sets or hardens like potatoes. We all love Chinese takeout the first night, but the next day what is the first thing we throw out its the white rice!!! Solution, little water and gently warm in the microwave(not sure anything can be gently warmed in the microwave) and voila instant Chinese takeout quality rice the next day.
After long grain we have the medium grain, these rices include aborio(risotto rice). Medium grain are high in amylopectin which in a nutshell when cooked does not harden. Lastly, we have the short grains which also is called sushi rice or Glutinous rice, this rice is very soft and is sticky when cooked, due to the higher levels of amylopectin than its counterpart the medium grain.
Last let's talk about rice cooker versus the stove top. I think we all have become accustomed to our gadgets that make our lives virtually stress free. You know our Forman grills, frappe machines, Belgian waffle makers, and my favorite the Slap-Chop. Really I think I just need one of those Blue toothy things. Here is the skinny for those of us that do not have the time to dedicate to cooking rice on the stove or in the oven(my personal favorite) using a rice cooker would be the logical solution.. Most models are induction heated and with advent of technology have more wiz bangs and snap doodles. You can select your texture and presoak without even breaking a sweat. So I guess we can sum it up to a personal preference on behalf of the cook. I myself have the time to cook rice in the oven. However, my friends may not. Choose a rice cooker that fits your family's lifestyle. Remember more expensive is not always better. Choose one with the Induction Technology and easy to understand and operate features.

Rice is born in water and must die in wine.~Italian Proverb


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