How to Boil Water: Cooking a pot of rice

Cooking a pot of rice is one of the easiest, and most economical, skills to learn in the kitchen.
(Hanna Carter / For The Times)

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So we’re here to get you started.

Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go in detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.


Lesson 1: Cooking a Pot of Rice

To say I live on rice is no overestimation; I eat it virtually every day. You don’t need a machine (although if you have one, use it) or fancy equipment. Just one pot with a lid and a bowl or strainer. Here’s how to get started:

If you’re cooking any kind of basic white rice — and you probably are — this is my preferred method:

First, place 1 cup of rice in a large bowl and cover it with cold water from the tap. Swish the rice in the water with your fingers until the water is cloudy, then pour off all the cloudy water. Keep repeating this action — it will take from about 3 to 7 washings, depending on the type of rice — until the water runs clear, then drain the rice fully.

Transfer the rice to a small saucepan, then pour in 2 cups water. Remember that ratio: For every amount of rice you use, double that for the water. Season the pot with a pinch of salt and place the pan over high heat. Once the water boils (across the entire surface, not just at the edges), cover the pan and immediately reduce the heat underneath to the lowest setting possible.

Set a timer for 15 minutes, and walk away from the pot. Don’t lift the lid, don’t move the pot; just let it hang out and do its thing. Once the 15 minutes are up, cut the heat off completely and set a timer for 10 minutes. Again, don’t touch the lid or anything and let the rice finish cooking during this off-heat steaming session.


Once the 10 minutes are up, uncover the rice and fluff the grains with a fork or spoon to loosen and separate them. Season the rice with some more salt and, if you like, a drizzle of olive oil or a pat of butter. Serve it right away for dinner. If you have leftovers, pack them in resealable plastic containers and refrigerate them for up to 5 days. Use any leftovers for fried rice (see below for a few variations) and if you’re feeling adventurous after getting a handle on this skill, here are more rice recipes to try out:

Yang Chow Fried Rice

Time15 minutes
YieldsServes 4

Kimchi rice

Time20 minutes
YieldsServes 4

Creamy rice pudding with cardamom and almonds

Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsServes 4

Crispy Rice and Herb Salad with Scallops

Time50 minutes
YieldsServes 4

Bibimbap (Mixed rice)

Time1 hour 25 minutes
YieldsServes 4