Perfect Fluffy Rice

White fluffy rice may seem as though it should be really easy to make

Perfect Fluffy Rice
If you don’t cook rice often, it can sometimes come out mushy and sticky; or worst undercooked, hard pieces of grains that spoil your otherwise perfect meal.
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There is certainly no lack of advice and appliances to get that perfect fluffy rice.

But without knowing the basics, even the best approaches may still end up mushy.

If you want that cook rice perfectly, here’s what you need to know.

Rice Cooking Basics

Rice is mostly starch. And it releases more starch during the milling process that removes the husk and bran layers.

This is how we end up with those nice-looking, edible white rice kernels.

Those leftover starch during the milling process is what causes our sticky, mushy rice.

Therefore, the preparation steps are as important as the cooking methods themselves.


Most of the time when people ask: “How do you make rice not sticky and fluffy?”

The simplest first step is to give those raw grains a good rinse before cooking.

Rinsing helps remove surface starch. This will help keep it from becoming sticky.

You could use a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water. Or put them directly into a cooking pot/bowl to swirl them around in the water.

The key is to do it gently. Preferably, 2-3 times until the water is slightly clear.

Make sure you also drain the water after rinsing. Never let uncooked rice soak, it will throw off the water to rice ratio later when you cook.

Water to Rice Ratio

Each cup of dry rice yields a different quantity of cooked rice, depending on its grain size and the method of cooking.

For example, 1 cup of long-grain may yield 2 cups of cooked rice; while 1 cup of short-grain may yield 3 cups of cooked rice.

It may usually need a couple of adjustments to end up with the yields you need.

Here’s the part where the water to rice ratio comes in.

How much water do I need for each cup of rice?

This depends a lot on the methods you use to cook rice.

Generally, if you’re using an electric rice cooker, you’d use a 1:1 rice to water ratio (very little water is lost during cooking)

If you’re cooking over the stovetop, you would use a 1:2 rice to water ratio.

Do Not Stir

Stirring uncooked rice can release more starch and make them sticky.

When you first add rice to the cooking pot, give it one or two gentle stirs to set rice even and cover with water.

Another recommended technique is to gently shake the cooking pot.

Don’t Peep

Once cooking starts, leave the rice alone.

This very simple step can avoid temperature fluctuation and moisture lost from steams released.

When you peek into the pot too often, the rice always ends up overcooked due to the temperature fluctuation that makes less steam and more soaking hot water.

Or they end up undercooked from the loss of moisture from steams that escaped.

Allow Rice to Rest

Resting cooked rice before serving means allowing excess moistures to properly redistribute inside the pot.

Again, a simple step that helps to provide more firm and uniform textures.

5 minutes is good, 15 minutes is even better. Just gently fluff them after resting and before serving.

Now that you know the basics, here are the ways to cook them perfectly every time.

Methods of Cooking

Rice can be cooked in multiple ways

  • You can use a food steamer, which almost always ends up perfectly cooked.
  • You can use a rice cooker that usually comes with the nice keep warm feature.
  • If you have an Instant Pot, cooking rice can be as quick as 3 minutes.
  • Or simply cook them over the stove and master the manual technique.

Cooking with a Food Steamer

Cooking rice with Food Steamer
Cooking rice with Food Steamer

Most electric food steamer comes with a plastic steaming bowl for rice and other foods that may fall through the steaming basket.

Food Steaming
Here’s what you can cook with a food steamer

If it doesn’t come with a bowl, or if you’re using a stovetop steamer, use ceramic or heatproof bowls.

Steamed rice would almost always end up with the perfect texture if you’ve followed through with the basics above.

Things You Need

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 1/2 cup of water for each cup of uncooked rice
  • a pinch of salt


  • Set up your steamer, pour in water to the maximum level, switch on to let the steamer heat up
  • Rinse rice thoroughly and gently in the steaming bowl you plan to use or a fine mesh strainer
  • Drain out as much water, set rice in the steaming bowl
  • Measure 1 1/2 cup of water, enough to cover rice evenly plus an extra tablespoon
  • Add a pinch of salt (optional)
  • Put rice in steaming bowl into the steamer, set timer for 30 minutes
  • Switch off the steamer once the rice is cooked. (Or leave it to keep warm if not serving yet)
  • Let rice sit and rest for 5-10 minutes before fluffing and serving.

One important thing to note when steaming any food is to always allow the steamer to heat up first.

This allows for more evenly distributed heat to cook through foods without overcooking or undercooking them.

Cooking with Rice Cooker

Cooking rice with a rice cooker
Cooking rice with a rice cooker

You may not want to get a rice cooker if you don’t cook rice often.

However, the appliance comes with an easy, hands-off cooking method that usually produces consistent results if you know the basics.

They are good when you need to cook rice in bulk and come with keep warm features so you don’t have to time for other dishes to cook at the same moment.

Most models come with a non-stick cooking pot. And with non-stick, it usually also comes with a plastic rice paddle so you don’t use a metal utensil to scrap rice in it.

Things You Need

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup water for each cup of dry rice depending on grain size
  • a pinch of salt


  • Rinse your rice thoroughly and gently, in the cooker pot itself, or use a fine-mesh strainer. (2-3 times until the water is slightly clear)
  • Drain out as much water as possible and leave rinsed rice in the pot
  • Add in one cup of water for every one cup of rice you’re cooking
  • Add a pinch of salt and gently shake the cooking pot so rice is evenly set and covered in water
  • Put rice cooking pot into the rice cooker and flip the switch to cooking mode (roughly 20minutes)
  • Let rice sit for at least 5-10 minutes when it is done cooking (don’t fluff it just yet)

Generally, the most basic rice cooker comes with two modes: cooking and keeping warm.

Once the rice is cooked, let it sit in the pot to allow some steams to evaporate and redistribute so your rice gets more uniform textures.

Cooking Rice with Instant Pot

Cooking rice with Instant Pot — Photo: Unsplash/thekatiemchase
Cooking rice with Instant Pot — Photo: Unsplash/thekatiemchase

You may already have an Instant Pot in your kitchen.

It can also be used to cook rice. Many of them already come with rice cooking features.

The steps are the same as using an electric rice cooker, only it would take much lesser time to cook.

Things You Need

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup water for each cup of dry rice depending on grain size
  • a pinch of salt


  • Rinse your rice gently, 2-3 times until the water is slightly clear. (Use a fine mesh strainer or straight in the cooking pot)
  • Drain out as much water from the rice to avoid soaking them
  • Add one cup of water for every cup of rice you’re cooking
  • Add an optional pinch of salt and shake the pot gently so rice is set evenly and covered with water

Choose Pressure Cooker setting or Rice cooking setting

Pressure Cooker mode: Close lid and turn steam release valve to “seal".Choose “Pressure cooking”, high pressure, and set the timer to 3 minutes.

Rice cooking mode: Close the lid, turn the steam release valve to “seal”. Choose Rice cooking mode and the timer will be set automatically.

  • Fluff rice before serving

Cooking over the Stove Top

Cooking rice over the stovetop — Photo: unsplash/@paolobendandi
Cooking rice over the stovetop — Photo: unsplash/@paolobendandi

You don’t need to own any appliances above to cook rice.

Cooking rice over the stove can also be fun and fulfilling once you master the method.

Especially if you don’t cook at home often, these appliances may just be unnecessary on your kitchen top.

Things You Need

  • 1 cup rice (each cup of dry rice yields roughly 2 cups of cooked rice, adjust accordingly)
  • 2 cups of water (1:2 ratios of rice to water)
  • a pinch of salt


  • Place 2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil (use medium heat)
  • Rinse uncooked rice with a bowl or fine mesh strainer under cold water to remove the starch (2-3 times, until water, is slightly clear)
  • Add a pinch of salt and rice into the saucepan, cover, and reduce heat to simmer
  • Cook for 18 minutes without peeking into the pot (set a timer)
  • Remove from heat and let it sit, covered for 5 minutes (allow moistures to redistribute in the pot)
  • Fluff with a fork before serving

Preferably, use a smaller sauce pot or pan to avoid moisture evaporation to happen too quickly and end up with burnt rice.

Bonus Questions

What can I add to white rice to make it more flavorful?

Add a pinch of salt, a dollop of butter, substitute water with chicken stocks, add a few slices of ginger or sliced onions or even spring onions.

The possibilities are endless. It almost always can’t go wrong, though you may want to avoid flavors that are too strong and can overpower your other dishes.

How much water do I use for 2 cups of rice?

You would normally cook rice with water to rice ratio of 1:1 if you’re using an electric rice cooker or a food steamer. But it will also largely depend on the grain size of the rice you use.

If cooking over the stove, go for a 2:1 water to rice ratio. For example, 2 cups of water per one cup of uncooked rice.

How to store leftover rice?

Leftover cooked rice can be stored for up to 3-5 days refrigerated in a sealed container.

Alternately, if you need to store cooked rice for a longer period, use a freezer bag or freezer-friendly container to portion them up. Rice can be frozen for up to 6 months.

How to reheat leftover cooked rice?

Microwave method: If the rice is frozen, don’t thaw it. Thawing rice will make them mushy after reheating. Simply add one tablespoon of water for every cup of cooked rice, cover it with another plate or moist paper towel in the microwave on high heat for about 45 seconds to 1 minute.

On the stove: Add the desired portion of rice into a skillet or saucepan, add one tablespoon of water for every cup of cooked rice and let it reheat over medium-low heat until rice is heated through. This may take a couple of minutes for frozen rice.


All these steps may sound like so much work, but they are simply what we have already been doing but maybe in the wrong way.

With an understanding of the basics, surely now you are more aware of how easily you can end up with perfectly cooked rice every time.

Here's a Cantonese steamed chicken recipe that can go along with your rice.