Food & dining

The confident cook

Recipe: To make perfect brown rice, ignore the package instructions

Perfect brown rice
Sheryl Julian for tThe Boston Globe
Perfect brown rice

If eating more grains in the new year is on your resolution list, and long-grain brown rice is your go-to grain, here’s the first order of business:: Open your rice container and take a whiff. If you smell anything other than fresh, nutty grain, it’s probably starting to turn rancid. Toss it and buy more. Second: Ignore the package cooking instructions. They typically tell you to use twice the water to rice. Follow that and you’ll end up with mush. The correct ratio for long-grain brown rice is 1 part rice to 1½ parts water (for four people, use 1½ cups rice and 2¼ cups water).

Finally, a tip for extra nuttiness. Toast the rice in a minuscule amount of olive oil until the grains are aromatic. Then add the water, simmer until tender (around 40 minutes), and turn off the heat to let the rice rest for 10 minutes. This is an old technique used by traditional cooks in cuisines where rice is an important staple; the grains steam and firm up in the pan to give you the best texture. Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with scallions and soy sauce, if you like, serve with a stir-fry, or add a soft-cooked egg and a little parsley. Make a double batch to have all week. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get a perfect pot. Make it once and you’ll discover an entirely new method. Make it twice and it’s yours.

How to cook perfect long-grain brown rice

Serves 4

1teaspoon olive oil
cups long-grain brown rice
cups water
¾teaspoon salt

1. In a heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil. Add the rice and use a heatproof rubber spatula to cook the rice, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until the rice is very aromatic and you hear a couple of the grains pop.

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2. Pour in the water and salt. Stand back, as it will splutter. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender when tasted, and all the water is absorbed. You’ll see tiny holes on the surface of the rice when the water has been absorbed. If necessary, continue cooking for 5 minutes.

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3. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit without disturbing for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryljulian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.