Perfect Brown Rice

Healthy Cooking Perfect Brown Rice

When Saveur Magazine calls something perfect, my initial reaction is to just take their word for it and bookmark regardless of subject matter. Whether it’s about poaching or pig’s feet, I trust that the technique or recipe will work, so when Saveur recently published a method for making perfect brown rice, a staple in my kitchen, the issue was dog-eared within seconds of finding the page.

As if cooking pasta, Saveur’s method calls for boiling the rice in a large amount of water. A common practice in Indian rice cookery, this method is nothing new, but to East and Southeast Asians like myself, it’s an unusual idea. I’ve been taught since childhood to steam white rice in just enough water for the grains to absorb and naturally did the same thing when I switched to brown rice.

It took more than a few wasted batches before getting consistently good results with steaming, but Saveur’s boiling method worked perfectly on the first try. Old habits are hard to break, but I was more than willing to embrace such a foolproof approach.

My pride shattered from not figuring out such a simple solution sooner, I am jumping on the chance to one-up Saveur and suggest a much better method for cooking brown rice. My food blogger street cred will skyrocket with this approach.

Or maybe not.

It takes a lot to improve a “perfect” Saveur recipe and I’m not about to tell you to cook the rice with chicken stock and a side of cow. The following recipe still calls for nothing more than the grains and a lot of water but with some extra planning ahead and a bit of temperature control.

Healthy Cooking! hosted by Fun and Food

Let me get a few things out of the way first:

Is it easier?

Is it faster?
The cooking time is cut in half, but the rice needs to be prepared at least one day in advance.

What the?
Bear with me.

Is it better for you?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, my idea of the perfect brown rice involves sprouting or germination before boiling. This process greatly improves the nutritional value of the grains, improves digestibility, and cuts the cooking time in half.

I realize that depending on cultural background and individual preference, your perception of rice cookery nirvana may differ wildly from mine. I know a few people who wouldn’t touch brown rice with a ten-foot pole. A Filipino weaned on white rice for most of his life, it was difficult for me to make the switch. Tastes change, and if we happen to share these preferences then perhaps this can be your side dish of choice as well:

  • As opposed to sticky clusters of rice that can be eaten with chopsticks, you prefer light and fluffy grains that barely cling with each other.
  • You appreciate the nuttier, more assertive taste of brown rice.
  • You don’t mind putting in a bit more time and effort to extract the most nutritional value possible from the grains.

recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine’s “Perfect Brown Rice”
for an alternate method using a hot plate and a dimmer switch, check out this brown rice germination/sprouting tutorial at Instructables

Germinated Brown Rice

short, medium, or long grain brown rice


  • I usually germinate the rice inside a warm oven along with a batch of homemade yogurt. The oven light is switched on to maintain a temperature of approximately 100ºF, perfect for both brown rice germination and yogurt fermentation.

Wash the rice thoroughly under warm running water. In an appropriately sized container, cover with at least two inches of warm water. The grains will absorb a considerable amount of liquid during germination.

Turn on the oven until the temperature reaches 100ºF. Turn off the oven then switch the light bulb on. Leave the container of rice in the oven for at least 24 hours and up to three days, replacing the soaking liquid with fresh water whenever possible.

Wash the rice thoroughly prior to cooking. Proceed with Saveur Magazine’s method, lessening the boiling time to approximately 15 minutes.

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30 Responses to “Perfect Brown Rice”

  1. rainbowbrown says:

    I’m a brown rice eater myself and I generally simmer it with just enough water to get absorbed fully. I’ve tried soaking it before hand, but the rice ended up as exploded mushiness. This seems rather different, though. Incubation rather than room temperature soaking and pasta style boiling rather than steaming. I must try it soon as I’d love to try out new rice styling.

    last blog post: a meme.

  2. mansi says:

    that’s some great information in this post! thanks for sharing this with us via healthy cooking! even I did not know about it Jude!:)

    last blog post: Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries – Easy Healthy Dessert

  3. linda says:

    I’m not a fan of brown rice I have to admit, eventhough once every few years I try it to see if I ‘can handle’ it ;) I don’t really dislike it but I like white rice much better.
    But I enjoyed reading about germinating it, maybe I’ll try doing it one day :)

    last blog post: Euro/dollar/pound cinnamon chocolate cookies

  4. dhanggit says:

    i love brown rice..too bad its kinda expensive here in france.thanks for this very informative post :-)

    last blog post: Chocolate Charlotte with berries

  5. katie says:

    I normally cook it in chicken or beef stock, just enough to absorb… But this looks interesting.
    I think what I get her in France is partially pre-cooked as it cooks in about 15 minutes – looks like brown basmati… If I can ever find ‘proper’ brown rice I want to try this…

    last blog post: Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad; Bat Babies

  6. Madam Chow says:

    Great post. There’s a fantastic book out that you might enjoy – it’s about cooking with whole grains. Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice just reviewed it:

    last blog post: A Tangy Buttermilk Bread

  7. bee says:

    sprouting is a great idea. however, draining the rice after cooking it in extra water drains away some of the nutrients. have you baking it? it works very well.

  8. Nate says:

    So, the rice germinates instead of ferments? Interesting! I wonder if Annie will let me try this.

    last blog post: Rolling Out the Red Velvet Cupcakes

  9. _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver says:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa… germination?! This *may* be a dealbreaker for me! ;P

    But don’t worry, we will *eventually* try this out… eventually.

    Very curious!


    last blog post: Mama’s Giniling (Ground Pork)

  10. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    I have no idea what’s going on with the brown rice germinating. . .in fact, I had to reread the entry twice to catch the drift. Yet, total ignorance usually does not stop me. ;)

    I switched to brown rice a couple of years ago then switched back to white rice because I can never seem to get the texture right. Will have to try this real soon. I think I still have some brown rice hiding somewhere.

    last blog post: Mama’s Giniling (Ground Pork)

  11. daphne says:

    I’m a fan of brown rice, although I have not attempted cooking with it. Certainly the tips provided are informative and something for me to think about!

    last blog post: Chicken Cutlet with Egg Sauce

  12. Natashya says:

    It never occured to me to sprout rice before cooking it. I just made the sprouted bread for the first time last month in a challenge.
    I am guilty of cooking brown rice badly. I like it but I rarely get the consistency right. I ususally make jasmine and basmati as they are easy and fragrant but I hear they come in brown too. I’ll have to try the sprouting one day.

    last blog post: Viva Italia!

  13. rainbow – Hope it works well for you.
    mansi – Thanks! I’m looking forward to the roundup.
    linda – I know what you mean. It can be hard to get used to brown rice.
    dhanggit – Well since baguettes are the carb of choice…
    katie – It probably cooks quickly because the grains are more slender.
    madam chow – Haven’t seen the book. Will definitely check it out.
    bee – I’ve tried baking it I get inconsistent results.
    nate – Hope you get to try it out
    ts – It’s worth the extra bit of effort I think
    js – Was almost ready to give up brown rice as well until I read the Saveur article. Glad I came across it.
    daphne – It works for me every time.
    natashya – It’s really hard to get brown rice right but I’m really happy with the boiling method.

  14. Maggie says:

    I have my dehydrator out to dry summer fruit and have to try this in it.

    last blog post: Pocket Pies [Flickr]

  15. Claire says:

    I’ll have to try this. I’ve always baked my brown rice. It involves placing the brown rice in a casserole dish with some salt and butter, pouring boiling water over it, covering it with aluminum foil, and then popping it in the oven for an hour. It stays moist and is deliciously nutty. It’s a method I found from America’s Test Kitchen.

  16. Ana says:

    i too noted this recipe in the last issue of saveur right away, and have just been waiting for the temperature to get below 90 before attempting to boil water. thanks for the reminder!

    my sister, who lives in the truly steamy depths of louisiana, always soaks her brown rice (basmati fresh from the farmer’s market- always makes me jealous!) for at least a day ahead of time. it’s so hot there, though, she just leaves it at room temperature. it always turns out so delicious.

    last blog post: White Hot

  17. maggie – drying summer fruit sounds like a good idea. once it gets cold….

    claire – need to try baking rice more. my only problem with it is when I scale up or scale down — the results can be inconsistent

    ana – soaking definitely makes it taste better. there’s a subtle difference for sure.

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  21. Chinese Sticky Rice Recipes says:

    I have seen this method in some Indian rice cookery website. It’s pretty hard for me :(

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    Thanks for that , useful stuff. I get so bored of plain rice recipes but I’m not exactly very skilled at cooking. There’s loads of unique ideas at this rice recipes site I found that you might be interested in too.

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