Chef Michael Smith’s Pro Tips for Perfect Rice, Every Time

It’s often the simplest foods that can be the most challenging to make. Take rice, for instance. The grain is common on dinner tables around the world but often turns out too mushy, underdone or just plain boring. To help, Food Network Canada Chef School’s Michael Smith makes nice with rice as he walks you through how to cook a perfect pot of rice to accompany any meal, plus shows us how it can star as the main course, with his best rice tips, preparation techniques, ratios and recipes.

How to Cook Rice

We asked Michael how long to cook white rice and how much water to use, and he gave us an easy to remember rice cooking rule.

“[The] simplest possible way to cook rice is: to measure out, one cup of rice to two cups of water. Put that in a small pot, bring it to a simmer.  [Add a] touch of salt, bring it to the simmer, turn down the heat to maintain the barest of simmers. Put a lid on it and walk away for 20 minutes.”

Before serving up your perfect rice, Michael offers this rice-cooking trick only chefs know.

“Just let it rest before you take the lid off. Ideally a 10 minute rest before you remove the lid. Then you’re ready to serve. You don’t need to fluff it.”

Varieties of rice, like short-grain brown rice and black rice can take upwards of 50 minutes to 1 hour to cook, but the ratio of water to rice stays the same.

For extra-fluffy, quick-cooking rice varieties that take just 15 minutes to cook up, you can lower the quantity of water to 1½ cups of water to 1 cup of rice, as shown in Michael’s recipe for perfect basmati rice. 

Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Basmati Rice here.

Rice Cookers vs. Stovetop

You can use a rice cooker or pot on the stovetop to make great rice. Michael adds, “Anything that gets you in the kitchen and cooking real food is fine by me.”

So, whether you love the old-fashioned method or the high-tech approach, fluffy and tender rice is within reach. Michael thinks the Instant Pot (a pressure cooker) for rice is an awesome timesaver. These pressure cookers allow wholegrain rice, like brown rice, red rice and black rice cook faster, making them weeknight-friendly.

Washing Rice vs. Not Washing Rice

Rinsing or washing rice a few times in cold water for varieties like basmati, jasmine and other medium- to long-grain rice helps keep the grains individualized, which leads to a fluffy pot.

Starchier rice, like arborio, most commonly used in risotto and rice pudding, doesn’t need to be rinsed or washed, as the outer starches are important for a creamy dish; the exception to this is short-grain sushi rice and sticky rice, which should be washed before cooking.

Michael Smith’s Top Rice Tips

Overall, the best rice comes with patience. Being sure to properly measure at the beginning with a 2:1 water to rice ratio, no peeking under the lid when it’s cooking and letting the rice rest for 10 minutes before serving, are the top takeaways here.

How to Add Flavour to Plain Rice

Rice is a blank canvas, ready for any flavour you add to it. Whether used as a base for a richly spiced curry or as a standalone fried rice supper, rice can handle spices, seasonings and sauces like a champ.

Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Golden Rice Pilaf here.

To flavour plain (but perfect) white rice, try cooking it with coconut milk in place of some of the water, along with slivered ginger and garlic. In the same vein, vegetable or chicken stock can be used in place of water to boost flavour. Upon serving, a drizzle of herb-infused butter or chili oil will make your rice really pop. Soy sauce or tamari add an Asian flair to white or brown rice, along with a splash of rice vinegar and sesame oil. While saffron threads, as featured in this recipe from Michael Smith, add earthiness and a beautiful yellow hue. Other ideas to bedazzle your rice include curry powder, Tex-Mex spices, garam masala, Italian seasoning or try cinnamon, cumin and raisins for a Moroccan twist.

Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Saffron Almond Rice here.

Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Southwestern Rice here.

You can even turn last night’s risotto into a crispy rice cake or deep-fried delight known as arancini. Risotto itself takes to creamy, bold add-ins well, as showcased in Michael’s bacon and blue cheese risotto recipe.

Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Apple Pie Brown Rice here.

And don’t be afraid to bulk up your rice with vegetables, fruits (apple pie brown rice, anyone?), beans, cooked proteins, toasted nuts and more. When it comes to rice, how you make it, serve it and dress it up is up to you.

Give your fluffy rice something to hold onto, and serve it up underneath Michael Smith’s recipe for curried, vegetable-filled Golden Aloo Gobi.

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