How to cook perfect rice in the microwave

Microwave Rice RecipeHow to cook rice in the microwave, perfect every time.

We used to live in planned community before we moved out here on our homestead. It was one of those neighborhoods where you signed a contract stating that your mulch will never be less than 6″ deep. We got a letter once that we were in violation of contract. someone actually TOOK A RULER TO OUR MULCH. Who has that much time, really!?

When we designed that house, we were given a palette to choose from for our paint colors, inside and out, carpet colors, countertop colors and cabinet colors. We had flown in to do the design session, so we only had a few hours to plan the entire house. Such pressure. I was just newly pregnant at the time, so my patience, mental state and synapsing were at lowest levels.

That’s how we ended up with a $1,300 microwave.

For the 9 years that we lived in that house, we used the microwave to heat up leftovers and to make popcorn.

It wasn’t until we moved here at our current home that I started playing with the microwave. We’ve still have yet to tear up this kitchen to remodel (waiting for my editor to give me a-ok on all edits of my manuscript before I render myself kitchenless for 6 weeks.)

My kitchen is smaller, the stovetop uneven, the hood sucks (haha) — so I’ve been looking for ways to be a little more efficient with the microwave, which is just a regular ol’ microwave, not a fancy $1,300 unit.

I bought this Nordicware Microwave Rice Cooker on a whim (hey, it was only $11!!!) just to test it out – totally expecting rice failure. You see, I’m a rice snob. I invested in a $300 Zojirushi, the mother of all rice cookers.

Perfect Microwaved Rice Recipe

Boy was I wrong. Fluffy, perfectly evenly cooked rice from the microwave. Side by side, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between $300 rice cooker or $11 rice cooker. Just don’t tell my husband that, okay? He’ll never let me shop for expensive cookware again.

  • Microwaved rice looks the same
  • Microwaved rice tastes the same
  • Microwaved rice smells the same
  • Microwaved rice fluffs the same

btw, this is regular raw rice – not that tasteless parboiled Uncle Ben’s stuff.

The secret to microwaving rice is to add the right amount of water. Too much water = soggy rice. Too little water = dry rice. Just right water = just right rice.

Evenly Cooked Microwaved Rice Recipe


How to cook rice in the microwave

Start with regular white rice (not the half-cooked, parboiled kind) – you can use basmati, jasmine, sushi rice.
*I’ll have to write separate post on how to microwave brown rice and wild rice next time – different water + timing instructions

For 4 people, add 1 1/2 cups of rice. This will make about 3 cups of cooked rice.

Measure Uncooked Rice

Pour in some cool water and swish the rice around to wash it.  Carefully pour out the water, keeping the rice in the pot. Just tilt the pot – the water will pour out and the rice will stay at bottom. You can even use your hands to cup the rice to prevent it from spilling out as you pour the water out. Repeat this 3 times more. Your water will be less cloudy each time. Note – the water will never be completely clear – rice is a starch, starch will cloud the water a bit!

The purpose of this is to wash the rice, getting rid of any dirt, dust and extra starch that coats the rice. Extra starch on rice makes the rice very sticky and gummy. When you wash it away, you’ll notice a big difference in the quality of the cooked rice.

Washing Rice

Once you’re done with the washing, pour the water out again.

How to microwave rice recipe wash rice

Now we’re going to add the cooking water. Add enough water so that it covers the rice by 1″. Sure, you can break out your ruler and do this, or you can do what my Dad taught me, use your finger to measure. It’s an Ancient Chinese Secret (okay, perhaps back then they didn’t have measuring cups.)

Put your clean finger in the pot so that the tip of your finger touches the top of the rice (don’t go all the way to the bottom – we are measuring from top of rice.) For most ladies (and men with small hands) 1″ is where your first knuckle is. DONE.

For men or ladies with large hands, just add enough water to go below the knuckle (or use your pinky finger.)

How to microwave rice recipe measure water


Okay, let me show you again, this time with my mad Photoshop skillz.

How to microwave rice recipe measure water step 1

How to microwave rice recipe measure water step 2

How to microwave rice recipe measure water step 3
*Thanks free clip art! (though originally he was holding a cell phone)

How to microwave rice recipe measure water step 4


Why is this method superior to measuring cups?

  • It doesn’t matter how much rice you start with (you measure from the top of the rice, so if you have more rice in the pot, you’ll end up adding more water to get it up to 1″)
  • You don’t have to memorize measurements or ratios
  • It doesn’t matter what kind of pot you use
  • It doesn’t matter how you cook the rice (microwave or stovetop)
  • It doesn’t matter how well you’ve drained the rice after washing (if you don’t drain all of the water, you could end up with too much water in the pot)

The method is the same.

See? Ancient Chinese secret.

Put the lid on. Notice this rice cooker has air vents – this allows the steam to escape during cooking, which is good. If you use a microwave pot that has a very tight fitting lid, your lid will explode off. If you are using a any other microwave vessel (even a Pyrex!), put the lid on but just set it on top. Corningware glass lids will work fine – the steam will escape between the glass and pot.

How to microwave rice recipe covering the pot

Microwave for 9 minutes on high. Let it sit for 3 minutes undisturbed to finish cooking. Then it’s done.

How to microwave rice recipe in 9 minutes

You’ve now cooked rice in less than half the time it takes, cheaper than my ahem, $300 machine, using less energy than a stove, and you don’t have to babysit the pot.

Easy  microwave rice recipe

Microwave cookware I recommend

How I microwave rice – Nordicware Microwave Rice Cooker $11 (

How I make soft and hardboiled eggs in the microwave – Nordicware Microwave Egg Boiler $11 (



How to cook rice in the microwave

Servings: 4 Prep Time: 1 minute Cook Time: 12 mintutes
How to Microwave Rice Recipe

To make perfect microwaved rice, follow these instructions.


1 1/2 cups white rice - basmati, jasmine, sushi rice

2 1/4 cups water


1. Scoop the rice into the microwave-safe container, pot or steamer. Fill the pot with water and swish the water and rice with your hands. Pour out the water, keeping the rice in the pot (just cup your hands around the rice to prevent it from pouring out). Repeat for 2-3 more times until the water is just barely cloudy.

2. Add enough water to cover the rice by about 1" - or place your finger straight down touching the top of the rice. The water should meet your first knuckle (ladies or men with small hands) and just under the first knuckle (men or ladies with big hands)

For 1 1/2 cups of rice, this is approximately 2 1/4 cups of water

3. Microwave on high for 9 minutes. Let rest covered for 3 minutes.

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Comments 188

  1. Diane T

    I’d love to see you do a post on brown rice like you mentioned. I’m going to have to try this although I have no trouble making mine in a pot on the stove.

  2. Elsie

    I have used the microwave to cook rice for years. I rinse the rice and use 1 cup rice to 1 3/4 cup water, a little less water if I’m going to use it in a stir- fry. I put it on 5 minutes at full power then 20 minutes on medium low ( power level 3 of 10). Comes out perfectly every time, and no “boiling over”.

  3. Susan Scott

    Great post! I have a similar rice cooker but I’ve never cooked rice in it (it’s great for steaming vegetables!) May I ask if you could tell me the power rating, or wattage, of your microwave? Mine is 650W – it is quite old, and I understand more modern micros are more powerful, so I will probably have to adjust cooking time.

    Good luck with the remodelling project!


  4. Ivy T

    Interesting post. My grandma taught me a slightly different method of measuring water (lived in Hong Kong 60 years before moving to the states). We had an 8 (I think? it was HUGE) cup rice cooker growing up, but usually cooked about 3 or 4 cups most days unless there was company over.

    Anyhow, she always told me to use my finger to measure the depth of the rinsed rice and top it with water with similar depth. With the daily amounts we cooked, it ended up right around a 1 inch depth, so I’m sure we had similar results as what you post above. I don’t recall the larger batches turning out any differently, though (which would have used more water than your depth of 1 inch… close to two inches, in fact)

    It’s always interesting to compare and learn techniques. Thanks for sharing! I’ve never tried making it in the microwave before, but may have to give it a try, since the shortened cook time is rather appealing.

  5. Carmen Alfafara Carlton

    My dad taught me the same method! Except that it was an ancient Filipino secret! 😄
    And, of course, I’ve taught this first knuckle trick to my husband, daughter and granddaughter.

  6. Ryan Goodwin

    I love the first knuckle trick. I learned that when I worked in Hawaii for a few months, and I haven’t seen anybody besides me use it in years. So simple, so useful

  7. arundati

    most indians use a similar rice water measure with fingers technique. Cant explain it, but no matter how you cook the rice – electric rice cooker, pressure cooker, microwave – it always is perfect

  8. Steph (@crushgear)

    Hahaha this is so crazy to read because I’ve been using the same trick for years but I didn’t know it was an “ancient Chinese secret.” 🙂 Thanks for confirming that it works!

  9. Beth J

    I know rinsing rice makes it fluffier, but it also rinses away the added minerals, including iron and b vitamins, which are very helpful for those with dietary restrictions (or who don’t get a balanced diet). My household is gluten free, and we often struggle with balancing the intake of vitamins and minerals to avoid supplements.

    Just wanted to put that out there….

  10. rose

    do you think this will work with brown rice? i bought korean brand brown rice which was 50% hulled.

  11. Kristi T.

    Do you worry about microwaving plastic? I would love to cook rice in half the time, but I am scared to death of putting plastic in the microwave. How can you be sure it is safe even if it is made for the microwave?

  12. Shannon

    About the finger measuring thing-

    THANK YOU. My mom does this–and I’ve seen it every night of my life until I left for college–and I do it when I make the rice around her (but I really just eyeball it?) but I never knew what to look for when I used my finger.

    I gathered up the courage to ask my mom once before. This is similar to the embarrassment asking your best friend what her first name is because you haven’t known it, actually for the last few years. Anyway, the conversation went thusly (albeit in Cantonese):

    “So… what am I actually looking for when I use my finger to measure…? How do I know there’s enough water…?”

    “What do you mean? You do this.” [She demonstrates by putting her finger in the water] “That’s how.”

    “Wait, what? What how? Is the water supposed to go to a certain point? How far down do you poke?” (She didn’t rest her fingertips exactly on the top of the rice, it would dive in a little bit so where she stopped would be a ambiguous.)

    “You do that. That’s how.”


    “That’s how. I don’t know why you don’t understand.”

    And that is the story of how I continue to pretend I understand things I do not.

  13. Holly

    Just thought you might like to know that Pampered Chef’s microwave rice cooker works beautifully using your method too–I was so much happier with our rice after following your directions, even though the rice wasn’t “bad” before. Now I just have perfect, restaurant quality Jasmine rice. Too bad it was more expensive than the Nordicware one, I feel gypped! (Of course, I only bought it out of guilt trying to help a friend with her business, so at least it is a useful kitchen thing now instead of a dust catcher!) It is absolutely wonderful, I am so glad I started following your blog; you never disappoint!

  14. Holly

    Shannon, I just had to tell you that I can relate to your post. My mother’s recipes and amounts are ambiguous, too…amounts are given as “until it looks and tastes right” or “as much as you like,” directions that never fail to make me crazy! I’ve tried to follow behind her and guesstimate, but it is nice to know Jaden has our backs when our mothers can’t explain!!

  15. Joanna

    Love your post, especially love that “Add water glug glug glug” picture lol!

    I think I will try microwave rice tonight. Regarding the knuckle measuring method, isn’t that amazing? I learned that when I was a kid and have been using it since! However, it’s not *that* accurate lately because we are using “new” rice. Even with the same brand, the measuring seems to be off every time we get a new bag :S

  16. danny6114

    May I ask how many watts does your microwave use? I have an 1150 watt unit and it cooks way faster than my old 750 watter and power will definitely affect the cooking times for pretty much everything you place in it.

  17. Olivia

    Thanks for this post. I used your link and purchased the one you recommended. By the way, we have a family friend in common. My sister’s mother-in-law (Mrs. C Woo) is very good friends with you mother. I was raving about your blog while at their house the other day and pulled it up on my iPad. She said, “I know her! I always share recipes with her mom!”” She was very excited to see you doing so well. 🙂

  18. Sally

    I usually cook on the stove top, 20 mins and no problems.
    The microwave would save me time but do you use cold, warm or hot water. I ask this as I’m so use to my ‘instant hot faucet’ that I use for most cooking projects.

  19. Folly

    I have lots of friends and family who use this ancient *Japanese * technique for measuring rice, but until now I’ve never understood what they were actually doing! Thanks for the step by step explanation. In a regular rice cooker I get great rice by draining the rice in a strainer for 10-15 minutes after rinsing and then soaking for 30 minutes to all day after adding water.

  20. Jen

    Tip: make sure the container you use is big enough. I obviously put too much rice in my Corningware and it boiled over. BUT! The rice still came out just right!

  21. CT

    That’s cool- I only started your post after working with your brother. :-). Your pictures are so cute. I remember learning the knuckle method from my mom and asking her “why do we have to use the pinky for measurement.” “will rice taste better if you use the thumb or pinky finger for measurement.” “what if one had been snipped of their pinky by the triad?!”. You’ve also managed to sell me on the NordicWare rice cooker. Too bad I didn’t read your post before buying the “Boiley egg boiler” for microwaving single eggs (I use it as the “off to college” kit to go with the microwave.). This would’ve been simpler than a rice cooker…

  22. CD

    I’m in Hawaii. I never heard of anyone using the finger method outside of Hawaii. Very interesting, Grashopper. I use the finger for brown rice in a regular rice cooker. Have you perfected the time for brown rice? Ty

  23. Kim in MD

    I have been baking rice in the oven for years with awesome results, but I hate turning on the oven in summertime. This is the perfect solution for me, Jaden! Thanks for sharing this method!

  24. Jodie-Anne

    Thanks so much for this easy microwave rice instructional. I have cooked rice in the microwave for cooking fried rice and even though i put it on a tray in the fridge for a day or two, it was still sticky/glugy. I have just done it your way and I could not be happier!! How easy to remember, add water to first knuckle above the rice and voala!! Also 9 minutes not 10 like all the other recipes say – thanks again – your a hit in my eyes

  25. Susan

    That is exactly they way my mom showed me how to make rice measure with your finger and the rice is perfect each time.

  26. Gail

    Just want to thank-you for this tutorial on cooking rice. I love the rice cooker, it works amazingly. It tastes just like from the restaurant. We are loving eating at home now for our Chinese food. I do hope you will do a tutorial for brown rice in the near future. Thank you again

  27. Connie

    Oh no, you’re spilling the Ancient Chinese secret of measuring water for rice! 😉 My grandma taught me the same way, and it has definitely worked out for me just fine. So glad you can make rice in the microwave now, with GREAT results!

  28. Bianca

    OMG — this is just amazing!! I consider myself a rice snob too — Uncle Ben’s is soooooooo not for me and I actually pitty those who think it’s “good” rice.

    9 minutes to cook rice? OMG! That puts my own Zojirushi to shame as well! OMG!!

    I am so looking into this for a present to myself — because I hate to lug the Zojirushi out to make rice when I’m craving it “just for myself”…then I usually end up not having rice.

    You are awesome!!

  29. Chit

    Hi…I think the size of the pot matters cuz I did this recipe and the water overflowed when it was boiling….I used a Corning ware about 8″ x 8″ x 5″ in depth. Maybe the deeper the pot the better?thanks

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  32. A J Scott

    Discovered Steamy Kitchen while, rather desperately, searching for a source for a replacement Nordic Ware plastic rice cooker. Although originally a Doubting Thomas about microwaved rice — tried it once 39 years ago (!) when a kitchen remodel left me without a stove for more than a week, and it took longer than on a stove top — the Nordic made a believer of me. The steamer basket is a plus, both for steaming vegetables and for rinsing fresh fruit, especially blueberries and grapes.

    For some strange reason I couldn’t find the cooker on Amazon, but your link worked just fine. Thank you, and I’ll be checking your site in the future.

  33. Jai

    Hehe, was just browsing when I saw the article title and decided to check it out. Let’s just call it “ancient asian secret” for cooking rice… My family’s from the Philippines and that’s how my mom taught me to cook rice (in a regular counter-top cooker or in the microwave).

    The plastic microwave rice cookers are common all over asia thanks to the Japanese popularising it for those living in tiny apartments, with tiny kitchenettes.

  34. Elaine

    If you want to double the recipe to 3 cups of rice, should you microwave the rice longer than the 9 minutes?

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