How to cook rice in the microwave, perfect every time
Cooking rice in the microwave is cheaper and faster than having a rice cooker. We’ll show you how to cook rice in the microwave, with perfect results, every time. We’ll also show you a secret Asian grandmother trick to measuring the ratio of rice vs. water, without a measuring cup!
Why cook rice in the microwave?
Cooking rice in the microwave is cheaper.
There’s no need for a stand-alone rice cooker appliance to clutter your pantry. Years ago, I invested in a $300 Zojirushi, the mother of all rice cookers. These days, I only bring out that appliance when I’m cooking rice for a large group of people.
For family cooking, I use a $16 Nordicware Microwave Rice Cooker that works very well.
Cooking rice in the microwave is faster.
On average, my $300 fancy pants rice cooker takes about 25 minutes to cook rice. Cooking rice on the stovetop takes about the same amount of time. Cooking rice in the microwave only takes 15 minutes.
Cooking rice in the microwave means less cleanup.
Cookers designed for cooking rice in microwave are usually 2-parts: a lid and a base. Both are dishwasher safe. My rice cooker has a lid, a plastic gasket ring, a little cup for excess water, and the base. Plus, I have to clean in the narrow crevices of the cooker.
Cooking rice in the microwave means less babysitting.
If you’re cooking rice on the stovetop, you’ll need to watch the pot until the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot, then set the timer. Once timer goes off, you’ll have to immediately turn off heat. There’s very little wiggle room with timing when cooking on stovetop. The intense heat under the pot will overcook the rice or create burnt, stuck-in-pot rice that difficult to scrape out.
Cooking rice in the microwave tastes exactly the same.
At first, I was really skeptical that microwaved rice would be able to compete with my rice cooker.
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 $16 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
Secret to cooking rice in the microwave
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.
How to cook rice in the microwave
To cook rice in the microwave, you’ll start with a microwave-safe container, raw rice (like basmati, jasmine, or sushi rice). For 4 people, you’ll need 1 1/2 cups of raw rice. This will make about 3 cups of cooked rice. Add enough water to cover the rice by about 1-inch. Microwave for 12 minutes, let rest, covered for 3 minutes (don’t peek!).
Note: brown rice and wild rice have different cooking methods. Learn how to cook brown rice in the microwave here.
Let’s break it down:
Add the raw rice to your microwave container. 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.
Are you washing away nutrients in the rice? No. Unless you are buying “fortified rice” that’s a processed food. Some companies, like Uncle Ben’s Rice, spray the rice with vitamins during processing. Don’t buy this type of rice…it tastes nasty. Get your nutrients from vegetables and protein, not from a spray. Wash raw rice because it’s dusty, dirty and could have small bugs.
Once you’re done with the washing, pour the water out again.
Ancient Chinese Secret to Measuring Water
Now we’re going to add the cooking water. Add enough water so that it covers the rice by 1-inch. 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!
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.)
*Thanks free clip art! (though originally he was holding a cell phone)
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.
But don’t use a dish with sloped sides….find one with straight sides.
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!), lay a dishtowel over the top, then cover with lid. The towel will absorb the steam. Corningware glass lids will work fine – use a dishtowel to allow the steam to be absorbed.
Microwave for 12 minutes on high. Let it sit for 3 minutes undisturbed to finish cooking. Then it’s done.
You’ve now cooked rice in about 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.
Microwave cookware I recommend
How I microwave rice – Nordicware Microwave Rice Cooker $16 (Amazon.com)
How I make soft and hardboiled eggs in the microwave – Nordicware Microwave Egg Boiler $11 (Amazon.com)
Use a microwave safe dish that is meant for cooking pasta/rice or steaming vegetables. The lid should have a vent. If it doesn't, just lay the lid on top of the cooking dish (without snapping it in place) to allow steam to escape. Use a dish that has STRAIGHT sides (no sloped sides, otherwise the finger measurement won't work). You can use a dishtowel under the lid to further prevent water from overflowing.
- 1 1/2 cups rice jasmine, basmati, white rice or sushi rice
- 2 1/4 cups water
Scoop the rice into the microwave-safe container or pot. 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.
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. Cover with lid.
Microwave on high for 11 minutes. Let rest covered (no peeking!) for 3 minutes before fluffing. Give the rice a quick taste. Does it need more time? If so, cook for an additional 1 minute on high.