Cooking a perfect bowl of rice is one of those frustrating things that sounds far simpler than it really is!
Boiling rice in hot water really should be pretty straightforward, but some people seem to have the knack for this far better than others.
One of the secrets to cooking rice is knowing how much rice expands and how this affects the way you cook it.
But just how much does rice expand when you cook? The amount of rice expands will depend on the type of rice you are cooking, as well as the cooking technique you are using. Most types of white rice will expand to 3-4 times their original size when cooked, but brown rice will only double in size.
Feeling confused about how rice cooks and how much it expands? Don’t panic, we’ve got everything you need to know right here!
Keep reading to find out how much different types of rice expand and how different cooking techniques alter this.
What Is Rice?
To learn how much rice expands, we first need to take a little delve into what rice actually is. This store cupboard staple is found on just about every set of pantry shelves worldwide, and rice is so commonplace it is easy to take it for granted!
Grains of rice are the seeds of a type of grass, which was first cultivated in China over 10,000 years ago.
When harvested and dried, these grains can be stored for incredibly long periods of time. For this reason, rice makes up nearly one-fifth of the calories consumed by humans around the world.
Rice (the dried grass seeds) is normally cooked by boiling or steaming with hot water until the seeds are soft.
Water is essential in this process as it rehydrates the dried seed, turning it from a solid grain into a soft, chewable food form. Without the addition of water, it would be impossible to cook rice in the form that we most commonly consume!
For example, shallow-frying dried grains of rice would merely turn them even crispier, crunchier, and almost impossible to eat!
Why Does Rice Expand?
The reason that rice expands when we cook it is that the dried grains are rehydrated with water during the cooking process.
This causes them to swell and expand, often becoming more than double their original size.
You will notice that when you cook rice that a lot of the cooking water disappears. This is because it is soaked up and absorbed by each grain of rice, which causes the volume of the rice to increase as the grains of rice expand.
Not only does rice expand when it cooks, but the texture changes considerably. A dried grain of rice is hard and almost impossible to chew. When cooked, rice becomes light, soft and fluffy.
This can only happen when rice is cooked in hot water, either by boiling or steaming. Rice will also expand slightly if soaked in cold water, but if it is not cooked further, the texture will remain tough and chewy.
How Much Does Rice Expand?
When looking at how much rice expands, it is important to bear in mind that this will depend on the type of rice you are cooking.
This is because some grains of rice will absorb much more water than others.
Rice comes in many different types, shapes, sizes, and lengths. This includes brown rice, white rice, long grain rice, short grain rice, medium grain rice, and many different variations between these groups.
So, to figure out how much rice expands, we’re going to look at some of the most common types of rice in a bit more detail!
White rice is the most highly processed form of rice, that has had the outer husk and germ removed.
It has a soft and fluffy texture when cooked, and soaks up juices and sauces exceedingly well.
The most commonly eaten forms of white rice are basmati rice and long-grain Californian rice.
White rice can absorb a lot of water and will expand by around three times when cooked. This means that one cup of dried white rice will give you three cups of cooked white rice!
So if you’re cooking up a batch of white rice, make sure you select a pot that is big enough to give the rice room to expand.
It is advisable to make sure that the dried rice takes up no more than a quarter of the pot, to ensure that it stays below the top of the pot when cooked.
If you select a pot that is too small, the rice will swell and start to rise above the top of the pot. As well as the potential for making a big mess of your stovetop, this can also result in the rice not cooking evenly.
Brown rice is much less absorbent than white rice and takes longer to cook.
When cooked it has a denser texture with more ‘bite’ and does not tend to absorb liquids and flavors to the same extent as white rice.
When cooked, brown rice will double in size. This is much less than white rice, as brown rice is not as absorbent.
Although brown rice does not soak up as much liquid as white rice when it cooks, you may find that you need to add more liquid to the pot. This is due to the longer cooking time, which means more water can evaporate.
Jasmine rice is long-grain rice that is renowned for its light, fluffy texture and fragrant aroma.
It is highly absorbent and will expand to around three times its size when cooked.
Jasmine rice is commonly steamed, so if you are using this method, make sure that you use a large enough steamer to hold the cooked rice!
Okay, so we have some news that might surprise you here — wild rice is not technically rice at all!
However, it does come from a type of grass that is closely related to rice grass, and it is cooked and used in the same way.
Wild rice is highly absorbent and will soak up a large amount of liquid as it cooks. This means your wild rice will expand by 3-4 times once cooked. One cup of dried rice will give you up to four cups of cooked rice!
What Affects How Much Rice Expands?
It is not just the type of rice that affects how much it expands, but also how it is cooked.
Here are the most important factors to take into consideration when estimating how much your rice is going to expand:
The length of cooking time doesn’t make a huge difference to the amount that rice expands — each grain of rice is capable of absorbing a set amount of water, and this will dictate how much it expands.
However, rice that is cooked rapidly may not absorb as much water as rice cooked slowly, so there can be a slight difference in how much it expands.
Interestingly, if you want to cook rice quickly, you can presoak it in water for 30 minutes first. This reduces the cooking time by around one-fifth, while still giving you fluffy, light rice.
The advantage of cooking rice quickly is that, for some varieties of rice, it enhances the flavor! This is normally the case for aromatic rice varieties, such as jasmine and basmati rice.
However, if they are cooked for too long, they lose their characteristic sweet “popcorn” aroma.
There are certain techniques used when cooking rice that can affect how much it expands.
All rice is going to expand when cooked, as it needs to absorb liquid to allow it to become soft and tender. However, we can influence this a small amount by altering the cooking technique.
Steamed rice is prized for its light, fluffy texture, and this is because it will only absorb just enough water to cook through thoroughly. In contrast, rice cooked in boiling water can absorb more water and may expand more.
It is often advised to rinse long-grain rice before it is cooked. This removes some of the starch from the rice, reducing the stickiness of the grains.
Rinsing rice will also reduce the amount of water it can absorb during cooking, resulting in less expansion.
Quantity Of Water Used
If you’ve ever looked into how to cook rice, you will notice that the quantities of water used are very specific. For example, when cooking basmati rice we are normally advised to add 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.
The reason for this is that when we cook rice, we should use exactly the amount of water that the rice can absorb, but no more.
Adding too much water to the pot means that the grains could soak up too much water and become overcooked, causing them to disintegrate and become mushy.
On the other hand, not using enough water can lead to rice that is not cooked through properly. The grains will not have enough liquid to fully expand and can be dense and tough in the middle.
Top Tips For Cooking Perfect Rice
If you’re struggling to cook rice to perfection, here are some great tips to help you out!
- For separate, fluffy grains of basmati rice, never stir the rice when it is cooking. Use exactly the amount of water recommended on the packet, and leave the pot to stand for a few minutes once the rice is cooked to allow any remaining steam to be absorbed.
- If you want sticky rice, then stir away! Stirring helps the rice grains to release starch, which helps them to stick together. This is also the case if you are making risotto or rice pudding.
- Baking rice in a covered dish is a simple alternative to boiling or steaming. Using this method allows you to cook your rice in stock alongside other flavorful ingredients — quick and simple one-pot cooking!
Now we’ve got all of your expanding rice queries sorted, let’s take a look at some other fascinating questions relating to the topic of rice!
How Is Fried Rice Made?
Fried rice is made by cooking the rice first by either boiling or steaming it.
This allows the grains of rice to absorb water and soften, making them perfect for frying.
If you attempt to fry rice without having cooked it in water first, it will be hard and impossible to chew.
The best fried rice is made with cold, day-old rice that was cooked the day before. This is because it will dry out slightly in the refrigerator and will have the right texture to make the perfect fried rice.
Freshly cooked rice is quite moist and will clump together in the pot, giving a stodgy, dense texture to the dish. It will still taste amazing though, so if you don’t have cold cooked rice to make fried rice then go ahead and cook up a fresh batch!
Is Brown Rice Healthier Than White Rice?
Brown rice is considered to be the healthiest type of rice, as it contains the most nutritional parts of the rice grain.
This is the outer bran layer and germ, which is removed during processing to create white rice.
This is why white rice is often described as “empty carbs” — it’s filling and tasty, but not particularly nutritious.
Brown rice has three times more fiber than white rice and is higher in protein. It can help to stave off hunger, helping you feel fuller for longer.
Another advantage to brown rice is that it contains antioxidants, linked to reducing the risk of health conditions such as heart disease and certain cancers.
Brown rice can also help regulate blood sugar and insulin, a hormone that supports healthy blood sugar levels.
What Is The Difference Between Long And Short-Grain Rice?
The choice of different types of rice can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to all the variants of long- and short-grain rice.
But if a recipe calls for a particular type of rice, does it really matter if it is short or long grain?
The length of rice grain makes a huge difference when it comes to the texture of the rice once cooked.
This is because short-grain rice is much higher in starch than long-grain rice. When cooked, short grain rice will be sticky and stodgy, perfect for forming into dumplings or for making sushi.
Long-grain rice is low in starch, which helps each individual grain of rice to stay separate once cooked. It does not absorb juices and flavors as well as short grain rice and is generally served as a side dish alongside the main course.
What Is Sushi Rice?
When making sushi, you need rice that will be dense and sticky, which holds its shape well when molded into balls or used to stuff rolls.
The best rice for this is short grain rice, which naturally contains high levels of starch. Short grain rice also absorbs juices and flavor as well, making it the perfect base for sushi.
The best option for sushi is Japanese short-grain white rice, but this can be hard to find in some countries. The brown version is more nutritious, but white short-grain rice gives a better pudding-like texture.
If you can’t find Japanese short-grain white rice, then the Californian version is a good alternative. You can also use other types of short-grain rice, such as risotto rice or pudding rice, although these will not have quite the same consistency.
What Is Cauliflower Rice?
Despite its appearance, this isn’t really rice at all — it is actually cauliflower that has been riced!
Cauliflower rice is considered to be a very nutritious alternative to rice for those seeking to lower their intake of both carbohydrates and calories, alongside other health benefits.
It has minimal flavor of its own, so it takes on other flavors and seasoning quite well.
Cauliflower rice does have a different texture, however — it is not as chewy and structured as rice. This means it does particularly well in dishes where rice is used as an accent, not necessarily as the headliner of the dish.