Storified by ebanreb· Thu, Mar 21 2013 21:29:33
Rice has been around for a very long time. It is known to have been cultivated for over 5,000 years and is thought to be one of the very first crops. With over 7000 varieties, rice has become the staple food of more than half of the world's population. Most people have at least one rice dish that they particularly enjoy.
Asian countries produce approximately 90% of the world's rice and Asians eat as much as 300 pounds of rice per person per year. Americans eat a little more than 21 pounds of rice per person each year and the French consume about 10 pounds of rice per person annually.
Benefits of Including Rice in Your Diet
Rice is an excellent food to help keep your body healthy. Rice has the following nutritional benefits:
Rice is a good energy source...
Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose, most of which is used as energy for exercise and as essential fuel for the brain.
Rice is low in fat, cholesterol-free and low in salt...
Rice is an excellent food to include in a balanced diet. It is low in total fat and saturated fat, is cholesterol-free (therefore an excellent food to include in a cholesterol lowering diet) and contains negligible amounts of sodium.
Rice is gluten-free...
Some people are unable to tolerate the proteins found in wheat, rye, oats and barley and should choose foods that are gluten-free. All rice is gluten-free, making rice the essential choice for those with gluten free dietary requirements.
Rice contains no additives or preservatives...
Rice contains no additives or preservatives, making it an excellent inclusion in a healthy and balanced diet.
Basic Methods of Preparing Rice
The absorption method is the most popular method for cooking rice. It uses a set amount of rice and a set amount of water for a set amount of time. By the time the water is absorbed, the rice should be done. This is also the method by which most rice cookers work, though some employ a mixture of this and the steaming method.
This is usually the preferred method for cooking sticky and clinging varieties of rice. Soaked and drained rice is put in a special steaming basket or pan over a pot or wok of boiling water and cooked with steam alone, without the rice ever touching the boiling liquid.
Tips and Techniques
Read the box or recipe for desired results. Since different varieties of rice are best when cooked using a particular method, be certain to follow recipe instructions to get the best flavor and texture from rice.
Measure rice and water accurately. The addition of salt and butter is optional.
Use a heavy-bottomed pot when cooking rice so the heat is distributed evenly.
Rice will triple in volume, so use the proper size pot with a tight-fitting lid. If the level of uncooked rice in the pot is more than two-inches deep, choose a pot that will accommodate the amount of rice to be cooked.
Use a tight-fitting lid so the steam will stay in the pot while the rice cooks. Do not remove the lid until the end of cooking time. If rice is not sufficiently done, return cover and continue to cook a few minutes longer.
Time the cooking according to package directions. Cooking at higher altitudes will require additional time and will be indicated in the instructions.
Rice prepared in the microwave takes no less time than cooking on the stovetop.
When used properly, rice cookers or steamers provide a no-risk method of preparing rice. To cook rice in a rice cooker, always be certain to follow the manufacturer's instructions. You may find that you want to reduce the amount of water by 1/4 cup (50 ml) for each 1 cup (250 ml) of rice being cooked.
Fluff cooked rice with a fork before serving. When rice is cooked, stir, recover and set aside for 5 minutes. This allows some of the steam to escape and fluffs the rice to keep the grains separate. (Cooked rice will pack and become a bit sticky if not stirred at this stage.)
Rice may be cooked ahead of time and reheated quickly before serving. To reheat rice, add 1 to 2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of water for each 1 cup (250 ml) of leftover rice. Cover and heat for 4 to 5 minutes on the stovetop or 5 to 10 minutes in the oven. In the microwave oven, reheat on HIGH for 1 to 3 minutes.
Leftover rice may be frozen in small bags or containers and reheated in the microwave oven or on the stovetop. Remember to add water as recommended above.