How To Cook Brown Rice

Here's how to cook brown rice.

What is Brown Rice?

Brown rice is a delicious and highly nutritious whole grain food that has been a staple in Asia for thousands of years.

Unlike white rice, brown rice is unrefined. White rice is refined: the most nutritious parts of the grain, which contain B vitamins and magnesium, are removed during the milling of white rice. When rice began to be refined in Asia, the deficiency disease beriberi, which leads to wasting and death, became common among those who ate white rice.

White rice raises blood sugar; brown rice normalizes blood sugar.

Buying Brown Rice

Brown Rice

Organic brown rice is available in natural food stores and is commonly sold in small quantities from self-serve bins or in two-pound bags.

Basic types of rice involve the size of the grain:

  • Long grain rice: full, rich taste; good for beginners
  • Medium grain rice: often recommended in macrobiotics; my current favorite
  • Short grain rice: requires longer cooking time
  • Sweet rice: used in Japan for special occasions

Amounts of Rice and Water

Basic ingredients
1 cup uncooked rice = 3 cups cooked rice = 4 small bowls
3 cups of water for each cup of rice

The amount of water you ultimately use will depend on your saucepan, the amount of heat used, and how you like your rice.

Rinse Immediately Before Cooking

Rinse the rice first before cooking. Rinsing removes dirt and debris that otherwise will be cooked into your rice and onto the sides of your saucepan.

  • In a strainer under running water (recommended)
  • Or, by swishing in water in a pan and then pouring off the water.


Put the rice and water (see above for proportions) into a stovetop saucepan.

Bring rice and water to a boil.

Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until the rice absorbs nearly all the water.

Allow the rice to sit a few minutes afterwards. It will absorb the remaining water and develop its final taste.

Tips on How to Cook Brown Rice

Type of Cookware
I noticed differences in cooking time and overall quality between cooking in glass (which is no longer sold due to lawsuits concerning spontaneous shattering) and stainless steel saucepans. It seems likely that a ceramic saucepan (designed for stovetop use) would be best.

Brown rice is also commonly cooked in pressure cookers and in rice cookers.

Boiling Over
Watch for boiling over.

I found better results by simmering with the saucepan's cover ajar to release steam. This does require more water and sometimes more time.

Soft Rice
I prefer softer rice and use 4 cups of water to ½ cup of uncooked rice.

In stainless steel, I end up boiling the rice uncovered for about ten minutes before simmering with the cover ajar for about another 40 minutes.

Recently I accidentally boiled the rice uncovered until all the water was cooked away. It was a bit dry but perfectly edible, with a slightly different taste (more baked) that I recognized from restaurant brown rice.

What I learned: Brown rice is hard to screw up!