Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Perfect Brown Rice

I don't remember eating a lot of brown rice as a child. Even white rice was rather uncommon, as my family championed the humble potato. Despite the lack of a long personal relationship with the stuff, nutty brown rice has become my ultimate comfort food. Throw a bit of butter on there, and depending on my mood, a little salt or brown sugar, and I'm a happy girl. It may not be the sexiest of dishes, but I can't seem to get enough.

The love, however, is not reciprocated, as I consistently find myself with an unhappy pot of rice - either burnt and dry, or too wet and soupy. To make matters worse, I buy my rice in bulk and with no real consistency in grain length, so I am constantly having to estimate a shift the amount of water and cooking time needed. A recipe for disaster, without an actual recipe. Of course, who should come to my rescue but that culinary stud, Mr. Alton Brown. His secret for perfect brown rice - baking it!

My dad used to tell me about the baked rice he'd serve at his restaurant, Maloney's. He'd bake it in a big, deep, metal tray, with equal parts chicken broth and long grain brown rice, dried oregano, and throw it in the oven with the baked potatoes - no exact science here ("We'd throw it in at 3 and take it out when we needed to serve it!") - and the texture could vary on any given night. Lacking such industrial equipment and wanting to maintain a sweet/savory neutrality, I ventured off into the far reaches of the Internet to find my own, simple, foolproof rice recipe.

I was torn between two possible recipes - Cook's Illustrated boiling method and Alton Brown's baked version. Though I usually trust CI with anything technique related, the thought of boiling rice and throwing away all of the water - along with a lot of the nutrients - didn't seem ideal, no matter how convenient. Alton's recipe preserved all of the rice's goodness without the fear of drying it out over an open flame (or in my case, sadly, an electric stove), and I just happened to have purchased a perfect little ceramic dish at the Goodwill - complete with "tight fitting" lid so lauded by rice enthusiasts.

The method is really simple, just a matter of spreading rice in the bottom of the baking dish, boiling the other ingredients, mixing the two, and letting the oven do the rest. An hour later, perfect brown rice. Really! It may take an extra few minutes, but the simplicity and quality of the result is totally worth it. Next time, I might use the chicken broth herb method of my dad's chef days, but for now, it's some brown rice cookies - results to follow.

Baked Brown Rice
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005
1 1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the rice into a ceramic baking dish with a lid.

Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish (if you don't have a lidded baking dish, no problem - use a regular one with tin foil). Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Enjoy!


  1. Rice is my comfort food and growing up, it was what completed my meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

  2. Growing up in Indonesia and Singapore, rice was a staple food. Even now we eat it on a more or less weekly basis, though so many things (like pasta, salad and yes, potatoes), have come between the humble rice and me.

    It is still my staple of choice on any given day, because it is just so versatile. My mother could not live without rice; she suffered so much during our 16 day tour to Europe. I can't wait to go for my upcoming visit to Singapore and have some of the local rice specialty called Nasi Lemak. The ones here just can't compare.

    Oh, and my tip for cooking rice: get an electric rice cooker.

  3. Oh, and PS. the secret is out. Check out my new post for more details. (is it just me or did I sound too much like a radio commercial?)

    PPS. I'll so be your foodie nerd friend and partner in kitchen crimes!!

  4. I just ruined a perfectly good pot of rice last night by not using enough water, so this timing is perfect.

    How would it change the recipe if I have long-grain brown rice or would it?


  5. Angie, I believe Alton's original recipe uses long grain OR short grain - so it should be fine.