From America's Test Kitchen Season 10: Chicken and Rice—Indian-Style
To make rice pilaf, rice is toasted or browned in fat to build flavor before being cooked through in liquid. The result should be rice that is fragrant, fluffy, and tender. Traditional recipes insist that for a truly great pilaf you must soak or at least repeatedly rinse the rice before cooking. We wondered if there was more to making perfect rice pilaf than this. The variables included the kind of rice to use, the ratio of rice to cooking water, and whether or not to soak the rice before cooking. Testing revealed that using basmati rice was preferable, as was using a lower amount of water than is traditional for cooking rice. The step of rinsing the rice was also important for grains that were more tender, with a slightly shinier, smoother appearance. We also sautéed the rice in plenty of butter before adding the water. After the rice was cooked, we covered it with a kitchen towel and a lid and let it steam off the heat.
Serves 4 as a side dish
If you like, olive oil can be substituted for the butter depending on what you are serving with the pilaf. Soaking the rice overnight in water results in more tender, separate grains. If you'd like to try it, add enough water to cover the rice by 1 inch after the rinsing process in step 1, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature 8 to 24 hours; reduce the amount of water to cook the rice to 2 cups. For the most evenly cooked rice, use a wide-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.