100 Techniques

Technique #53: How to Give Rice that Crispy Golden Crust

Create a deeply golden, texturally pleasing addition to your rice dishes.

Published Sept. 9, 2023.

This is Technique #53 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master

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Making rice into a showpiece often means adding a host of special ingredients. But one of our favorites focuses purely on the rice: a Persian-style rice pilaf known as chelow, one of the most important dishes in Iranian cuisine. 

What makes the dish so irresistible is the textural contrast between a top layer of unusually light, fluffy, and tender grains and a bottom layer of golden-brown, crispy crust.

The trade-off for success with chelow has always been the effort involved; attempts at shortcut recipes usually yield a gummy, overcooked top layer of rice and a pale, barely-there crust. 

But we figured out how to streamline preparation without sacrificing the hallmark characteristics of this rice dish with two very different textures.

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Prep Your Rice and Your Equipment 

Rinse the raw rice to remove excess starch, which helps the fluffy grains in the top layer stay separate. Then, parcook it by boiling and rinsing it again. Then, brush the bottom and sides of the pot with oil before adding the rice to facilitate loosening the crust later, and then pack the rice down well in an even layer. 

The best pot for chelow is a large, heavy Dutch oven since it accommodates everything and holds heat well, thus facilitating the browning of the bottom crust. (We tried a cast-iron skillet but found it too shallow and small to contain the rice.) 

After the dish has finished cooking, set the pot on a dampened dish towel for a few minutes. This helps the crust cool more rapidly, making the rice grains contract and the crust release more easily.

Scoop or Flip

It’s impressive (and traditional) but pretty tricky to flip the whole crust out onto a platter. You can try it if you’re brave, but we find it easier to scoop the fluffy rice portion onto a platter, use a thin metal spatula to break the crust into shards as we remove it from the pot, and then arrange the crispy pieces in eye-catching fashion around the rest of the dish.


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Step-by-Step: How To Create a Golden Crust

It’s not as difficult as you might think to add an impressive crust to your rice dishes. All it takes is a little preparation and know-how to create a perfectly golden, crunchy addition to your meal. You can follow our step-by-step instructions below to learn this technique.

Step 1: Rinse, Soak, and Parcook 

Rinse rice in fine-mesh strainer until water runs clear. Soak in hot tap water, then drain. Parcook in boiling water in Dutch oven.

Step 2: Drain the Rice and Oil Your Pot 

Drain and rinse rice. Rinse and dry Dutch oven well. Brush bottom and 1 inch up sides of pot with oil to help rice crust to form and to prevent sticking.

Step 3: Pack Some Rice Back In 

Pack portion of parcooked rice into even layer on bottom of pot.

Step 4: Add Remaining Rice and Water

Mound remaining rice mixture into small hill in pot; poke evenly spaced holes and drop in butter cubes. Drizzle 1⁄3 cup water over rice mound.

Step 5: Let Rest 

After cooking, set pot on damp dish towel to rest. Spoon fluffy rice portion of pot out, being careful not to disturb crust.

Step 6: Remove Crust 

Using metal spatula, loosen crust from bottom of pot, then remove in large pieces and serve.

Watch us demonstrate the technique in this cook-through video.

Recipe That Uses This Technique

Now that you’ve learnt this technique for showstopper rice, you can put it to good use in recipes like the one below, to take rice from a simple side dish to a wow-worthy crowd pleaser.


Chelow ba Tahdig (Persian-Style Rice with Golden Crust)

This classic Iranian dish takes rice to a whole other level, with perfectly plump, separate grains and a crispy, buttery, nutty-tasting crust.
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