Skip to main content
Cooking Tips

How to Guarantee Perfect Rice When You Don't Have a Perfect Lid

This easy work-around seals up the pot so that every grain cooks up tender. Plus, other tips for making perfect rice.
By Published Feb. 23, 2023

I cook a lot of rice, the vast majority of it in my rice cooker because the machine is brilliantly engineered to get every grain perfect (and keep it that way for hours, if need be).

A big reason that it does such a good job: The lid locks tight. That’s crucial when you’re cooking via the absorption method, which means there is just enough liquid in the pot to hydrate and gel the rice’s starch.

So, when I want rice but don’t have access to a rice cooker, there’s nothing more disappointing than trying to cook it in a pot with a loose lid. Without a tight seal, too much moisture escapes and some of the grains cook up dry and hard.

Fortunately, we have an easy work-around to solve that problem, along with other tips for making a pot of perfectly plump, tender grains.

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

How to Ensure Perfect Rice

If you don’t own a rice cooker, or your pot has an ill-fitting lid, here’s how to ensure perfect results using the absorption method for dishes like rice and pasta pilaf or this hearty beef and carrot plov.

  • Add a foil seal: To minimize moisture loss, seal the pot with aluminum foil by crimping a sheet over the vessel before topping it with the lid.   
  • Get the ratio right: In tests, we’ve found that rice absorbs water in a 1:1 ratio. But to account for some inevitable evaporation during cooking, it’s important to add extra water. The exact amount will vary, depending on the type of rice, but we recommend less water than the 2:1 water to rice ratio suggested in many recipes or on the back of the bag. A decent rule of thumb for white rice is 1½:1.  

Example: When cooking 1 cup of white rice, add 1½ cups water: 1 cup for the rice to absorb and ½ cup for evaporation.

  • Doubling the Rice? Don’t Double the Water: The catch to the aforementioned rice-to-water ratio: The amount of water that evaporates doesn’t double when the amount of rice is doubled.  

Example: When cooking 2 cups of rice, add 2½ cups of water: 2 cups for the rice to absorb and ½ cup for evaporation.       

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.