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We tasted eight versions of this global food staple in search of a product that balances fluffiness with chewiness and a hint of stickiness.
Published June 3, 2019.
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What You Need To Know
Often sold in the United States as Calrose rice, this rice variety features short, squat grains and has a distinct stickiness when cooked. It gets this stickiness from a relatively high amount of a starch component called amylopectin, which gelatinizes during cooking and results in a tender, creamy texture with a subtle chewiness.
Sushi rice traces its origins back to northeast Asia (particularly Japan), but it is now grown extensively in the United States. California, where 95 percent of the rice grown is sushi‑style rice, ranks second to Arkansas (which grows mostly long-grain rice) in U.S. rice production. According to the California Rice Commission, nearly every piece of sushi eaten in the United States is made with California-grown rice. But it’s not used only in sushi—this type of rice is a staple in many Asian and Asian American homes and is featured in dishes such as bibimbap, onigiri, and gimbap.
For this tasting, we looked specifically for rice labeled sushi, Calrose, or Japanese-style (these terms are often used interchangeably). We found eight nationally available products, ranging in price from about $0.05 per ounce to about $0.25 per ounce. We cooked the rice two ways—in rice cookers using a standardized rice-to-water ratio and on the stovetop according to their package instructions—and sampled them all plain.
No Bad Rice, Just Bad Instructions
Ultimately, we liked all the rice we cooked in the rice cookers. They were perfectly chewy and tender with a pleasant hint of stickiness. That said, some products fared poorly when cooked on the stovetop according to their package instructions. Some packages called for soaking the rice before cooking (a traditional method for preparing Japanese sushi rice), but we generally preferred the slightly firmer texture of unsoaked rice. Other packages called for too much water in proportion to the amount of uncooked rice, so the cooked rice emerged from the pot wet and bland. Since we wanted to truly home in on the quality of the rice and not the instructions, we decided not to factor the results from the stovetop rice tasting into our final rankings. Instead, we based our ratings solely on the results of the rice cooker tasting. We therefore strongly recommend that you ignore the package instructions when cooking sushi rice and instead use either a rice cooker or the recipe we developed for cooking this type of rice on the stovetop.
A Millimeter Makes a Difference
Like Arborio rice, which is used to make risotto, sushi rice has confusingly been classified as both a short- and medium-grain rice by different sources (see “Are Arborio Rice and Sushi Rice Interchangeable?”). We...
Everything We Tested
While this product had longer granules than our winning rice, tasters still thought that it had “good cohesion without any gumminess.” The grains were “distinct” and “slick,” with a perfect amount of “chew.” It also had “floral” notes and a slightly “earthy” “coconut” flavor that tasters found “subtle” and “pleasing.”
This Korean American rice had an “earthy” flavor and a slightly “fruity aftertaste.” Most agreed that its “pleasant floral notes” added a unique aroma to the rice. The grains were “sticky” and “moist” and seemed “slightly longer” than other products.
Though this product had some of the shortest grains in the lineup and tasters liked its “extra-short and round” granules, many thought that it had a slightly “chewy” texture. However, we liked its “roasty,” “toasted” notes and “buttery” aftertaste, which reminded some tasters of “rice crackers.” Overall, it was a “flavorful” rice but “a bit dry.”
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