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How to Cook Brown Rice

Cooking was never a very high priority in my household. Until my brother got married and met his wife, the only thing any of us knew how to cook well was my Dad’s celebrated spaghetti sauce, and not very well. When I moved in with my Mee Mee to take care of her after she had a fall, I had to learn a whole lot. I watched demonstrations of the oxygen tubes she needed so she could breathe — the bubbler that kept her sinuses from drying out, the machine that pulled in air and turned it into pure O2 — I swept her porch just like when I was a little boy, and I cooked her breakfast every single day.

She was my Mee Mee, I thought cooking for her would be impossible. She was the best cook in the world; that’s a tough act to follow.

So I made her breakfast that first day. The eggs ran, the potatoes were unyielding. I put the plate in front of her expecting the worst  — “Here Mee Mee, have a disaster.”

And she didn’t hate it. So I got back on the horse and tried again. Each time I did I learned a something new. Now, cooking brown rice isn’t simple, but it is same basic process. The easiest way to cook brown rice is with a rice cooker. I know, a rice cooker is expensive, food deserts exist, access is important. If you cannot buy a rice cooker, here is the basic starter recipe:

  • The ratio of water to rice is 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups water
  • Set your burner to medium, get the water to a boil. Add the rice. Let it simmer for 20 minutes. Put a lid on off-kilter so the steam can vent.
  • What you are looking for is the point when the rice looks like it has absorbed all the water and there are holes spaced evenly around the pot.
Okay now, the first time you are going to be rubbish at it. That’s totally fine. The first time I handed that plate to my Mee Mee she didn’t throw it across the room like a prima donna, or log on to Yelp to tear me a new one, she told me she liked it.
Once you have a pot of brown rice, you need to get it in some oil. Cooked brown rice has no flavor so start with aromatics. Aromatics are anything that gives off a smell when you cook them onions, bell peppers etc. etc. — and you cook those until you can smell it wafting. Then you add the rice. Push it around the pan to coat it in oil. I always put on music or a podcast to pass the time — try not to make it simple drudgery.
After the rice has started to soften you can add an egg. Pile all the rice on one side of the pan and crack an egg on top. The egg white will cover the rice, then you break the yolk. You can just crack the egg directly into the pan but then it is all moist and has a weird mouthfeel. Cover the rice in egg white, then cover it in yolk, then add whatever you want. Hot sauce has always worked for me, salt and pepper are a must.

Once you have the basic recipe down, then you experiment. Some things are going to be yucky, some will be delicious. Adding a pat of butter at the end makes it taste like something you’d get at a restaurant. There. You know how to cook brown rice.


  1. Copcher wrote:

    This is beautiful, and quite useful. I’ve never made brown rice because I don’t like the lack of flavour, but I might try this recipe.

    I have one question. When you say “Let it simmer for 20 minutes. Put the lid on off-kilter so the steam can vent” do you mean that you let it simmer with the lid on off-kilter, or after it’s done simmering you adjust the lid so it’s off-kilter and let it vent until it’s done?

    Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  2. GGeek wrote:

    Why did including an egg never occur to me!?

    Thanks, Garland!

    Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink