Why Is It Called "Steamed Rice"?

johnliu_gwFebruary 4, 2014

Why is it called "steamed rice" when it is actually boiled rice?

The standard "steamed rice" recipe is water + rice in a covered pot, bring to boil then turn heat to low and cook covered until all the water is gone. Doesn't seem like steaming to me.

I vaguely remember a few years ago I "actually steamed" rice - rice in a vented container above boiling water - and it was awesome. Well, it was good anyway. But I cannot remember how long it took or when I did it or anything else, and I find no mention of this cooking method online, to the point that I'm starting to wonder if my mind is starting to go.

Anyone able to shed light on this? I am going to "actually steam" some rice tonight just to see if I'm delusional.

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I mostly steam rice.

I put rice with water or seasoning in a container and the container in a pressure cooker.

And the PC steams the rice. Perfect every time.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 9:51PM
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My understanding is that less finely processed rice in China and India, and probably elsewhere as well, needed several washings before preparation, and then had to be steamed in a special vessel apparatus in order to become tender enough to chew. Now that commercial rice cookers and prewashed rice are readily available, boiled rice is typically served, but the name "steamed rice" remains as a matter of tradition.

I use a Staub pot on top the gas range. Perfect every time, but boiled, not steamed.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:08PM
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To clarify, I think of "steaming" as distinct from boiling or simmering. As transferring heat via hot water vapor, not by submerging in hot water.

Tonight I washed some long grain white rice, wrapped in cheesecloth, placed on a bamboo steam tray, placed that tray above - not in - simmering water in a deep covered pot, and steamed the rice for 2 hours.

The rice is chewy, softer than when raw, but not very edible. So I conclude rice kernels need to absorb some water to be fit to eat.

(That sounds obvious, but I did want to test.)

If the "steamed" rice is then placed in water, it quickly - a few minutes - absorbs enough water to be edible. The grains are all perfectly separated. Hmm. I think I've basically made "instant rice".

Next I suppose I could try first soaking the raw rice in cold water and then draining and steaming. Some other night.

I'm not sure what the point of this experiment is, but maybe I''ll learn something.

Edit: Duh! Some more poking around Asian cooking websites shows that soak-then-steam is a traditional method for cooking sticky (glutinous, sweet) rice. So it will surely work for other rices - ?

This post was edited by johnliu on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 0:02

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 11:41PM
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By the way, one hope is to cook rice without measuring ratios of rice to water and trying to remember which ratio for which kind of rice.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:23AM
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For that, you can use the method that AnnT advocates: Boil the rice like it's pasta until it's just shy of done, drain, return to hot pot, cover it with a towel under the lid to absorb excess water, and let it steam for a few minutes until done.

I often use this method when making larger quantities of rice. But for a typical family meal with long grain rice the 1:2 ratio always works fine, and is pretty darn simple to remember.

If you use a pressure cooker, how can you tell when your rice is perfectly done?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 5:25AM
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Check out the link below for a little more information.

I sprout (germinate) brown rice before cooking it. You can also purchase GABA rice if you don't want to DIY. It's a great option for anyone who dislikes the taste and texture of brown rice. Sprouting also increases the nutrition and makes it easier to digest. It takes sprouted brown rice about 10-minutes to cook - another nice benefit. The next time I'll steam it and see if there is any discernible difference. Thanks for the idea.


Here is a link that might be useful: Difference between steamed / boiled rice.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:13AM
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"Boiled rice requires twelve times as much water as rice . . ." (FTA)

That has not been my experience. However, perhaps the use of a heavy and heavy-lidded pot actually creates a combination of steaming and boiling. I use about two or two and a half to one ratio of water to rice. The lid keeps steam in the pot.

"I think of 'steaming' as distinct from boiling or simmering. As transferring heat via hot water vapor, not by submerging in hot water. "

So do I.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:55AM
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FOAS, "------If you use a pressure cooker, how can you tell when your rice is perfectly done?"

Because the rice is steamed, it can't be overcooked. With a PC, if the rice is too al dente, just add a little more water, and PC again. The rice will be perfect.

With a PC, you can make any quantity of rice, from one teaspoon to many quarts.

I tend to make large batches of rice, for making fried rice and other recipes. The brown crust cooked the normal way will not work for me.

As Gainlady's link states, a lot of good stuff and flavor in rice will be gone with the boiling water.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 11:30AM
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Difference kinds of rice require very different ratios of water to rice, when boiled.

For long grain white rice (e.g. jasmine) I use 1.5:1 (water:rice). For sushi rice I use 1.2:1 and include the vinegar seasoning in the 1.2. I gather than brown rice requires more water, though I don't hardly ever cook it, and I've never tried germinatig it first as grainlady mentions. I don't know the ratios for wild rice, or black rice, or sticky/glutinous/sweet rice, but they are also different.

I can't keep all that in my head. Hence my interest in a cooking method that doesn't require any ratio calculations.

I also got interested in this after seeing how my Persian friends make rice (in the WFD thread). Their method is similar to ann_t's. They usually use basmati rice.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 11:40AM
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I use a pressure cooker to cook rice - here are the instructions that will cook rice very quickly. It is necessary to get the cooker up to pressure before the cooking timing starts, but it is still very quick. It normally takes me 5 minutes on high to get the pressure started, and then six minutes more to cook the rice and about five minutes more with the heat off to let the pressure go down before opening the pan. I frequently add vegetables to rice when cooking it this way, and I often use stock instead of water - none of which needs to be drained off. I use my induction burner with the PC, as it is the only pan that works with that (except for cast iron, which I have not tried), and that makes timing very easy, and the heat goes off when I want it to. I am still not a convert to induction cooking, except for PC cooking.

I have been rinsing the rice before cooking it, and I then use 1-1/3 cups of water for one cup of white basmati rice. I use 1-1/2 cups of water with brown rice that has been rinsed. I think the pressure cooker partially steams the rice while also boiling it. Anyway, I feel like it preserves more of the nutrients, although I may lose some by rinsing the rice. I rinse the brown rice because I heard that that helps get rid of toxins.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:01PM
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For years now I couldn't cook rice worth a d*mn. Result was always a lumpy, sticky mess. My Mom had the same challenge even though we both followed Oma's instructions. She had perfect rice.

About a year ago I found the instructions for cooking rice in the microwave and since then we have light, fluffy, rice. I will never go back.

Here is a link that might be useful: Microwave rice

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 1:16PM
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That's interesting, dcarch. Can't be overlooked? Then just throw in "too much water" and cook "longer than needed" and it'll be fine? (Serious questions, not argumentative. Just looking forward to using the pressure cooker I'm about to buy because I didn't get it for my birthday!)

John, I understand different rice has different ratios, I just suggested boiling as a foolproof method.

Lost nutrition via the boiling method? With the possible exception of dietary fiber in brown rice, what does a serving of rice have to offer beyond empty carbs and an small amount of protein? I'm more interested in taste/texture.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 1:33PM
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FOAS, yes, you can over water, but I said overcooked. :-). You cannot underwater, as I had pointed out above.

You cannot overcook rice in a pressure cooker because rice cannot dry out in a PC. Rice cannot be burnt in a PC.

BTW, Lars' link is basically my PC rice method. It is very important that you use a pot-in-a-pot method, otherwise the rice can foam up and clot the safety valve.

Yes, rice has minerals and vitamins whcih can be washed away.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:04PM
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Ah, now I get it. Makes sense, thanks.

Still questioning the nutritional value of rice though. Looking at the labels of a few different rices in my pantry, the only one that has much to offer is the fortified rice. They all have a bit of protein though, as does my beer. ;-)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 4:08PM
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If you are looking for nutritional value from rice you'll have to sprout it, and choose black rice over brown rice, although sprouting brown rice also increases the nutrition. Otherwise rice is just another "white" refined food of little value.


Here is a link that might be useful: My Wellness Warehouse - sprouted black rice

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 11:11AM
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I've got a bag of Parboiled rice that I haven't broken into yet. I keep reaching for my Basmati.

I "think" parboiled rice has some nutrient value?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 1:14PM
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I'm confused. Steamed rice is steamed. That simple. It is steamed. Not all rice can be steamed. So many varieties have different cooking requirements. Vietnamese steamed rice is steamed. If very fresh it can be soaked just a few hours but often needs longer. Usually after a bag is purchased a test is done for how fresh it is. How much moisture remains in the grain.
It does not work with other rices. It is not 'sweet'. That is just a term used. If it is sweet to the taste in a restaurant, sugars are added after steaming. It can be steamed light and loose or steamed longer for a sticky texture so you can form it in a ball and dipped in sauce.
A large mesh colander works if it fits over a saucepan at least 4-5 inches over the water bath. Then lidded with the saucepans lid.
In an ethnic grocery look for Vietnamese 'sweet' rice.
All rice can be micro waved, pressure cooked, boiled. Not all rice can be steamed.
Needs a high gluten content to be soaked and steamed. Very few will work steamed.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 2:29PM
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Was trying to locate a recipe in my "Best of Gourmet Cookbook" and happened upon steamed rice in the Chinese section, Recipe follows:

Steamed Rice
5 Quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups long-grain rice

In large saucepan bring water to a boil with the salt. Sprinkle in the rice, stirring until the water returns to a boil, and boil it for 10 minutes. Drain the rice in a large colander and rinse it. Set the colander over a large saucepan of boiling water and steam the rice, covered with a kitchen towel and the lid, for 15 minutes, or until it is fluffy and dry. Makes about 9 cups.

Not sure that will help with the different varieties, but does answer why it is called steamed.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 3:53PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Will I be hijacking if I ask about a rice cooker? I've been struggling with cooking rice on the induction cooktop which seems to over boil or under simmer and I struggle to get it right. So I was thinking about a rice cooker. How do they work? Do they steam or boil?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 7:36PM
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Well . . . soaking long grain white rice in cold water, then draining and steaming, does not work. The rice still doesn't absorb enough water, it is chewy - very "al dente" if you will. Soaking the steamed rice in hot water afterwards does get enough water in the rice to make it edible, but it isn't great. Boo.

I'm going to try lizbeth's recipe next.

Anndeigh, a rice cooker simmers water that has rice in it, until the water is all absorbed and/or evaporated off, then the rice cooks "dry" at low heat for a while, then the cooker shuts off. At least, the simple rice cooker I have works this way.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 7:51PM
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Lizbeth's recipe works well. Needs more than 15 min of steaming though.

Snowing here in Portland. Got the mountain bike ready for tomorrow's commute. Unless I decide to work from home. Will see in the morning.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:32PM
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"----So I was thinking about a rice cooker. How do they work? Do they steam or boil?----"

I think they basically boil. Many rice cooker can stew meat, make soup, some can also bake bread.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:48PM
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They boil, but some restaurants routinely use commercial size ones and call the rice they serve, "steamed rice."

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:54PM
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