Cooking the perfect rice toes the line between culinary skill and artistic talent. While anyone can throw rice in a pot and boil it to make it edible, making it perfect requires some planning and a few tricks that anyone can master.

Know your different varieties and know each variety is different

When it comes to cooking rice, the most common variety is white rice, but there’s also brown rice, wild rice, sticky rice, fluffy rice, and then there are long-grain and short-grain varieties. While they are each rice, the kinds are not interchangeable, so knowing which rice to use with which dish is the first step in the process of cooking your rice perfectly

Getting the ratio right

If you’ve cooked rice before, you’re probably familiar with the “two parts water, one part rice” ratio that works as a general rule of thumb. While it works great as a rule of thumb, it’s not the best ratio to use across the board. For example, when cooking brown rice you’ll typically use more water than when you cook white rice, but again, it varies. For a useful guide, check out this chart that compares different rice varieties and the correct amount of water to use.

Preparation & cooking

Before you begin cooking your rice, you want to make sure you rinse it thoroughly first. Rice is a starchy food, so rinsing it off removes excess starch and will help it from sticking together once it’s cooked. While this is less important for long-grain rice, giving your rice a quick rinse with some water regardless will be beneficial. You can also give your rice a quick splash of oil once it’s in the pot to help keep the grains from sticking together.

Rice, much like pasta or potatoes, is very starchy, so adding a bit of salt to it while it’s cooking can really make a world of difference in the final project. While there is some debate as to whether adding salt before it’s cooking or after it’s done is better, the important thing is that you salt it.

Unless you’re cooking something like a starchy a risotto, resist the urge to stir your rice while you’re cooking it as this can make it dense and gluey rather than fluffy.

Final touches

In the last few minutes of cooking, there are a few extra steps that you can take to make sure that your rice stays fluffy and doesn’t get soggy. When the rice has only a few more minutes to cook, place a towel underneath the lid of the pot – make sure you don’t let the towel catch on fire! — and leave it there for the remainder of the cook time. This will help trap some of the moisture that would otherwise fall back into the rice and cause it to become mushy.

Once the rice has finished cooking, let it rest for about 15 minutes off of the heat to allow moisture to redistribute throughout the rice for a more uniform texture.