Mistakes you're making at home that are ruining your rice, according to an award-winning chef

  • JJ Johnson is the chef and founder of Fieldtrip, a fast-casual rice bowl restaurant.

  • He identified some common mistakes home cooks make with rice, and provided some fixes.

  • If your rice turns out unevenly cooked, try using a bigger pot. If it's mushy, try less water.

JJ Johnson is a James Beard Award-winning chef, author, and TV personality. He opened the first location of Fieldtrip, a fast-casual restaurant where rice is the star, in Harlem in July 2019. Now, it's grown to another in Rockefeller Center with a third location set to open up soon near Columbia University.

Chef Johnson told Insider cooking rice at home is "not difficult," but there are some common mistakes he sees people making that are continually ruining their dish.

Your pot is too small

Johnson said a big mistake he sees people making is using a pot that's too small for the amount of rice they're cooking.

"Rice doubles in size," the chef explained, mentioning how each grain expands in volume. "So if you're cooking one quart of rice, you need a four-quart pot."

If you don't have enough space for the rice to grow, he said the grains at the bottom will turn out sticky while the ones on top will be hard.

"Most people fill up the rice pot almost to the top," he continued. "Then they're like, 'OK what happened to the rice?'"

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Johnson using the finger trick to measure the water for his rice.Joey Hadden/Insider

You're not using the proper amount of water

Johnson told Insider using too much or too little water is also a major downfall for home cooks making rice. To help measure, he said to use "the finger trick."

The chef described sticking your index finger straight down into the pot of rice before adding any liquid. If you can see your first knuckle with the tip of your finger touching the bottom of the pot, use that as the line for how much water to add. If there's a lot of rice, and it covers your knuckle without the water, rest the tip of your finger on the top of the rice layer and measure from there.

Johnson said the size of your hand doesn't matter for this hack, and that it should be used for any type of rice with the exception of sticky rice.

"But if you're just cooking rice at home — long-grain, medium-grain — the finger trick works," Johnson said.

Stop rushing the process

Once your rice is in the pot, leave it alone, the chef said.

He recommends bringing the water to a boil or hard simmer, placing a lid on the pot, adjusting the heat to medium or medium-low, and letting it cook for around 22 minutes (some rice might have a different cook time indicated on the packaging). Then, when your timer goes off, you should fluff the rice, add salt or seasoning, and fluff it again.

"In that moment," he said, "you're going to see the rice stick to the bottom of the pan and you're going to be like, 'Oh my goodness, the rice is sticking to the bottom of the pan!' But bottom-of-the-rice stickiness is good because it's going to give you crunchiness. In certain cultures, people fight over that."

Johnson said that when you give your rice time to rest — around five to 10 minutes — and then you fluff it again afterward, all of the rice that was stuck to the bottom will come off naturally.

"It will still be crunchy," he added, "but it will be like an omelet rolling off the pan."

Similarly, Johnson said you might be cooking your rice too long, or not long enough. If you're constantly ending up with a pot full of mushy rice, or you're consistently burning the bottom layer, try setting a shorter cook time. If your rice feels hard between your teeth, try cooking it for a little longer.

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A Fieldtrip employee salts a fresh batch of jollof rice.Joey Hadden/Insider

Wait to season the rice until after it's cooked

Johnson said that when cooking rice, you should not salt the water and grains beforehand.

"Salt is at the end," he said, because the grains will burst open during the cooking process and then when you add the seasoning, they're able to absorb it.

He said that if you add the salt before the grains open up, they're not going to be able to soak in the seasoning and take on the flavor boost.

The only additional flavors Johnson said are good to add before cooking are citrus zest, toasted spices if you're toasting your rice before simmering it, and flavorful cooking liquids.

Read the original article on Insider