A rice cooker can be a lifesaver in the kitchen, especially if you cook rice frequently or in large portions. Not only does it allow you to cook rice easily, but it also keeps it warm once cooked, which means you can cook enough for the day in the morning and still have warm rice for dinner.
However, there are times when you end up with mushy rice.
Your rice cooker makes mushy rice because you’re adding too much water before turning it on. While cooking, the rice has absorbed all the water you added, causing the rice grains to split and creating a soft, gluey consistency. To avoid this add less water or wash out the starch before cooking.
The rest of this article will look more into why your rice is mushy and how you can fix it.
Why Does Rice Turn Mushy?
For all that rice is a staple food in diets around the world, mushy rice is a quick way to turn you off from eating this grain ever again.
If you’ve been trying to make the perfect pot of rice but are finding nothing but mush after every attempt, it’s easy to get frustrated.
Rice can turn mushy if you use too much water when cooking rice. Additionally, it also turns mushy if there’s too much starch on the rice; however, this is only a concern with white rice, as brown rice has the lower starch content of the two.
Let’s look at these two causes in detail.
Using Too Much Water
When cooking rice, it’s essential to get the rice to water ratio correct. This may take a few tries, as the ratio varies slightly depending on the type and brand of rice you’re using.
Additionally, the type of vessel you’re cooking in will also affect the rice’s water absorption rate. If you’re looking for a general rule to help you get started, consider the following:
- Short-grained white rice: 1 cup (200 ml) of water to 1 cup (200 g) of rice.
- Long-grained white rice: 1 ¼ cup (300 ml) of water to 1 cup (185 g) of rice for.
- Brown rice: You need 2 cups (475 ml) of water to 1 cup (190 g) of rice because brown rice has a longer cooking time than white rice, and the rice needs to absorb 1 cup (200 ml) of water while still having additional liquid available to be boiled off during the cooking process.
Too Much Starch
When rice is being transported, the grains move around, causing them to rub against one another, resulting in some of the starch being scratched off.
When you start cooking the rice, the same starch “blooms” or gelatinizes, causing it to swell. This happens due to water absorption, and water absorbed in this manner cannot be removed.
As the starch absorbs water, rice grains start being forced closer together, causing them to “stick” to each other. Another effect is visible clumps of life, all of which are collectively known as mushy rice.
To avoid this process, it’s essential to rinse your white rice before cooking. The process is simple:
- Place the rice in a bowl.
- Fill the bowl of rice with cold water. Make sure to fill the bowl after putting in the rice, and not the other way around.
- Use your hands to “wash” the rice, moving it around in the water.
Once you’re done rinsing the rice, you’ll likely notice that the water looks cloudy. This is due to the starch that’s been removed from the grains. Repeat the process a few times until you get clear water with no starchy sections at all.
How To Fix Mushy Rice
If your cooking exploits have left you with mushy rice, don’t worry – all hope is not lost. It’s possible to fix your mistake, during the cooking process and once the rice is completely cooked.
1. Let the Rice Rest
If you added too much water without thinking and realized it partway through the cooking process, there’s still a chance to salvage your cooked rice by leaving it to rest. Just follow these steps:
- Let the rice finish cooking.
- Open the lid of the cooker right when the rice is done. You should find that the rice is mushy at the bottom but still firm and slightly undercooked to the taste at the top. If this is what you see, you can continue. If not, try one of the other fixes in this list.
- Remove the cooker from the heat source, leaving the rice uncovered.
- Place a clean, dry towel on top of the cooker.
- Place the lid back on top of the towel, creating a tight seal against the air.
- The towel should absorb the excess moisture created by the extra water, trapping it and preventing any condensation from falling back onto the rice.
Leave the rice to rest for about 20 minutes, allowing the remaining liquid to distribute evenly throughout the grains in the cooker.
2. Drain the Water
Depending on how much extra water you added to your rice, it may be possible to simply drain the excess water and allow it to dry out. To do so, you should:
- Remove the lid from the cooker. Tilt it gently over a sink, allowing the excess water to drain out.
- Transfer the rice to a pot and start heating on a stove at low heat. The low heat should help evaporate any excess water that wasn’t drained out.
- Once the rice has dried out, let it sit for a few minutes. Then, remove it from the heat source.
The rice should now be ready to serve.
3. Dry the Rice in the Oven
This method is similar to the previous one, though the process of drying out the rice further differs slightly. To dry out your mushy rice in the oven, you should:
- Drain excess water from the rice cooker as described in the previous method.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and slowly transfer the rice to the sheet. I recommend using the Nordic Ware Naturals Big Baking Sheet from Amazon.com.
- Place the sheet in the oven and start heating on low heat. Make sure to rotate the rice occasionally.
- Keep an eye on your rice, and check it frequently to determine whether it has dried out.
- Once dry, turn off the heat and leave the rice inside the oven to cool for a few minutes.
4. Refrigerate the Rice
It may seem like a strange suggestion, but refrigerating your mushy rice can help make it ready to serve. To do so, you’ll have to:
- Drain out the excess water from your rice cooker and scoop the rice onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. You’ll essentially have to follow the first two steps outlined below.
- Once the rice is laid out evenly on the parchment paper, place the sheet in your fridge.
- Like drying out your rice in the oven, you have to check on the status of your rice frequently. The speed at which it’ll dry will depend on the amount of water in your rice but should take 20-30 minutes on average.
- Once the rice is thoroughly dried, place the sheet into a microwave and heat. Once done, your rice should be ready to serve.
If you’re looking for an alternative way of serving rice dried out in the refrigerator, consider serving it as fried rice. You’ll need to skip the last step if you decide to take this route, though.
Then, stir-fry your rice, mix it with a combination of your favorite vegetables, meats, and seafood, and you’re good to go!
It’s important to remember that this option is only valid for refrigerated rice – to stir-fry rice, it must be cold, so using rice that’s fresh out of the microwave, oven, or rice cooker won’t work.
5. Salt the Rice
It’s possible to reduce the mushiness of your rice through the addition of salt, which is perhaps the least time-consuming method you can try. All you need to do is:
- Fill a small bowl with a handful of salt.
- Place the bowl with the cooker of mushy rice. Make sure to drain the cooker of the excess water first.
- Leave the bowl of salt to rest in the rice for 20-30 minutes. This will give the salt enough time to absorb the excess moisture from the rice, allowing you to serve it.
6. Make a Rice Pudding
Sometimes, mushy rice is simply unsalvageable. However, just because you can’t serve the rice as a conventional dish doesn’t mean that you need to toss it into the bin.
If you – or someone else in your family – has a sweet tooth, consider turning the unappetizing mushy rice into a delicious rice pudding instead. Many people have their own personal recipes that they like to follow.
One of my favorite recipes for rice pudding includes the following steps:
- Drain out the excess water from the rice cooker and transfer the rice to a saucepan or pot. Start heating it on low to medium heat on the stove.
- As the rice heats, add milk, vanilla, sugar, and a little salt to the pan. If you’re using vanilla beans instead of extract, use a whole bean.
- Make sure to stir the mixture continuously, taking care to reach the bottom so that it doesn’t burn. Let it cook for about 35 minutes or until it has reached your desired thickness.
- Once the pudding is cooked, you can take it off the heat and let it rest for a few moments. You can also sprinkle a touch of cinnamon for added flavor.
- Put the pudding in the fridge. Allow it to cool before you serve.