Why Fry Rice Before Cooking: 4 Reasons You Should Do it

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Tossed fried rice in a pan with a text "why fry rice before cooking"

Have you come across recipes that require frying rice before cooking? Do you often wonder why you should fry rice before cooking when you can just boil it? 

While I was reading a few recipes, I found a unique rice preparation method known as the pilaf method. In this cooking style, you must fry and sauté the rice grains with oil and various spices before boiling them. 

There are several benefits of frying rice before cooking. It allows you to improve the rice’s texture, preventing it from getting sticky. You can infuse the rice with unique flavors by frying it in flavored oils like olive or coconut. Lastly, frying helps to cut down the boiling time.

What Should You Fry Rice Before Cooking?

Zoomed-in view: Tasty pilau rice.

I used to think frying rice before cooking was a considerable waste of time. However, one of my friends suggested I try the pilaf method. 

Let me tell you, following her suggestion was one of the best culinary decisions of my life. Here are the reasons why:

1. Firm Texture

The biggest enemy of any dish is soggy or sticky rice. It has all the power in the world to ruin the dish’s flavors and texture!

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce stickiness in rice. One way is to soak and rinse dry rice grains in water to remove the extra starch.

Another step to lower the chances of soggy rice is frying it before boiling

Rice grains contain a specific type of starch called amylopectin, which tends to break apart when it absorbs water. This breakdown makes the grains mushy. 

According to Bon Appetit magazine, the outer starches firm up when you fry rice in oil. Because of this reason, it absorbs water more slowly, which helps to keep the cooked rice grains’ texture firm. 

2. Enhanced Toasty Flavor 

If you believe rice has no flavor, give it a quick fry before steaming! 

When you toast rice in oil, the glucose inside the starches undergoes caramelization. As a result, you’ll get a lovely nutty fragrance after sautéing it in oil for just two to three minutes!

3. Add Extra Flavors

Apart from the toasted flavor, frying your rice in oil lets you infuse extra flavors. 

Instead of using vegetable oil, use olive oil to add fruity notes to your rice. 

Alternatively, I love using coconut oil to sauté my rice grains when I’m in the mood to have a seafood-based side dish! Similarly, you can experiment with the flavors that you want.

You can add spices like cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, or cloves to make the rice more aromatic and flavorful. 

4. Reduce Cooking Time

Frying rice before boiling reduces your cooking time significantly!

Sautéing before cooking heats the entire pan and partially cooks the rice grains. As a result, it will boil quicker.

From my experience, cooking white rice without frying takes around 15 minutes. On the other hand, sautéing the rice in oil beforehand reduces the cooking time to approximately seven or eight minutes!

How to Fry Rice Before Cooking?

Not all rice varieties are suitable for frying before cooking, as some are prone to a sticky texture. 

Short-grain rice, like Japanese sushi rice, contain excessive stickiness because of its  80% amylopectin content. Even if you fry it in oil until your hands give up, it will still retain its mushy texture!

Long-grain varieties like basmati and jasmine rice give the best results if you fry them before cooking. They become extra firm, toasty, and flavorful

The steps covered in this article are specifically for basmati rice. However, they’re pretty universal and work with most rice varieties.  

Step 1: Soak the Rice

Rice soaked in the white bowl with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Whether you fry it first or not, soaking is always the first step for cooking rice. 

To do so, empty the rice grains in a large bowl and soak them in cold water. The soaking duration depends on the type of rice. 

  • Long-grain rice, like basmati or jasmine, requires 15 to 30 minutes of soaking. 
  • Medium-grain rice, like arborio, requires five to six hours of soaking.
  • Sticky rice requires 10 to 12 hours of soaking.

Step 2: Rinse the Rice Properly

Rice soaked in the white bowl with a spoon and  with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

After you’ve soaked the rice for the suggested time, drain it using a colander. 

Then, rinse the rice with cold water at least two or three times. Transfer the rice grains to a bowl.

Before rinsing, the rice water turns milky due to the presence of starch. However, the water should turn transparent once you’ve rinsed it thoroughly. This change in color shows that you have removed any extra starch from the rice, which prevents it from turning mushy

Step 3: Toast or Fry the Rice in Oil

Now for the most crucial part of frying rice! 

Remember that you don’t have to literally fry rice; you just have to sauté it in oil. I’ve used vegetable oil, but for more flavors, go for olive, mustard, or coconut oil.

To fry your rice in oil, follow the steps below: 

1. First, heat a cooking pot on medium-high and add one tablespoon of vegetable oil for every cup of rice you plan to cook

Cooking pot with a small vegetable oil with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

2. Next, add the rinsed rice grains to the cooking pot and sauté them for a minute.

Rice grains sauteed in the pot with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

3. Add any spices of your choice to the oil for flavor enhancement. I’ve added bay leaves, cardamom, and saffron. 

Sauteed rice with bay leaves, cardamom, and saffron in the pot with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

4. Leave the rice uncovered and let the rice cook on medium-high heat for two to three minutes or until each grain looks translucent. 

After a few minutes, the rice starts smelling nutty. Trust me, the aromas in this step are mouth-watering! 

Step 4: Add Water and Cook the Rice

Sauteed rice with water in the pot with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Once the rice grains look translucent, add two cups of water for every cup of rice to the cooking pot. 

Then, add ½ to one teaspoon of salt for each cup of rice and place the lid on the pot. Let the rice cook on high heat until the water begins to boil. 

Wooden laddle on top of the cover of the pot with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

When the water starts boiling, heat the rice on a low simmer. Allow it to cook until all the water is absorbed. 

Cooked rice, the water is already absorbed with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Quick Warning: Sometimes, the water may dry up before the rice is fully boiled. If this happens, I suggest adding two to three more tablespoons of water to the rice and letting it steam for a few extra minutes.

Step 5: Fluff the Rice!

Cooked rice in a white bowl with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Once the rice is cooked to perfection, turn off the stove and transfer the grains to a bowl. Don’t forget to fluff the rice with a fork to separate any chunks. 

For further instructions, check out this YouTube video on how to toast rice with vegetables.

Extra Tips for More Flavorful Rice

Frying before cooking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to improve your rice’s flavor. 

Close-up pic: Saffron rice with cardamom, clove, & saffron strands.

Below, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve that can turn bland white rice into a grand and flavorful dish!

  • Use a different cooking liquid for boiling. Instead of water, you can use vegetable or chicken broth. 
  • Instead of frying with oil, toast rice grains in butter for a richer flavor. 
  • Add one tablespoon of lemon or orange juice to the rice while boiling it for a refreshing flavor. 
  • Don’t shy away from adding other spices to your frying rice. 

Final Thoughts

Since I’ve discovered the advantages of frying rice before cooking, I haven’t stopped! It’s intriguing how just one extra step can make plain white rice tastier, feel firmer, and become all-around more satisfying. 

Go ahead and try preparing your rice by following the steps given in this article. You’ll be left speechless by the explosion of flavors in your mouth you create! 

Saniya Baxi Avatar


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