Published March 1, 2000.
Traditional recipes insist that for a truly great pilaf you must soak or at least repeatedly rinse the rice before cooking. Is this really necessary, or is it just an old wives' tale?
Recipes for rice pilaf abound, but none seem to agree on the best method for handling and cooking the rice. What most recipes agreed on is that rice pilaf is a dish in which the rice is toasted or browned in fat to build flavor before being cooked through in liquid. Beyond this, there seemed to be many different approaches to making this traditionally Middle Eastern dish. The variables included the kind of rice to use, the ratio of rice to cooking water, and whether or not to soak the rice before cooking.
Rice pilaf should be fragrant and fluffy, perfectly steamed, tender but still retaining an al dente quality. The rice gains flavor and texture from the other, more intensely flavored ingredients that are added to it.
Start with basmati rice and instead of the traditional ratio of 1:2 for rice water, use just 1 2/3 cups water for each cup of rice.
Rinse the rice for grains that are less hard and more tender, with a slightly shinier, smoother appearance.
Soaking the rice for any less than overnight was a waste of time; you can, however, skip this test and just rinse the rice.
Saute the rice in 3 tablespoons of butter for just one minute.
After the rice is cooked, cover with a tea towel and a lid and let steam for 10 minutes off heat.list of recipes