To ensure light, fluffy white rice, we always rinse the raw grains before cooking. But it can be hard to recognize when the water has become clear. What's the best way to tell?
To ensure light, fluffy white rice, we always remove surface starch by rinsing the raw grains in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water before cooking. But we’ve gotten letters from readers (and feedback from coworkers) noting that it can be hard to recognize when the water has become clear. This is because the water is aerated by its passage through the rice, which can give it a cloudy appearance; plus, typically we’re rinsing in the sink and the rinse water goes quickly down the drain. Wondering if there might be a better approach, we pitted this method against another popular method—swishing the grains in a bowl of water, pouring off the cloudy water, and repeating the process until the water is clear. In the end, we still found the strainer method to be superior. Both approaches require the same amount of water, but our strainer method produced notably fluffier, more separate grains. This was because there was inevitably some starch left behind in the bowl with the rice when draining off the cloudy water. To make our method more foolproof, we recommend capturing some of the rinse water in a bowl to check whether it is starchy. Keep reserving and checking, a small amount at a time, until it is clear.