Rice is one of those foods that always seems to take up residence in your refrigerator.
Takeout spots almost always give you too much of the stuff. If you’re making your own rice at home, you usually have leftovers.
The problem isn’t that leftover rice is a bad thing. The problem is that leftover rice always tastes, well, leftover.
If you’re wondering why, noted food science expert Harold McGee explains as such in his 1984 tome On Food and Cooking: “Leftover rice is often hard due to the retrogradation of the starch.”
Basically, that soft, fluffy wonderfulness you’re used to with freshly cooked rice collapses when exposed to the cooler temperatures of your fridge.
McGee’s solution is a simple one: “Rice is easily softened by reheating to 160ºF/70ºC or above, either with a little added water in a pot or in the microwave oven, or fried to make fried rice, rice cakes, or croquettes.”
But there’s just a little more to it than that. If you want to reheat rice so that it’s not just good, but GREAT, follow these three easy steps.
Step 1: Use a large pan instead
Pots are fine for reheating rice. Fine. They’ll restore your rice to fluffiness, but they’ll also do it in a “you do the work” fashion. You’ll have to stir frequently to make sure the entirety of your batch of rice is evenly heated.
And you’ll have to monitor the pot so that your rice isn’t accidentally burning because you went off to do something more exciting than reheating rice, which is everything.
A large pan allows you to spread the rice over its surface area, meaning less stirring and more even heat. Ideally, you want to heat no more than a 1/4-inch of rice measured (or, more realistically, eyeballed) from the surface of the pan so that you aren’t doing a lot of stirring. That’s about enough to feed two people, at least.
Step 2: Yes, add water.
Or even chicken stock. Or beef stock. Or fish stock! Or beer! Or white wine! Or miso soup! Or! Or! Or!
Yes, here is where you can get excited about adding new and delicious flavors to your boring ol’ reheated rice. Here is where you can go beyond McGee’s advice and freestyle, because it’s not water, specifically, that you need, but liquid.
Just go easy. About 1/4 cup of liquid is all you need for this method to work well. Anymore than that and you’ll have soggy leftover rice, which is sadness in rice form.
Step 3: Heat. Lid. Stir.
Use medium heat. Put a lid on the pan. Wait until the lid accumulates steam on its underside. Open the lid. Stir. Repeat until it’s warmed to the touch. You’ll likely only have to do this process once, but sometimes you may need to do it twice.