brown rice is good, eh?

summary: trying brown rice again; method for cooking long grain white rice; link to “Spanish Rice” recipe

Not long ago, Katie (Thyme for Cooking) was extolling the virtues of brown rice. Alanna (Kitchen Parade) claims that her oven baked brown rice is so good she makes it every week. Kalyn (Kalyn’s Kitchen) uses brown rice all the time, saying she loves its “nutty flavor”. And recently, SAVEUR magazine devoted several pages to the wonders of brown rice.

brown rice Brown rice, eh? Is this a conspiracy to trick me into thinking that brown rice tastes good? ;-)

In the 70s and early 80s, we ALWAYS ate brown rice because it was good for us. Secretly, I always felt like I was chewing on crushed cardboard. It didn’t taste quite as bad as cardboard, more like nothing at all, but the texture was definitely just that: crushed cardboard.

And then I met the wonderful man I married, who released me from my brown rice prison and decreed that we would always eat white rice – basmati or Thai or Arborio. Perfect rice every time. Delicious rice. No cardboard.

So…. Apparently, brown rice isn’t like cardboard anymore? Really? Clearly, we would have to try it again.

I broached the subject, saying that maybe it would be good. And T jumped on it. “Yes!! Let’s try it! I’m sure I can make it so we like it! Let me look at that SAVEUR article….

(click on image to see larger view and more photos)

brown rice And so, we jumped on our bicycles and headed to the store to buy some long grain brown Jasmine rice. T made the rice, basically following his usual “perfect rice every time” method*, to go with grilled chicken and green beans.

The rice smelled fabulous. I really really really want to say that I loved it.



Not that it was bad. It was really not bad at all. In fact the texture was fabulous. But it was virtually tastefree. Just like tastefree crushed cardboard.

The rest of the dinner was stellar. We garnished the rice with a coriander sprig (from the garden!!) and served it with grilled chicken (Teriaki sauce) and steamed green beans drizzled with a little butter and chopped summer savoury. (Green beans with summer savoury are, to steal a line from “What’s Up Tiger Lily”, so good they’ll make you plotz.)

Convinced that brown rice couldn’t possibly be so dull, we tried it again another night. T made “Spanish rice” with the brown rice (sorry, no photos). And again: perfect texture but tastefree. Let me reiterate, it was not bad. The tomatoes, olives and ham helped a lot but, but, but… we just couldn’t believe that it could be so dull!

Maybe it was the kind of rice we got? Does it really make a difference if one pays designer prices for the rice? Maybe if we cooked the rice in chicken stock, the way that Katie does….

In the meantime, we’re going back to our favourites: Basmati and Jasmine. White rice is good for us too, isn’t it?

Cooking White Rice
* T’s method for “perfect rice every time” is to gently rinse the rice in water, put it in a pot and fresh clean cold water with salt. He brings the rice and water to a boil then turns the heat OFF, covers the pot and leaves it to sit on a rack on the stove for 30 to 40 minutes. The water is absorbed by the rice. All it needs is a bit of fluffing up and it’s perfect!


1 part Thai (Jasmine) rice to parts water
1 part Basmati rice to 2 parts water

Cooking Brown Rice

T used a similar method to the above with the long grain brown Jasmine rice we bought. But he added 2 parts of water to the rice. Which didn’t absorb all the water after it sat for 40 minutes. He drained it. The rice was still quite firm – not mushy, by any means. Chewy, in fact. And, as mentioned earlier, tastefree.


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13 responses to “brown rice is good, eh?

  1. Kalyn

    You’re too funny! And just when brown rice has been officially declared a “whole grain.” But I do agree that all types of brown rice are not created equal. I like brown Basmati or Uncle Ben’s converted brown rice the best, but I recently bought a new type to try. Never tried brown jasmine rice. And I do almost always cook my rice in chicken stock, so that might make a difference.

  2. MrsBrown

    Brown rice makes me choke. Every so often, MrBrown goes on a health food kick (more than usual, I mean) and pronounces that We Will Have Brown Rice. Invariably, it makes me choke. Maybe if I cook it in chicken stock but that just seems a waste of chicken stock and I’m afraid that it’ll just make me choke.

  3. bing

    That’s strange to find brown rice more tasteless than white rice. I like the extra nutty taste of brown rice. It’s ok when it’s boiled/steamed, but I think it’s best when it’s baked. 1.5 cups rice, 2.5 cups boiling water with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, baked covered at 375 for 1 hour. Comes out with perfect texture and (for me) flavour.

    We still have white rice a lot, though. My current favourite rice is Calrose.

    We tried red rice once, and black rice. Whoof, those were really awful. Calling them tough and cardboardy would be over-praising them.

  4. ejm Post author

    We still have a fair amount of the long grain Jasmine brown rice left. Next times, we’ll have to try

    • baking it as per bing’s method
    • cooking it in stock as per Kalyn’s method

    One thing about the baking method though, that is very similar to the way that we used to make rice in the 1970s and ’80s – the original crushed cardboard version. (Good to hear about your red and black rice tastings, bing. When we were going through all the choices of rice on the store shelf, we looked at packages of red and black rice and considered trying them another time. )

    Kalyn, what proportions do you use?

    MrsBrown, I’ll let you know if one of these other methods is more successful. While the brown rice I’ve had hasn’t made me choke, I can certainly understand what you are saying. But if it does work well, wouldn’t MrBrown be thrilled to have edible chokefree brown rice on the table?

    We should probably try short grain as well, but frankly, I’ve never been a huge fan of short grain rice. Except in risotto… Hmmm… okay okay, Susan… add this to what we should try next time:

    • using short grain brown rice

    If none of these experiments in brown rice don’t work for us either, I will try adding some brown rice to my multigrain bread. And if that is less than desirable, I guess we’ll have to compost whatever is leftover. :stomp:

  5. Mats

    Brown rice (i.e. rice with the bran left on) is nutritionally superior to rice whose bran has been removed. But, if you don’t like to eat it, eat polished rice. Yes, the bran adds some flavour; not the flavour of cardboard. This wood product (never tasted by me) has a ton of resins that are not designed for flavour!
    I find that short grain brown rice , simply prepared by simmering 2:1 for about 50 min. is really good. I make more than we need and find that it re-heats wonderfully.

    edit 20 June 2008: Yup, the nutritional superiority is why we used to eat brown rice, and why we thought we’d give it a try again. But I’m still not convinced that the bran does anything but take away the all flavour. ;-) When we buy short grain brown rice, we’ll keep your proportions in mind, Mats. Thanks for posting your method. -Elizabeth

  6. katie

    I also use Uncle Ben’s…. and cook it in chicken stock (as you know).
    I’ve never tried brown Jasmine. I wouldn’t give up yet, and I wouldn’t buy any ‘designer’ rice either.
    But, then – calories are precious, don’t waste them on something that (to you) is not worthy ;-))

    edit: We’ll keep trying with the brown rice we have in the cupboard. But you’re absolutely right, Katie; it’s quite likely that we won’t be racing to try brown rice again soon if the chicken stock and/or baking methods don’t improve the flavour significantly. -Elizabeth

  7. Russ

    OK, I’ve already seen you say you’re not generally crazy about short grain rice….

    Personally, I tend to favor short grain rice. Up until a couple years ago i used calrose rice nearly exclusively. lately i’ve switch to mostly jasmine rice. I find that it has a decent stickiness for a longer grain rice. When I make brown rice, I use short grain. I never liked the brown jasmine. I find that it doesn’t have many of the qualities I like in jasmine rice.

    How i cook it: I soak it for at least an hour, preferably more like 2-4. Longer is OK too, if necessary – put it in water before you leave for work. After soaking, drain it, and cook using my own perfect rice every time method, which is explained at by the woman who taught me the method. (I guess I can’t really claim it’s *my own* method, but it’s the one I always use :)


    PS: nice blog. I’ve been having fun looking around here.

    Many thanks for dropping by, Russ. That’s comforting to hear that we aren’t the only ones who think brown Jasmine fades in comparison to regular Jasmine rice. And we’ll keep short grain in mind. I’m wondering if we might not like brown short grain better than white shortgrain. I’m guessing that it might not be quite as gluey. -Elizabeth

  8. Russ

    Hmm, hard for me to say if you will like it (of course!). I tend to prefer short grain rices *because* they’re stickier. Brown short grain is less sticky than white, but it still holds together a bit.

    BTW, what is that emoticon I found in my previous post? A lamb jumping rope? I’m pretty sure I typed the one I always think of as a wink (semicolon hyphen close-parenthesis).


    Aha… if brown short grain is less sticky than white then maybe we will like it. We generally prefer long grain rice because it’s not very sticky. (Just had regular Jasmine rice instead of trying brown again last night – it was wonderful! Aromatic and flavourful.)
    P.S. Yes, the emoticon is a lamb jumping rope. But that is what appears with [colon hyphen close-parenthesis]; you must have mistyped. This is what appears with [semicolon hyphen close-parenthesis]: ;-) Why?? you might ask. …I have an unreasonable horror of those sideways smiley faces.

  9. a sister in the west

    Well, I can’t say I’ve found that brown rice is tasteless. We got some shortgrain brown rice by accident, and find that it is fine by way of taste and texture. I remember the chewy cardboard well. The trick to avoiding chewiness is to cook it long enough. I agree that the flavour is not as strong or perfumed as basmati or jasmine white rice. We’re eating it primarily for health reasons, and apparently there is quite a difference. But I’m only going by the word of friends who have to watch their blood sugar. According to them, eating white rice is like eating white bread.

    I’ve recently had black and dark brown and purple rice in fashionable and expensive restaurants in Thailand (I wasn’t paying ]; . It seems to be trendy and it’s always delicious! I don’t know whether they put anything into it or what varieties they are using. I have not had success in cooking red, purple or black rice here in Canada. In fact, I haven’t had success cooking any other sticky rice varieties, either. I’d certainly welcome any suggestions.

  10. dp

    I enjoyed reading this post and the comments. Rice is very near and dear to my heart. Growing up in a Thai household, we ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day for most of my childhood. Usually it was jasmine, but sometimes it was the Thai sticky rice. As an adult, I eat all kinds of rice depending on the cuisine.

    And I have to wholeheartedly agree with you. I don’t like the flavor of brown rice and I don’t like the texture of the long grain brown rice. I don’t really care how healthy it is for me. I don’t care it it’s cooked in the most delicious broth. It just doesn’t do it for me. The health foodies have banished me from their club. Plus, brown rice varieties take too long to cook. I don’t have the patience to cook rice for any more than 20 minutes. This is why I’ll probably never make risotto at home. LOL

  11. ejm Post author

    I can’t tell you what a relief it is to hear that I’m not the only one who finds brown rice to be lacking, dp! I figure that I’ll get enough benefits from eating lots of vegetables and other kinds of whole grains. I’m with you; I’m just not willing to forego flavour in the quest for eating healthily.

    I just can’t see that eating white rice is quite in the same league as eating white bread. (My definition of white bread is that spongy tasteless stuff that comes in plastic bags with coloured dots. Bread made from unbleached flour doesn’t fall into my “white bread” category – even though it probably should.) As you say, K, brown rice is just not a perfect substitute for white.

    We’ve seen black, purple and red rice for sale here – just haven’t tried them yet.


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