Fluffy or sticky? Scientists find the ‘perfect’ rice method

  Last updated April 15, 2020 at 11:31 am


Rice is the simplest dish that is the most difficult to perfect. But Australian scientists have revealed the secret to cooking the ‘perfect’ pot – and it’s all in the water-to-rice ratio.

water-to-rice ratio_rice_cooked rice

The ‘perfect’ water-to-rice ratio is all down to a consumer’s texture preference. Credit: JacquesPALUT/Getty Images

Why This Matters: There’s nothing worse than gluggy rice.

Imagine this: The smells of spice are wafting through your kitchen. A delicious curry is simmering on the stove.  The timer goes off – the rice is ready. You strain it, rinse it and then plate it up, minutes away from a delicious meal. And then, you realise the rice is gluggy.

We’ve all been there. But now, with new research by Deakin University sensory scientists, we never need to experience gluggy rice again.

The team of researchers have worked out the perfect water-to-rice ratios to produce different textures, and also found that, unsurprisingly, nailing that texture is the key to eating satisfaction.

The perfect water-to-rice ratio is all personal preference

The researchers found that 83 per cent of people decided which water-to-rice ratio they preferred based on the cooked rice’s texture.

But – there was no “perfect” rice for everyone. Some people liked fluffy rice, and others preferred it stickier.

Also: Food texture is like a culinary choose your own adventure

“Currently rice manufacturers recommend one cup of rice to 375 mL of water for cooked rice – this method is an appropriate recommendation for consumers with no strong preference for rice texture. But we now know this is less than one fifth of rice consumers,” says Deakin’s Russell Keast, who oversaw the research.

“Four in five consumers are most concerned with texture – so they need to follow a different rice-to-water ratio. Our data shows consumers who prefer a fluffier texture should use 280 mL of water per cup of rice, while those wanting a stickier texture should use 470 mL of water per cup of rice.”

In other words – don’t sit on the fence, try different water:rice ratios that produce the best texture for you.

Rice texture is more important than smell

As part of the study, an expert panel trained in describing rice flavour was employed to identify and rate key attributes such as texture, aroma and appearance.

These elements were then linked to results from a public test-group who tasted the samples and ranked them in order of preference. The findings from both groups were correlated to determine the most important elements for “perfect” rice.

Clinton Maleki, who led the research, says the test-group’s preference for texture was surprising. Previous research had suggested the aroma of the rice was the biggest driver of preference.

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“These findings demonstrate the importance of texture in influencing consumer preferences for not just rice, but all kinds of food,” he says.

“Texture is an important avenue of investigation to encourage the consumption of foods that are part of a healthy diet. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends rice, in particular brown rice, for its high amounts of fibre and nutrients.

“Australia is a world-leader in producing premium quality rice, contributing to rice’s status as the ninth largest food commodity in the world, and a global production of more than 500 million tonnes in 2019. As we have seen, rice has also been one of the first staples that sold out as people started stock-piling food in response to COVID-19.”

The researchers will now investigate why some people prefer some rice textures over others. The team think mouth behaviours and tactile perception could potentially hold the key.

The research was published in the Journal of Food Science.

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