Rice: Perfect Brown Rice at High Altitude

Perfect Brown Rice with Grain - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

It’s back to basics with brown rice.

Nutritionally brown rice is better for you than its white counterpart –  it’s higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals. And, I think it tastes better – it’s chewier and nuttier. The tradeoff, however, is that it has a much longer cooking time and is more perishable.

Generally, I’m a patient person. But, making a good pot of brown rice used to give me a fit. Despite the fact that I love cooking gadgets, I refuse to buy a rice cooker, so I do it old school – in a pot. That meant cooking brown rice for an hour plus at high altitude with a lot of guesswork and not so good results.

That was, until I learned the trick.

After one of my not-so-successful attempts, I came across a recipe for Perfect Brown Rice on Pinch My Salt, which adopted an unusual cooking technique from Saveur magazine. Basically, the trick is this:  boil the rice in a lot of water, drain it off and return it to the pot to steam. So simple, but it works.

I adapted the technique slightly for high altitude – using 6 cups of water per 1 cup rice and also boiling the rice longer. (Saveur used 12 cups water/30 minute boil, Pinch My Salt 4 cups/30 minute boil.) At high altitude it has to cook a bit longer and the water/rice ratio needs increasing. However, the 6 to 1 ratio can be used wherever you might be located.

So far I’ve used this method to cook short grain brown rice, long grain brown rice and brown basmati and they’ve all come out perfect. (The photos are of short grain brown rice.) Give it a go!

Tidbits about Brown Rice:

  1. Rice Layers: A rice grain is comprised of several layers. In brown rice, only the outer husk is removed. However, in white rice the grains are milled to further remove the bran and germ.
  2. Class:  Today brown rice costs more than white rice but in certain parts of the world, particularly in parts of Asia, brown rice was less preferable and associated with poverty.
  3. Nutrition: Brown rice is one of the top nutritious foods on the market because it provides high levels of fiber, complex carbohydrates, certain B vitamins, vitamin E, lysine, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. It’s also touted as good for weight-loss because it has no cholesterol, a miniscule amount of fat, and only an estimated 160 calories per cooked cup.
  4. Storage: Brown rice becomes rancid more quickly than white rice, therefore it should be refrigerated. Sources vary on how quickly it should be used, typically between one and six months.

Sources:  Britannica.com; AsiaRice.org; Rice as a Food, Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.

Perfect Brown Rice - Grain - Boil - Fluffy - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

Perfect Brown Rice (Even at High Altitude)

Yields 2 to 3 cups (short grain rice 3 cups)

It’s ready to eat for the week and a quick addition to fried rice, soups or salads. If you prefer your rice more chewy, boil it a few minutes less. If you prefer it less crunchy, a few minutes more.

This same rice/water ratio can be used at high altitude and non-high altitude. Recipe doubles or triples nicely.


6 cups water

1 cup brown rice



  1. In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, bring water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Rinse rice in a colander with a large bowl underneath, swirling the rice with your hand for 30 seconds. Drain. Add the rice to boiling water, stir once, and boil uncovered for 35 minutes for high altitude or 30 minutes regular. Pour the rice into the same colander over the sink. Let rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, off the heat.
  3. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and/or foil. Allow to steam for 10 minutes. Uncover the rice, fluff with a fork, and season to taste.
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23 Responses to Rice: Perfect Brown Rice at High Altitude

  1. Ricky says:

    Looks tasty….just need to add sugar, butter, brown gravey and some type of meat…..lol

    Andrea (FFC): Stay tuned for a recipe you might like more than the above.

  2. Tera says:

    Oh, I LOVE my rice cooker! Why don’t you like them?

    Look forward to some of your brown rice recipes this week.

    Andrea (FFC): Actually, I have nothing against the rice cooker. It’s more about me, not enough storage space. I live in an old Victorian and am already busting at the seams with kitchen gadgets, dishes, etc.

  3. Celestina says:

    Hmm, interesting technique….I wonder why it works. I am non-believer in rice cookers as well, rice just seems better cooked the old school way on stove stop.

    Andrea (FFC): I’m no food scientist but the long boil is what “cooks” the rice and the steaming step makes it fluffy. The traditional method, which takes a heck of a lot longer (especially at altitude), cooks the rice in a lonnnngggg simmer. So, basically the cooking process is changed to a higher heat for a shorter period.

  4. Yogi says:

    Riffing on Celestina’s comment:

    Boiling rice certainly works and is very tasty and consistent, but gives a very different result than a “long simmer” (tho’ I would disagree with the “simmer” part: most people I know who cook rice cook it as quickly as possible, and a rice cooker cooks at a full boil, generally.)

    Think about how pasta cooked in boiling water differs from cooking it in just enough to finish it (which is an old Italian method now regaining fashion.) There is a difference in texture and flavor, IMO. So which one you use depends on your desired result.

    John Thorne, in Pot on The Fire has a great essay called Perfect Rice. Fascinating reading, as is most of his work.

    I enjoy your site. Came here from Fork, Fingers, Chopsticks.

    Andrea (FFC): Yogi thanks for taking time to leave a comment and for your insight into rice. I’ll have to checkout Thorne.

  5. Yogi says:

    Oops, Pinch my Salt was where I came from!


  6. Lindsey says:

    I read on a bag of brown rice that your not supposed to rinse them ahead of time because it gets washes away the nutrients. But in all recipes i read it says to rinse them, I don’t get it!

    Andrea (FFC): Great question. From what I’ve read in the past (without doing further research), the amount of nutrients lost is miniscule and it may only pertain to rice that’s been “enriched.” The reason for rinsing is to remove some of the outside powder on the grains, which is starchy, and can make rice clump when cooking.

  7. Jen says:


    Thanks for the new way (to me) to cook brown rice! I’ve been struggling with it and didn’t want to buy a rice cooker (for the same space reason), but I was about to break down and do it. We’re in Albuquerque, about 6000 feet, so we may need to cook 40 minutes, but that was the best brown rice we’ve had in a long time!

  8. Michaele Scott says:

    What a delight to find a recipe that addresses high altitude challenges. We just moved to 7300 ft. and I have struggled, without success, to make brown rice…one of my favorite go to foods. Yesterday, I started preparing it the way you describe, it had been boiling for about 10 min. when we lost electricity due to the storm. I drained the rice and rinsed it in cold water until it cooled than
    stuck it in the frig. Tonight I’m going to try to cook it with fingers crossed. Btw, it’s long grain. Thank you so much for this recipe and I hope it works for this timid cook! ;)

  9. nicole says:

    I had a question…I might have missed this somewhere, but when you add the rice back to the pot, do you add the water too?

  10. Hurrah! Finally I got a webpage from where I can genuinely obtain helpful data concerning
    my study and knowledge.

  11. Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the challenges.
    It was definitely informative. Your website is
    extremely helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

  12. Shannon says:

    I used to be recommended this web site via my cousin.
    I am now not certain whether this publish is written via him as no one else recognize such distinct approximately my difficulty.
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  13. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for chest muscles

  14. jamie says:

    Thanks! Live at 7000 in Flagstaff. Finally, perfect rice!

  15. Good information. Lucky me I found your website by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

  16. Lacey says:

    My rice still came out sticky and mushy? Any ideas?

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  21. mphymel says:

    This may not be a direct reply to the question posed, but may useful information:
    We are vacationing in Copper Mtn. Colorado, 9100 ft elevation.

    Tonight I split my normal jambalaya recipe into two batches, one traditional with rice, the other with penne pasta, a pastalaya.

    Each pot started with 6 cups of precooked jambalaya liquid, with all the trinity, meat etc which was cooked back home and frozen. This liquid quantity included an extra 1/8th cup per cup of liquid prescribed in the recipe.

    The jambalaya batch was kept covered and brought to rolling boil, after which 4.7 cups of rice was added. This was hard boiled covered and stirred frequently, until the whole mass resembled more of a gel than liquid, and then transferred to a crock pot. The crock pot was set on high and that cooked for an hour and a half before the rice was tender. The reason for this is that I anticipated a longer than normal cook, and didn’t want sever burning on the bottom. (normal cooking in Louisiana would be 25 minutes, a scrape of the sidewalls of the pot, then an additional 5 minutes.

    The pastalaya batch was brought to a boil, after which 30 oz of penne was added, I actually added an additional 3/4 cup of water, anticipating difficulty cooking the pasta at this altitude. This was simmered and stirred every 5 minutes. I recall this was done within 30 minutes, but just kept sampling for doneness.

    The pastalaya texture was what was expected, the Jambalaya stuck together in somewhat of a wet mass and I was a little disappointed.

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