Friday, October 17, 2014

Trader Joe's Brown Basmati Rice

Nina got me an Oster rice cooker for Christmas. The idea is great: measure out some rice, fill the pot with water to the specified level, flip it on, walk away, and it tells you when it has cooked you a batch of perfect rice.

In actual practice, this has not been my experience. As the appliance's owner's manual makes clear in the fine print, for any particular kind of rice, the right amount of water may be more or less than their default pot markings indicate, and the amount of time the thing automatically goes for may not be right. You may need to keep it on the "warm" setting for a while after the cook time. (On my particular model, the thing unfortunately doesn't beep or otherwise let you know it's finished cooking and has switched itself to "warm"; you have to be in the room with it to hear the switch move, or you'll miss the allegedly perfect time to remove the rice.) The instructions also say to be sure to rinse the rice very thoroughly before starting in order to remove excess starch and reduce stickiness. I also discovered that if I don't occasionally remove the lid and stir the rice, particularly in the last few minutes of cooking, the outside layer sticks to the pot (despite its non-stick coating), creating an unappetizing and sometime inedible crusty/sticky/starchy outer shell. I've been experimenting with these variables, and still don't feel that I have the formula perfected.

I bought this rice to continue my experimentation after going through a bag of TJ's Basmati White Rice.  (The photo above is not a full bag. I had already done several batches before I got the idea to create this blog.) At the time, I didn't understand that brown rice is notorious for being even more difficult to get right, requiring a whole different set of parameters (water level and cook time) than white rice. Also, Nina has been trying to convince me, in her firm but gentle way, that rice should be left to cook without the lid ever being removed, and without pre-rinsing. This creates tension between her usually excellent cooking advice and what I read in the rice cooker's instructions (about rinsing), and my experience about the crustiness problem if there is no stirring.

Because of my inexperience and attempts to juggle all of these variables and conflicting advice, my results have still not been ideal. Some batches have been OK, some undercooked, some overcooked, some sticky messes.

All of which makes it really difficult for me to come up with a sensible opinion about the quality of the rice itself.

Still, I can offer these observations: (1) Even my best batches have not been any better in taste or texture than the Basmati White Rice. (2) It is definitely more difficult to get the variables exactly right for this stuff than the white.

As a consequence, it's not likely I'll try this again--at least not until after I'm sure I feel I have mastered the formula for some easier-to-prepare variety.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not.

Nina's View 

The last batch Bob made of the Brown Basmati was *this* close to being right. Just a tad too much water, I think, so it was a little mushy instead of fluffy. I think it's got a good flavor, and I'd be curious to try cooking it the conventional way myself one time, just to see.

The Oster rice cooker was, I confess, the most *cough* economical model available, and I suspect seriously set back Bob's rice preparation skills—although my intention was to make it easy and pleasant, the thing is just not very good or sophisticated. I am heartily sorry for making this whole business MORE not LESS aggravating.

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