Perfect Rice Pilaf

I have seen some chefs and certain cookbooks state that the measure of a good cook is whether one can roast a perfectly juicy chicken, while others will say that it is an omelette or even soup which makes or breaks a cook.  It is my firm belief that the measure of a formidable home cook is whether he or she can make good rice in every way, shape or form.  Not only have I been the recipient of crunchy rice or rice that was so wet I thought I was having risotto when I shouldn't have been, I have also been the cause of it, much to my chagrin.  In my early days of cooking right out of college I certainly had my share of mistakes where rice was concerned, but I learned quickly and corrected what I was doing wrong. 

Rice pilafs are made quite often at home because they seem to go with so many dishes.  As tempting and convenient as they may be, one shouldn't have to settle for those premixed & preseasoned rice boxes found at the supermarkets or, dare I say, those bags of frozen rice!  They just won't do at my house.  Putting together a perfect pilaf for a lunch or dinner is very simple as long as you keep a few things in mind.  There is no real mystery to it at all.

For the best results, I recommend using a pan that is wide and shallow such as a frying pan or saute pan with a tight fitting lid (regular or nonstick).  The wide surface area allows you to completely coat each grain with oil or butter very easily and cook the rice to the desired tenderness. 

The next thing to keep in mind is measuring.  You always measure the amount of rice with a dry measuring cup (or by weight) and the amount of liquid with a liquid measuring cup. 

Homemade vegetable stock

The last thing to keep in mind is the liquid (stock or water) being heated to just under the boiling point and having it at the ready the moment the rice is set to cook.  Pilafs should never be crunchy or overly wet, they should be tender with just the right amount of moisture in order to be delicious.  Once you get the hang of it, making perfect pilafs becomes second nature. 

I'd like to show you my basic & straightforward version of this classic using extra-long grain Carolina white rice found at any supermarket.

Perfect Rice Pilaf Ingredients
  • 1 cup extra-long grain rice {185 grams}
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water {400 ml}
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small shallot, about 1/4 cup {25 grams}--onion is OK, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, butter or vegetable oil {15 ml}
  • salt & pepper
  • minced parsley for serving
Yield: 4 servings

In a sauce pan, heat the stock or water until it's quite hot and keep it at the ready.  I do this simultaneously as I'm cooking the ingredients below.

In a frying pan (I'm using a 10" frying pan) over medium heat, add the oil or butter and let it get quite hot.  Add the shallot and saute until tender & translucent, about 4 minutes.  Toss frequently with a wooden spoon so that it doesn't burn and regulate your heat if it's browning too quickly; salt to taste.  Add the minced garlic and toss so that it too doesn't burn; about 30 seconds; add a pinch or two of freshly ground pepper.

Add the extra-long grain rice and begin to stir it frequently over medium heat.  You want every single grain to be covered in the oil or butter so that it glistens.  This coating is going to result in a pilaf with grains that separate rather than cling to each other like sticky rice.  Coat, toss & cook the rice in this manner for one minute. 

Immediately pour the measured & piping hot stock over the rice.  Raise the heat to high & give the rice a quick stir so that it is evenly distributed around the pan; salt & pepper to taste.  You can now tuck the thyme sprig in the middle of the pot.  Let the mixture come to a boil and then immediately turn the heat down to low. 

This is a low flame.

Cover the pan with a lid and set your timer for 18 minutes. 

When the 18 minutes are up, carefully open the lid and check to see if it's done.  If you hear a hiss the moment you open the lid, it is done.  If you hear bubbling, cook it for another minute or two because there is still moisture that needs to be absorbed by the rice.  Use a fork and check the middle of the pot.  The bottom should be dry.  When it is, turn off the heat, put the lid back on and let it rest for 10 full minutes.  Don't rush this or else you will have wet rice.

The rice will keep warm for up to 30 minutes as long as you don't lift the lid.  When you're ready to eat, fluff the rice with a fork and put it in a serving bowl.  I like to sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the top.  Enjoy! 

Rice pilaf is a wonderful accompaniment to chicken of any kind, beef, lamb, fish and every type of legume or vegetable.  I sometimes get creative and add a bit of spice like cumin and turmeric to the basic recipe to make a tasty yellow rice or a chopped plum tomato with a few herbs for a different tasting rice.  Even if you're pressed for time to get something hot and delicious on the table, you shouldn't overlook a good pilaf.  They're simple to prepare and take no time at all to cook.  What I do recommend is that you use a good quality rice that is not converted or parboiled in order to get the best results.  Once you make a perfect rice pilaf a few times, you won't even need to consult this recipe.  Enjoy some tonight for dinner and watch it disappear from everyone's plate.  Bon Appetit! 


  1. Made this last night, it was awesome.

  2. Bravo Nick! I'm glad you made this simple side dish, because it's one of my favorites. Enjoy!



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