Why the 2:1 ratio for cooking rice?

OK, I know that there are no doubt exceptions, but pretty much every brand and variety of commercial white rice I have bought is prepared with two measures of water (by volume) for one measure of rice. Why is it not 2.3 measures or 1.8437 measures? Why always 2:1? I have tried varying the ratio, and found that if I increase the proportion of water, the rice ends up wet and sticky. If I reduce the proportion, it ends up undercooked. So 2:1 is not only convenient, it is perfect.

So how exactly did this ratio come about? Is it just dumb luck on the part of nature, or is it evidence of Intelligent Design?

Have you tried increasing the proportion of water while also increasing cooking time? My WAG would be that there is a range of water to rice ratios and cooking times that lead to a good result, and 2:1 is within that range and convenient. Other parts of the instructions also have an effect, like how much heat you apply after adding the rice, whether or not you use a lid and at what time the lid is removed if you were using one. I expect you could find a set of instructions that gave a good result with 3:1 or even 1:1, but that they’re not as convenient as those for 2:1.

I could be completely wrong though and rice could be specifically designed to cook perfectly with a 2:1 water to rice ratio.

Water itself contains a perfect 2:1 ratio of hydrogen and oxygen. Coincidence?

My guess is you haven’t tried a great variety of rices, or a great variety of cooking techniques.

Jasmine rice works best at 1:1.5

Basmati rice likes 1:1.75

Brown rice is best boiled in lots of water, like pasta, and then drained.

Chinese sticky rice may call for ratios as high as 1:2.5, with added vegetable moisture, to boot!

“Mexican” or “Spanish” rice in the US generally calls for browning white rice in oil first, then anywhere from 1:1 to 1:2 rice:liquid, depending on the recipe and how many vegetables are in there, too.

The reason rice seems to constant to you is that you’re buying only one or two varieties, and thinking that’s all the rice in the world.

Surely, you’re not serious. A 2:1 ratio indicates intelligent design? Why not a 1:1 ratio? Or 1.752343:1 ratio? Why wouldn’t an intelligent designer be able to choose any ratio?

2.71828 seems more natural.

I use a 1:1.5 ratio for basmati rice and it seems to work well. I got that from the instructions on the back of a bag of basmati rice I bought years ago. But given that I’m making about four ounces of rice each time, there’s not that much difference between six ounces of water and seven ounces of water.

The Intelligent Designer was working on Pi when the assistant came in asked, “what should we do about rice?” ID said, “Just make it 2:1 and let me get back to my problem.” ID is still calculating Pi.

Absolutely. Not to mention things like how quickly you get the lid on when the water reaches evaporation temp. Also makes a difference if you’re rinsing the rice first, as quite a bit of water clings to the grains, and most cooks will add less water to the pot if they rinse the rice first.

If it were intelligent design, it would come already cooked. In fact, rice paddies would be filled with nothing but plates of steaming hot rice, with a few spring rolls on the side.

Topped with fried fish.

I’ve cooked regular ol’ cheapie white rice at a ratio of 1 part rice and 1 part water many times. No washing of the grains, either. You have to be Johnny-on-the-spot, though, because there’s only maybe a minute between the rice being done and being burnt to the bottom of the pot.

If I need to be occupied with other cooking chores while making rice, I’ll go up to about 1 rice/1.25-1.5 water. That gives me some fudge time between when the rice is done and when it will burn.

As for some of the fancier rices my wife buys (jasmine & basmati), she’s strict about a 1 rice/2 water ratio. I follow suit, and the results are consistently good.

That would be evidence of a benevolent god.

2 to 1 is already an approximation in the real world. Do you think that every single person who cooks rice gets out a measuring cup and carefully fills it so that the water perfectly touches the one cup mark?

No, there’s only one Martha Stewart in the world. The rest may toss some water in until its level is somewhere around the mark. Or they use a coffee cup they think must hold a cup because it’s called a cup. Or they hold the pan under the tap until the water level looks right.

The food industry makes it’s instructions as simple and even and obvious as possible, because it knows that the users are even simpler. They may know that 1.8437 makes a superior product. What good would that do when not one person in a billion would get the ratio right?

This is intelligent design for stupid people.

“Perfect” is in the eye of the beholder, anyway. In fact, the rice may also be labeled with something like “for firmer rice, use less water”. You might consider that 2:1 is “perfect” because you’ve gotten used to the way the rice comes out when you do that, and the result seems “wrong” if you use a different ratio. Somebody else may LIKE it that way. IMO, rice you get in Chinese restaurants is too soft, fluffy and sticky. I prefer the rice you get in kebab joints. So I buy Basmati rice and use a rice cooker.

Also, rice would be lo-cal and taste like steak.

How are you cooking your rice? I never measure out the water in any way - I just boil the kettle (because I’m too lazy to wait for cold water to heat up on the stove), pour it into a saucepan (filling it about halfway or so), then throw in the rice and let it simmer away on the stove. Once it’s cooked, I drain it. Nobody I know measures the water. If you’re cooking a risotto, then sure, the volume of liquid is important, but not for just boiling rice.

Huh. Well, nobody I know drains their pasta the way you do, Colophon. So there!

For me, 2:1 generally results in rice that’s a bit too wet for the method I use (no wash, bring water and rice together to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover, cook for 20 minutes. Turn off. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.) Generally, it’s more like 1.75:1 for me, and even as low as 1.5:1, depending on the rice. Older rice might get to a perfect 2:1.

The size of the cup doesn’t matter, as long as the ratio is correct. I use whatever convenient vessel happens to be lying around, scoop up a full measure of rice, then pour in two measures of water that are a little short.

Colophon, the usual way to cook rice, around here at least, is not to boil and strain it but to measure the rice and water and end up with a finished product that does not require draining. This method is especially good because I often do not use plain water in my rice, but like to add a light stock or something for flavor, and getting the ratio correct means it cooks into the rice. Honestly, I don’t know a single person who boils their white rice pasta-style. I know it’s done, but it’s not the usual method. I have, however, been converted to boiling my brown rice because it’s just easier to deal with.

With risotto, the exact volume is not important, as long as you have enough liquid. You add it in ladle by ladle, and when it achieves the right texture, it’s done. I have no idea how much liquid my risotto typically absorbs.

I wash the rice first until the water runs clear. Then I put the rice and water in a 1:1.5 ratio (half again as much water as there is rice) in a saucepan, bring to a boil, stir once, reduce to low and then cover. Cook on low for ten minutes and then leave it off the heat, still covered for five minutes.