Converted rice

Parboiling rice is a technique that was invented in ancient India (and still preferred in the humid areas of southern India and Bangladesh). Rice is boiled still in its husk, which keeps it from swelling, kills the microscopic larva in the germ of every grain, and pushes the nutrients in the outer layers into the center of the grain. The grain hardens slightly (making it easy to polish by hand) and is sterilized. The process even mends cracks in the rice (the starch glues broken rice back together), making for a higher yield. The rice is then dried unhusked (known as paddy rice), and passed through a standard milling process to remove the hull and bran. Once milled, the rice can be safely stored for long periods without losing any of its inherent nutrition and is resistant to bugs.

In this country, parboiled rice is known as converted rice. Converted rice, under the trademark of Uncle Ben’s, is long-grain white rice that has been parboiled by steaming it under pressure, and then is refined by removing the hull, bran, and germ. It was developed for use in the overseas armed forces kitchens during World War II. It is the only type of rice that can withstand the harsh treatment of most industrial processes that involve cooking and then freezing, canning, or drying and, for that reason, it is the rice used in most boxed mixes. It has more nutrition than plain white rice, since it is enriched, and takes longer to cook than regular white rice because the starch is slightly hardened and needs more liquid to soften.

While most cooks say, “No, thank you,” to converted rice because so many other long-grain white rices are available, we love it for certain dishes. It cooks up perfectly, with the most distinct grains and the least amount of stickiness of any of the rices. Because of this, converted rice is excellent for use in rice salads, absorbing dressings and not becoming mushy. It is the rice of choice of restaurateurs like Paul Prudhomme of New Orleans for dishes such as jambalaya. It is good in pilafs and, to our great surprise, is the most used rice in Paris after imported Thai jasmine.

Here is a guide to making converted rice in your rice cooker, from 2 to 22 servings, since the rice/liquid proportions vary so drastically and this is the perfect rice to make in quantity.

  • MACHINE: Small (4-cup) rice cooker ;
  • fuzzy logic or on/off
  • CYCLE: Regular
  • YIELD: Serves 2
  • ½ cup converted rice
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional)
  • Pinch of salt
  • MACHINE: Small (4-cup) or medium
  • (6-cup) rice cooker; fuzzy logic or on/off
  • YIELD: Serves 4
  • 1 cup converted rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • MACHINE: Medium (6-cup) rice cooker ;
  • fuzzy logic or on/off
  • YIELD: Serves 6
  • 1 cups converted rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • MACHINE: Medium (6-cup) or large (10 cup) rice cooker: fuzzy logic or on/off YIELD: Serves 12
  • note: This is the largest volume of cooked rice that will fit in the medium rice cooker.
  • 3 cups converted rice
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • MACHINE: Large (10-cup) rice cooker ;
  • fuzzy logic or on/off
  • YIELD: Serves 22
  • 6 cups converted rice
  • 9½ cups water
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon salt

1. Place the rice in the rice cooker bowl. Add the water, butter, if using, and salt; swirl to combine. Close the cover and set for the regular cycle.

2. When the machine switches to the Keep Warm cycle, let the rice steam for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a wooden or plastic rice paddle or wooden spoon. This rice keeps perfectly on Keep Warm for at least 2 hours.

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