It takes about 45 minutes for liquid to penetrate the tough bran that encapsulates brown rice and absorb into the starch inside -- a long time, especially when compared to white rice. You can use that time to your advantage by cooking brown rice with aromatic ingredients in the oven where it slow-cooks, as opposed to the stovetop, where it simmers. Slow-cooking brown rice in the oven with a few well-chosen, flavorful ingredients, such as tomatoes, garlic and shallots, for example, turns it into a dish that offers a spectrum of flavors.
Stovetop Brown Rice
Rinse the rice in a colander under cool, running water until it runs clear, about 5 minutes. Transfer the rice to a 10-inch-wide pot.
Add 2 1/4 times as much water or stock to the saucepan as you did rice. For example, if you're cooking 1 cup of brown rice, add 2 1/4 cups of water or stock to the pan. 1 cup of dry brown rice yields 3 to 4 cups of cooked brown rice.
Stir the rice and add salt to taste. Bring the rice to a simmer then set the stove to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid.
Cook the rice for 45 minutes then check it for doneness. It should have a bite similar to pasta cooked al dente. If the rice hasn't reached the desired level of doneness, continue cooking it in 5-minute increments until it does.
Take the rice off the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in finishing ingredients, such as fresh herbs and butter, while hot and steaming.
Oven Brown Rice
Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse the rice in a colander under cool, running water and drain.
Add the rice to a 10-inch or larger baking dish. Bring 2 1/4 cups of water or stock to a boil on the stove for every 1 cup of brown rice. Pour the water or stock over the rice in the dish.
Add diced vegetables to the rice, if you wish. Any non-starchy vegetable works here: diced onions and tomatoes, chopped carrots and celery and diced peppers and garlic.
Add fresh herbs and spices to the rice, if you like. Sage, rosemary and thyme add an aromatic quality to the dish. If you like it spicy, cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper provide it.
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or oil, to the rice, and wrap the dish tightly with aluminum foil. Place the dish on the center oven rack.
Bake the rice for 1 hour and take the dish out of the oven. Uncover the dish and fluff the rice. Garnish with fresh herbs and a crunchy finishing ingredient, such as pine nuts, to add textural contrast to the rice.
Microwave Brown Rice
Rinse the rice in a colander under cool, running water and place it in a deep 3-quart microwave-safe baking dish. Add 2 1/4 cups of water or stock to the dish for every 1 cup of rice.
Season the rice to taste and cover the dish with its lid. Microwave the rice on high until the liquid boils, about 5 minutes.
Set the microwave to medium. Cook the rice for 30 minutes and remove it from the microwave. Let the rice stand for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
You can also use a rice cooker if it has a function to cook brown rice. Saute dry brown rice in a scant amount of oil in a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat until it develops a toasted aroma, about 4 or 5 minutes. Toasting brown rice before cooking it adds a nutty, caramelized flavor to the finished dish. Long-grain brown rice requires 2 1/2 times as much water by volume.