The Pilaf Method for Cooking Rice

rice pilaf
Rice pilaf with grilled chicken. Lauri Patterson / Getty Images
Ratings (22)
  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 3–4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
234 Calories
6g Fat
39g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3–4 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 234
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 349mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 39g 14%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Protein 4g
Calcium 16mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Pilaf is one of those culinary words that refers both to the cooking method and the food that is cooked by that method. Another is risotto, which by sheer coincidence happens to be another rice dish.

In fact, the pilaf and risotto methods are rather similar. They have more in common with each other than either one has with the standard boiling method of cooking rice, where rice goes in the pot with cold water, you bring it to a boil, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.

In both the pilaf and risotto methods, we first sauté some finely minced onion in butter or oil, then add the uncooked rice and sauté it until it until it gives off a faint nutty aroma. Then we add hot stock, cover and transfer to the oven where it cooks until the liquid is absorbed.

(With risotto, after sautéeing the onion and rice, hot stock is stirred into the rice a ladleful at a time, rather than adding it all at once.)

Cooking rice via the pilaf method gives you a firmer grain and develops additional flavor through the sautéeing. It also helps keep the grains separate and generally results in rice that's less sticky than the regular kind.

This basic pilaf recipe features minced onion and celery, but you could also include slivered almonds, peas, dried currants, and so on. You can sauté the slivered almonds along with the rice, but if you're adding peas or dried currants, add those at the same time as the liquid. Frozen peas would work great.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 tbsp. onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. celery, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan (see note below) over medium heat, then add the butter. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the stock or broth to a boil. It's a good idea to check the seasoning of the cooking liquid and make any necessary adjustments before it gets too hot to taste.

  3. When the butter gets foamy, add the diced onion and celery and sauté until the onion is slightly translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Add the uncooked rice and sauté, stirring constantly, for about a minute, or until the rice is fully coated with the melted butter.

  5. Add the hot stock or broth, bring the pot back to a boil, then cover and place the entire pot in the oven.

  6. Cook the rice pilaf in the oven for 18 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. If after 18 minutes there's still liquid in the pot or the rice is still too moist, re-cover and return the pot to the oven for another 2 to 4 minutes.

  7. Remove the pot from the oven and gently fluff the rice pilaf with a wooden fork. Then place a paper towel across the top of the pot, replace the lid and let the rice pilaf stand for 10 minutes.

 

Note: When making this rice pilaf recipe, you'll want to make sure to use a saucepan that's safe for the stovetop and the oven—including the lid. If you're lucky you'll have (or be able to find) a pot made of oven-and-stovetop-safe glass, which lets you see how much liquid is still in it without taking off the lid and releasing all the steam. Visions by Corningware once manufactured one. If you have something like that, it'll be perfect.