See Wikibooks' Rice Recipes for information on food preparation using rice. There are many varieties of rice; for many purposes the main distinction is between long- and medium-grain rice. The grains of long-grain rice tend to remain intact after cooking; medium-grain rice becomes stickier. Medium-grain rice is used for sweet dishes, and for risotto and many Spanish dishes.
Rice is cooked by boiling or steaming, and absorbs water during cooking. It can be cooked in just as much water as it absorbs (the absorption method), or in a large quantity of water which is drained before serving (the rapid-boil method). Electric rice cookers, popular in Asia and Latin America, simplify the process of cooking rice. Rice is often heated in oil before boiling, or oil is added to the water; this is thought to make the cooked rice less sticky.
In Arab cuisine rice is an ingredient of many soups and dishes with fish, poultry, and other types of meat. It is also used to stuff vegetables or is wrapped in grape leaves. When combined with milk, sugar and honey, it is used to make desserts. In some regions, such as Tabaristan, bread is made using rice flour. Medieval Islamic texts spoke of medical uses for the plant. Rice may also be made into rice porridge (also called congee or rice gruel) by adding more water than usual, so that the cooked rice is saturated with water to the point that it becomes very soft, expanded, and fluffy. Rice porridge is commonly eaten as a breakfast food, and is also a traditional food for the sick.
Rice may be soaked prior to cooking, which saves fuel, decreases cooking time, minimizes exposure to high temperature and thus decreases the stickiness of the rice. For some varieties, soaking improves the texture of the cooked rice by increasing expansion of the grains.
In some countries parboiled rice is popular. Parboiled rice is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice. This causes nutrients from the outer husk to move into the grain itself. The parboil process causes a gelatinisation of the starch in the grains. The grains become less brittle, and the color of the milled grain changes from white to yellow. The rice is then dried, and can then be milled as usual or used as brown rice. Milled parboiled rice is nutritionally superior to standard milled rice. Parboiled rice has an additional benefit in that it does not stick to the pan during cooking, as happens when cooking regular white rice. Minute Rice, or "easy-cook rice", differs from parboiled rice in that it is milled, fully cooked and then dried. It does not share the nutritional benefits of parboiling. A nutritionally superior method of preparing brown rice known as GABA Rice or GBR (Germinated Brown Rice) may be used. This involves soaking washed brown rice for 20 hours in warm water (38°C or 100°F) prior to cooking it. This process stimulates germination, which activates various enzymes in the rice. By this method, a result of research carried out for the United Nations Year of Rice, it is possible to obtain a more complete amino acid profile, including GABA. Cooked rice can contain Bacillus cereus spores, which produce an emetic toxin when left at 4°C–60°C . When storing cooked rice for use the next day, rapid cooling is advised to reduce the risk of contamination.