Place the rice in a large bowl and fully cover with cold water. Swish the grains with your fingertips to release starches and encourage any husks to float to the surface. Pour off the milk-colored water. Wash two or three times until the water runs clear.
Soaking the rice briefly (15 minutes to one hour) before cooking helps the grains relax and absorb moisture. This allows the rice to expand into thin, long grains that will not break during cooking. After soaking, drain the rice and save the soaking water to use as cooking water (this preserves all of the nutrients).
General Rice Cooking Tips
A few drops of oil or butter and a teaspoon of fresh lime juice added during cooking help the rice grains to remain separate and light during cooking. Stir-frying the rice in a little oil before adding water will also make the grains fluffy and separate.
How Much Water?
The amount of water used will vary depending upon the strain and age of the rice and the depth and weight of the pan. As a general guideline, decide if you like your rice soft or firm, then gradually adjust the amount of water you use: 1 3/4 cups water to 1 cup of raw basmati rice makes just-tender rice. If you like a very firm texture, add 1 1/2 cups water.
The Right Pan
A heavy cooking pan with a tight-fitting lid will distribute the heat evenly. If your rice is cooking unevenly (perhaps the top layer is not cooked), then the lid is not fitting tightly enough. Use a kitchen towel as an inside cover; it stops the steam from condensing inside the lid and dripping back into the rice.
Do not stir or disturb the rice as it cooks. Removing the lid will let the steam escape and the rice will cook unevenly. Let the cooked rice rest, covered, for a few minutes before serving.