All rice can be classified by size: long, medium, or short grain. Long-grain rice has long, slender kernels; when cooked, they separate, becoming light and fluffy. Medium-grain rice is short, wide, moist, and clingy. The plump, almost round kernels of short-grain rice are soft, chewy, and sticky. Here’s a quick primer on some of the major varieties.
This classic Italian rice is used in dishes like risotto. When cooked it has an amazing ability to absorb flavor, and it takes on a creamy consistency while the center maintains a chewy texture.
An Indian staple, basmati is the quintessential aromatic long-grain rice, with fragrant notes of roasted nuts and popcorn.
Black rice, traditionally from China and Thailand, is also grown in the United States. Its color (dark purple when cooked) comes from the intact bran layer. Its flavor is nutty, and its grains are firm, not sticky.
Any variety of rice, even black and red rice, that has had its husk removed but remains unmilled, so the bran is intact, is considered brown rice. Brown rice is chewier, has more nutrients, and takes longer to cook than its milled counterparts.
Often used in Thai cooking, jasmine rice sticks together a bit more than basmati, and its nutty fragrance has an added floral quality.
The bran of this honey-red rice gives it an earthy flavor and a chewy texture. And since it’s minimally processed, it takes a bit longer to cook.
The grains of sweet rice, also known as glutinous rice (though it has no gluten), can be long or short, but they have a plump and chalky white kernel with an opaque finish. It loses its shape and gets sticky and chewy when cooked.
Technically, wild rice is not rice. Instead it’s a rice-like seed from a grass that grows in the Midwest. A staple for American Indians, wild rice is traditionally harvested from a canoe. Native American groups that want to continue hand harvesting and prevent the genetic modification of their sacred grain are preserving this tradition.