Learn the Filipino Trick for Measuring Water for Rice

Every Pinoy knows this easy trick to get the perfect amount of water for cooking rice. Once you learn how to do it, you'll never look back.

Cooked Rice
Photo: Vanessa Greaves

The Fingertip Measuring Trick

I'm of Filipinx heritage and grew up in a household where almost every dinner included rice. In fact, one of the first things I ever learned how to cook as a kid was the pot of rice for the evening meal. If your family's food culture revolves around rice as well, you might already know some version of this cooking tip, but for everyone else, I'm going to let you in on our "ancient secret" to measuring water for rice using your fingertips.

  1. Measure the amount of rice you want to cook into a pot or rice cooker insert.
  2. Rinse and drain rice two or three times to wash off excess coating.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the rice; shimmy the pot gently to level things out.
  4. Dip the tip of your fingers straight down into the pot until they just touch the the rice, and add more water until it reaches the first joint of your middle finger.

Boom. You've got the correct water-to-rice ratio for perfectly cooked rice.

Finger vs. Measuring Cup

To see how closely this fingertip measurement matched the directions on my bag of rice, I put one cup medium grain white rice into a liquid measuring cup and added water until it came up to the first joint of my middle finger.

Measuring Water for Rice
Vanessa Greaves

Next, I drained the rice to see how much water I'd used. Sure enough, it was about one and one half cups of water to one cup of rice. The same as the directions on the bag of rice. But here's the amazing part: It works whether I'm cooking one, two, or three cups of rice. The water level adjusts itself no matter how much rice I'm cooking. (Note: Brown rice needs more water to cook in than white rice, so adjust for that.)

Drained Rice and water
Vanessa Greaves

Does This Work for Everyone?

It hardly seems possible, given the different lengths of fingers in this world. But generations of cooks swear by it. I've seen versions of this where people use the first knuckle of their thumb, or where they measure rice to the first joint of their finger, and add water to the second joint. No matter: It all adds up to a good bowl of rice.

If you're in doubt, here's what I suggest: The first time you try this, follow package directions to measure the amount of water for the pot. Then put your fingertips into the pot of rice and water, and see where the water reaches on your own finger (use whichever finger you want, but remember which one you use). Cook the rice. If you like how it turns out, you know where to measure the water level on your finger the next time. If it's too sticky for your taste, add less water. Too dry, add more. Either way, you'll figure out the ratio that works for you and you'll always have it on hand (so to speak).

Now you've got a secret fingertip measuring trick to add to your cooking cred.


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