Q: What method can I use to prepare brown rice so that it will be tender and fluffy? It always comes out very sticky.

A: Tender and fluffy might be asking too much of brown rice. Each rice kernel in your pot is encased in rice bran. There's simply not much room for expansion in there. It's not fair to ask brown rice to be white rice. Let brown rice be itself: a chewy, nutty, highly nutritious whole grain with a personality of its own.

That doesn't mean you need to settle for the sticky, glutinous rice you've been turning out. There is a relatively foolproof way of dealing with this recalcitrant grain, and that's the oven. The oven offers advantages over the stovetop. It cooks more gently and evenly by enveloping the rice pot in heat. It frees you of the need to watch the pot, adjust the heat or worry about precise timing. And it turns burned rice, and all that pot scrubbing, into a distant memory. But the oven won't speed things up. So here's the method for 1 cup of rice:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice, salt and, if you like, some butter or vegetable oil. Stir well and transfer the saucepan to the middle rack of the oven. Go about your business for an hour or so. Remove rice from the oven, uncover and fluff with a fork. Let rice sit uncovered for a few minutes to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Serve.