Buying, Storing, and Cooking Rice

Brown rice, white rice, wild rice, short grain rice, instant rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, long grain rice… There are so many options so how do you pick one?

Rice

What is the best rice to buy?

There are actually over 8000 varieties of rice. Although there are no hard and fast rules about which type of rice to use in a particular recipe, each type has unique characteristics that make it ideal for different uses.

One thing to consider is grain length:

  • Short grain rice has a high amylopectin (starch) content so it is stickier when cooked, making it great for sushi. It can also work well in creamy dishes such as desserts or risotto.
  • Long grain rice is lighter and cooks to a drier, fluffier texture. The grains tend to remain separate when cooked, making long grain rice great for pilafs.
  • Medium grain rice has characteristics between short grain and long grain.

Another consideration is degree of processing:

  • Brown rice is also called whole grain rice because it contains the bran and germ in addition to the inner layer which is called the endosperm. Because the outer layers are left intact, it has more fiber, takes longer to cook, and has a tougher texture and more nutty flavor than white rice.
  • White rice has the bran and germ removed leaving only the soft endosperm. All of the fiber and most of the B vitamins and iron are also eliminated in the processing of white rice but some of this is replaced through enrichment.
  • Instant rice is rice that has been cooked and then dehydrated so it takes only a few minutes to prepare.

Fancy pants tip: Instead of buying instant rice, cook a big pot of rice on the weekend, refrigerate it immediately, and reheat it when you’re ready to eat/cook with it. 

Here are a few kinds of rice commonly found in North America that you might want to try:

  • Arborio:  A short to medium grain rice often used to make creamy risotto or rice pudding.
  • Basmati: A long grain rice that has a nutty aroma but delicate flavor and light texture. It is great for stir fries, curries, and many rice based side dishes.
  • Brown: A whole grain that can be substituted for white rice in most recipes. I use short grain brown rice to make sushi.
  • Forbidden: Also referred to as forbidden or purple rice because it turns purple when cooked. It has a sweet taste and sticky texture so it would be good for desserts.
  • Jasmine: A long grain rice with a distinctive floral aroma that is available in both brown and white varieties. It is often used with Mediterranean dishes.
  • Red: A whole grain rice with a nutty, chewy texture that works well in rice bowls, pilafs, and rice based sides.
  • Wild: Not an actual rice, but it does go well with rice and has twice the protein and more B vitamins than white rice.

How should I store my rice?

Store white rice tightly covered in your pantry and it will last almost forever.

Because whole grain rice contains natural oils that can go rancid, it can stay fresh in the pantry for only about six months. You can also choose to refrigerate of freeze it for a longer life.

Fancy pants tip: store whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity and increase their shelf life.

How do I cook rice?

Not much to say here. Different types of rice require different cooking directions so just check the package directions for best results.

However, do NOT rinse your rice before or after cooking. Why? Because all of those awesome B-vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they can be washed away.

What can I make with my rice?

When I asked friends to share their favorite black bean recipes on twitter, here’s what I heard:

Nom nom indeed!

I’ve also just stared a board on Pinterest for rice recipes so I’d love to see any you’ve got to share!

Pinterest Rice Board

Please share you favorite rice recipe in the comments.
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Arsenic in Rice

Hi!

Have you heard that rice is unsafe to eat because it contains arsenic?

Someone recently asked me about this so I did a little research and thought I’d share my findings with you.

Arsenic

Is there arsenic in rice?

First thing you need to know is that long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with high rates of cancer.

Two years ago, Dr. Oz set off an alarm about arsenic in apple juice, then concern about arsenic in rice was sparked, and even more recently, researchers found concerning levels arsenic in chicken from an arsenic-based drug. In reality, there are low levels of arsenic in many foods.

Like most foods, there is no limit established for how much arsenic in rice is considered safe. However, the federal limit for bottled and public water is 10 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per liter.

Consumer Reports released a study in September 2012 that looked at the levels of arsenic in 62 rice products. They found inorganic arsenic levels as high as 9.6 micrograms per serving of rice (1/4 uncooked).

They also found that levels where higher in brown rice than white rice. This is likely because the arsenic is more concentrated in the outer layers of the grain that are removed in the processing of white rice.

Is rice safe to eat?

In response to the Consumer Reports study, the FDA commissioned a study to determine whether more stringent regulations were necessary. The FDA found levels of arsenic that supported the findings of Consumer Reports.

Here are a few of the Consumer Reports findings:

  • One brand of brown rice had 9.6 micrograms per serving of rice (1/4 uncooked).
  • Rice pasta and rice syrup had levels close those found in whole rice.
  • Most other rice products such as rice cereal, rice milk, and rice crackers had lower levels.
  • Levels in infant rice cereal were found to be between 0.8 and 2.7 micrograms per serving (1/4 cup uncooked).
  • Remember, the limit for arsenic in water is 10 micrograms per liter.

Based on the data, the FDA does not recommend people change their consumption of rice.

What do I need to know?

Rice, especially whole grain brown rice, provides a number of key nutrients and offers a variety of health benefits. However, as with everything else, moderation is key. It is best to consume a wide variety of grains throughout the week.

Have you heard anything else about food and wondered if it is true?

Rice

It’s May.

It’s actually almost a third of the way through May.

So I think it’s about time to introduce our fancy food of the month.

Rice

It’s rice!

What food group does rice belong to?

For once, this question is stupid simple.

Rice belongs to the grains group. Whole grain brown rice is a whole grain and white rice counts as a refined grain. The goal is to make at least half of your grains whole.

The amount of grains you need to eat depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity but most adult women should be eating about 5 to 6 ounce equivalents and most adult men should get about 6 to 8 ounce equivalents per day. 1 ounce of dry rice cooks up to about 1/2 cup.

Why not try rice once a week?

Whole Grain Brown Rice Nutrition Facts

Brown Rice Nutrition Facts

Rice is naturally cholesterol and trans-fat free, contains virtually no sodium and is a great gluten-free grain option for those who are diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of selenium and magnesium.

White rice is made by removing the outer layer from brown rice. This removes 3/4 of the fiber and many of the vitamins and minerals. However, white rice is required to be enriched, meaning some of these vitamins and minerals are added back but the fiber is lost.

Folate is one of the vitamins that is added to enriched grains like white rice. In fact, enriched white rice is fortified with substantially more folate than the amount naturally contained in whole grain brown rice. Folate is important for women of child bearing age because it helps to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in infants.

Plain English Summary: Brown rice is fancy, white rice has a good side too!

So with all this nutritiousness, what can rice actually do for you?

What are the health benefits of rice?

Blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes: Recent research shows that people who eat rice consume less sugar and saturated fat, have a lower risk of high blood pressure and obesity and may be less likely to develop heart disease and type II diabetes.

Just to be clear, that doesn’t prove rice is good for you, but it sure does tell me that people who eat rice are healthier in many ways than people who don’t eat rice.

What’s your favorite way to eat rice? Leave a comment or tweet at me and I’ll share your recipe in a post later this month!
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