|The Basics of Cooking Rice and Other Grains|
The Basics of Cooking Rice and Other Grains
Cooking grains is straightforward; see Cooking Grains, the Easy Way (page 451), which covers most bases.
Although any grain may be toasted (in a dry skillet) or sautéed (in a skillet with a little oil or other fat) before
further cooking, there’s rarely much more to it than that.
Microwaves, pressure cookers, rice cookers, and slow cookers might all seem like logical tools to turn to in the quest for faster-cooking whole grains, but simple techniques are your best choice. (Rice cookers work well for white rice because it is highly processed and consistent; but don’t bother trying it for other grains.)
Grains and Liquid
Grains are dried plant foods, like most beans, which means they must be rehydrated while they’re cooking. As grains rehydrate, they swell, gaining volume by absorbing liquid. The amount of time this process and the accompanying cooking takes and the amount of liquid the grain needs to become fully cooked depend on five factors:
1. The nature of the grain: Larger takes longer, and some are just tougher than others.
2. How dry the grain is: Older grains are drier than newer ones.
3. How many of its outer layers have been removed: Brown rice has a hull; white rice does not.
4. How much it has been milled: “Rolling” or “cutting” oats exposes more surface area.
5. Whether it has been precooked to some extent: Kasha is toasted buckwheat, bulgur is precooked
cracked wheat, and some rice is sold “converted” or parboiled.
Making Extra Grains
Whole grains can take some time to cook, but they will keep in the fridge for days (and the freezer for months). So I encourage you to cook 2 or 3 cups (raw) of any grain at once. With a batch in the fridge, you can more quickly make virtually all the recipes in this chapter or use them in any number of soups, salads, and vegetable dishes.
Forms of Rice
Though long- and short- (or medium-) grain is the basic distinction, it’s not the only one. Here’s a handful of
other potentially confusing rice terms.
Any rice can be “brown,” a term that describes rice that has had only its inedible hull removed, leaving the bran and germ. All the fancy specialty colored rices—red, black, purple, etc.—are just brown rice with a differentcolor bran.
When you mill off the bran and the germ—of any colored rice—it goes from being brown to white.
Converted and Instant Rice
Converted (or parboiled) rice is typically long-grain rice that’s been soaked and steamed before drying and milling. During this process many of the natural vitamins and minerals found in the bran are absorbed by the endosperm, resulting in a slightly more nutrient-rich white rice. Generally it’s more expensive and not worth the cost. Instant rice is white or brown rice that’s partially or fully cooked and dried. Cooking time is reduced to 5 or 10 minutes, but the flavor and texture (and your wallet!)
These are rice kernels that have been busted up into pieces, which helps them release more starch during