I saw a great post on cooking and freezing rice yesterday at StayAtStoveDad,and it got me to thinking about one of the great questions of rice cooking. Should you wash rice before cooking it?
I never wash rice, but my friend Rajeena, who grew up and learned to cook in Nepal, always rinses her rice several times before cooking it. So I set out to do some research to find out which way is preferable. I discovered, like much else in life, the answer is, “it depends.”
I checked with the USA Rice Federation, the trade association for rice farmers, millers, and merchants. The bottom line from that group is that if you use US-produced rice, no matter which type (brown, white, wild or the various varieties that come in both white and brown such as basmati, jasmine, sushi or “regular” short, medium and long grained), you do not need to wash the rice before cooking it. For enriched white rice, washing may even wash away nutrients that are added when the rice is processed.
If your rice is produced and packaged outside the US, you may find that washing is appropriate because the rice may not have been thoroughly cleaned before it was packaged.
I asked Rajeena why she still washes her rice, now that she is in the US and her basmati rice is well cleaned before she gets it at the store. She laughed and said that she is just in the habit, having learned to cook in Nepal where the basmati rice her family bought at the local market had impurities that needed to be rinsed and picked out.
I found a 2009 blog post on whether or not to wash rice. (Is there anything that hasn’t yet been blogged on?) Some commented that they rinse out of habit, others said that washing or rinsing improves the texture, taste or the way the grains of rice ticks together and still others were in the “cook rice unwashed” camp.
I intended to stay firmly in the unwashed camp – it simplifies the cooking process and means I don’t have to go chasing after rice kernels in the colander or the sink. But as I went to my cabinet to get rice for a few blog photos, lo and behold I discovered that even my own pantry is confused - or at least confusing.
My Trader Joe's basmati rice is from India and the package says to rinse 2 or 3 times.
My jasmine rice is from Thailand the directions on that package say to rinse it, but only once.
My arborio rice, used for risotto, comes in a package that doesn't say where it is grown and does not provide any guidance on whether or not to rinse.
I have brown rice from Whole Foods - didn't see any instructions when I bought that from a large container in the bulk foods section of the store. Finally, my US-produced medium grain rice is packaged with directions that say "do not rinse." So I guess I'm all over the map, literally, on washing rice.