Follow these simple steps to make the most of leftover rice.  

Extra rice can always be put to good use, whether you’re in the mood for fried rice or rice pudding. Or just a bowl of plain old leftover rice! Follow these steps to preserve the flavor and texture of leftover rice—or any type of cooked grain.

Storing cooked rice in the refrigerator

If you’re planning to eat the leftover rice within one or two days (maybe in some fried rice, perhaps?), store it in the refrigerator.

1. Cool it quickly

Cooked rice is very moist, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria growth if it is left at room temperature for more than two hours. Play it safe and cool down any leftover rice quickly—either by spreading it out on a baking sheet, or placing it in the refrigerator.

2. Store in an airtight container

Those little cardboard take-out containers may be cute, but they will also let in air, making leftover rice chewy and hard. Transfer the cooled, cooked rice into an airtight storage container or a ziplock plastic bag (remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing) then store in the refrigerator.

3. Reheat with a little water

When reheating the rice, sprinkle a teaspoon of water over the top to help loosen stuck, dried grains. Reheat in the microwave on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds until the rice is hot. Or, reheat the rice in a pot over medium heat on the stovetop. Stir constantly to keep the grains moving, but be careful not to mash them.

Storing cooked rice in the freezer

Cooked rice can be frozen for up to three months; after that, it is prone to freezer burn.

1. Cool it quickly

As mentioned above, cooked rice should be cooled quickly and not left at room temperature for more than two hours.

2. Store in a freezer bag

Transfer the cooled, cooked rice into a ziplock freezer bag. Press the bag to remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. Store it flat in the freezer—it will take up less space and defrost more quickly.

3. Thaw (Or Don’t Thaw)

Frozen grains can be added directly to hot dishes like soups, stir-fries, casseroles, and stews. If you’re planning to eat the rice on its own, follow the directions above in step 3.