Should You Wash Rice Before Cooking It?

Here's what the debate boils down to.

Rice, whether as a crispy side dish or one-pot meal of chicken-and-wild rice casserole, is always a go-to pantry staple. However, it's not without controversy, and it all boils down to should you wash your rice prior to cooking? We tapped Ed Kernan, manager of Culinary Operations at Sur La Table, and Chef Masatomo "Masa" Hamaya of O-Ku to share their take on the rice-washing debate.

  • Ed Kernan is the manager of Culinary Operations at Sur La Table.
  • Masatomo "Masa" Hamaya is the executive chef of O-Ku in Atlanta.
Rinsing Rice in Colander with Water
Getty/zhengshun tang

When Should You Wash Rice?

Both culinary experts said that washing rice depends on the type of rice as well as the dish. Kernan says that risotto, paella, and sushi each call for different types of rice. Of those three, rice for sushi is the only one that needs to be washed. Due to the starches in risotto and paella, washing the rice would ruin the dish as starch is a big component of its success.

"If you are cooking risotto or paella, you should not wash the rice because the washed rice draws out more starch and coats the surface of the rice's surface," says Chef Hamaya. By rinsing this type of rice, the excess gelatinization process will occur, meaning, the risotto will be particularly starchy and the flavor of the ingredients will not soak into the rice.

Following the cooking instructions on the rice's packaging can clue you in on whether or not to wash your rice variety. When it comes to long-grain varieties like basmati and jasmine, Kernan says whether or not to wash the rice all depends on the recipe. The same can be said of some short-grain rice types as well.

How Do You Wash Rice?

When it comes to white rice, it should be covered in cold water and agitated to release the starch. Drain it from a sieve and keep repeating the process until the water runs clear. After the rice has been thoroughly rinsed, set it aside to drain for a few minutes prior to cooking.

What Are The Benefits Of Washing Rice?

Depending on whether or not the recipe calls for it, washing your rice can enhance your dish. Hamaya says, "The outer layer of rice is the rice bran, which contains oil. By washing white rice (where the bran has been milled), the excess starch is washed off, as well as the oxidized rice bran oil, which adds an unpleasant flavor to the cooked rice." Washing rice will also remove dust and debris and help the grains to be more separated, rather than sticky.

Does Washing Rice Change The Texture?

Something as simple as rinsing your rice does alter the state and taste of your rice. "The excess layer of starch adds a creamy texture. When the texture changes, the food exposed to the taste buds change," says Hamaya.

Kernan says you can typically expect a lighter and fluffier rice dish after the grain has been washed.

Does Washing Rice Affect Cooking Time?

It makes sense that rinsing rice releases its starches, starting the gelatinization process, but rinsing rice doesn't alter the cooking time of rice. While there is less convention flow in the rice cooker, it won't cook the rice faster due to it being washed.

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