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How To Store Rice After Cooking

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: January 29, 2024

If you’ve made too much rice and have plenty left over, don’t give in to the urge to throw it into the bin. Leftover rice can be put to good use, be it to make rice pudding or fried rice or eat plain as is.

Leftover cooked rice can be stored, but it limits how long it can be kept. Cooked rice must be handled and stored carefully to prevent food poisoning. Read on for tips on how to store rice safely after cooking it.

How Long Can Cooked Rice Be Stored?

Cooked rice does not have a very long shelf life and should be eaten as soon as possible. But if cooked rice is cooled and stored properly, it can last a few days. However, storing the rice in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible after cooking it is essential.

Avoid leaving cooked rice out at room temperature for more than an hour. Cooked rice is moist and is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

So, if the rice has been sitting on the kitchen counter for over 2 hours, it is best to throw it away, as eating it can cause food poisoning.

cooked white rice in a small blue rimmed bowl

Cooked rice can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 to 5 days. Cooked rice can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. Foods, including cooked rice, must be stored at a safe temperature, i.e., below 40° F.

Typically, bacteria grow at around 90°F, and they grow and multiply rapidly between 40°F and 140°F.

Before eating, the cooked rice must be reheated properly and served steaming hot as it may contain Bacillus cereus spores that can multiply rapidly at room temperature and cause food poisoning.

Storing Cooked Rice In the Fridge

If you plan to store cooked rice in the fridge, you must cool it quickly. You can do this by spreading the rice out on a baking tray. Once the rice has cooled, transfer it into an airtight container and store it in the fridge.

Avoid using take-out boxes made of cardboard to store the cooked rice because they can let air in and make the rice hard and chewy.

Storing Cooked Rice In The Freezer

You can store cooked rice in the freezer for up to 6 months. To freeze the rice, cool the rice down quickly, as described earlier. Once the rice is cooled, transfer it into a freezer bag. Remove the air from the bag before sealing it and place it flat in the freezer.

This will help to defrost the rice more quickly when required, and it will also take up less space in the freezer. You can use the frozen cooked rice directly in dishes such as stir-fries, stews, casseroles and soup.

If you plan to eat the rice, thaw, reheat and eat.

How To Reheat Cooked Rice

When you’re reheating cooked rice stored in the refrigerator or freezer, ensure it is piping hot. Here are some ways of reheating the rice.

In The Microwave

Transfer the rice to a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle some water on the rice and add a splash of oil or some butter. Cover the dish and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes on high. Stir the rice gently with a fork.

Take care not to mash up the rice. Microwave again for 1 to 2 minutes until the rice is heated thoroughly and is steaming hot.

On The Stovetop

Place the rice in a saucepan and sprinkle water. Break up any clumps in the rice. Add a splash of oil or some butter if required. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook on low heat. Stir occasionally until the rice is steamed properly and piped hot.

glass burner on a hot plate

In The Oven

Place the rice in a dish and break up any clumps. Add a splash of oil, butter, and water to the rice. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at around 300°F until the rice is heated through.

In The Rice Cooker

You can reheat the rice in a good rice cooker. Many rice cookers have a keep warm or reheat setting that you can use. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the rice and press the reheat button on the cooker.

The rice will take much longer to reheat in a rice cooker than in other reheating methods.

How To Tell If Cooked Rice Has Gone Bad

cooked white rice ina bowl

Some of the signs that cooked rice has gone bad are:

  • If the rice is not moist and soft but is hard and dry, each day you store the rice in the fridge, it will lose more of the moisture till it becomes dry and hard, and you will have to throw it away.
  • If the rice develops a sour or unpleasant smell, this is a definite sign that the rice has gone bad.
  • Discarding it is best if the cooked rice is left at room temperature for over two hours.
  • Ideally, cooked food, including rice, must not be cooled and reheated too often, as this encourages bacterial growth. Avoid reheating rice more than once. After this, it is best to bin any leftovers.

How To Store Rice After Cooking: Parting Thoughts

Rice is a very versatile staple and extremely easy-to-cook dish. But the important thing is that if you have any leftovers, the cooked rice must be handled and stored properly to be safe to consume even after a few days without causing food poisoning.

I hope my article has given you all the information you need on storing cooked rice and reheating it before serving. And, if you see any signs that the rice has gone bad, it is best to discard it, lest it causes harm.

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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