How To Wash Rice Before Cooking

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Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: October 26, 2023

There are three main reasons why you should wash rice, whether you cook it in a pressure cooker or a rice cooker. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first, let’s get right to business. There are two easy ways of washing rice. Here we go.

How To Wash Rice Before Cooking

Method 1: With A Strainer

You can wash rice in a strainer but make sure the mesh is fine so that the grains don’t slip out.

  • Step 1: Measure the rice you want to wash and add it to the strainer. Wash your hands before you wash the rice.
  • Step 2: Take the strainer to a running water tap. Make sure the water is cold.
  • Step 3: Once the water is running through the strainer, swirl it a bit with your hands to make sure the water reaches all the grains.
  • Step 4: Keep the rice under the tap for a minimum of 30 seconds and swirl it as much as you can.
  • Step 5: Once the water coming out from the other side of the strainer is clear enough, stop washing the rice.
  • Step 6: Check the water dripping out to make sure it is not as cloudy as it was when you started washing the rice.

A little bit of whiteness is to be expected. So, don’t wash it for more than a minute.

Method 2: With A Bowl

The second way is for those who don’t have a strainer to wash the rice. But everyone has a bowl in the house. So, let’s put that to good use.

  • Step 1: Measure the rice you want to cook and add it to the bowl. Ideally, it should have a wide opening. 
  • Step 2: Add enough water to the bowl so that the rice is submerged in it. This usually means you have to add roughly three times the amount of water as the rice in the bowl. So if you added one cup of rice you should aim for three cups of water.
  • Step 3: Stir the rice with your washed hands to make sure you get rid of any debris and also starch on the surface of the rice. These are two major reasons why we wash rice before cooking it. Don’t stir it so vigorously that the rice breaks but use some amount of pressure. It’s all about finding the balance.
  • Step 4: Pour out the water carefully without losing the rice grains. This shouldn’t be a problem since rice is likely to stay at the bottom of the bowl. You just need to be crafty about tilting the bowl. Keep your hand at the mouth of the bowl so that you can catch any rice that might escape.
  • Step 5: Repeat the process until you’re sure there is no dirt or debris on the rice. While you are rinsing it, move your hands around and make sure you wash the grains with your fingers.

    At this point, you can move on to cooking, but it might help to know that in Asian traditions they like to clean the rice a little more. This is to ensure that the grain is rehydrated and the final product is fluffy.
  • Step 6: Gently punch the grain until the water in the bowl is no longer cloudy. How many times you’ll have to do this depends on the type of rice.

Why Wash Rice In The First Place?

No matter the type of rice, you want to make sure that the grain is washed first. If you are going to cook long-grain rice this is even more important because the cooked rice will separate easily. But even if not, you should wash rice for three important reasons.

Removes Starch

Most of the rice we buy these days is bagged rice. Along with the grain, it has a lot of starch powder too because some grains might have been broken when they were being processed or were in transit.

Cooking this grain without rinsing will lead to adding rice flour to the end result. That means your rice will be mushy. When you rinse it, you get rid of the starch and get fluffy rice.

Removes Dust

From the time paddy is harvested, rice grains go through a lot of processing. But none of it leads to the cleaning of the grain. Naturally, it accumulates dust from all the places it has been at. You don’t want any of that in your food. So, you must clean it. This is no different from washing an apple before eating it.

Rehydrates Rice

Once again, because we are dealing with bagged rice, you should know that the grain here is dehydrated. When you start the process of cooking by rinsing the grain, it regains some of the water, which makes it easy for the grain to absorb the water you add later on to cook it. This helps fluff up the rice.

In Conclusion

It’s not a tough gig to wash rice before you cook. You just need the right kind of strainer. And if you don’t have one of those, you can always use a bowl and wash it diligently.

You also don’t need a ton of reasons to understand why this is not optional. Rice must be washed so that you lose any dirt that might be on its surface.

And if that’s not a good enough reason, you must do it so that you wash off the starch on its surface to get rice that is not sticky. If you want to cook sticky rice, well, this is not how you do it. Happy culinary adventures now!

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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