Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Everything you always wanted to know about brown rice but were afraid to ask

brown rice 101
The Whole Grains 101 series is continuing this week with a focus on brown rice. This is probably the best understood whole grain and has slowly creeped its way into mainstream culture, but it definitely deserves a post. Even though I have incorporated a wide variety of grains into my life, I will never turn down a simple bowl of brown rice.

What is brown rice?
Brown rice is simply rice that has had the hull removed but still retains the bran and germ of the rice kernel (unlike white rice). There are many varieties of brown rice, as each type of white rice has a brown counterpart. Commonly, short-, medium-, and long-grain varieties are found, which have similar properties to white rice of the same grain length; short-grain rices are very starchy and tend to stick together, while longer-grain rices have less starch and are more fluffy than sticky. Brown Basmati rice is also extremely common, and is primarily used in Asian cooking. Other varieties of whole grain rices include Forbidden black rice and Bhutanese red rice, which can be substituted for other rices for something new and different.

What does brown rice taste like and how is it used?
Brown rice is similar to white rice, but definitely has a rich, nuttier flavor. It's also chewier than white rice. It can be substituted for white rice in just about any recipe, but it's best to stick with the same type of grain-length (i.e., substitute short-grain brown for short-grain white).

Where do you buy and store it?
Brown rice is quite easy to find at any grocery store, but can also be located in bulk bins at natural foods stores. In my opinion, it's better to choose quality brown rices, not the supermarket brand. If you can't find quality brown rice in stores, there are many sources online. I'm in love with Massa Organics brown rice, and have learned a lot about their methods (and their new ducks!) on Twitter. Not only does their rice taste great, but I love getting to know the people that grow my food, even if it is through the internet. You can also order short-grain, long-grain, Basmati, and sweet brown rice from Bob's Red Mill. The more unique whole grain rices (like Forbidden black rice and Bhutanese red rice) can often be found in Asian markets or ordered through websites such as Lotus Foods.

Brown rice is more susceptible to becoming rancid than white rice because it retains the oils in the bran. If you have room in the refrigerator or freezer, store your rices there in an airtight container. If not, keep them at room temp but try to use them within six months (but again, make sure they're in an airtight container). If you cook a big batch of rice, it stores well in the refrigerator for a week or so and in the freezer for virtually forever.

How do you cook it?
There are several basic methods for cooking brown rice. No matter which one you pick, you should sort through your rice to pick out any debris and rinse it under cold water. To cook brown rice via the classical method, bring 1 part rice and 2 parts water (plus salt and butter or oil, if desired) to a boil in a saucepan, then cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 50 min (or until all water is absorbed). Fluff the rice with a fork and serve. Or, you can cook rice like pasta by bringing excess water to a boil and letting the rice boil vigorously for 30-35 min (until rice is tender), then draining and letting the rice steam, covered, in the pot for 10 min. Many people also bake their rice, but I've never tried it, so I can't offer any advice. One cup of uncooked rice yields about 3 cups when cooked.

My recipes using brown rice
Other great brown rice recipes
Dilled adzuki bean and rice salad from Whole Life Nutrition
Mexican rice from Closet Cooking
Mushroom casserole from 101 Cookbooks
Rice-stuffed acorn squash from I Am Gluten Free
Vegetable fried rice from The Perfect Pantry
Roasted summer veggies over brown rice from Gluten Free Cooking School
Spinach rice gratin from 101 Cookbooks
Crockpot chicken and brown rice casserole from A Year of Slow Cooking

3 comments:

Snowbell said...

Thanks for the info - I try to make brown rice more often but I'm still partial to the white stuff :)

http://snowbellskitchen.blogspot.com/

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Love brown rice...it's nice and chewy, and besides, it has fiber, so ya know it's good for you! I simply substitute it for regular rice in a lot of recipes.

Katie said...

Snowbell - If you get the chance, try some really good quality brown rice. I think it's far better than the "typical" stuff. But, I'll get over it if you still like white better ;)

TEAH - I do the same substitution trick, and I love the nutty taste and chewiness. In fact, I don't think I've cooked white rice in about 5 years.