It's easy to go overboard with rice. Whether you've cooked up an overgenerous portion, or ordered too much takeout, you'll frequently have enough rice leftover to reheat the next day, or transform into another delicious dish. This begs the question, can I reheat rice? And if so, how can I make sure I minimise any risk of food poisoning?
Can you Reheat Rice?
The short answer is yes, and many wonderful dishes, like egg fried rice and arancini, rely on leftover rice. But, food safety is paramount. Rice is considered a high-risk food, and no one wants to play Russian roulette with food poisoning. So, find out how to manage reheated rice with some simple rules below.
Why is Rice Risky?
Rice is more problematic than some other leftover foods in that it might contain bacteria called Bacillus cereus, a naturally occurring bacteria spore, which can survive heat.
The real danger is when the spores germinate and begin to grow and multiply, which happens when cooked rice is left at room temperature.
The spores are known to be at dangerous levels between 5 and 55 degrees Celsius. When the spores manage to grow they produce toxins which can cause food poisoning when consumed.
How to Reduce the Risk from Reheated Rice?
When you have leftover rice, make sure you cool the leftovers as quickly as possible to reduce any further bacteria growth. Divide the rice into smaller containers, or spread out thinly to maximise the speed of heat loss before refrigerating. Leaving rice out for too long at room temperature can encourage the rapid growth of nasty bacteria, so don't leave your rice sitting out for more than 1 hour.
Store cooked rice in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Stored safely in the fridge, rice should last anywhere from three to six days, depending on the type of rice and the storage conditions. When frozen, cooked rice should last up to six months in an airtight container.
Only reheat your rice once and make sure it's piping hot when you do so.
How to Reheat Rice Without the Crunch
Now you've got food safety nailed, that doesn't yet mean everything's ok in the world of rice. If you've ever cooked day-old rice straight from the fridge, you'll have noticed it can become dry, clumpy and crunchy, and not at its best when cooked a second time.
As culinary genius Harold McGee says in On Food and Cooking: “Leftover rice is often hard due to the retrogradation of the starch, which is cured by heating it up to the gelation temperature again. Rice is easily softened by reheating to 160 F or above, either with a little added water in a pot or in the microwave oven”.
So here's how to go about reviving and softening your rice to enjoy it again:
1. Rice in the Microwave
A very easy way to reheat rice is in the microwave. Simply add a splash of water to the rice in a microwave-safe dish, then lay a wet paper towel directly on top of the rice. Cook on high heat until the rice is heated through. Watch how easy it is in the clip below:
2. Baked Rice
Spread the cooked rice out in an oven-safe baking dish and cover with aluminium foil. Bake at 300°F for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is heated through.
3. Steamed Rice
For a simple stovetop method, put the rice in a saucepan with a splash of water, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is heated through.
What to make with leftover rice?
Got loads of rice? Try out our recipes for rice leftovers?
And, if in the meantime you want a refresher on how to cook rice quickly, Alton Brown is the master to show you: