During my university days, I often cooked rice in bulk and stored it in the fridge. This way, I never had to worry about cooking on the most hectic days!
The only drawback to storing rice in the fridge was that it turned dry, chewy, and clumpy. However, the good news is that, through trial and error, I found the best answer to how to keep rice fresh in the fridge.
First, you need to cool the cooked rice before refrigerating it. Then, place the cooked rice in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag and store it on the fridge’s upper shelf. It’s also necessary to reheat the rice properly after removing it from the refrigerator.
If you’re going through the same issues, read on to know more.
3 Things That Happen When You Refrigerate Rice?
You’ll always hear people say that you can refrigerate rice for several days.
Yet, many don’t realize that refrigerating rice can affect its texture and flavor. Let’s understand how and why cooling cooked rice affects it.
Sticky or Clumpy Rice
If you love separate, fluffy rice grains, you might hate refrigerated rice!
When you store rice in the fridge, it undergoes a process known as retrogradation.
In this process, the starch that gelatinized during cooking rearranges its structure while cooling.
The starch molecules bond together and form a thick gel. The rice grains become stickier as the molecules form more bonds.
Retrogradation is also responsible for the dry texture of refrigerated rice.
The starch molecules in rice absorb water molecules while you cook it. This process causes the starch in the rice grains to loosen up, swell, and become fluffy.
The same starch molecules realign themselves, bond back together, and lose moisture when you keep them in cool conditions like a fridge.
The lack of moisture makes the refrigerated rice’s texture dry and chewy.
Cooked rice can easily absorb the flavors of other dishes in your refrigerator!
For instance, if you’ve kept a plate of rice without covering it beside a piece of raw meat, your rice grains might start smelling and tasting like raw meat.
So, refrigerating rice, especially uncovered, may also alter the flavor.
How Can You Keep Rice Fresh in the Fridge?
Despite the limitations, refrigeration is still the best way to store leftover rice. The science behind it is something we’ve all known since fifth grade!
When refrigerating rice, you slow down the bacterial growth that occurs in high temperatures and humidity. Consequently, your rice doesn’t go stale as quickly in the fridge.
Now that we know why we should refrigerate rice, let’s talk about how to maintain the cooked rice’s quality in the fridge.
Step 1: Allow the Rice to Cool
Sometimes, you may put the cooked rice in the fridge when it’s still hot from cooking. Remember that this is the biggest mistake if you plan to refrigerate rice.
When you put hot cooked rice in the fridge, the low temperature of the fridge and the hot temperature of the rice causes condensation of the steam from the rice grains.
As a result, the rice absorbs moisture and becomes soggy right from the start!
There are two ways to cool the cooked rice before placing it in the fridge.
Let the Rice Cool Naturally
In this method, you just need to allow the rice to cool down on its own.
Ensure that you remove the lid from the cooking pot. If not, the rice won’t cool quickly.
Note that rice generally takes about an hour or slightly more to reach room temperature.
Use a Baking Tray
If you want to speed up the process of cooling rice, here’s a simple hack.
Take a baking tray and line it up with parchment (or foil) paper. Then, put the cooked rice on it and spread it evenly.
This method ensures the rice cools down in 10 to 15 minutes!
Step 2: Use a Container or Plastic Bag for Storage
After the rice has cooled down, store it in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag.
Using a container or plastic bag is necessary, as it prevents moisture loss from the rice. It also protects the cooked rice from any smelly items in your fridge! Trust me, you do not want your rice smelling like the stale garlic it was next to.
If you’ve stored rice in a plastic bag, don’t forget to remove the excess air before storing it. You can use a roller pin to flatten it out.
Step 3: Refrigerate the Cooked Rice
The final step is to pop the rice container or bag in the refrigerator.
I prefer keeping the rice containers or bags on the upper shelves. This area isn’t as cold as the bottom shelves. So, there is less chance of your cooked rice losing moisture or drying out.
Refrigerating rice on the upper shelves also reduces the reheating time slightly.
How to Know If Rice Has Gone Bad?
Rice can only stay fresh in the fridge for four to five days. So, you should use it as soon as possible.
Before you reheat, I suggest checking if the rice has gone stale. There are a few obvious signs your rice may have gone bad:
- A strong or nasty sour smell indicates bacterial growth.
- Slimy texture due to excessive moisture.
- Hard, crunchy, or brittle rice grains due to excessive moisture loss.
- Formation of mold, characterized by a slight change of color.
It’s best to discard the refrigerated rice if you notice any of these signs to avoid food poisoning. Even if you don’t see any of these signs, cooked rice in your refrigerator for more than five days should still be discarded.
Three Best Ways to Reheat Rice Using Microwave
Reheating refrigerated rice properly is a game-changer if you want it to taste like the original cooked rice.
It’s also a simple process, as all you have to do is microwave the rice for three to four minutes.
So, I’ve written down the three best reheating methods to ensure your rice is fluffy, moist, and flavorful.
Use a Damp Paper Towel
You can use a microwave to reheat rice. However, before you put the rice in the microwave, cover the rice container or bowl with a damp towel.
A damp towel provides additional moisture to the rice when it heats up. This way, the grains absorb the excess water and become fluffy like before!
Sprinkle Some Water
You can use this quick fix if you don’t have a paper towel handy.
Remove the rice container from the fridge, open the lid, and sprinkle three to four drops of water on the rice grains.
Don’t forget to place the lid on the rice container when you put it in the microwave. The rice’s water droplets turn into steam, making the grains absorb moisture and separate.
Use a Glass of Water
In this method, all you have to do is place the rice container (without the lid) in the microwave with a glass of water. The water from the glass will turn into steam and moisten the rice grains, freshening them up!
Refrigerating rice allows you to consume the same batch of rice for more than three days. Yet, there are also some drawbacks to it, as I discussed.
You can eliminate some of these drawbacks by following the storing and reheating tips mentioned in this article!
Can you freeze rice?
You can freeze cooked rice for over three months. On the contrary, uncooked rice can last for more than 18 months in a freezer.
How do you freeze rice in the freezer?
The steps to freeze rice in the freezer include cooling the rice, storing it in freezer bags, and removing the excess air from freezer bags.
Can you refrigerate uncooked rice?
You can refrigerate uncooked rice by keeping it in airtight containers. It’s safe to cook for three to six months.