Apparently, we've been storing rice all wrong

. . . at least according to chef Ruth Reichl

Published April 23, 2022 4:29PM (EDT)

 (Bobbi LIn / Food52)
(Bobbi LIn / Food52)

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I recently decided to switch up my bedtime routine, by which I mean turning off the psychological thrillers on Netflix that kept me up until 1:10 am and switching to reading. I'll fall asleep faster, I thought. I won't have nightmares of Penn Badgley injecting me with a bouquet of poisonous herbs, I thought. I'll wake up inspired to write more and, God forbid, better.

But as I made my way through Ruth Reichl's "Garlic and Sapphires" (a long overdue read for this food writer), she mentioned a cooking hack that ultimately did keep me up for hours: "[If] you're buying any quantity of Arborio or carnaroli rice, keep it in the refrigerator. It goes bad faster than you would think," she wrote in the headnote for Risotto Primavera, her adaptation of Le Cirque's unexpectedly fantastic recipe.

"Can you actually store dry rice in the refrigerator?" I wondered. Should you? I thought about the half-dozen OXO Pop Containers filled with arborio, basmati, short- and long-grain brown rice, jasmine, and sushi rice that were overcrowding my pantry. Could I move them to the fridge and make more room for the jars of Rao's marinara sauce and boxes of Diamond Kosher Crystal Salt that I hoard incessantly? Should I?

According to USA Rice, a federation that I trust with my basmati and my life, uncooked rice should be "stored in a cool, dry place in a tightly closed container that keeps out dust, moisture, and other contaminants." Apparently, white rice will keep "almost indefinitely" on a pantry shelf, but brown rice isn't quite so flexible. "Because of the oil in the bran layer, this rice has a shelf life of approximately six months. Refrigerator or freezer storage is recommended for longer shelf life," says the group.

Moisture is rice's worst enemy, so it's a good idea to keep the grains in an airtight container that has a super tight seal to prevent any moisture from permeating them. By storing rice in the fridge, you'll, yes, extend its shelf life by months. But if you're like me and have way more room in the fridge than the pantry, you'll maximize every usable inch of storage space in your kitchen.

By Kelly Vaughan

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Food Food52 Kitchen Pantry Rice Storage