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Full Steam Ahead

Full Steam Ahead

There is a growing interest in both the taste and health benefits of different varieties of rice. Classified as long, medium or short grain, there are thousands of rice varieties grown worldwide, with about 20 varieties grown commercially in the U.S. Limited waxy rice is produced as well as some aromatic varieties.

The primary difference in these rices is their cooking characteristics, and in some cases, a subtle flavor difference. Nutritionally speaking, they are generally equal and interchangeable.


Long-grain is three to four times as long as it is wide. When cooked, the grains are separated and fluffy.

Medium-grain is about half the length of long-grain and very absorbent. After cooking, the grains are moist, tender and tend to cling together.

Short-grain is almost round. The cooked grains cling together. As a rule, the shorter the grain the more tender and clinging it cooks.

Waxy rice, or sweet rice as it is sometimes called, has a waxy feel and chalky white, opaque color before cooking. When cooked, waxy rice loses its plump, short shape and is very glutinous.

Aromatic rices have a flavor similar to roasted nuts or popcorn. There are three kinds of aromatic rice grown in the US: basmati (long, slender grains, separate and fluffy when cooked, closely associated with Indian food), della (similar to basmati, but shorter kernels, cooks dry, results in separate, fluffy grains); and jasmine (moister, clingy).

Wild rice is not a true rice. Technically, it is the grain of an aquatic grass native to North America, according to the USA Rice Federation. This grain expands three to four times its raw size when cooked.

Form of Rice
Rice is also available in bags, cans and cartons. Rice can be purchased cooked or uncooked, canned, dehydrated or frozen. Rice, after undergoing varying degrees of processing, is available in the following forms.

Regular-milled white rice or " polished" rice as it is sometimes called, is the most common form of rice.The outer husk is removed, and the layers of bran are milled until the grain is white. It takes up to 15 minutes to cook.

Parboiled rice has been treated in a special steam-pressure process before milling. The grain is soaked, steamed, dried and then milled to remove the outer hull. After parboiling, the grain hardens and becomes more compact, translucent and shiny. The results: when cooked, parboiled rice is extra fluffy and the grains are separated.

Precooked rice is milled, completely cooked, then dried. Thanks to special processing, it cooks the fastest and requires minimum time, effort and energy.

Brown rice, the least processed form of rice, has the outer hull removed but still retains the bran layers that give it the characteristic tan color, nut-like flavor and chewy-texture. It also has a shorter shelf life than white rice because the oil in the bran layer can become rancid. Brown rice is typically more expensive than white rice because it requires specific processing before packaging.

Note: Some rice forms are available in organic varieties.

Specialty Grains
Arborio is a medium grain, traditional white rice that is most commonly used in risotto and rice pudding. Arborio rice should not be rinsed before use so as to maintain the starch.

Flavored rice mixes come in a wide variety of styles and flavors with different additives such as vegetables, fruits and seasonings. These mixes provide consistency and can be used as unique substitutes in traditional dishes or as a convenient way to add more ethnic foods and signature dishes to your menu.


Unopened bags of rice should be stored off the floor in a dry, clean place. Once opened, rice should be placed in a clean, sturdy container with a tight-fitting lid to keep out dust, moisture and foreign objects.With the exception of brown rice and flavored or seasoned mixes, properly stored rice may be kept almost indefinitely without appreciable loss of flavor or nutrients.

Brown rice should be refrigerated because its bran layers contain oil.

Cooked rice can be refrigerated up to seven days or stored in the freezer for six months.

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