Resolution #15 from my last post was to figure out a decent “quick” method for cooking tougher grains like brown rice and pearl barley. These grains still have the skin on, which forms a barrier to quick absorption, so they take 45-50 minutes to cook on the stovetop, which is simply too much for me to babysit. Apparently I’m not alone on this–I see vacuum-packed packets of precooked brown rice at the Trader Joe’s (and similar bowls in the freezer both there and at Whole Foods).
To say the least, this is not the right way to go if you’re earnest about spending less on staples while going a little bit greener in the new year (think of all the freezer energy cost and coolant leaks, the cooking energy expended, the plastic packaging, etc.)
According to Nina Shen Rastogi of Slate.com, microwaving can be the greener cooking option as long as you don’t leave your microwave plugged in when you’re not using it–apparently the little digital clock display thingy takes up a surprising amount of energy (and do you really need a microwave to tell you the time? Hang a battery-operated clock in view of the kitchen and you’ve got it…)
So microwaving should be the way to go with brown rice, as it is for pasta (plain or whole-grain) and white rice. But unfortunately, microwaving brown rice, with its tough outer skin, really doesn’t work well at all if you just dump the raw rice into some water and try to nuke it straight up, the way you can with these quicker-soaking grains. Certainly not in 3-5 minutes of cooking time. Not without babysitting and worrying about boilover. Feh.
And it’s never a good idea to nuke something starchy more than a few minutes at a time, at least not without a lot of water in it–you could end up with plastic (think about what happens to bagels if you microwave them for more than 15-20 seconds).
But you know I don’t like to give up once I decide something should work. So–I thought about something I posted a couple of years ago on nuking oatmeal successfully and decided to try the presoak idea that had worked for steelcut oats. Only who wants to presoak rice overnight if they don’t have to? Steelcut oats–you know you’re going to make them for the next morning’s brunch (only do it on a weekend). Stick ’em in a bowl with water and a lid, let it sit overnight, nuke a few minutes in the morning and you’ve got it. It’s perfect.
Rice? I never know what I’m making for supper until about an hour before.
But a hot presoak worked pretty well to get things started, and it only took about 15 minutes (because I was impatient). The whole thing still took about an hour–well, maybe less in the strict sense, I wasn’t paying attention the whole time and basically let it sit until I was ready. But most of that time was for absorption with the power off. This didn’t take more than about 8-10 minutes total microwave time, including 4 minutes heating some plain water to boiling for the presoak. Leaves a grand total of maybe 5 minutes actual nuke time for the rice–not half bad, to tell you the truth. Just do it the first time when you happen to have the time rather than when you’re rushed. If you’re single or only have a small family, a batch will last you more than one day–just store it tightly covered in the fridge and reheat by drizzling a little water on and microwaving 1-2 minutes with a lid.
So to all former (parents) or next-gen (grown post-uni children) or would-be hippies, vegans, natural yogurt-eaters, etc., it might not be faster minute-for-minute but you can now have your brown rice AND your green environment too. Nina Shen Rastogi said so. Just unplug the microwave when you’re not using it.
Brown Rice in the Microwave
- 1 c. long-grain (or other) brown rice
- 2-2.5 c water, or enough to cover rice with about 1 inch of water
Heat the water to near-boiling, about 4 min. on HIGH in a smallish (2.5-3 c. capacity) pyrex bowl with a microwaveable lid. Meanwhile rinse the rice. Scoop it into the hot water and cover it. Let it sit in the closed microwave 15-20 min. to start soaking up. Microwave 3-4 min. on HIGH and let absorb another 15-20 min. or so–the rice should be swollen to within about 1/4 inch of the water surface. Microwave another minute or so covered and let sit another 10-15 minutes to steam. Taste test–it should be tender, chewy, and fully cooked without being mushy. If it’s fully cooked but there’s still a swamp of liquid, drain it off, stir the rice gently and microwave covered 1 more minute to steam and even out the rice a bit.
Filed under: cooking, DASH Diet, frugality, Grains, Microwave tricks, nutrition, Revised recipes | Tagged: brown rice, cooking green, diet resolutions, frugal living, high-fiber diet, microwaving brown rice, pearl barley, Trader Joe's, vegetarian cooking, Whole Foods, whole grains |