Kitchen Confidence

Which Grains to Rinse and Why

By • April 9, 2014 • 14 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: The harsh reality about rinsing grains.

In many ways, we at Food52 are all about making your life easier: showing you how to cream butter and sugar without a fancy stand mixerhow to steam vegetables without a steamer, and how to prepare squid as if your life depended on it.

But today, we’re sorry to say that we’re about to tell you something you might not want to hear. And that’s that you should probably be rinsing your grains. We apologize for that information, but hear us out.

More: Overwhelmed by the wide world of grains? Here's your definitive grain guide.

In general, most grains should be rinsed for the simple purpose of removing any hidden debris. Lucky for you, most grains sold in stores in the U.S. are packaged, processed, and free from strange particles. Gena Hamshaw, our resident expert on all things vegan, even admits to rinsing only her quinoa.

So which grains should you rinse even when you're short on time? 

1. Farro, pictured above right, is often covered in a dry, powdery coating that should be rinsed off before cooking.

2. Rice that's high in starch content, such as sushi rice and jasmine, should be rinsed to reduce stickiness.

More: Everything you need to know about rice, and then some.

3. Quinoa has a bad reputation for being bitter. If you've ever experienced acrid quinoa, the culprit is a powdery resin called saponin. To get rid of quinoa's sharp flavor, you'll want to remove the saponin by thoroughly rinsing the seeds. While most quinoa sold in the US is washed and well-processed, it's still a safer bet to rinse it before cooking.

Simply dump the seeds in a large bowl of cold water, rub them together to loosen the saponin, and then strain the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, running water over the seeds until it runs clear. 

Photos by James Ransom

What are your rules for rinsing grains? Tell us in the comments below.

Tags: how-to & diy, grains, whole grains, quinoa, farro, rice, wheat berries, rye

Comments (14)

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3 months ago nitya

In india we generally have the habit of rinsing all the grains and lentils.I remember,mom would be very particular about the rinsing part when were learning to cook. In the case of certain lentils and legumes it is also believed that if they are rinsed before cooking then, they are easily digested.

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3 months ago Kt4

Not long ago I had a conversation about the whens and whys of rinsing rice and was told to never rinse "enriched" rice because it will remove the added nutrition.

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3 months ago Michele Jacobson

This is true for enriched white rice, as the vitamins are literally sprayed on! If you rinsed it, the vitamins would go down the drain, so the manufacturers delete that step from the directions. Regardless, enriched white rice is a highly processed food. Stick with whole grains and be sure to rinse them.

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3 months ago Michele Jacobson

Rinsing rice (this is even more important for brown rice) 3-4 times prior to starting the cooking process is important to reduce the arsenic content. See http://www.nutritionprescription...

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3 months ago NuMystic

Using Red Quinoa from Trader Joe's, Eden Organic, Ancient Harvest, and various bulk bins over the last 5 years we've never once had even a hint of bitterness without washing and just pan toasting as outlined below.

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3 months ago Francesca

It is also necessary to rinse and soak Basmati rice, despite all the supposed cleaning that goes on. It is a step in the cooking to making perfect rice. I wash Quinoa, especially the red stuff, as it is really bitter. Barley also needs a rinse and soak.

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3 months ago NuMystic

"While most quinoa sold in the US is washed and well-processed, it's still a safer bet to rinse it before cooking."

There is no reason to play it "safe" by washing Quinoa here in the US any longer, and at least one great reason not to.

While it's true that those of us who have been using Quinoa for a very long time remember the days when rinsing was a necessity, it's been ages since that was true.

We source our Quinoa from a ton of different places as we make it 2-3 times a week on average and haven't come across bitter saponin laden quinoa even once in the last 5 years.

The benefit to not washing is being able to just toss the dry quinoa in a dry pot over high heat and toast it until it's darkened a few shades to a nice golden color which unlocks a deliciously nutty flavor you cannot achieve any other way.

Say no to needless Quinoa washing and please spread the word so everyone will stop propagating this outdated myth. After the first time you pan toast your quinoa you'll never go back!

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3 months ago phip

Glad you published this. Helpful indeed. Thanks

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3 months ago Kathy M.

Once you start rinsing your grains, you realize just how dirty they are -- and that helps give you the incentive to keep doing it! :-)

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4 months ago valerie scrivner

I've gone one better, soaking my quinoa overnight with a tablespoon of an acid medium (yogurt, kefir or lemon juice) in the soaking water. the result is an almost delicate cooked grain without the bitterness.
Soaking tips,
http://www.thenourishinggourmet...

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3 months ago Sarah Jampel

Sarah is Food52's assistant editor.

I've got to give that a try!

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4 months ago Ivy Huang

Growing up in an Asian family, I've seen my mother rinse the rice thoroughly, before steaming, every since I was a child. Naturally, I came to do the same for all of my rice (mostly sushi rice, jasmine rice, brown rice). It's actually quite amazing how much debris/powder coating there is at times! My mother usually rinses the rice 2-3 times, so I do the same. After all, don't mothers know best?

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4 months ago the preserve.

It's a true story. I never even used to like quinoa until I realized you have to rinse the heck out of it to get rid of that terrible tasting saponin.

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4 months ago Antonine

Exactly right! Now I love the stuff.