Apparently We've Been Storing Rice All Wrong

At least according to Ruth Reichl.

March  9, 2022
Photo by Bobbi Lin

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.

Where do you store uncooked rice? Are you team fridge or team pantry? Let us know in the comments below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Panfusine
  • justen_m
  • 702551
  • M
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Panfusine March 12, 2022
Team Pantry all the way.. in airtight containers, I'd need a walk in refrigerator if I started storing bulk staples like rice in the fridge!
Kelly V. March 17, 2022
Wouldn't it be nice if we all had a walk-in fridge? :)
justen_m March 10, 2022
I've store all my rice in airtight containers in my fridge. Jasmin, basmati, and brown. Same way I store my flour. Probably only desirable for brown rice, which doesn't have as long a shelf life as white, but my fridge is huge. Plus, in the warmer months, my house will be 80 degrees F, so no cool places.
702551 March 9, 2022
It's worth pointing out that for most of human history, refrigerated storage wasn't an option.

That said I try to keep it simple: things with fats (which will go rancid) ideally should be stored in a refrigerated area. There are plenty of shelf stable pantry items as well.

Resist the temptation to buy too much at once. Yes, you might save a few pennies per ounce by buying larger quantities but then you'll have to deal with storing it optimally. Or you can pay a little extra for a small quantity and have the merchant foot the cost for storage.

It's similar to buying Bordeaux futures and cellaring them yourself for several years or paying retail for a bottle that has undergone cellaring by someone else.

Rice? It's such a commodity product, it's not like I'm going to kick out something else to make room for it.
Smaug March 10, 2022
I agree with most of this, but the savings from buying in quantity or on sale are often quite significant, too much for someone on a tight budget to pass up.
M March 9, 2022
Eh, home kitchens would need a wall of commercial fridges to store everything someone suggests should be stored in the fridge, because nearly everything should be stored in a cool, dry place.

If an ingredient under-performs, THEN consider where you're storing it and how old it is.

HalfPint March 9, 2022
I have a Korean rice bin, affectionately named "the computer tower" (because that's what it looks like). It was pricey (for what it does) but keeps the rice nice and dry. I've had it for over 15 years.
Smaug March 9, 2022
I usually only have Basmati rice on hand- the Indian stuff is aged for a considerable period, which accounts for most of its superiority to the American grown product, and I've never had any problem with storing it at pantry temperatures for considerable periods.