June 3, 2009
Ready for Rice?
Go for Brown.
Rice has long been a favorite food at my house. Sometimes it is a flavorful side dish; often it is paired with beans, black-eyed peas, vegetables or small amounts of protein to be the highlight of the dinner plate. But I admit it. Only in the last decade have I started to choose healthier brown rice over white rice. I certainly haven’t been alone. A glance at the rice section in any supermarket tells the story. There are simply many more varieties of white rice than brown rice. It’s a matter of supply and demand. There’s more of a demand for the white stuff. In fact, in many restaurants, brown rice is not on the menu. And in most cases, white rice is less expensive than brown rice, even though brown rice takes less energy to process.
So why is this? Generally, brown rice is chewier and has more of a nutty flavor than white rice. Many people are perhaps just less familiar with it. Brown rice also takes longer to cook than many varieties of white rice, making it seem like less of a fit for busy lifestyles. One reason brown rice is more expensive is that it has a shorter shelf life than white rice, and is therefore less profitable than white rice for manufacturers.
Let’s take a look at rice classifications:
Long-grain rice is characterized by milled grains that are three times as long as they are wide. When cooked properly, long grain rice will be fluffy and dry with grains that separate rather than stick together. Basmati, Carolina, jasmine and Texmati are popular varieties.
Medium-grain rice is milled grain that is 2.1 to 2.9 times as long as it is wide. This cooked rice is moister and more tender than long-grain. It tends to stick together. Common varieties include bomba, carnaroli, vialone, Valencia, or Thai sticky.
Short-grain rice is less than two times long as it is wide, and is in fact almost round or oval in shape. Out of the three categories, this rice is the stickiest and is commonly used for sushi. Short-grain rice is also ideal to eat with chopsticks or mold into balls or shapes. Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice, and CalRose rice are varieties of short-grain rice.
Long, medium and short-grain rice are available in both brown and white forms. Brown rice is whole grain rice and has only had its husk removed during milling. The bran stays intact, and as a result brown rice retains more fiber, folacin, iron, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and trace minerals than any other type of rice. Unlike other forms of rice, brown rice also contains Vitamin E. For these reasons, brown rice is the healthier choice.
White rice, also known as milled rice, is actually brown rice that has been processed to remove the husk, bran and most of the germ. Some white rice is enriched to replace thiamin, niacin and iron that were lost when the bran layer was removed. Enriched rice is additionally fortified with folic acid. As a result, enriched rice may be higher in these three nutrients than brown rice, but contains less than a third of the fiber. Parboiled rice, also known as converted rice, is soaked and pressure steamed before milling. This forces some of the nutrients into the grain. As a result, they are not completely lost in processing. Enriched parboiled rice has a similar thiamin, niacin and iron content as enriched white rice, and has more potassium, folacin, riboflavin, and phosphorous, but not as much as brown. Therefore, brown rice is still the better choice.
Other common types of rice include instant rice, which is milled and polished, then fully cooked and dehydrated. Instant rice takes only 5 to 10 minutes to prepare. This type of rice is slightly less nutritious than regular enriched white rice, but the texture and flavor are very different.
Aromatic rice such as basmati, jasmine and Texmati are primarily long-grain. They are available in white and brown varieties. However, the brown varieties are less commonly found in some grocery stores. Specialty shops or the internet may be better sources. Both U.S. aromatic red rice and black japonica rice (also an aromatic), like brown rice, are minimally processed and retain their bran layers.
Wild rice is not actually a grain but a grass seed. It has a nutty, rich flavor and about twice the protein of other rice. However, because it is quite expensive, it is often blended with other less expensive rice varieties.
All varieties of rice are especially easy to cook in the Saladmaster electric skillets or the multi-purpose electric roaster (MP5). Use the RIC1 or RIC2 setting with the Versa Touch (12-inch) electric skillet and the MP5. Use the RIC1 setting with the 10-inch oil core electric skillet, and use this skillet for preparing smaller amounts of rice. Refer to the instruction manuals for specific directions. Packaged rice mixes are usually high in sodium and more costly than what can easily be prepared at home. Here are some creative ideas for using brown rice:
- Brown rice can be substituted for other long-cooking rice in most recipes. Try it in soups, salads, casseroles, stir-fries, and stuffed vegetables.
- When cooking rice, cook a little extra for another dish or meal. Extra rice can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen.
- Don’t forget brown rice can be used as a breakfast cereal. Try our Fruited Brown Breakfast Rice recipe in this issue.
- Try mixing brown and white rice for more variety or while making the transition from white to brown. However, note the cooking time for each type of rice. Brown rice may need to be started first.
- Store all types of rice in airtight containers. Because brown rice contains a small amount of fat, use it within 6 months to prevent spoiling.
- For added flavor, cook brown rice in liquids other than water such as broth, fruit juice or tomato juice. Note that acidic ingredients such as tomato or fruit juice will lengthen the cooking time, and should be diluted with water to at least half strength.
- For a savory side dish, sauté onion and garlic, add water or broth, then brown rice. Vegetables and herbs can be added during or after cooking.
- Stir in chopped herbs, such as cilantro, dill or parsley to cooked rice to add interest.
- Stir-fry is not the only dish that can be served over rice. Top brown rice with your favorite curry, gumbo or stew.
- Brown rice can be used in stuffing for poultry, fish or vegetables such as cabbage or peppers.
- Pilaf is a dish that calls for rice to be browned before it is cooked. Sauté onions or scallions, and then add rice, stirring until rice is slightly browned. Then add the usual amount of liquid for the volume of rice used, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in spices or herbs. Bits of fruit and nuts can also be added.
About the author: Janet Potts has been a registered dietitian since 1984 and a Saladmaster® owner since 1995. In 1996 she was awarded the ADA’s "Recognized Young Dietitian" for the state of Oklahoma. In the year 2000, Janet was promoted to Director of Food & Nutrition Services at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa and has recently completed four years of service on the Board of Directors for the National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management. She lives in Tulsa with her husband and two young children.