Why The Length Of The Rice Grain Matters

White rice is a perfect food for storage and stocking up. It's affordable and filling, and it goes well with most forms of protein and vegetables. You can even use it in desserts like rice pudding or fritters. And when stored properly, white rice lasts many years. But if you're looking to stock up on white rice, make sure you're stocking up on the type of white rice that will work best in the recipes you plan to use it for. Each type really is different, and the length, especially, affects how the final dish turns out.

Different Rice Types Require Different Cooking

Different types of rice require different amounts of water and different cooking times. Mix two different types of white rice, even similar-looking ones, and you end up with a mishmash of rice that is both undercooked and overcooked. You end up with a terrible-looking concoction as rice that needs a shorter cooking time breaks down into mush and rice that needs a longer cooking time remains on the wrong side of chewy. The differences might not seem that big at first; for example, one type of long-grain rice might need a quarter-cup more rice per 1 cup of water than another type of long-grain rice when cooking. But that smaller amount of water means the rice will need a different amount of time to finish cooking.

Each Type Cooks up Differently

When each type of rice is finished, it will look a lot different. For example, short-grain rice, when finished, will still have its plump shape and just be a little bigger from all the water it absorbed. Long-grain rice, however, can easily lengthen to two or three times the size of its uncooked form. All that changes the texture of the final dish. Long-grain rice, for example, tends to be loose and fluffy when cooked properly, while shorter grains clump together more. Sushi made with long-grain rice would fall apart as the grains separated (assuming you didn't compress the rice so much that the grains lost all shape and definition, and just became a mass of starch).

Some types of short-grain rice are also a bit stickier when cooked, such as the aforementioned sushi rice, because of the types of starches in that particular type of rice. Long-grain white rice doesn't have the same proportion of rice starch types, which means that you can't substitute one for the other in a dish that specifically calls for long-grain or short-grain rice. Just as using long-grain rice in sushi would result in rice grains falling out, using short-grain rice in, say, a pilaf would result in a bizarrely clumpy and somewhat gummy dish.

If you are still learning to cook, are just now learning how to plan meals, or even just becoming familiar with more than that bag of generic "white rice" at the grocery store, start with smaller bags, such as 2 pounds each. Work your way through them and try out different recipes, and then reorder more bags of the grain lengths you want to use more often.

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