Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Cook Grains Like Rice and Barley

 

You can add whole grains to your meals without cooking, simply by choosing breads, breakfast cereals, and other prepared whole grain foods. If you'd like to enjoy delicious whole grains at home as a side dish, however, here are some guidelines for cooking them from scratch.

how-to-cook-grains-like-rice-and-barley

Grains General Cooking Directions

Whole grains are simple to prepare on the stove—just cook them the as you would rice or pasta—or in a countertop steamer, which is even easier. Once they’re cooked, whole grains will keep well and can be refrigerated or frozen. So cook as much as you can at one time. When grains are exposed to heat and liquid, the membrane covering becomes porous, making it possible for water to enter the grains. This causes the starch granules inside the grains to absorb water and form gels, which softens the grains and makes them more palatable.

To cook grains correctly, first rinse them in warm water. The warm water removes residual starch and stickiness, starts the water absorption process, and speeds cooking. In general, use twice as much water or other liquids as the amount of grains.

Bring the ingredients to a boil; then cover the pan tightly, reduce the heat and simmer until the grains are tender. Drain if desired; then return the grains back to the heat and shake the pot or pan for a few seconds over low heat to fluff the grains and to distribute any excess liquid.

There are also many quick-cooking grain side-dishes on the market, even including 90-second brown rice. These grains have been pre-cooked so you only need to cook them briefly or simply warm them through in the microwave.


Here are some of the most common ways to prepare whole grains:

On the Stovetop: Any whole grain can be cooked in a pot just as you would cook rice but this method will take longer and will use more liquid than some other methods. If you’re cooking your grains this way, use a medium-size pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring six cups of bouillon or broth to a boil in the pot, stir in 2.5 cups of grains (1 pound) and return to boiling. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until the grains are tender and most of the water is absorbed, about 45-60 minutes. Keep in mind that cooking times will vary for different types of grains.

In an Electric Steamer: This inexpensive countertop unit is the easiest, most convenient way to cook all types of whole grains. Your steamer will come with a detailed instruction booklet and will include many recipes for preparing vegetables and seafood as well. Simply follow the instructions for the different types of grains, using the measurements and cooking times shown in the electric steamer cooking chart.

In a Pressure Cooker: Pressure cookers also work well for whole grains. Adjust the cooking times as you would for any other food—whole grains typically take about half the regular time.

How to Cook Grains in a Rice Cooker: The rice cooker intuitively cooks until all the water has been completely absorbed by your grain, and then it switches itself over to its “warming” setting to keep your dish warm until you serve. Because of the machine’s tight seal, rice cookers lose less liquid to evaporation, so using a slightly smaller amount of water, rather than more, is always a better idea. WGC Culinary Advisor Robin Asbell suggests using the white rice setting for grains that take 25 minutes or less, like buckwheat or millet, and the brown rice setting for larger grains that require longer cooking. Experiment, and you’ll know what works for your favorites in no time.

How to Cook Grains in a Crock Pot: Most of these whole grains will cook in liquids added to a slow cooker if it’s on for about 8 hours. Just add half a cup or more to your slow-cooker stews and soups. If you're making a casserole-type dish in the slow cooker, make sure there's enough liquid for the grain to absorb. You can also cook just the grains in the slow cooker overnight or throughout the day on the LOW setting, says Stockton, who suggests using 4 cups water per cup of whole kernel grains.

In the Microwave: A plastic rice steamer designed for microwave use can be used to prepare whole grains, but you will need to follow the steamer’s instructions carefully. You will need to change the power setting and stir the grains in the middle of the cooking process.


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Grains Cooking Chart

GRAIN (1 cup dry)
CUPS WATER
COOK TIME
CUPS YIELD
Amaranth
2 1/2
20 - 25 min.
2 1/2
Barley, pearled
3
50 - 60 min.
3 1/2
Barley, hulled
3
1 hr. 15 min.
3 1/2
Barley, flakes
2
30 - 40 min.
2 1/2
Buckwheat groats
2
15 min..
2 1/2
Cornmeal (fine grind)
4 - 4 1/2
8 - 10 min.
2 1/2
Cornmeal (polenta, coarse)
4 - 4 1/2
20 - 25 min.
2 1/2
Millet, hulled
3 - 4
20 - 25 min.
3 1/2
Oat Groats
3
30 - 40 min.
3 1/2
Oat, bran
2 1/2
5 min.
2
Quinoa
1 3/4
15 - 20 min.
2 3/4
Rice, brown basmati
2 1/2
35 - 40 min.
3
Rice, brown, long grain
2 1/2
45 - 55 min.
3
Rice, brown, short grain
2 - 2 1/2
45 - 55 min.
3
Rice, brown, quick
1 1/4
10 min.
2
Rice, wild
3
50 - 60 min.
4
Rye, berries
3 - 4
1 hr.
3
Rye, flakes
2
10 - 15 min.
3
Spelt
3 - 4
40 - 50 min.
2 1/2
Teff
3
5 - 20 min.
3 1/2
Triticale
3
1 hr. 45 min.
2 1/2
Wheat, whole berries
3
2 hrs.
2 1/2
Wheat, couscous
1
5 min.
2
Wheat, cracked
2
20 - 25 min.
2 1/4
Wheat, bulgur
2
15 min.
2 1/2



Here are the cooking tips and tricks for specific type of grains:

How to Cook Brown Rice

One cup of uncooked brown rice makes about 3 cups of cooked brown rice. Follow the directions below if you are using the stovetop, microwave, or rice cooker.

For the stove top: Combine 1 cup dry rice, 2-1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 45 minutes (rice should be tender and water is absorbed). 

For the oven: Using boiling liquid, place ingredients in shallow pan; stir. Cover well and bake at 350ºF for 50-60 minutes. 

For the microwave: Combine 1 cup rice, 2 1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in a 2- to 3-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover dish and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes or until boiling. Reduce setting to MEDIUM (50% power) and cook 30 minutes more or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. 

For the rice cooker: Most rice cooker manufacturers recommend specific amounts of rice and water. Generally, though, use about 2 cups of water for each cup of dry rice.

How to Cook Barley

Use about 3 cups broth or water to 1 cup of dry barley (pearled or hull-less). Cooking times may be a little longer using the hull-less barley and a little shorter if using barley grits. 

Stove top: Bring the barley-water mixture a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until tender (about 60 minutes).

Oven: If you're baking your barley in a very liquid casserole mixture, it will take about 75 minutes to cook. (Because barley is best cooked slowly, it doesn't lend itself to cooking in the microwave.) If barley and brown rice don't appeal to you, not to worry; there are plenty of whole grains to go around. Not all are suitable for microwave cooking; sometimes it's not that convenient because you have to be in the kitchen to change the power setting throughout the cooking process, and you also need to stir midway.

How to Cook Wild Rice

Wild rice adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture to any dish. To make it, use 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of wild rice. Use a saucepan with a tight-fitting cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring at least once. Cover the saucepan; turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook about 50 minutes or until the rice kernels puff open. 

For the oven: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed wild rice with 2 cups water or broth in a covered 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Add more water, if necessary, and fluff with a fork. Bake 30 minutes more. 

For the microwave: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed wild rice with 3 cups of water or broth in a covered 2-quart glass casserole. Cover dish and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) for 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes; drain any excess water before using.

How to Cook Bulgur (from hard red wheat)

Use 2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry bulgur. Bring to boil in a medium saucepan, then lower heat to simmer. Cover saucepan; cook about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

For the microwave: Combine 1 cup bulgur with 1 3/4 cups hot water in a microwave-safe dish. Stir and cover; cook on HIGH for 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Stir again, cover the dish and let stand for 7 minutes.

How to Cook Buckwheat Groats

Roasted buckwheat groats (also called kasha) are used to make pilaf and hot cereal. You cook it by combining 1 cup groats with 2 cups of water in a large saucepan. Cook 10-12 minutes over medium heat, then let stand for 5 minutes. (To help keep the cooked groats from clumping together, you can toast the dry groats in a nonstick pan for a couple of minutes before cooking.

For the oven: The cooking directions for brown rice work with groats as well: Using boiling liquid, place ingredients in shallow pan or dish; stir. Cover well and bake at 350ºF for 50 to 60 minutes.

How to Cook Quinoa

It's important to rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove a bitter-tasting resin on the outer hull. To cook, combine 1 cup of well-rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

How to Cook Amaranth Grain

Combine amaranth grain and water in a nonstick saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring mixture to a boil; cover pan and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until grains absorb the water and bind together (about 25 minutes).

Nuttier, Fuller Flavor

Whole grains are generally chewier than refined grains and have a nuttier, fuller flavor. You and your family may find this unfamiliar at first. But after a month or two, refined grains may start to taste very plain and uninteresting by contrast. Stick with it until your palate adjusts, and reap the health benefits.



HOW TO BAKE WITH GRAINS

Some grains contain protein in the form of gluten, a natural flour protein. When gluten mixes with water (as in bread baking), it adheres and forms a network. This protein network is one of the elements that cause bread to rise. Another factor is yeast.

Yeast is a microorganism that ferments sugar and produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles. These bubbles become trapped in the protein network of bread dough. They cause gluten to stretch and create structure for the bread dough to rise. The bread dough may double or triple in size.

If the bread dough is punched down, the carbon dioxide bubbles dissipate. The bread dough can be shaped and left to rise again (or can rise during baking). Once the larger gas bubbles are broken up, the bread should have an even and fine texture.

The trouble with gluten is that some people are sensitive to these gluten proteins and must avoid them.


Related Post: Learn how to... How to Cook Fruits and Vegetables.


Grains with Soluble Fibers: Barley, Oats and Rye

The stickiness in grains, such as barley, oats and rye, is due to soluble fibers. Soluble fibers are thought to help reduce cholesterol. The soluble fibers in barley, oats and rye may also help people feel full because they tend to swell in the stomach, much like they do when these grains are cooked. This feature may have important implications with weight management.

Some other characteristics of barley, oats and rye are that barley can absorb twice the amount of water than wheat; oats swell into a smooth mass, which contributes to their tenderizing effects in baked goods; and rye does not harden after cooking and cooling but lends a soft and moist texture and longer shelf life to some breads.

Rice and Corn

After wheat, rice is the mainstay for much of the world’s population. Aromatic rice such as basmati; brown rice; glutinous or “sticky” rice; short-grain, medium-grain and long-grain white rice; parboiled or converted rice; pigmented rice; quick cooking rice; and wild rice are only some of the many rice varieties.

Since most rice is “milled” to remove the bran (outer coat) and the germ (seed), some consider rice a processed food. Brown rice is unmilled; it generally takes longer to cook, and it has a shorter shelf life due to the intact kernels that may become rancid.

Like rice and wheat, corn is a widely consumed food crop for humans and animals. It has a distinctive color, aroma, taste and texture. Corn can be used in a variety of food ingredients and products and cooking and baking applications.

Cornstarch is a product of corn processing. It is used as a thickener in cake fillings, casseroles, glazes, gravies, pies, puddings, sauces, soups and stews. When cornstarch is mixed with flour in cakes, cookies and pastries, it tenderizes these baked goods. Cornstarch is also used to lightly coat foods before frying and in batters.

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