Does Rice Need to Be Washed Before Cooking?

Tonight I cooked the Brown Rice with Leeks, Carrots and Black Lentils. Actually, it had onions instead of leeks and burgul in addition to the brown rice. I’m mentioning this because of a comment by reader Ariela, who asks why I washed the rice and lentils.

Fortunately Ariela is a loyal reader. Even though I haven’t answered her question she still reads and leaves comments. I know you need to check and wash lentils since they often have small stones or dirt mixed in. But I wasn’t sure whether washing rice is necessary. And I am always on the lookout for ways to save time and money, so I looked it up.

Reasons for Washing Rice

  • Updated: The FDA has reported on high levels of arsenic in rice. According to Consumer Reports:

    You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice for cooking and draining the excess water afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of rice’s nutritional value, research has shown that rinsing and using more water removes about 30 percent of the rice’s inorganic arsenic content.

  • Asians, for whom rice is a staple, always wash rice before cooking. Many claim that rice won’t stick because you are washing off the starch. Others say that rice is starchy anyway. Perhaps rinsing removes bits of rice that have broken off from the grain. It depends whether separate grains of rice are important to you in whatever recipe you are using.
  • Rice is often mixed with talc, to prevent moisture from getting in. Talc makes rinse water white. Talc used to have asbestos in it, but talc is not considered dangerous. I wouldn’t want it in my food, though.
  • Rice is often dried out on the ground as part of processing. Like all dried products, it can get buggy or dirty during storage. Packages of rice also come straight out of sacks.
  • I haven’t noticed talc in the brown rice I use, but I still wash it because of bugs and dirt. Occasionally I find small stones.
  • Some people warn against washing rice because it removes nutrients. White rice has the healthy parts removed,  and this would only apply to vitamins added while processing, i.e. enrichment. The nutrients from brown rice remain even after rinsing and cooking.
  • Some packaged rice is already clean, including pre-cooked varieties. Check the instructions on the package.

How to Wash Rice Efficiently

Sort through the rice for bugs, rocks, or other foreign objects. Put the rice into a bowl and cover with water, plus an extra inch or two. Swirl your hand in the water and see what floats to the top. If you find insects you may want to check the rice more carefully, but most dead insects float. Put the rice and water into a strainer, saving the water for your garden or washing the floor.

Another technique is to pour the rice into the strainer, then dip the strainer into a bowl of water and swirl it around.

You may want to repeat these techniques until the water is clear.

If you plan to saute the rice, lay it out on a towel to dry. Some people also swear by soaking rice in advance of cooking.

Do you wash rice? Why or why not?

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  1. Thank you for answering my question.
    First, this meal is a well loved staple in my house, even by those who don’t eat brown rice.
    Second, my husband changed his white rice method a few months ago and now washes it. Those who eat it claim it is much better than the unwashed method.
    THird, I never heard of washing brown rice, but will try. I assumed you can get rid of the bugs and stones by sorting. Can you wash the brown rice instead of sorting it?

    • Stones sink, so probably not. If you soak the rice the bugs should float to the top, unless they are inside the grains.

  2. I adapted what a friend of mine (whose husband is Persian does)–if I plan in advance, I soak rice early in the day and give it a few rinses. It definitely makes it much less sticky.

  3. I always wash it and most of the time there is a lot of dirt/powder that comes off. It really depends where I have bought it. The rice from open bins at the health food store is usually dirtier than the pre-packaged from the supermarket.

  4. The reason I wash rice is that my rice cooker splutters all over the place if I don’t. I thought it was broken til I went on a forum and everyone said that was my problem. Now I always wash my rice. My friends who grew up with a lot of Asian cooking all wash their rice too. I never have texture issues.

  5. I often use a rice cooker and washing rice is a must. If you don’t the rice is all soggy and awful.

  6. I haven’t generally rinsed white rice, but I am going to give this a try. Thanks!

  7. never, ever wash risotto rice!

  8. Thank you for this post. I check rice and then wash it and I have often wondered if I really needed to do both.