Rice has inorganic arsenic that can't be eliminated from regular preparation. But you can reduce Arsenic level in rice if you use this method.
I've written about inorganic arsenic (carcinogen!) in rice in the past here and here. But I didn't explain exactly how to prepare and cook rice to reduce arsenic level in detail. And any time someone tags me on social media looking for directions on how to prepare rice properly, (Maybe because I'm Asian and eat crazy amount of rice and haven't died yet?!?!?) I furiously type out the directions. So I thought why not just write a post on how to reduce arsenic level in rice? I often think some things are so simple that it's too silly to post about it, like, how to make rice or grill a pineapple. Yea, you read the last one right. But I guess that's silly to assume.
So here goes my long post on how to prepare rice my way and the NEW rice cooker I'm in love with.
There are other ways, I'm sure, but I've been preparing and making rice since I was eight years old with methods I learned from my mother who learned from our womencestors (I totally made up that word!) And if recent researches on how to reduce arsenic levels is any indication, my womencestors knew what they were doing in preparing rice this way.
Who Should Care about Arsenic in Rice?
In recent years, so many people started to stay away from gluten due to health reasons, and rice has become their sexy grain of choice. Even the Paleo Community allows rice as a "gray area" food if they can tolerate it when other grains are prohibited. Read #2 from The Domestic Man about #teamwhiterice.
But the discovery of higher than expected levels of arsenic in rice threw a curve ball for the gluten-free community, lactose intolerant people who drink rice milk, babies who eat rice cereal and of course, just plain ole' rice loving peeps like us.
And upon reading a few articles on how to reduce arsenic level, I thought, "Wait, that's how I've been washing and cooking rice for years!" So I thought I'd share my method with you. Now, remember, I didn't measure the arsenic level after I've cooked rice with my method, ever, so I don't know for sure what the actual level difference is but after reading articles and the latest research that came out on how to cook rice, I am certain my method makes a difference. So read with a grain of rice (pun intended), if you want to learn how to prepare rice correctly.
I usually eat medium grain rice and have to prepare this way but if you eat Jasmine or Basmati rice, you may need less rinsing since they contain LOWER level of arsenic, if none at all, as medium grain rice. Also, brown rice - unpolished whole grain - contain HIGHER level of arsenic since the outer covering contain arsenic. Hence, I don't even eat it anymore.
Why My Method Works to Reduce Arsenic Level in Rice
The latest research states that when they made rice in a coffee percolator type of an apparatus, the arsenic level was greatly reduced - up to 85%! And the theory behind why it works is that a coffee percolator runs the hot water through the coffee grounds and when they cooked rice this way, water runs through the rice, taking away arsenic from suspended rice. In other words, when making rice this way, the rice doesn't 'sit' in the water, soaking up arsenic during cooking. The water drips through the rice while arsenic is eliminated. And any arsenic residue that's left escapes through condensation via steam.
So my method of washing and preparing rice before cooking works to filter out arsenic and my cooking method works to eliminate arsenic via releasing the condensation through steam.
By the way, I've been washing rice all my life so I'm pretty good at keeping the rice grains in the bowl but if you want to use a rice rinsing bowl like this (Amazon affiliate link), it's very convenient to use without using a separate stainer.
How to Reduce Arsenic Level in Rice
- Wash Rice Thoroughly
- Put the rice in a large bowl big enough to hold 3x the amount of water as rice.
- Fill the bowl with COLD water 3x as rice.
- Take out any debris floating in the water or embed in the rice.
- Wash rice by putting rice grains between the palms of your hands, rubbing the grains gently but vigorously without breaking or grinding them.
- Drain the water completely over a mesh strainer.
- Using the hottest water possible, rinse rice until water runs almost clear, which will take a more than a few rinses. If water is too hot for your hands, use a large wooden spatula to swirl the rice around. It's IMPORTANT to use hottest water possible because it helps to remove arsenic better than cold water.
- Drain the water completely over a mesh strainer and rinse repeatedly until the water is clearer each time. Depending on the amount of rice you are washing, this can take about 4-5 times of rinsing and draining.
- Why use HOT water to rinse and drain? Some posts suggest using 6:1 ratio of water to rice to cook rice, then, draining the water and re-cooking rice but it is really too elaborate, as seen in this blog post. I mean, it can be done but I'm too lazy for this multi-step method. Hence, I prefer this thorough cleaning step.
- After the water is semi-clear, soak rice in hot water for more than an hour, preferably overnight. Soaking grains makes it easily digestible and reduces phytic acid, an anti-nutrient but it also acts to reduce arsenic when hot water is used.
- If you can, replace the water when it gets cold. If soaking overnight, start with hot water and leave it until the morning.
- See the difference before and after soaking? Before soaking, rice is translucent but after soaking for just one hour, the rice is opaque. This is what you want to see.
- After soaking, drain the water completely over a mesh strainer. Rinse again using the hottest water a couple of times until the water runs clearer.
- Finally, rinse with COLD water until you see clear water eventually. You should see something like this.
- How to cook rice properly
- Use the right rice cooker - There are many types of rice cookers but invariably, they all function the same way. Most of them cook rice and keep it warm. But some are pressure cookers and that's what I chose to use in the past. It turns out, cooking rice in a pressure cooker not only cooks rice faster but it kills aflatoxin (human carcinogen) But the only problem with mine, as with most rice cookers on the market, was that they are all coated with some sort of a non-stick (proprietary) material. I suspected it's Teflon and I was concerned. The rice cooker company denied that the coating was Teflon but insisted on explaining to me how Teflon is safe. The mere fact that they were defending Teflon made me wonder about their coating and decided to look for a better option. Worrying about arsenic is bad enough, I didn't want to worry about PFOA coating too so I wanted to switch to a non-Teflon rice cooker that, hopefully, didn't make rice stick.
- Clay Rice Cooker - I tried a rice cooker that was made of unglazed clay from a company called Vital Clay. I loved the concept of using earth material. But I was skeptical of the origin of the clay, Zisha, China. The website claimed that it contained "No aluminum, lead and non-stick chemical coating contacting your food" and that it meets FDA and CA 65 for being lead-free. But I wondered about other heavy metals and if it really is non-stick. And if it is, how is that possible? Anyway, I wanted to give it a chance so I bought the rice cooker and tried it.I was NOT happy with it because 1)the heavy metal information was not available and you know how I hate companies that are not transparent. I shouldn't have to search for information I need if they have them and the fact that they only listed being lead and aluminum free, it didn't make me happy. 2)the rice stuck to the bottom of the pot. THIS was the deal breaker. I don't want to scrape hard rice from the pot every time and there was about ½ inch of hard rice, stuck to the bottom after I cooked rice. And there was an impression of rice grains on the bottom of the pot even after I washed it. Not good. 3)Ok, maybe this was the deal breaker but since the pot was made of clay, it was VERY fragile. I cook rice almost every day. I couldn't imagine treating this pot like eggshells and being so careful not to crack it. It can get pretty crazy in my kitchen. I was sure ONE of us going to either chip it or break the $80 liner pot one of these days. So, I returned it.
- Stainless Steel Rice Cooker - my NEW FOUND LOVE! - I continued my research and I found a stainless steel pressure cooker called Instant Pot (Amazon Affiliate Link) I asked to try this appliance in exchange for an honest review and I received an unit. While they did give the pressure cooker, the opinions are my own and absolutely endorse this product! Here's my full disclosure about working with brands. Cooking rice in a pressure cooker may potentially eliminate the condensation that may contain remaining arsenic residue (after being washed repeatedly as per direction above) from rice, as this research, so I was thrilled to finally find an alternative. This pot has a stainless steel liner pot with a heavy bottom that is truly non-stick. It has 7-1 pre-programmed functions that include a preprogrammed "RICE" function. Needless to say, I LOVE it. The pot is stainless steel AND rice does NOT stick to the pot!Even though it's made with a food grade stainless steel, rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. It's totally non-stick! I can now, finally, breathe a sigh of relief about not serving a side of Teflon with rice to my family! And with its slow cooking, saute, steam, along with 6 other pre-programmed functions, I'm making so many other dishes with it! I'll be sharing some of them with you soon so be prepared to drool.
- Now the disclaimer - I am NOT saying that this rice cooker or any other rice cooker reduces arsenic level in rice definitively. But with my 'theories' about cooking rice in a pressure cooker, along with the finding from this research, I believe pressure cooking method is the best for reducing arsenic level in rice. Again, I didn't test the arsenic level after cooking in this pot or any other pressure cooker...I wish I could. But this is what I'm comfortable in using and the rice cooking method I prefer for my family.
Let's Make Rice!
For the sake of clarification, when I say "rice", I'm referring to medium grain rice. You can use the stovetop method, like this dude, in trying to cook the best way to reduce arsenic (and I'm sure it works!) but again, it's too elaborate for me to even attempt on a daily basis. So I'll stick with my pressure cooker. When you use my method of washing and pre-soaking rice, it's important to ignore what the rice bag's direction or a recipe says about the water level. Normally, you only need 1:1 ratio of water to rice. In other words, if you use 1 Cup of rice, use 1 Cup of water. If you use 2 Cups of rice, use 2 Cups of water. You get the picture. When you put water in the pot to cook rice, the water level will be slightly above the rice level. Ignore the "fist" or the "knuckle" or the "index finger" or even the water level line in a rice cooker method. Just use 1:1 ratio of water to rice...unless you want a different rice consistency. Then, you'll have to adjust the water accordingly.
For Instant Pot: You can make up to 10 cups of rice in the Instant Pot but I like to be safer and make 8 cups with ⅞:1 ratio of water to rice. That's because you don't lose any moisture when cooking in a pressure cooker. My directions stay the same for 2 cups of rice or more. Add rice and water according to the above directions, close the pressure release valve, press the "RICE" setting, which is preset at 12 minutes for Medium Grain Rice. Also, the "Rice" setting is preset at "Low Pressure". This is to ensure that any starchy foam will be kept to a minimum on Low Pressure so it doesn't clog up the vents or spew out extra starch when the pressure gets released. For Jasmine and Basmati rice, use 6 minutes set at the "Rice" function. Use the Natural Pressure Release (NPR) method after rice is done. Do NOT keep rice under the "Warm" setting. The rice will harden at the bottom. Take out the leftover rice and once it's cooled, store it in an airtight container and refrigerate. You can always reheat under "Steam" when needed. Cold rice has resistant starch so it has less carb too.
Now some Q&A:
Will the Instant Pot cook one cup of rice?- Yes and no. The Instant Pot needs at least one cup of liquid to come to pressure. When you use one cup of rice with ⅞ cup of water, the rice will absorb most of the water while cooking so the pot may never come to pressure. To be on the safe side, I always cook at least cups of rice with more than 1 cup of water so the Instant Pot can come to pressure. If you want to cook only one cup of rice, try the Pot in Pot (PIP) method. Place one cup of water in the inner pot, place the trivet inside. Place one cup of rinsed rice and ⅞ cup of water in an oven proof container and put it on the trivet and cook accordingly.
I like brown rice. How do I cook brown rice? - first of all, brown is not much safer than white rice when it comes to arsenic content. So follow the washing and soaking guidelines above. Use the "MULTIGRAIN" function for cooking at least 2 cups of brown rice. For cooking one cup, follow the direction above for cooking one cup of rice.
Well, there you have it. This is how I prepare and cook rice to reduce arsenic. And if you want to reduce arsenic level even more, try mixing Jasmine or Basmati rice with medium grain rice. You still have the sticky consistency but with less arsenic level.
For more rice recipes check:
Vegetable Rice Porridge, Gluten and Egg Free Fried Rice (this is perfect to use up leftover cold rice.) and Kimchi Pork Fried Rice. And to enjoy hot steaming rice, try Korean BBQ and kimchi or cucumber kimchi
my doctor said to use brown rice---am going to kick his butt --next time---bad advice cannot be tolerated
Dr. Karen Lee says
Unfortunately, not everyone, including doctors, are aware of this problem.
Justin Goldberg says
What is your advice for germinating/sprouting rice for eating? I'm going to stay away from brown rice after reading this blog post, for sure!
Dr. Karen Lee says
I don't 'wait' until rice sprouts. I soak it overnight and it's digestible for me. I don't think rice you buy at the local stores will germinate. But I could be wrong. I just never tried it.
Really great to know, I had no idea. Makes sense we grew up washing our rice for a reason!
Great to know there's something we can do about the arsenic levels that's so easy!
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says
Great tips! I didn't know about this rinsing technique. We only eat organic Jasmine rice, so I was pleased to read about that being a "safer" rice. Thanks for sharing this with us!
Rochelle R says
I love your writing style and the information you share! I'm so happy to see that there is an alternative to the non-stick-coated rice cookers. I am putting this one on my wish list!
The Food Hunter says
This is very helpful. Thanks for sharing.
Great tips- thank you! We've been eating basmati since the reports about arsenic came out. We do rinse and rinse and rinse and then soak overnight.
Good to know! Thanks! Pinning.
If you are using organic long grain white rice does it matter? I just had a hair tissue mineral analysis done this summer and my arsenic was barely detectable - and I have organic white rice weekly. And I have never done this! THis is so good to know!
Great article. Do you know anything about wild black rice?
Consumer Reports found that rice grown on old cotton fields in Arkansas and Louisiana contained arsenic because it was applied to combat the boll weavil. Even if it says the rice is organic, there is still a problem since rice is so adept at taking up residual arsenic from even 100 years ago. To solve this problem, I only purchase rice grown in California.
Julianna HM says
Thanks for the informative article, Karen. I notice Amazon has a special bowl for rinsing rice. I have too many gadgets already so I won't get one, but it looks great. I have an amazing rice cooker that's an untreated/unglazed clay pot, and I LOVE it! It's also pressure cooking. My rice turns out like never before.
Betsy (Eco-novice) says
My rice intake has definitely increased since my Celiac diagnosis. I wonder if Bob's Red Mill and others test for arsenic? We have an Instant Pot too and I'll have to try your method.
Great read! Do you know if organic rice contains less or no arsenic?
Dr. Karen says
Laura, the short answer is YES, organic rice contain arsenic too. If you click the links on the first sentence, it'll bring you to my past articles on arsenic and they have more information about arsenic.
Thanks the reply. I just now had the chance to read your links. Also, I've had my Instant pot for nearly a year and it is the love of my (kitchen) life! In just the last 24 hours I've used it to make 3 batches of broth, porridge and cooked 2 spaghetti squash. If anyone is on the fence about getting one...do it! My only regret is that I have the smaller version.
Tiffany Washko says
Truthfully the only time I rinse my rice is if someone left it open in the pantry and I am afraid bugs could have gotten in. Looks like I need to do this every time.
Dr. Karen says
Yea. Unfortunately, bugs are not the only thing that's after rice. The contamination starts as soon as rice seedling are planted in the rice paddy. 🙁
Lisa (@retrohousewife5) says
I was so happy you talked about the Instant Pot, I've been looking for a safe slow cooker.
Thanks for all of this information. I've switched to basmati rice from brown rice when the info about this came out. At least it cooks faster ha.
Do you know anything about arsenic levels in yellow rice?
Dr. Karen says
If yellow rice is grown OUTSIDE U.S., yes, it'll probably contain less arsenic. But if it's grown in the U.S., it will have arsenic. Wait on the IP as I'm about to get a discount code for my readers. 🙂
Cheshire Fields says
I love rice and we eat a lot of it. I usually just rinsed it and then cooked. But after reading this I think I will be more thorough in my rinsing and definitely soaking overnight. I knew of the arsenic in rice. I tend to buy Jasmine or Basmati as I really like the flavor. I wonder if the arsenic level is different in other parts of the world? In the U.S. it would be higher from previous farming methods but I got to believe it would be lower in some of the other countries. I never thought rice was hard to prepare but the additional info on why to prepare this way was helpful. Thanks for doing a post on it.
Dr. Karen says
The links in the beginning of the posts discusses all about which rice contain more arsenic and from where in the world. But basically, U.S. is the worst, basmati and jasmine rice from India and Thailand have the least amount.