I’ve written about arsenic (carcinogen!) in rice in the past here, here and how everyone should sign this petition (to urge FDA to set limits for Arsenic) 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. If you know the why’s and just want to know how to wash and cook rice properly, click here.
There are other ways, I’m sure, but I’ve been preparing and making rice since I was ten 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 CARES 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 do not contain as high level of arsenic, if at all, as medium grain rice. Also, brown rice – unpolished whole grain – contain higher level of arsenic since the outer covering contain arsenic so 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.
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 I had 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 1/2 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 pressure cooker called, Instant Pot (I received an Instant Pot as compensation for using in my recipes. While they did give the pressure cooker, the opinions are my own and absolutely endorse this product! Click here to read our site disclosures.) because 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 found. So the Korean brand rice cooker that was a pressure cooker may have been designed that way on purpose AND to fill aflatoxins; I don’t know for sure but it makes sense to me. Back to Instant Pot… 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 RICE program. So I contacted them to send one for me to test and review. And they were gracious enough to agree. 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.
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. 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 Potters: You can make up to 10 cups of rice in the Instant Pot but I like to be safer and make 8 cups. Also, my directions stay the same regardless of how much rice you are making. 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 4 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. It will harden at the bottom. So 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.
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.
Here is my recipe for Vegetable Rice Porridge and Gluten and Egg Free Fried Rice (this is perfect to use up leftover cold rice.) And to enjoy hot steaming rice, try Korean BBQ and kimchi or cucumber kimchi! I’ll be posting Kalbijjim (steamed short ribs “Kalbi”) next!