My Number One Tip for Cooking Better Grains

Tips from The Kitchn

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It's long been my habit to cook a large pot of grains at the beginning of the week — for us this makes pulling together quick lunches and dinner side dishes much more feasible. Lately, we've been religious about cleaning out the pantry and cooking up all that farro, freekeh (above — so delicious), and millet. And in cooking all these grains, I'm reminded of my favorite trick for making truly memorable, delicious grains.

Toasting Makes It Tastier

In my cookbook Whole Grain Mornings, I have a recipe for a really special oatmeal that is made using a method my partner Sam taught me: toasting the oats in a little butter before adding in the warm water or milk. I love doing this because it draws out the nutty flavor of the oats and seals them ever-so-slightly to give them more integrity once they're cooked (say goodbye to soggy, lifeless oats).

Well, this method shouldn't be reserved for oats alone. The more I cook grains at home, the more I understand that toasting most grains elevates their naturally nutty or earthy flavors and makes for a noticeably tastier bowl of millet, freekeh, farro... you name it.

How to Toast Your Grains

So how to go about toasting your grains? I do so in a little butter (or, if you can't stand the thought of a little butter, a hot dry pan is better than nothing) in a skillet on the stovetop and just ensure I'm stirring or shaking the pan frequently to avoid burning the grains. Usually about 5 minutes of toasting should suffice (although this time certainly depends on the heartiness of the grains you're using).

Instead of stovetop toasting, you can also toast a larger batch of grains in a dry pan in a 350°F oven for 8-10 minutes if you'd prefer. I rely on the color and scent of the grains to gauge when they're done — you can usually smell a nice, earthy aroma and know that they're well on their way to toasty deliciousness.

Have you ever toasted your grains before cooking them?

(Image credits: Megan Gordon)