Does Soaking Brown Rice Really Help It Cook Faster?

published May 27, 2015
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Brown rice is an ideal side dish for stir-fries, curries, and just about any cut of meat. The big drawback, though, is its lengthy 45-minute cook time, especially if you’re trying to get dinner on the table fast.

I recently came across a tip that mentioned soaking brown rice could cut the cook time by more than half. Talk about a dinnertime game-changer! Obviously I had to test this tip for myself.

The Original Tip

The original tip comes from Marion Burros in a 1991 article from The New York Times. She suggests soaking brown rice in a water-to-rice ratio of two-to-one, then keeping it in a covered pot in the refrigerator for about six hours or up to overnight. To cook the rice, bring the water to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes (about how long white rice usually takes), until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.

→ Read the original tip: Eating Well at The New York Times

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Testing Method

As suggested in the original tip, I combined a two-to-one ratio of water to brown rice (two cups of water and one cup of rice) in a saucepan, covered it with a lid, and placed it in the refrigerator for eight hours.

After that time, I removed the pan from the refrigerator and transferred it to the stovetop. To cook the rice, I brought the water to a boil, then reduced the heat, covered the pot, and let the rice simmer.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Results

I was utterly amazed when the water was absorbed, and the rice was completely cooked and perfectly tender in just under 20 minutes. (I had set my kitchen timer for 20 minutes right when I turned on the stove and the rice was actually done about a minute before the timer went off.)

So, yes, soaking brown rice does indeed help it cook faster. Adding this one extra step of soaking cuts the cook time for brown rice by more than half.

Verdict: This is a mind-blowing tip!

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Final Notes

Taking advantage of this tip does require a little forethought and planning, but not a lot of extra work. It requires you to begin soaking the rice either at night if you plan to cook it in the morning, or begin soaking it before going to work if you plan to cook it in the evening. Still, you’re going to have to measure out brown rice and water at some point anyway, so why not do it earlier so you can get dinner on the table more quickly?

Have you ever tried soaking brown rice before cooking it?