Is Precooking Rice for Meal Prep Safe? Here’s What You Need to Know.

updated Sep 23, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Rice is great to have on hand for the week for stir-fries, grain bowls, wraps, soups, and so many other recipes. But if you’re doing big-batch meal prep over the weekend, you might be wondering if it’s actually safe to precook rice in advance for the week. This seems to be a pretty pressing question, as it’s stirred up quite the discussion on Reddit. 

So, we’re here to clear things up. If you’re reheating precooked rice, you have to be careful, as there’s potential for bacterial growth and food poisoning. “While there are no specific FDA food safety guidelines for storing cooked rice, most ready-to-eat foods can be held in proper refrigeration temperature for three to four days,” says cookbook author, registered dietitian, and certified athletic trainer Dana Angelo White, MS, RD ATC. “One of the most important things to do to keep rice safe is to cook it properly (I love to use my Instant Pot), cool it quickly (within an hour), and get it in the fridge. When ready to eat, be sure to reheat it thoroughly before eating those leftovers.”

You can also take other measures to ensure safety. “When cooking and handling rice, be sure to use clean hands and utensils to avoid adding bacteria. This is especially important when preparing rice for storage,” says Randall Evans, MS, RDN, LD

Just like Angelo White mentioned, you should try to get rice into the fridge as soon as you can after cooking, as this will help limit potential bacteria growth. “As the rice cools from the cooking temperature it can enter what is known as the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees. Over and under those temperatures you have less risk for bacteria growth,” says Evans. 

“The biggest issue is normally the time after cooking rice and before storing leftovers when spores not killed by the cooking heat can start to grow into bacteria,” Randall explains.

When reheating rice, it is best to portion the rice you are going to eat and get the rest cooled or in the fridge ASAP. For reheating rice, heat it above 140 degrees and closer to around 165 degrees even to kill the potential bacteria.