Cooking a Pot of Grain? You Really Don’t Have to Measure Anything

updated May 1, 2019
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If you’re the kind of person who likes to keep cooking closer to jazz rather than classical, and are happy to pay closer attention to the pot, then consider whether a more free-form approach to cooking barley, farro, quinoa, or millet is right for you. It’s not that measuring is wrong, but it’s not the only way to make a tasty pot of grains.

When I’m cooking dinner, I go out of my way to avoid the measuring cups. This is often the first chance in my day to enjoy some improvisation. The last thing I want is precision. Even when grains are on the menu, I bring this loose approach to the cooking process.

The Pasta Method of Cooking Grains

Instead of measuring out precise amounts of quinoa and barley, then consulting a chart to determine the proper amount of water, I bring a pot of water to the boil and add some salt, then simmer the grains freestyle, like pasta.

I don’t measure the water and I don’t measure the grains, but I give the pot a swirl pretty often and taste frequently after 12 to 15 minutes. Once the grains are cooked to my preferred texture — which changes depending on how I’m using them — I strain them, return them to the pot, drape over a kitchen towel, and cover with a lid and leave them to steam a few minutes longer. Moments later quinoa, brown rice, or farro makes it to the plate without any more trouble.

Read more about this simpler method of cooking grains

I might not have cooked in a way that’s “right,” but it was certainly a method that was right for me.

This isn’t a tip that will buy you time nor one that proclaims a solution to a problem. Truth is, there isn’t really a problem to solve. We know the foolproof ways to cook specific types of grains, and often share them with you here, but it’s good to know that you can easily get to the end product you desire — in my case, a pot of grains that didn’t require any measuring — with a little bravado and an understanding that cooking requires some veering off the beaten path to keep it personal and playful.

Do you have an item you cook differently? A little free-form, a little freestyle?