Rice (Oryza sativa) is a semi-aquatic grass plant that bears the most important cereal crop staple worldwide. This crop can provide you a concentrated source of carbohydrates and energy. In most Asian countries, rice is almost never absent in every meal because it serves as an excellent sidekick with many kinds of entrees or main dishes.
Cooking rice is easier nowadays. You’ll either have to boil it over the fire or just steam it using a rice cooker. If you want something tastier, you can toss it with meats, spices, and a little amount of oil in a pan to make fried rice. Sushi, paella, risotto, rice cakes, just name it! Rice is just merely enjoyable to cook with.
How long does rice last?
Rice lasts depending on factors such as the variety of rice, cooked or uncooked, type of packaging, and storage conditions. The shelf life of rice can stay up to five years or even indefinitely. It can even last longer if it is vacuum-sealed.
There are different varieties of rice. There are white, brown, wild, short grain, long grain rice, and more!
Now, let’s discuss the shelf life of uncooked rice and cooked rice.
The uncooked rice
1. White rice
White rice, also known as polished rice, undergoes a milling process wherein its husk, bran, and germ are removed. White rice has many varieties. We have jasmine rice, basmati rice, wild rice, arborio rice, and many to mention. All of these types are known to have indefinite shelf lives as long as it is uncontaminated. You can store it in the pantry, the fridge, and the freezer!
Keep the rice in a cool, dry place to retain its freshness. Once you unopen a rice pack, transfer its contents to an airtight container or properly seal the rice’s original packaging and keep it in a cool, dry area.
To lower its chances of contamination, you can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. If cooked, you can store it for one week in the fridge.
Uncooked rice may carry spores of Bacillus cereus, and it can’t be destroyed by cooking. Once the spores activate in its desired environmental condition, this bacteria can cause food poisoning.
2. Brown rice
Also known as unpolished rice, brown rice is whole-grain rice with its inedible outer hull removed but has its bran, germ, and endosperm intact. That explains why brown rice has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. Although brown rice is famous for its health benefits, it doesn’t last as long as white rice. The bran of the brown rice grains contains essential fatty acids, which are considered as fats. In nature, fat gets rancid if it is exposed to oxidation. Remember, the higher the fat content, the shorter its lifespan.
Your brown rice will only last at a maximum storage capacity of 3 to 6 months in the pantry, six to twelve months in the fridge, and 12 to 18 months in the freezer. To retain its best quality for an extended period, keep the brown rice in an airtight, sealed container and place it in the pantry.
3. The cooked rice
Any rice cooked in water doesn’t last for more than 2 hours in hot, humid conditions at temperatures from 40°F to 140°F, as this is the best environment that can encourage rapid bacterial growth. Avoid exposing cooked rice in ambient or moist-rich temperatures.
The more you expose cooked rice in these conditions for a longer time, the more prone to foodborne illnesses. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
If you still wish to save your leftover cooked rice for the next few days, keep it in an airtight sealed container and store in a refrigerated place.
Excluding brown rice, all types of cooked rice can last for 4-6 days, and up to 6 months when kept frozen.
Refrigerating the rice only slows down the growth of bacteria, while freezing only stops bacterial growth. Once you expose the food back to ambient temperatures, bacteria will resume multiplying. Hence, you must consume your rice before it gets spoiled.
As for cooked brown rice, it lasts only for 3-5 days in the refrigerator and 2 months in the freezer.
However, if your cooked rice has been cooled and reheated multiple times, you just better toss it out. As a rule of thumb, reheat cooked rice once. Reheating it many times creates an ideal environment for pathogens to thrive.
What should I use to extend the shelf life of rice?
Here are a few things you can have to extend your rice’s shelf life
Food grade airtight plastic containers are the best storage containers for rice. Make sure that the box is clean and dry before you store your rice in it. You can also get the ones that are certified BPA-free if you’re worried about the chemicals from plastic containers that may be absorbed in the food. And, if you have plenty of rice to store, you can use food-grade buckets.
- Mylar Bags
Mylar bags are vacuum-sealable bags with an inner layer of FDA approved food-safe polyethylene, while the outside metallic layer is a polymer layer that can resist abrasion. These bags are best known for their ability to block oxygen to prevent the food from oxidizing and provide the maximum barrier against moisture and any vapors on any storage conditions.
Find the thicker kind of mylar bag you want to use for food storage. The thinner type is prone to holes and punctures. Choose mylar bags with flat bottoms so it can stand and properly contain the contains without spilling it all over the place.
- Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are like small packets of sugar that are used to remove oxygen within the sealed environment. It contains iron or Vitamin C that can quickly absorb any oxygen in the pack. Then, it creates a nitrogenous environment to store food in a more extended time. These are commonly found in food packages or in leather goods.
Oxygen absorbers extend your food’s shelf life, prevents the growth of aerobic pathogens and organisms such as molds that cause spoilage, and eliminates the need for additives such as sulfur dioxide, BHA, BHT, sorbates, and benzoates.
Be sure that you get the right kind of oxygen absorbers. For your rice storage, choose the ones that are designed for dry goods, especially for rice.
Here’s an interesting fact: If you store rice inside a mylar bag with an addition of oxygen absorber packets, it can impressively last up to 10 to 20 years.
How to know if the rice has gone bad?
Though we generally know that rice can last indefinitely, it can go bad if mishandling is involved. Sometimes, it may not be easy to tell if white rice has gone bad unless you see it’s obvious contaminants. But for brown rice, it’s easier to know if it has gone rancid.
- Ideally, you should discard your cooked rice if left for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
- Check the smell and appearance of the cooked rice. Discard the rice when it smells spoiled or if it doesn’t taste like cooked rice at all.
- Check for the presence of bugs, especially rice weevil. These are common bugs that attack seeds of several crops, such as rice, wheat, and maize. Dispose of the whole container if it is heavily infested with these bugs, disinfect the container, and store it.
- In preparing cooked rice, rinsing the rice may help you see and eliminate the weevil bugs that stay afloat. Throw the water that has these bugs and before finally filling in water to cook the rice.
- Check if brown rice has gone smelly and oily to the touch. Discard it right away.
- Dispose of cooked rice if:
- It dries out, and it hardens
- It loses its texture.
- It has mold growth
- It has gone sour
- If brown rice gets oily and rancid.
How do I reheat cooked rice?
You have two options. Use either the stovetop or the microwave.
- Stovetop. Prepare the pot where you are going to reheat your rice. For every cup of rice, add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the pot and heat it for five minutes over the stove.
- Microwave. Place your cooked rice in a microwavable container. For every cup of rice you have, add 2 tablespoons of water. Set your microwave on high power and reheat the rice for 1 minute. If it is frozen, do it for 2 minutes for every cup of rice.
Are there any risks of storing rice for an extended period?
Storing rice for a long time makes it more prone to insect and rodent infestation at any time. If you expose your rice in a warm room with free ventilation, it releases its moisture. Hence, it creates an invitation for bugs and pests to feast and build their nests.
For long term storage, you also have to prevent the growth of molds. You can tell that your rice is obviously contaminated with molds if you see discoloration in the grains. Most importantly, you must make sure that you have to take control of your rice storage conditions. In preventing mold growth, you must manipulate these factors: warmth, moisture, and oxygen.
Storing your rice in bulk can save storage space. However, the disadvantage is that when one container is contaminated, you will have no choice but to dispose of everything inside. If you have more rice, extra containers, and extra storage space, you can divide it into smaller amounts rather than store it in bulk.
Rice is a famous side dish for many Asian cuisines. It’s easy to cook rice, and it’s a great source of carbohydrates. Rice is inexpensive, and it makes you satisfyingly stuffed. Most would choose rice as a healthier option than consuming canned goods or junk foods.
Most types of rice have an indefinite shelf life. The main concern is keeping it free of dust, insects, and other contaminants.
Generally, for extra protection against pest infestations, dust, or other contaminants, store uncooked rice in a cool, dry place. Or, keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. Keep your rice in a sealed airtight container, or have the original package kept in a resealable heavy-duty freezer bag. To get rid of molds, you have to control the humidity and temperature of your storage area.