While many of us might believe that the original package that we buy our rice in is good enough to store it in, that’s actually not true. Rice is a perishable food that can lose its flavor when stored improperly.
How long does rice stay good? That depends on how we store it. In temperature and humidity-controlled environments, unhulled rice as well as brown rice can be stored for extended periods without losing much of its original freshness and flavor.
However, most of us buy polished rice at the supermarket. From the time the rice is polished, its degree of freshness and therefore flavor can easily drop. The time of the year can also determine how long rice stays fresh in storage. Generally speaking, in the spring and fall properly stored rice can last for around one month, while in the winter that can increase to two months. During the rainy and humid months of early summer, rice can last for about two to three weeks. That being said, these general time frames are not necessarily when the rice expires, but rather when the rice is still at the peak of its flavor.
Here are some points on storing rice properly to maintain as much of its original flavor as possible:
Rice is very sensitive to temperature and doesn’t do well when stored in a place with direct sunlight. When stored at high temperatures, rice will dry out, causing it to oxidize and form small cracks. One reason to be particularly mindful of this is because one of rice’s natural enemies, the maize weevil, lays its eggs inside the grains of rice. These pests are unavoidable in the rice cultivation process. These eggs begin to incubate at temperatures above 68F. The weevils then eat the grains of rice from the inside out and begin laying eggs in surrounding grains. Therefore it is best to store rice at temperatures between 50 and 60F.
Rice should be stored in a cool, dark place with good ventilation. When buying rice be careful to ensure the packaging doesn’t show any indication of moisture. You should also make sure not to handle rice with wet hands or a wet measuring cup. Rice exposed to moisture can start to grow mold, making it inedible.
One reason we can’t store rice in the original packaging is because these bags generally have a hole in them that allows for airflow, but this also means that the rice will oxidize more quickly. An airtight container helps to stop this and to maintain the rice's freshness, while also prevent insects from getting to the rice. Another trick is to store rice with a bay leaf, garlic, or a chili pepper. Rice also picks up smells fairly easily so storing it in an airtight container helps to keep any unwanted odors.
Rice can be stored in the fridge or freezer, but not near the vent or in direct contact with cold as over time the harsh cold causes the rice to dry and crack.
Pick a container that is tall, transparent, and has ample space to store the rice. There are some containers made specifically for this purpose, but you can also be inventive by using recycled bottles or zipper bags.
About the author: The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food!