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Whether you're stocking up for an emergency or just found a great bargain, proper rice storage is essential to get your money's worth.

By Kimberly Holland
March 05, 2021
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Rice is an essential building block of many meals. From casseroles and soups to burritos and sushi, nearly every culinary tradition and every cuisine type has found a way to use rice.

That's for good reason. Rice is an extremely affordable food. A half-cup serving costs mere pennies, and it can be used in dozens of ways before anyone at your table notices they're eating the same grain over and over. (Or if they do notice, they won't mind.)

Rice is also a good food for long-term storage and buying in bulk. Whether your family goes through a 50-pound bag each month or you just want to keep some on hand in the event of a storm or rainy day, rice is a safe and shelf-stable food you can stock.

But like any food, you have to take measures to ensure rice lasts as long as it can without sacrificing flavor or texture. That's where knowing how to store rice properly comes in.

Storing rice isn't a complicated task, but it does require more than plopping a bag or box in your pantry and closing the door. You'll want to think through a few things before you stock up — and then you'll want to know how to store cooked rice once you've made it. That, like storing dry rice, requires a bit more effort than dumping it into a container and shutting the fridge door.

Here, we'll detail how to store rice in both uncooked and cooked forms. We'll offer advice on the best containers for both, and you can also learn how to take steps to prevent a pest infestation, which is certainly one way to ruin some rice.

How to Store Uncooked Rice

Uncooked rice that is stored in an airtight container in a cool environment can last one to two years. Cook within the first year for the best flavor and texture. After that, the quality does deteriorate some, but it's still acceptable to use as long as there are no visible signs of deterioration or mold.

Here's what you'll need to store uncooked rice:

1) Prepare the container.

Wash and dry the container you plan to use for storage. Whether it's three pounds or 30, this is the first and most important step. It will help remove any dirt, unwanted smells, residues, or dust. Make sure the container is very dry, too. Rice absorbs moisture, and moisture in rice is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

2) Add rice.

Pour rice into the container. Add a few oxygen packets. Oxygen absorber packets ($21/100 packets; amazon.com) remove oxygen from a closed container. For rice, this helps prolong the rice's shelf-life. If you do not intend to store the rice more than a few weeks, the oxygen packets aren't necessary. But if this rice will be stored more than three months, you'll want to keep these in the container.

3) Store.

If you need access to this rice for meals right away, put the container of rice in your pantry, cabinet, or in a cool, dry place near your kitchen. Hot temperatures and humidity can introduce moisture into the rice container, and that could spoil your food.

If you're storing a lot of rice and don't need it right away, a larger storage container or food-grade bucket ($25; amazon.com) might be ideal. These containers are sturdy enough to withstand long-term storage; they are also more difficult for pests and rodents to penetrate than thin bags.

If you have a basement or root cellar, that's a great spot for long-term storage. Temperatures at or just below 40 degrees F can help sustain rice for a longer period of time in storage. You could also keep rice in the refrigerator or freezer. But large containers or bags may be cumbersome if you don't have separate chest freezer storage.

4. Remove what you need.

When you're ready to use your rice, remove as much as you need from storage and check for signs of rodents or pests. Properly stored rice is the best way to avoid these unwanted guests, but even the best kitchen storage guru can be bested by pests from time to time. Tiny bug eggs can be impossible to see amid myriad grains of rice. If you have time, consider freezing the rice in a deep freezer for a week to kill any possible bugs and eggs. Frozen rice is safe to use right away; no thawing is needed.

Add a few more oxygen absorbers to the container of uncooked rice, and be sure to properly seal it before you leave.

How to Store Brown Rice

Brown rice is a whole-grain alternative to white rice, and it can be stored for long periods of time, too. However, brown rice has more natural oil than white rices like basmati, jasmine, and arborio rice. That oil can turn rancid if not stored properly, and it shortens the timeline for storage.

Store uncooked brown rice in an airtight container ($14; amazon.com) or food-grade bucket to ward off pests or rodents. The same rice storage rules apply: you'll want the containers in a cool, dry place, and add oxygen absorbers to help the rice stay fresh as long as possible. You have a shorter window for using the rice while it's still in optimal shape — six to 12 months — compared to white rices.

Can You Store Instant Rice?

No, instant rice, or converted rice, has been par-cooked so that it's ready faster than other rice types. For that reason, you cannot store it long-term. Instead, plan to use it before the best-by date on the box.

white jasmine rice in black square bowl with fork
Credit: krblokhin/Getty Images

How to Store Cooked Rice

Cooked rice that is stored properly is good up to one week in the fridge or six months in the freezer. Proper storage is vital with cooked rice. Rice contains spore-forming bacteria known as Bacillus Cereus. It flourishes in warm, moist environments. Pots of rice are a perfect breeding ground. But if stored properly, you can rely on your cooked rice to provide several more meals.

Here's what you'll need to store cooked rice:

Note: Cooked rice should be stored within two hours of cooking. This will help reduce the chances of bacterial growth that could be dangerous.

1) Prepare a pan.

Spray or brush a neutral oil (like canola oil) onto a baking sheet. If you don't want the oil, line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Cool the rice.

Spoon and spread the cooked rice into a thin layer on the baking sheet. Chill in a refrigerator until cool, about 20 to 30 minutes.

3) Transfer to a container.

Spoon the cooled rice into the proper storage container. Date the bag, jar, or tub with a permanent marker so you can remember when it was cooked and discarded accordingly.

If you plan to store your cooked rice in a fridge, a zip-top bag will suffice for the brief storage period (no more than a week). If you plan to freeze cooked rice, look for a more sturdy storage container ($14; amazon.com) or use a zip-top bag designed for freezer storage ($5; amazon.com).

What to Watch for With Stored Rice

In a word: pests. Insects, rodents, and even unwelcome bacteria and mold are the enemies of rice. Keeping the rice in a cool, dry place will help ward off moisture and humidity that leads to bacteria and mold. Sturdy, heavy-duty plastic containers will help prevent rodents, with their sharp teeth, from finding a way in. And if the storage containers have an air-tight seal, that will help keep tiny little bugs that can ruin a whole bag of rice at bay.

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