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Sep 9, 2005 11:53 AM

What is the best way to reheat left over rice?

  • d

I have been told that the best way to reheat left over rice is to put some water in it and to microwave it. Is that true? What about if the rice is already mixed in with the meat, as with Indian food, Chinese food or Spanish food? Should one still add water to the dish before microwaving it?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Not tons of water! Just a sprinkle or so. You can do the same with rice with stuff in it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Wendy Lai

      Agree, just a sprinkle then cover tightly with plastic wrap.

      1. re: Funwithfood

        or not :) Not to disagree with you, but reheating rice is not rocket science. There really isn't way to screw it up. Heck, don't sprinkle water, it'll still work.

        1. re: Wendy Lai

          I agree!

          Just take a microwave safe bowl, the rice, plastic wrap....zap it for a minute or so....ta da! Easy peasy.

        2. re: Funwithfood

          Or sprinkle and cover with a damp paper towel.

      2. You need to be very cautious with keeping left over rice. Rice is notorious for having bacteria spores. Often when made at home or in a restaurant the water used to cook the rice is not at boiling temperature for a long time and the spores survive (many homes and restaurant actually turn off the heat once the water starts to boil). If the rice is then kept as a left over for several days and only reheated quickly there could be a big chance of food poisoning.

        Rice made at home where you know you got it into the fridge quickly (ie it did not sit at room temp for 2 hours) should be eaten the next day or discarded. I would not save rice from a restaurant at all since you do not know how it was handled before you got it. Many restaurants simply do not follow recommended procedures for food handling temps and times. And let's face it, rice is not exactly expensive so throwing it away is not economic loss.

        15 Replies
        1. re: mdibiaso

          Wow, really? Rice at my house and everyone I know is kept pretty much for a few hours (sometimes overnight) at room temp after it's cooked, then stick in the fridge. Then leftover rice is kept in the fridge for days sometimes. Best fried rice is made with really old rice!

          No one has even gotten sick from bad rice...

          1. re: Wendy Lai

            Count yourself lucky. It's actually one of the more common ways to get food poisoning, but people often erroneously attribute the poisoning to other parts of the meal (like poultry or seafood). Harold McKee is emphatic about this problem, which I had never known until I read his book.

            1. re: Wendy Lai

              Watching the food network, that was exactly how they taught you to make fried rice. Cook the rice, then lay it out on paper towels overnight to dry! wow!

              1. re: Wendy Lai

                Trust me. I am currently taking a hygien class in cooking school and the one item the emphasized the most was to NEVER NEVER keep rice to the next day in the restaurant. It may be they emphasized it a lot because 99.9% of the population never think of rice as a problem.

                But I still woke up a lot when hearing that the problem comes from spores and learning about how hard it can be to get rid of spores. The quick definition is that spores are bacteria just waiting for the right moment to start breeding and are much more resistant to actually living bacteria. Also a lot of rice comes from far away countries and crosses thru a lot of hands/companies while being harvested, processed, shipped and stored. And the longer and more complex the delivery chain is the harder it is to supervise and ensure control.

                That's why a study in Sweden, where I lived and where hygien is quite good, showed the average piece of meat in Sweden store had less bacteria than one sold in an open air market in Turkey. Reason was that the meat in Sweden was shipped back and forth all over the place while being processed and was in many different hands. In Turkey it went pretty much straight from the farm to the near by market!

                1. re: mdibiaso

                  Perhaps 99.9% never think of rice as a problem because 99.9% have never had a problem with rice.

                  Like other posters, I've been eating and reheating rice in various ways, shapes, and forms (LOTS of delivery fried rice) for more decades than I care to acknowledge, and not only have I never gotten sick from rice, I've never known ANYONE who got sick from rice.

                  Is it possible? I suppose so. Likely? Please.

                  1. re: Striver

                    A lot of people eat left over Chinese or Indian food and get sick and blame it on the chicken, the pork or the restaurant. They never blame it on the rice. But the fact is that it was most likely the rice. And it can take some time before one gets sick so often people may not even associate the illness with that specific rice meal.

                    There is really little the restaurant can do about it because the spores are difficult to get rid of. But the spores themselves are not dangerous. It is when they are given the correct environment to grow in that the risk comes. It is the fault of the customer for trying to reheat something that should not be reheated (and again its not like throwing away expensive lobster). Feel free to go ahead and keep eating your rice the way you want. It does not change scientific fact.

                    In the middle ages no one ever said they got sick from a virus because they did know about them. When they did get sick they blamed it on other things. Does that mean they never got sick from viruses.

                  2. re: mdibiaso

                    If you acidulate your rice, you will bypass many of the food safety problems your culinary school instructors are alarmed about. The origin of sushi began in Japan in the 8th century when a method of preserving fish through long term storage when packed in vinegared rice (acidulated rice) eventually led to the realization that, "Hey! This rice doesn't look spoiled at all, wonder what it tastes like?" And so "sushi" started down the evolutionary trail to what we know today, though I personally hate "California" style sushi. Anyway, ACIDULATED rice was the key!

                    You don't have to use an overpowering amount of vinegar in rice to acidulate it. Rice vinegar is very mild when compared to cider or distilled vinegar and works just fine.

                    It might be useful if you share this information with your culinary school instructors so that they can teach from an informed point of view. '-)

                2. re: mdibiaso

                  One remedy for this problem of Bacillus cereus (about which many people do not know) is the acidulate the rice in some way; a pH under 4.5 deters the development of the problem. Reheating should not be short (like a quick stir-fry) but prolonged over 140F.

                  Leftover fried rice, something that is notoriously poorly handled both in restaurants and at home, is more likely to make you very sick than many seemingly more likely suspects, in other words.

                  But it is a good reminder that rice should be handled with the same care as fish or poultry in terms of quick refrigeration.

                  1. re: Karl S.

                    Sorry! I didn't see your post before I posted!

                    (duh... READ first, Caroline, and you just might manage to avoid embarrassing yourself!!!)

                  2. re: mdibiaso

                    You're kidding right? You are that suspicious of rice? I've been eating rice for over 50 years and have never had a problem with it, usually if there is a problem it's the stuff that would go with the rice.

                    Rice to me is so benign, it’s usually the one thing in the table that I never worry about. I’d question in my mind where the water in the glasses came from before I would question the safety of the rice. I've eaten rice that has been in a rice cooker for days, frozen rice, left on the counter rice, refrigerated rice, fried rice, rice soup and god forbid doggie bagged restaurant rice.....never have had a problem.

                    1. re: rice eater

                      First, food poisoning is relatively uncommon. Second, people often assume seemingly benign ingredients -- like starchy foods -- are not capable of being the culprits, and misattribute their loose bowels (or worse) to flesh or dairy products.

                      Rice is actually the most likely culprit among the starches because of how it is typically prepared and handled.

                      Read on:


                      1. re: Karl S.

                        Similarly I've read that mayonnaise is often blamed for picnic food poisoning in salads but usually it's the pasta or vegetables, whereas the mayonnaise actually helps preserve those "benign" starches.

                    2. re: mdibiaso

                      I must be very lucky. We keep leftover rice on the counter for as long as two days before we refrigerate it, and typically toss it only if I can see colorful fuzzies in/on the rice. Of course, the only way we eat leftover rice is to make fried rice, so maybe the frying kills the bad stuff...?

                      1. re: ricepad

                        No, re-stir frying does not. Count yourself lucky.

                        1. re: ricepad
                          Jersey City Mods

                          I must be lucky too because I frequently keep rice around for a while. And I only microwave things to a lukewarm consistency (because I HATE when food is steaming hot from a microwave). Never got sick. It could be that some people are more sensitive.

                      2. Remembering that my mother used to reheat spaghetti (without sauce) by briefly reboiling it, I tried that with two-day old rice. Unlike with cooking rice, use plenty of water, bring nearly to boil, add rice and boil for a couple of minutes. (That should take care of the bacteria problem as well.) Drain well (in a sieve, for example) and you have very fluffy rice. The other ways require too much care in time, amount of water, temperature, etc. for my taste. This is quick and foolproof.

                        1. For plain rice, I make a new batch, and when it's almost done, I mix the old batch in.

                          1. A rice cooker with a warm setting. It works great and is fast. Although I do single servings in the micro.