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Oh, Barley - how I love thee!

Let me count the ways-
1. You are wholsome and nutritious.
2. You are tasty and delicious.
3. You are equally good piping hot or chilled in a salad.
4. You are a great addition to soups and stews.

I love barley! And spelt, farro, wheatberries. I don't discriminate with my whole grains. But for some reason I HATE to cook them on the stove.

Has anyone attempted to cook any of these in a rice cooker? Same concept, right? I mean brown rice takes just as long if you simmer it on the stove.

But my rice cooker came with explicit instructions not to put anything but rice and water in it.

Someone say it isn't so....

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  1. Barley is great! Love The Frugal Gourmet's Beef Barley Soup recipe. Lots of ingrediets, but worth it.

    1. Have you tried the oven for cooking grain? Both wheatberries and barley have been very successful using a modified pilau method.

      Now, if you can just explain why barley is stocked in the canned soup section of the grocery store while other grains are with the legumes???

      1. Sparkalina- I'm so with you! I grew up eating kasha (buckwheat) and other whole grains as breakfast porridge, in salads, soups, formed into patties, etc. Do you have trouble cooking barley on the stove because the grains stick together / get mushy? I've always had luck with stovetop kasha by doing the pilaf-method of tossing the grain in a hot fat (like, sauteing onions in olive oil / butter first, then adding the kasha and stirring to coat each grain until you get a nice nutty smell, then adding liquids to simmer). Rinsing the barley grains first might also help wash off extra starches that contribute to mushiness.

        1. Funny, earlier today I was thinking about barley and cooking some up in my rice cooker! Never tried it before, but I have the book called "Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook" and it says to cook 1 cup of pearled barley in 2 cups + 2 T. of water and a pinch of salt.
          For brown barley, it says 1 c. barley to 2.5 cups of water & a pinch of salt, and let brown barley soak in the water for an hour before cooking
          For both types of barely, she suggests letting it "rest" or steam for 15 mins. after the cycle finishes, then fluff with a fork.

          Please report back if you try it! Also....do you use pearled or brown barley? i assume I've always used the pearled, but not 100% sure.

          3 Replies
          1. re: poptart

            I just tried the rice cooker method - and it is a hit! The barley came out perfectly cooked and not the least bit gummy! It is still a little 'chewy' for lack of a better term at the moment. Oh, and the very best part was the crunchy brown bits that stuck to the bottom of the rice cooker pot!

            Now the down side. I pushed the start button and then took my dog for a 20 min walk. When I came back in the house there was water all over the counter and the lid was was almost shaking itself off the pot. Then again I did cook 2 C. of barley instead of just 1!

            This will last me all week for lunches and stuff, so next weekend I will try the oven method and hopefully remember to report back with the results.

            1. re: sparkalina

              Oh, good...thanks for the report. I will try it in my rice cooker this week with 1 c. of barley.
              Did you end up using pearled barley?

              1. re: poptart

                yep, pearled barley. I can't believe the texture difference between this and the stovetop. Maybe because it only takes about 1/2 the time? Or, maybe I was just plain overcooking it on the stove? Who knows. Next week - oven method!

          2. On a related subject - have you tried making it like risotto? Its on my list to try but since hubby doesn't like barley, I have to wait til I'm cooking for the BF who like me, loves the stuff

            1 Reply
            1. re: AlaskaChick

              I made a mushroom-barley risotto recipe from Cooking Light a couple months ago - it turned out really well! Not quite the same texture as a regular risotto - it had a bit more bite than arborio rice does.

              Does your husband know your boyfriend likes barley? ;)

            2. oven-baked barley casserole:
              3/4 c barley, 1/4 c melted butter, sliced mushrooms, sliced carrot, sliced onion, seasonings, one beef bouillon cube or moral equivalent. place in 2 qt casserole, pour 4 cups boiling water over. cover, throw in oven at 350 and bake for 2 hours, stirring now&then.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rudysmom

                I was just about to post one of my favorite recipes that is similar to this. Saute some chunks of chicken, chopped celery, onion and mushroom with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic plus salt and pepper. Transfer into a buttered casserole dish and add 1 cup of barley and 2 cups of chicken stock (the amounts can vary if you want more barley but it should be twice the amount of stock to barley). Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until all liquid is absorbed. This is a great winter comfort food dish. As a main course,. I use 2 boneless chicken breasts cut up, 4 stalks of celery, one medium onion and maybe 10 mushrooms.

              2. Yes, I have a problem with the 'gummy' texture that sometimes results from the stovetop. I will try the rice cooker method this weekend and report back. Next week I'll try the oven and compare methods. My normal grocery store carries pearled barley so that is the staple, but if I have the time to go to Wild Oats I can find brown.

                I love the risotto idea, too. Try risotto with red wine some time instead of white. Great flavor and a pretty color! I had it in Parma, Italy and fell in love.

                1. I've never cooked barley alone in the rice cooker, but frequently mix it with rice (brown, white, or mixed). Glad to know it can be done.

                  1. Hey there, Sparkalina,

                    Yes, you can do other grains in your rice cooker as long as the grains themselves are well washed! Here's my recipe for a great Barley Pilaf. there are lots of ingredients, but they're well worth it.

                    Rice Cooker Barley Pilaf

                    1 lg. Onion -- finely chopped
                    2 stalks Celery -- finely chopped
                    1 lg. Carrot -- grated
                    8 to 10 large button Mushrooms -- chopped

                    1 Tbs. Garlic powder (or 1/2 head of fresh garlic -- chopped finely)
                    2 Bay leaves
                    1 Tbs. Basil
                    1 tsp. Thyme
                    dash ground Rosemary
                    3 capfuls Vodka (use your own judgment here. it's entirely optional.)

                    2 c. (rice cooker cup measurements here) Pearl (polished) Barley -- *well washed!
                    4 c. (this is the rice cooker cup!) Chicken, beef, fish or veggie stock. Use your rice cooker cup to measure. Don't follow the markers in your rice cooker bowl. That's for rice! Barley needs a bit more liquid.

                    2 Tbs. real butter
                    1/4 c. Olive Oil

                    Salt & gound Black Pepper to taste

                    Sauté veggies in butter and oil, add spices and vodka and let reduce in volume to about half and allow to cool.

                    *Rinse barley until water runs completely clear! If water is cloudy, you'll end up with a mess while it's cooking. Use a wire mesh strainer and strain off excess water. Set aside.

                    Fish bay leaves out of veggie mix and put in the bottom of the rice cooker. Put the barley in over the bay leaves. Measure your stock in over the barley and then put the entire veggie mixture in over the barley. Close lid and hit the start switch. Cook on regular rice setting. Your rice cooker will shut off when it thinks it's done, but let is stand (with heat) for about 15 minutes to let it absorb any excess moisture. Pull out Bay leaves and stir well. Serve last minute as this will cool quickly.

                    You can add a half cup of Parmesan cheese to this to make it like a risotto dish. The grain will be al dente (or slightly rubbery) to chew, but that's the nature of the beast.


                    1. Nobody mentioned a really important fact:

                      Without barley there would be no beer!