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Does rice have to go in the fridge?

OK, so I recently had a conversation where the other person stated that leftover rice never has to go in the fridge. They had heard this from a sushi chef who stated that it can sit out (covered) at room temperature for up to 3 days and that it would keep it from getting hard and dry, like it does in the fridge.

I'm curious if anyone has ever heard this. I like the concept, but think that the moisture would breed bacteria.... any thoughts?

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  1. No! Rice must be chilled. Bring to room temp if need be, but do not leave out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bayoucook

      FRIDGE, anything I cook, well maybe a few exceptions, but almost everything I put in the fridge. I don't like leaving things out. Maybe just me. But the fridge is for me. Canned jam, ok canned veggies, you get the idea. Food like rice ... absolutely in the fridge. Maybe the type of rice can make a difference. Not sure. But I wouldn't take a chance

      My friends leave their butter on the counter all day then at 10 or 11 pm but it back in the fridge, day after day. I won't touch it. They don't get sick but I just can't agree with it.

      1. re: kchurchill5

        I grew up in the San Francisco area, we never put our butter in the refrigerator, nor did anyone I knew except for two or three really hot days during summer. I think it must be the salt, huh?

        1. re: kchurchill5

          kchurchill5, I think you're in Florida, I'm in Texas; I agree, no way. My ex was from upstate NY, and they kept butter out all the time, but alot less humidity, and lower temperatures. By the way, TexMati rice recommendes refrigeration of the uncooked product after opening of the original package.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            Yep FL and I just can't let it set. My friends I mentioned WI, so same thing, not as much heat or very little humidity for the most part. I like air but not cold so 82+ or 80 is warm, nothing sets out. I would rather be safe than sorry is all. Probably over cautious I know. And people let things set out all the time. TX where about, have family in houston, always hot when I went spring and summer like us. More tornados though, lol.

          2. re: kchurchill5

            My MIL, living in NJ, used to keep the butter on the counter even in the summer, when it was plenty humid. I assumed it was because butter is just so difficult to spread when it's taken straight from the fridge. As a houseguest, I'd eat it warily but I'd never do it myself.

        2. Rice can develop toxins if not cooled quickly and fridged. It doesnt want to be kept very long even then.

            1. re: bayoucook

              While I know this to be a true warning I can't ever remember anyone in our family that has gotten food posining where rice was a part of the meal. Growing up with a Middle Eastern back ground rice was always a part of the main meal. Often it was cooked early in the day and left on the stove to cool. At large family get togethers large serving platers of rice based dishes would be out for hours without anyone getting sick. Again I don't doubt the science but from a personal expereince we should feel luck to be alive.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Again...same day. No-one is saying it goes bad if you eat it that day, or maybe even the next. But three!

                This is really becoming a silly argument. I have eaten meat that has sat out all night and not got sick, but I'm not going to say it can't happen. It won't happen every time, but if you keep doing it, sooner or later it will.

                And I'm not a food wuss, by any stretch. It's just that if I'm going to risk illness, I'd prefer to do it by eating raw beef or shellfish, something that is worth the risk. Cooked rice, for the love of Escoffier... just stick it in the bloody fridge!

            2. Yes. YES YES YES!

              Cooked rice is one of the most perishable foods there is! And bad rice is just...awful!

              1. We make rice balls and never refrigerate them, but tend to eat them on the day or day after they're made.

                Rice is commonly left out and servered at room temperature in the Philippines & Indonesia.

                Lao / NE Thai sticky rice is never refrigerated, but usually eaten on the day or day after cooking.

                As someone who has eaten in the homes of small farmers all over the rice growing and consuming world, I'd say that rice eaters don't share the strong American fear of spoiled rice.

                17 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I just visited the home of a Filipino bachelor who had an rice cooker's worth of rice that had been sitting on the counter for at least a day. We fried it up with garlic for breakfast to no ill effects. I suppose we ran the risk of bacterial/fungal growth on the rice, but my grandmother lived into her 90s without ever suffering the ill effects on unrefrigerated rice.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    It's true...Americans seem very paranoid about such things. I think much of the fear and paranoia is fueled by the media and their sometimes scaremongering sensationalism. Not to mention bad info from the internet. LOL.

                    Common sense is the key. I'm no scientist, but I've rice left out for a day and have suffered no illness as a result. I imagine longer than that and it will being to ferment and even if it does...how is it any different than a sourdough starter made with milk, potato, and flour which is left out on the counter for _several_ days?

                    1. re: The Professor

                      I agree, much more paranoid that most of the world. And it may not be bad to leave it out, but I just can't. But I totally agree with media and food scares. I made a cake that had several off ingredients that sat on the counter for 30 days before adding the final ingredients, rice flour, this and that and I though it would spoil. Never did. I ate it and after baked and didn't die ::) so I guess it was ok. I'm sure the rice may be, I just can't do it.

                      1. re: The Professor

                        Most of the time what I see reported is just what gov. authorities say or if there's an outbreak of something, the facts about what happened. The food safety push in the U.S. is pretty strong, but that comes from the food science folks. (Take a look at recent reporting on swine flu. Media was not all over 'oh no, pork!' or their own invented crisis, but rather kept parroting exactly what health officials said, that properly cooked pork was no problem.)

                        Some hesitance about the unfamiliar can help ensure survival, and many Americans are wholly unfamiliar with food traditions. Maybe their parents never taught them how to cook, or maybe they never observed and listened. So much packaged food and cheap food to eat out is available, that it's pretty easy for many Americans to think of 'food' as what they get in a restaurant or something pre-packaged at the grocery store with instructions on the label on how to heat it.

                        A lot of people in America today grew up in the era when all milk they saw was pasteurized, everyone had refrigerators and all canned goods were professionally canned - not home canned, when product-creation dates or expiration dates were stamped on everything, when food that didn't come from restaurants came from bright, sanitized supermarkets, etc.

                        And every so often health authorities come along with a new edict... no butter it's bad for you, use margarine instead. Followed by, years later, oops - margarine is bad for you. There's a lot of food safety protocol that trickles down or is mandated - don't undercook meat or eggs, watch out for raw chicken, watch out for saturated fats, watch out for trans-fats. Etc. etc.

                        So no wonder.

                        Some American families do have rich traditions in foods, so they and perhaps people elsewhere who grew up with a more hands-on understanding of food safety issues are better - through experience - at telling how long to leave something out under what conditions, etc.

                        But things like how long eggs really last, refrigerated or unrefrigerated, are not things that come naturally to many Americans. I'm fine pushing the envelope with uncracked eggs, butter on a cool counter or very fresh, high quality rare beef. But on some other things, if I don't really have a sense of how safe it would be to consume and my nose isn't giving me any indications, I'll pass on consuming it based on recommendations.

                        Rice out most of the day, I'm fine with. Maybe the next morning - any longer and it kind of seems to me to lose its goodness.

                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Mine is not an American fear (I'm not American). I agree with leaving it out for a day or so, but three days as the OP said is asking for trouble. Maybe I was being overdramatic, as I buy the sticky rice filled with banana in Asian shops all the time with no ill-effects, but that is because it's fresh. I also keep my butter out because I prefer it that way. But I have personally seen (and smelled) rice that I left out and forgot about before, and it's putrid after a couple of days. I think sticky rice must have a different chemical balance (less moisture?) which is why it keeps longer. Also, it doesn't go bad in Asian households because it would always be eaten before it has the chance.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Rice isn't just left out in the Philippines & Indonesia. It's left out at my mother's house to no ill effects.

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            I think also the rate at which it can deteriorate depends on whether there's any residual water in the bottom of the pan, the temperature, and of course whether there were any harmful spores on the batch to begin with.

                            1. re: berbadeerface

                              I don't think the temp and humidity anywhere in the states is as high as certain places in SE Asia and they don't seem to have much of an issue with leaving rice out. I'm not advocating leaving rice out I just don't think it's a big deal.

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                As you may have seen from other posts, that's because it's typically eaten quickly, before it has a chance to spoil. Also, I'm talking about residual cooking liquid in the pan rather than humidity in the air. But the more I think about it, I do think that sticky rice is less prone. Having worked in kitchens all my adult life though, I have seen quickly rotting rice and trust me, you don't want to. You can literally see it moving :)

                                Yeah, you're probably not going to have any problems in a day or so, but I promise if you leave boiled rice out on the counter for 3 days and then check it out, you will be quite put off.

                                1. re: berbadeerface

                                  I have seen rice on the counter for 3 days but only in low humidity conditions and it was still edible. But yes, you are right, the wetter the rice and atmospheric conditions the quicker the rice will spoil. My point is mostly that there are many people that leave rice out and it hasn't killed them. I do not condone leaving rice out for more then a few hours in commercial settings.

                            2. re: KTinNYC

                              I know I'm a food safety nut - but here, there's little reason to leave it out if you have refrigerator space. Also, it freezes beautifully. I cook a batch in my rice cooker and freeze it all the time, in serving portions. So, so easy and it tastes great!

                              1. re: bayoucook

                                I don't know about you, but I'm sure it is warm bayou. Me is was 87 the other day, I don't like the house cold not under 80 so not much air. Leaving food out just doesn't work. I agree. When leftovers I free in baggies. If I make a chicken dish, take out a baggie. add some flavoring and put on the plate. Grill the chicken add a light sauce and a great dinner in 20 minutes. So easy.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  I know. It makes it so easy to get food on the table, or for adding rice to soup or other recipes. I always make 6 or 7 cups at a time, for that reason.
                                  We had a "cold" front here! Got to 52 overnight and only 80 today!! Before that, it was sweltering here and it's not yet June.

                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                    I am probably over cautious, but I always refrigerate, just habit. I may not be right but I just feel better.

                                    And saw your post below. Yeah, what is the big deal about putting it in the fridge or leaving the roaches have fun over night, lol. Just kidding but yes, after reading that article, I will use the fridge for sure.

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      About 15 or so years ago, you had to have a certification in Food Safety and Handling to be in f&b management here on the coast. I was always careful with food, but after those classes, I was JUSTIFIED! They explained the why and where-fores and offered examples (yuck). I try to take care of myself and not get sick if I can help it - food safety is a part of that, too. Glad you're going to chill your rice, Kim! -Paula

                                      1. re: bayoucook

                                        Ditto P, I just use the fridge, I had friends over last week and we sat out for a couple of hours on the porch. I hated letting my chicken sit out that long. I had a cream sauce so I wanted it in the fridge. Seen too many horror stories so I just am careful. I'm there with you. I had to go through classes too. You learn more than you want, but it definitely makes you think. Chill away girl!!

                            3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              You guys are giving examples of where rice is eaten over the course of about 24 hours. OP's query was about "DAYS." Big difference.

                              1. re: Pata_Negra

                                Thanks! I posted a similar one up above...

                                1. re: SQHD

                                  Thanks for the backup - don't know why anyone would ignore this - we all have electric refrigerators, right? Why take chances?

                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                    Lao sticky rice, musubi, and sushi rice don't keep well in the ref. Lao sticky rice goes inedible very quickly.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      No one is arguing the fact that rice doesn't get hard or "do well" in the fridge. If you want 2 day old room temperature rice so bad that you are willing to get sick over it, no one will stop you.

                                      The question was essentially can you leave rice out without food safety concerns. The answer is no.

                                      1. re: SQHD

                                        And, while I've read this here time and time again, and do not dismiss the concerns, I still do it.

                                        1. re: SQHD

                                          I understand what you're saying; and I wouldn't leave rice out for three days either. I would leave rice out that was cooked today for consumption today and tomorrow. Rice in the houses of rice eating peoples does not stay around for three days.The billion or so rice eaters - and the many who came before us - have always left out rice for reasonable periods to no ill effect. Just once in 59 years (that includes being a rice scientist as an adult) have I seen cooked rice go bad. it was pinkish (NOT a good sign), clearly smelled off, and was obviously tossed.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Yes, when I see that pink tinge, I throw it out as well. I just hate what happens to rice after it's been in the fridge, and often keep leftover risotto out to make it into little patties the next day.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Yeah, rice in fridge is as bad as tomatoes in fridge.

                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              Now I'm a firm believer of "don't believe everything you read on the internet but how do you explain the following quote from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority. Frankly, I trust New Zealand before I trust USDA...

                                              "There is no way of telling that cooked rice is contaminated. Cooked rice that contains toxin produced by Bacillus cereus will not look, taste or smell off or any different to normal rice.."

                                              I was a likely victim of this kind of food poisoning at a restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. It was a low-end Indian restaurant and the dish was biryani - a stereotypical Indian dish of course. The symptoms were nothing out of this world; I was vomiting once or twice and was actually nearly fine by the morning which coincides exactly with the N.Z. descriptions in the link I posted above. If something gets to the point where it visibly turns color, it is far, far, far, far gone.

                                              The real question here is risk versus reward and/or laziness. The risk is you could get sick. You're gonna bo OK but who wants to throw up and feel bad for 12+ hours? The reward would be non-refrigerated rice. I can understand someone leaving rice out for an afternoon - I'm not that severe of a safety nazi - but there are people here talking 3 to 5 days. Can you really not ration out your rice and cook a fresh pot in the event you eat it everyday? Hence, the laziness comment.

                                              1. re: SQHD

                                                You perhaps do not understand many rice eating cultures. In some languages the "Hello, how are you?" is expressed as, "Hello have you eaten?" or "Hello have you eaten rice?". Almost universally we cook rice based on everyone having enough. It is better to have left overs for the next day than to not have enough. Many Asians of my generation still eat little meat, lots of vegetables, and lots of plain steamed rice. The rice generally gets eaten the next day (not 3 -5 days). And, actually, I do refrigerate long grain Indica rices - these are cheap and don't change much in the ref. But when I cook Japonicas (Japanese rices from California or sticky rice from Laos of NE Thailand), there is absolutely no way I'm going to refrigerate and ruin them. Too expensive and I'll eat the rest the next day.

                                                And, of course, short courses meant to scare the sh*t out of people do just that. But work as I have as a scientist over the very long run gives you respect but little alarm for most day to day situations and potential dangers.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  Leaving rice out for 1 day at normal room temp is not be a problem. Mom used to do this all the time. also agree that in most rice-eating households, it does not stick around long enough to go bad. Now, I don't eat rice daily like I did growing up when mom cooked. I also live in So Cal in a terribly insulated house so I refrigerate it as a matter of course.

                                                  I'd be willing to bet that if we were to take a poll of yeas vs. nays for leaving rice out, the result would be most asians for yeas, non-asians for nays. But absolutely nay for more than 1 day unless the room is kept really cold.

                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                EXACTLY, which was the original question!! Sheesh!

                                      2. On the other hand, the vinegared sushi rice is supposed to be fine outside the fridge for longer than plain rice, and it tends to get hard in the fridge, without an easy way to recover because you usually don't reheat sushi rice.

                                        1. what sushi chef leaves rice out for three days?

                                          1. Dunno about sushi rice in particular, but regular Chinese rice, I have no problems leaving out.

                                            2-3 days, southern California, middle of February, no ill-effects. Do it all the time.

                                            Refrigerated rice just doesn't have the same texture.

                                            1. There are several variables. For those who have a rice cooker, if it is on the warm setting you can leave it for quite a while. friend has kept is for like 5 days, even for me that's pushing things - but none of us got sick, we didn't know how long it had been in the pot when we sat down to eat. The texture was kind of odd, but it wasn't spoiled. Depending on the ambient temperature I would not want to push it past a a day or so here in Honolulu, maybe a day longer that in a cooler, drier climate.

                                              1. I have always cooked enough rice for a couple of days. I leave it out because refrigeration ruins it. After the second day, if my daughter doesn't fry the leftovers, we toss it. This has been our practice for thirty years. Growing up in Manila, I also recall the rice being left out overnight (covered) so it was ready for frying for breakfast. Never had problems.

                                                1. So most of us agree that in most cases leaving it out for 24-36 hours should not be a problem. 48 hours and beyond is not recommended. Freezing appears to be better than refrigerating, unless you are gonna make fried rice with it.

                                                  1. I'll often cook rice for the evening and leave a morning's portion out in the rice cooker, or vice-versa. Any bit beyond that and I'll throw it out. Of course the ideal is to make only what you can consume in a single sitting, as even with the techniques below the saved rice never is as good as the just steamed rice...

                                                    Some tips I've found helps quite a bit when doing this:

                                                    * Ignore the keep warm settings of rice cookers. Let the rice cooker cool to room temp to hold the rice for the next half-day. To me the keep warm feature accelerates the aesthetic deterioration of the rice. Even if I will be consuming the rice in a single sitting I'll limit the amount of time that it's on the keep warm setting.

                                                    * After turning off the rice cooker wipe the inside top lid to prevent excess moisture from dripping back down on to the cooked rice.

                                                    * When cooking the rice rinse the rice multiple times until the water runs absolutely clear, and then some. I've found that this slows the aesthetic deterioration of the rice.

                                                    1. To all of you who dont refrigerate your rice because it gets hard when cold, don't you reheat it? I find that reheating over low heat with a little water works just fine (or in a microwave if you have one). Do you still find a difference in the texture of the reheated rice? Maybe the subtleties of rice are lost on this farang.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: babette feasts

                                                        Yes, one can store and re-heat Indica rices (of the sort most common in Bhutan). Japonicas, however, really do harden and dry out in a way that is difficult to restore.

                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Sam, I hope never to set foot in Bhutan again. Which family do basmati and jasmine fall into? Those are usually what I buy when in the US.

                                                          But like I said, I'm just a white chick : )

                                                          1. re: babette feasts

                                                            Basmati and Jasmine are aromatic Indicas.

                                                            email about Bhutan.

                                                      2. The real question is why would anyone make so much rice that it lasts for three days? Even if it's not a health risk...it can't be that good...

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: AngelSanctuary

                                                          See Sam's post from May 19. It is always better to have rice ready to serve to drop-in guests or family. It would be the same with bread. It would be better to have some on hand. Fresh baked bread would be preferable to serve but it would be impractical to make for each meal.

                                                          1. re: fresnohotspot

                                                            for THREE DAYS?! It takes like thirty minutes to cook...well sushi rice does take longer what with the vinegar and the getting it to the right temperature. But I would assume you can do that in the morning =/.

                                                            1. re: fresnohotspot

                                                              Isn't that why rice cookers have a keep warm setting? Is there some point after which keeping @ room temp is preferable to keeping warm?

                                                              1. re: babette feasts

                                                                I'm not a fan of the "keep warm" setting on rice cookers. Please see my post above for further thoughts on the matter...

                                                          2. I've been lurking and I signed up just to add my 2 cents :) Sushi rice will keep longer because the vinegar in it has antibacterial properties. That's probably what the sushi chef was talking about. I'd guess he's probably right but three days seems like a stretch, I'd be ok with two.

                                                            What I really wanted to add was my suggestion for leftover rice (I'm used to shorter grain, stickier, japanese rice for everyday). Wrap up individual portions while the rice is still warm, let cool, and freeze. Reheat in the microwave. The rice comes out a lot better than if it were refrigerated. Also, the condensation from the warm rice in the packet will help keep the rice from drying out. HTH!

                                                            1. I think virtually all food safety concerns apply only to the elderly, babies, and the weak. Specifically, I've eaten rice that's sat out all my life--even to the point where there was a noticeable change in taste--to no ill effect.

                                                              1. There are clearly risks of food poisoning from rice, in particular from B. cereus.

                                                                That said, I've been eating rice left out in the rice cooker for several days for the past 20+ years.
                                                                I've never experienced a case of food poisoning after any home-cooked meal that was severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.

                                                                (As far as I know, I've never had any case of food poisoning from something prepared at home. However, It is certainly possible that one of the occasional mild cases of 'upset bowels,' shall we say, that I've had over the years was in fact due to food poisoning from home-cooked rice, but it's been a risk I have been and continue to be willing to take.)

                                                                I never serve leftover rice to guests. If I'm cooking for guests, a fresh batch is mandatory.

                                                                I routinely leave the rice in the cooker for up to 3 days. If I think I won't be able to finish it all within 3 days of originally cooking it, I put it in the refrigerator.
                                                                After about 3 days at room temp, it is likely to start growing mold, and some areas may begin to ferment (with unpleasant odors) while other areas become to dry and hard.

                                                                Rice that has been refrigerated never tastes as good as rice left at room temperature. It becomes very dry and gritty, even with adding water before re-cooking/microwaving, and it loses its aroma and flavors.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: racer x

                                                                  Ambient temperature will determine how long I leave rice out. Longer in the winter, 1 day max in the summer. You want to eat the leftover rice, not see it spoil.