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How to Cook Whole Grains

It can be easy to work more whole grains into your diet.

How to Cook Whole Grains

Are you new to cooking whole grains? Here are some quick cooking tips you can follow.

  • Brown Rice. Onecup of uncooked brown rice makes about 3 cups of cooked brown rice. Follow the directions below if you are using the stovetop, microwave, or rice cooker. For the stove top: Combine 1 cup dry rice, 2-1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 45 minutes (rice should be tender and water is absorbed). For the oven:Using boiling liquid, place ingredients in shallow pan; stir. Cover well and bake at 350ºF for 50-60 minutes. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup rice, 2 1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in a 2- to 3-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover dish and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes or until boiling. Reduce setting to MEDIUM (50% power) and cook 30 minutes more or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. For the rice cooker: Most rice cooker manufacturers recommend specific amounts of rice and water. Generally, though, use about 2 cups of water for each cup of dry rice.
  • Barley. Use about 3 cups broth or water to 1 cup of dry barley (pearled or hull-less). Cooking times may be a little longer using the hull-less barley and a little shorter if using barley grits. Stove top: Bring the barley-water mixture a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until tender (about 60 minutes).Oven: If you're baking your barley in a very liquid casserole mixture, it will take about 75 minutes to cook. (Because barley is best cooked slowly, it doesn't lend itself to cooking in the microwave.) If barley and brown rice don't appeal to you, not to worry; there are plenty of whole grains to go around. Not all are suitable for microwave cooking; sometimes it's not that convenient because you have to be in the kitchen to change the power setting throughout the cooking process, and you also need to stir midway. That said, here's how to cook some other whole grains:
  • Wild rice: Wild rice adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture to any dish. To make it, use 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of wild rice. Use a saucepan with a tight-fitting cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring at least once. Cover the saucepan; turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook about 50 minutes or until the rice kernels puff open. For the oven: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed wild rice with 2 cups water or broth in a covered 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Add more water, if necessary, and fluff with a fork. Bake 30 minutes more. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed wild rice with 3 cups of water or broth in a covered 2-quart glass casserole. Cover dish and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) for 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes; drain any excess water before using.
  • Bulgur (from hard red wheat): Use 2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry bulgur. Bring to boil in a medium saucepan, then lower heat to simmer. Cover saucepan; cook about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup bulgur with 1 3/4 cups hot water in a microwave-safe dish. Stir and cover; cook on HIGH for 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Stir again, cover the dish and let stand for 7 minutes.
  • Buckwheat groats: Roasted buckwheat groats (also called kasha) are used to make pilaf and hot cereal. According to Bobs Red Mill, you cook it by combining 1 cup groats with 2 cups of water in a large saucepan. Cook 10-12 minutes over medium heat, then let stand for 5 minutes. (To help keep the cooked groats from clumping together, you can toast the dry groats in a nonstick pan for a couple of minutes before cooking.) For the oven: The cooking directions for brown rice work with groats as well: Using boiling liquid, place ingredients in shallow pan or dish; stir. Cover well and bake at 350ºF for 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Quinoa: It's important to rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove a bitter-tasting resin on the outer hull. To cook, combine 1 cup of well-rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Amaranth grain: Combine amaranth grain and water in a nonstick saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring mixture to a boil; cover pan and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until grains absorb the water and bind together (about 25 minutes).
  • Whole Grains in a Crockpot
    Most of these whole grains will cook in liquids added to a slow cooker if it’s on for about 8 hours. Just add half a cup or more to your slow-cooker stews and soups. If you're making a casserole-type dish in the slow cooker, make sure there's enough liquid for the grain to absorb. You can also cook just the grains in the slow cooker overnight or throughout the day on the LOW setting, says Stockton, who suggests using 4 cups water per cup of whole kernel grains.

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