For simple cleaning? Yes, but that’s only part of the answer.

By Chris Malloy
Updated April 10, 2020

You’ll want to run water over many pot-bound pantry staples before cooking them, like dry legumes, amaranth, and quinoa. Rice is another food that often gets a rinse. Does it need one? No. But should you do one anyway? Absolutely.

“Rinsing” is a bit misleading. In the context of rice, rinsing means exposing grains to water until that water runs clear, a task that requires more of a thorough washing. At first, the tap water will appear cloudy. But soon, that water will lose its milky tint and turn clear as a windowpane. When it does, you’re done rinsing.

There are a few reasons to rinse rice. The first might be the most obvious: for cleaning. Rice goes through many steps in its journey from paddy to pot. Over time, it’s likely to pick up some dirt and dust. So let your tap water clean your rice, washing away all but the grains.

A second reason to rinse rice stems from the nature of bagged rice. It’s slightly dehydrated. Rinsing kick-starts the process of rehydration, allowing grains to start absorbing water, steadily plumping up some.

The third reason to rinse rise is probably the most unexpected, yet maybe the most important. As rice goes through processing and shipping, a starchy residue comes to coat the exterior of each grain. This fine coating consists of very tiny powdery bits of other rice, exteriors slightly ground to pieces as the grains jostle in the bag. When you cook rice with this residue intact, rice gains a slightly gooey texture. It develops a sticky weight that isn’t ideal.

Rinsing rice washes this residue away. For this reason, giving rice a quick-but-careful rinsing can improve your final product in a way that isn’t huge but isn’t small either. By rinsing, you can be sure that this slightly gloppy never develops.

So what’s the best approach to rinsing rice?

The process is pretty straightforward—no guesswork needed. There are many ways to rinse rice. Here, we recommend two.

Strainer Method: The first is to use a strainer with a fine metal mesh (one big enough for your rice). Run water (warm or cold) over the rice until it runs clear. If it’s hard to gauge clarity in water running through the mesh, catch some in a clear glass. You’ll be able to look into the glass and see.

Bowl Method: The second way to rinse rice is to put it in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Then put in your hand. Agitate the rice, turning your fingers through, giving the grains a good swirl. You’ll see the water cloud. Dump that water. Add new water. Repeat until your rice is clean.

Both methods work, but I prefer the second. Using your hand to agitate the rice creates a tactile, sensory experience. Also, you seem to be able to use less water, as you aren’t continually letting water pour from the tap until your rice is fully rinsed.

Once you’ve rinsed, cook. The ratio of rice to water varies, but usually hovers around 1.5 cups of rice for every cup of water.

Bottom line: rinsing requires almost zero effort and can improve your rice noticeably. It’s the kind of small, non-obvious kitchen step that, worked into your routine together over time with other similar steps, can greatly enhance your cooking. (And we're here for that.)