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Can You Eat Cold Rice? – Is It Safe?

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Rice is a staple in almost every kitchen around the world. It is cheap, easy to cook and can be made in large batches.

Keeping some rice in the fridge to enjoy the next day is an easy way to prepare some lunch, but is eating cold rice safe? The truth is that eating cold rice can actually lead to food poisoning. This has to do with the bacteria content that can grow on rice once it has been cooked. However, it can be safe to eat cold rice, as long as it has been handled and stored correctly.

Continue reading if you’d like to learn how to safely store and eat cold rice so that you don’t have to worry about food poisoning today, tomorrow, or any day in the foreseeable future!

The Dangers of Cold Rice

Eating cold rice, or even rice which has been reheated increases the risk of food poisoning. This food poisoning is due to Bacillus cereus, which could cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, all within 30 minutes of ingesting contaminated food.

Bacillus cereus is commonly found in soil and is able to contaminate raw rice. The bacteria forms spores on the rice, which acts as a shield to protect it from the heat of cooking.

Due to this, cold rice can still be contaminated with the food-poisoning causing bacteria, even after being cooked at very high temperatures.

When it comes to cold rice, the danger does not necessarily lie with the bacteria already present, but with how the rice has been cooled and stored.

The bacillus cereus bacteria, and other disease-causing bacteria, grow exponentially at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it comes to food, this is known as the danger zone.

This means that if you leave your rice to cook or rest at room temperature, the spores will germinate quickly and multiply, increasing the chances of you becoming sick once you have eaten the cold rice.

How to Safely Store and Eat Cold Rice

Cooking rice does not eliminate the Bacillus cereus spores, so you should treat rice the same way you would treat any other perishable food.

Knowing how to handle, store and prepare cold rice is the best way to prevent any sickness that could be caused by the bacteria.

Here are some tips on how to safely store and handle rice:

  • You should refrigerate freshly cooked rice. First, you need to cool it within one hour by dividing the rice up and placing it into shallow containers. To speed up the cooling process further, you could place the containers in a cold water bath.
  • You need to place the rice in airtight containers to be refrigerated. Do not stack the containers if there are more than one, as this will limit airflow which will prevent rapid cooling.
  • Leftover rice should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If any rice is left at room temperature for longer than this, it should be thrown away.
  • The rice should be refrigerated at a temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit to further prevent the formation of the bacteria spores.
  • Rice can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days if stored properly, but it should be thrown away if it has been in the fridge for longer than this.
  • Cold rice should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge. A container that can seal tightly is your best bet, as it will keep additional moisture out of the rice. Any additional moisture might promote bacteria growth. Refrigerating the rice does not kill off bacteria, but it only inhibits its growth.

The reason you should place the rice into smaller containers after cooking is because if placed in a larger container in a bigger portion, the rice will take longer to cool down.

The rice should be allowed to cool down before being placed into the fridge, as hot rice in the fridge will raise the internal temperature, and jeopardize the food safety of the other food which has been chilled inside the refrigerator.

When eating cold rice, you should eat it while it is still cold, instead of leaving it to reach room temperature.

Once again, leaving it to reach room temperature increases the chance of food poisoning due to bacteria growth, and the longer the rice is left to reach room temperature, the higher the chance of illness.

Can You Eat Cold Rice Which Has Been Previously Reheated?

Rice which has been cooked and stored properly in the fridge can be eaten within 4 days. Rice which has been cooked, stored in the fridge, reheated and allowed to cool again should be thrown away. The same goes for all other leftovers.

Any food which has been reheated and not eaten needs to be thrown away, no matter how quickly you get it back into the fridge.

The risk of food poisoning from eating food which has been reheated and put back into the fridge is too high and is really not worth it. 

The best way to reheat rice is in a rice cooker. Find out how to do it here.

The Benefits of Eating Cold Rice

Other than being easy to take out of the fridge and eating it straight away, and enjoying cool rice on a hot day, cold rice does have some benefits.

Cold rice has a higher resistant starch content compared to freshly cooked rice. This resistant starch contains insoluble fiber, which can be difficult for the body to digest, however, bacteria in the gut are able to ferment the resistant starch, which then acts as a prebiotic.

This helps with the functioning of two major hormones – peptide YY and glucagon, which help to influence appetite. The resistant starch in cold rice also helps the anti-diabetic and anti-obesity hormone, which works to improve insulin sensitivity and reduces abdominal fat.

If you’re looking for rice with antioxidants, you’ll want to try wild rice.

Eating cold rice can reduce the level of blood sugar after a meal, compared to eating freshly cooked, warm rice.

Meals Containing Cold Rice

Many dishes contain cold rice, such as sushi and various Indian cuisines. When eating these meals, you must ensure that the rice has been refrigerated properly, or else you can be left feeling quite unwell afterward.

Storing leftovers from sushi or other foods that contain cold rice would require the same storage and handling as plain cold rice.

It might be better to separate the cold rice from sauces or curries if possible and refrigerate it on its own or keep the whole meal together in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days (depending on the meal and the freshness).

Always treat rice, especially cold rice, as you would any other perishable food, and even more so when the cold rice is mixed in with other ingredients.

It is always better to be on the safe side, and properly store and refrigerate the rice and dispose of it within a few days.

Related Questions

Do you have to reheat rice?

It is not necessary to reheat cold rice, as long as the rice has been stored correctly in the fridge, and has not left out to reach room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

Cold rice actually provides some unique health benefits, so it may be worth it for many to skip reheating the rice altogether.

If you do choose to reheat rice that has been left in the fridge, you should discard any leftovers once you have eaten. This reheated rice should not be placed back in the fridge, as there is too high a chance of bacteria growth which could cause food poisoning.

Can I put warm rice in the fridge?

Once cooked, you should avoid putting warm or hot rice in the fridge.

This will only cause the temperature in the fridge to rise, which could put the other food in the fridge in jeopardy of spoiling. You will need to allow the rice to cool outside the fridge first, but it should not be left out at room temperature for more than an hour.

To help the rice cool quicker, you can place it into smaller bowls.

Does reheating rice kill bacteria?

The Bacillus cereus bacteria found on rice is very heat resistant, so cooking or reheating the rice will not kill the bacteria.

Refrigerating the rice also does not kill the bacteria, it just slows growth. This is why you should not leave the rice outside the fridge for long, as the bacteria can grow rapidly.

You should also not place reheated rice back in the fridge, as there would have been too much of a chance of high bacteria growth.

Eating Cold Rice

Contrary to what has been believed for quite some time, it is, in fact, fine to eat cold rice from the fridge. Eating cold rice is only fine if it has been stored correctly, and has not been allowed to reach a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit after cooking.

Cold rice might actually do some good with helping to improve your gut health, as well as lower your cholesterol levels and blood sugar, thanks to the resistant starch content.

To reduce the risk of food poisoning when eating cold rice, you should allow the cooked rice to cool for an hour before placing it within the fridge, and eat it within 4 days.

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