Can You Refrigerate Rice? – The Ultimate Guide

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Despite being a staple food for most cultures and nations around the world, rice is often misunderstood and handled incorrectly. You had rice at least once the past week, right? And the week before that?

Understanding how easy rice is to cook, the mistakes usually happen right after the cooking process when rice needs to be handled in a specific way to prevent food poisoning. Yes, food poisoning from rice is possible and it is likely that it has happened to you without realizing it. 

With this said, what is the correct way to handle and store rice? More importantly, can you refrigerate rice? In fact, it is mandatory that you refrigerate or freeze cooked rice as quickly as possible after cooking. Cooked rice shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours, and it should be disposed of after this period of time. Refrigerated rice will normally keep for 4-6 days.

Here are our best tips for refrigerating rice!

Refrigerating Rice – What You Should Know

When it comes to food storage, rice is considered to be one of the foods that last long without any specific requirements. While this is true about uncooked rice (apart from brown rice) and the shelf life is what you would call indefinite, cooked rice is a completely different story. 

When it comes to cooked rice, people usually believe that it lasts much longer than it actually does. This is because rice is one of those foods that hardly show any signs of spoilage but the risk of food poisoning is very real

The truth is that you need to refrigerate the rice as soon as possible after cooking if you want it to remain safe. We will explain why in the following section.

Refrigerated rice can normally be stored for 4-6 days depending on how quickly you transferred it inside. 

According to experts, the rice shouldn’t be stored for more than a day but according to the FDA, it should be safe within 4 – 6 days as we mentioned.

We believe that everyone has stored rice in their refrigerator more than once in their lives, thus, we have all eaten safe rice after more than a couple of days. 

Nevertheless, we recommend using it as soon as possible since it does truly lose its qualities over time. 

Why Refrigerate Rice? 

Contrary to the widely popular belief that rice can be kept at room temperature for long periods of time, the reality is quite the opposite. 

Since you cook rice in water, it is an extremely moist food. If you leave it at room temperature for longer than a couple of hours, it normally becomes a breeding ground for all kinds of dangerous bacteria that could lead to serious food poisoning. 

Especially if your geographical location includes warm temperatures or you cook rice in the middle of the summer, eat it while it’s hot and put all leftovers as quickly as possible to the fridge. 

How to Store Rice in the Fridge

In this section, we’ll walk you through the steps for properly refrigerating rice and also dive into are some rules for refrigerating rice perfectly every time.

Step-by-step instructions for refrigerating rice:

  1. Wait until the rice reaches room temperature, but make sure to refrigerate it within two hours. It helps to spread the rice as thin as possible so that it cools faster.
  2. Transfer the rice to an airtight container.
  3. Store the rice in the refrigerator for 4-6 days.

And that’s it! Refrigerating rice is as easy as 3 simple steps.

Now, let’s elaborate on some of these steps so that you know why we recommend refrigerating rice this way.

1. Refrigerate rice within two hours

Ideally, you would want to refrigerate any leftover rice within the first couple of hours. However, you shouldn’t just throw it in as it is hot.

Always let it rest and cool for some time before you close it up and put it in the fridge. 

2. Store the rice in an airtight container

We highly recommend using an airtight container for your cooked rice as this is the method that increases the shelf life and protects the food the most. If it is possible, use a wider container. 

We personally love the Rubbermaid Brilliance Collection when it comes to food storage. For rice, we like these medium-sized containers that can each hold about 3 cups of rice.

If you haven’t got any spare ones available, you can use resealable plastic bags but it is much more complicated and inconvenient for later use. 

3. Spread the rice as thin as possible

Why do we recommend wider containers? Before you transfer your rice to the fridge, you need to cool it down.

Ideally, you can put it in the intended boxes as soon as you cook it.

With a wider container, you can spread it in a thinner layer which will help cool it down faster. After all, you would want to put it in the fridge as soon as possible. 

How to Tell if Rice Has Gone Bad

While most foods show clear signs of spoilage, rice does not make it as obvious which is why many people fail to realize the problem and continue eating it.

And while food poisoning with rice is rarely severe, it is still not a good idea to eat rice that has gone bad. 

  1. The Rice is Hard and Dry – The most obvious sign of bad rice is when it is no longer soft and moist. With every following day in the fridge, your rice will lose more and more of that moisture until it gets dry and crunchy. Once it reaches this state, you definitely need to throw it to the bin. Besides that, you wouldn’t want to eat it like this anyway. 
  2. The Rice Smells Bad – Despite the fact that rice hardly shows any signs of spoilage, it is possible that it develops an unpleasant sour smell which is always a clear sign that the food has gone bad. If you feel like it smells bad, dispose of it right away, do not taste is since even the smallest bite could have an unpleasant result. 
  3. The Rice Was Reheated More Than Once – Generally, you should know that food should be reheated as few times as possible. Temperature changes stimulate bacteria growth and shorten the shelf life of all foods and rice is not an exception. In fact, we recommend reheating rice not more than once in total before you dispose of it for good. If you have a large amount to use that cannot be eaten in one sitting, reheat just as much as you would need for the intended meal. 
  4. The Rice Was Left At Room Temperature For Longer Than Two Hours – As already mentioned more than once, the rice should be refrigerated as quickly as possible. If you leave it in the open for more than two hours, we recommend throwing the leftovers away instead of refrigerating them. 

Related Questions

How do you reheat cooked rice?

Whatever method you choose to reheat your cooked rice, you need to make sure that it gets piping hot before you serve it. According to experts, you want it to be at least 165F. 

As for reheating, we recommend reheating rice in a rice cooker. 

Can you eat rice cold?

There is a higher risk of food poisoning with eating rice cold rather than hot but it all depends on how well you handled it and stored it after cooking. 

In the end, it all depends on how much time your rice spends at room temperature.

For more information about eating rice cold and whether it’s safe, you can take a look at this article: Can You Eat Cold Rice? Is It Safe?

Can you freeze cooked rice?

If you realize that you cannot eat the entire cooked rice, you can safely freeze it for later to extend its shelf life. 

Before anything else, allow it to cool down but not longer than two hours, as already mentioned on several occasions. Use an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag.

While we recommend containers for refrigeration, we suggest using freezer bags for freezing rice because they take up less space. 

It might be a good idea to add an additional source of moisture if you plan to freeze it for a longer period. You can splash some olive oil or even butter.

Since your rice will continuously lose most of its water during the freezing process, the additional moisture will protect it from freezer burn. 

Make sure to take out as much air from the freezer bag before sealing it. Last but not least, try to position it flat rather than standing in the freezer. This way, it will thaw faster when you need it later. 

Generally, cooked rise lasts several months in a freezer. For the best quality, thaw and eat the rice within 6 months. However, consume it as soon as possible to prevent any risk of food poisoning or freezer burn. 

What are the symptoms of food poisoning with rice?

Eating bad rice could lead to immediate consequences and you could experience the first symptoms in less than 30 minutes. In most cases, you can expect nausea and abdominal pain, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. 

Fortunately, food poisoning from rice is rarely severe as previously mentioned and the listed symptoms should be short-lived. Contact a doctor if the problems continue for more than a day. 

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