Brown rice has been a staple food around the world for millennia, and if you look in the pantry of most home cooks, you’re bound to find a giant bag. But how long will that rice stay good for in your pantry? Can brown rice go bad, and is it worth buying the five pound sack?
Can Brown Rice Go Bad?
It will probably surprise you to learn that while most varieties of rice can be stored indefinitely, uncooked brown rice only has a shelf life of six to eight months in the pantry. This is because of the higher oil content in the bran (the outer shell), which has been polished off on white rice. Storing uncooked brown rice in the refrigerator will slightly increase the shelf life of the rice to around a year, and keeping the rice in the freezer will increase the shelf life to about a year and a half.
Cooked brown rice, like most cooked foods, has a drastically shorter shelf life, and will only last for about five days in the refrigerator, when stored in an airtight container.
Image used under Creative Commons from Rob & Dani
Signs of Spoilage
Determining whether your brown rice has gone bad can be as simple as smelling the rice. Fresh brown rice won’t have much of a smell at all, but rancid brown rice will have a strong unpleasant odor. Should you miss this key sign, and accidentally consume the rancid rice, you’re likely to experience some digestive discomfort and some pretty unpleasant tasting rice.
Another way that brown rice and other grains can spoil is with insect infestations. Insects can contaminate brown rice once the bag is opened and sitting in your pantry, and will eat the rice as well as lay their eggs. Meal moths and weevils are two of the main concerns with grains. If you see insects in your grains, this is a clear sign that they’re infested. Other signs include holes that have been bored through the grains of rice, a dusty appearance to the grains, or little eggs and larvae mixed in with the rice. At this point, the grains should not be consumed and are best suited for the compost pile.
Improperly stored brown rice that is exposed to high amounts of moisture may start to grow mold. Keeping the rice in a tightly sealed container, and in a cold environment should prevent this, but rice that has any signs of mold growth should be discarded.
Cooked rice that has gone bad will start to harden as it loses moisture, and can grow mold. If there are any signs of mold growth, the rice should not be consumed.
Tips For Storing Brown Rice
If you choose to store your brown rice in the pantry, be sure to keep the rice sealed at all times, to keep out insects and moisture.There is anecdotal evidence that keeping dried bay leaves and cloves of garlic in a sealed container of uncooked rice will keep the insects away. Another method to keep the brown rice fresh would be to store it in a tightly sealed container with an oxygen absorber (if you can find them!). This will essentially suffocate any eggs, insects or mold, and will reduce the likelihood of spoilage. This method will not prevent the oil in the rice bran from going rancid, though.
Finally, storing uncooked brown rice in the freezer should increase the shelf life for up to two years. This should also prevent any insects or mold from growing. The rice will not need to be thawed because of the incredibly low moisture content, and can simply be cooked normally, directly out of the freezer. Cooked brown rice may also be stored in the freezer in a tightly sealed container for up to six months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and heat with either butter, or a sauce to add in moisture that was lost.