Cooking Whole Grains

Published May 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

Grains can be used as an alternative to rice or pasta in a number of applications. Here's everything you need to know about cooking them.

Whole grains can be used as an alternative to rice or pasta in salads, stuffings, and casseroles; added to soups; or prepared pilaf-style as a side dish. The following chart contains all you need to know to cook commonly available varieties. (Note: Rinse and drain grains before cooking. The grains will roughly triple in volume once cooked. The recipes can be scaled up by increasing the amounts of oil, grain, water, and salt proportionally. Cooking times will remain the same.)

Pilaf-Style: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in grain and toast until lightly golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and continue to simmer until grains are tender and have absorbed all water, following cooking times below. Remove from heat, let sit for 10 minutes, and fluff with fork before serving.

Boiled: Bring water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Stir in grain and ½ teaspoon salt. Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, following cooking times below. Drain.

COOKING TECHNIQUEGRAIN (1 cup)FLAVORWATER (cups)COOKING TIME (min.)
PILAF-STYLE Bulgur (cracked wheat)* Wheaty 1 16-18
  Millet † Corny 2 1/4 25-30
  Quinoa Mild, Nutty 1 16-18
Boiled Buckwheat groats (kasha) Assertive, nutty 4 5
Bulgur (cracked wheat) Wheaty 4 5
Farro Mild, earthy 4 15-20
Pearl barley Mild, nutty 4 20-25
Rye berries Robust, nutty 4 45-50
Spelt Rich, sweet, nutty 4 45-50
Wheat berries Subtly earthy, nutty 4 60

* Do not rinse, and skip toasting step, adding grains to pot with liquid.

† Toast until grains begin to pop, about 10 minutes.

 

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