How to: Freeze Rice

Rice is a poor man’s best friend. It’s inexpensive, filling, a blank slate for flavor, and can be added to almost any meal to bulk it out. But guess what? When I come home after a long day at work and I’m hungry, like now, I don’t always want to take the time to make rice.

That’s where a having a freezer stash of cooked rice comes in handy. Frozen cooked rice reheats quickly in the microwave and makes getting dinner on the table (or just into your belly) twice as fast. Plus, if you live alone and often want just one serving of rice at a time, this trick solves that problem. Use your frozen rice for a quick stir fry or fried rice, to soak up the sauce from a yummy stew, or as a bed for some beans, salsa, and cheese. The possibilities for fast meals are endless.

There isn’t much to freezing rice, so this is more of a “Why to: Freeze Rice” rather than “How to: Freeze Rice,” but, you know, consistency. I’m also going to provide some resources below for help with cooking rice for those who haven’t mastered it yet (and you definitely should master it at some point).

So, let’s go.

How to: Freeze Rice

Freeze Rice 

Step 1: Cook lots of rice.

The next time you cook rice for a recipe, cook double with the intent of freezing half. Or, cook a big pot on the weekend and freeze it for use later in the week (or weeks to come).

Step 2: Cool that rice.

It’s important to let the rice cool completely in the refrigerator before freezing. This will help keep the granules separate instead of in one big, sticky clump. I usually put the rice in a container and refrigerate over night, and then divide and freeze the next day.

Step 3: Divide and freeze.

It’s a good idea to freeze the rice in portions that you would normally use for one or two meals. I freeze my rice in two cup portions, which will supply me with two meals worth of rice. If you have a family of four, you may consider freezing in 4-6 cup portions, so that you can just thaw the amount needed for one dinner.

I like to freeze in quart sized freezer bags, and gallon sized for larger portions. I find that their minimal shape helps me fit more in the freezer. Resealable plastic containers (like this) are also great because they’re reusable and many are BPA free.

Step 4: Reheat that rice.

To reheat the rice, I simply tear away the freezer bag and dump the rice in a bowl, or open up the resealable plastic container and microwave until it’s heated through. I like to place a lid loosely over top of whatever container I’m using while reheating to help keep moisture in. And, as always with microwaving, it’s a good idea to stir a couple times in the middle of reheating to make sure everything heats evenly.

I know some people don’t like to use microwaves, but I haven’t experimented with other methods of reheating frozen rice yet. If you routinely freeze and reheat your rice using another method, please share with the rest of us in the comments below!

Help with Cooking Rice

I thought about doing a step by step rice cooking tutorial, but so many others have already done so and done such a good job of it. There are two main methods of cooking rice on a stove top. The immersion method (let the water boil before adding the rice) and the steaming method (add rice and water to pot, then bring to a boil). I prefer the steam method, but they both work great.

I’ve found that the single most important factor when cooking rice is using a good pot with a thick bottom. When I use my thinner pots it sticks or burns to the bottom every time. When I use my heavy pots I get perfect, fluffy rice. The thicker pots distribute the heat better and will simply give you better results. I’ve had a set like this for the past ten years, and they’re fantastic.

Rice Cookers

And, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a rice cooker. They make perfect rice every time, aren’t very expensive, and you’ll definitely get a lot of use out of it! So, if you haven’t been able to master cooking rice on the stove, give some thought to investing in a rice cooker. Check out how inexpensive these small, medium, and extra large rice cookers are!

Plus, according to thekitchn.com, you can do a LOT more than just cook rice in one of those things… Sounds like a small apartment dweller’s best friend!

So there you have it! Rice! What’s not to love! :D

P.S. I wasn’t paid to promote any of those products. Those are my honest recommendations. 

 

63 Comments

  1. betsy says:

    I reheat rice in a double boiler. Many people don’t have them, but it’s a saucepan with another pan that fits on top of it, with one lid. You put water in the bottom pan, not so much that it touches the pan on top (the idea behind a double boiler is that the steam from the bottom pan provides the heat, which is hotter than boiling water, so it works faster), put the rice in the top pan, and cover it. Turn on the heat. When the water boils, turn it down to a simmer and stir the rice now and then. As long as the water doesn’t boil away, it can sit there, hot, for awhile and won’t burn.

  2. Can you put a recipe like a casserole with rice into the freezer before it is cooked?

    • That I’m not sure about. It seems like cooking a dish like that from frozen would lead to uneven cooking. Rice is best frozen after cooking.

  3. Tiffany says:

    When reheating rice from frozen in the microwave, does it stay light and fluffy, or does it get kind of hard? Sometimes I find that i have to add a little bit of water to my cold rice to avoid it getting crunchy.

    • Mine doesn’t get hard, but I suppose my rice tends to be on the wet side when cooked in the first place. Also, make sure it’s sealed tight when in the fridge so it doesn’t dry out further.

  4. Joel says:

    I don’t use a microwave because I don’t have room and in 99% of all cases I don’t miss the convenience when countered with more superb methods of reheating.

    With that, I would reheat the frozen rice in a couple of methods. If I simply wanted to add rice to what I wanted to eat, I would simply add the frozen rice to whatever I was cooking at the moment. Otherwise, I would add a but of water/stock to a pan, add the rice, stir, cover and simmer on low for a bit. About 4 to 8 minutes depending on volume.

    Full disclosure, I’ve never done any of the above, but based on my years of living without a microwave and consistently reheating food without one, that’s where I would start

    • Matthew says:

      “[A]dd a bit of water/stock to a pan, add the rice, stir, cover and simmer on low for a bit. About 4 to 8 minutes depending on volume.”

      Given that rice takes about ten minutes to cook normally, what would be the point?

  5. look up hotlogic smart ovens… they heat up until your food hits the proper temp and shuts off… when it falls below, the hot plate turns back on… we have them at work and i don’t worry about dried out food…

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Gosh, I just googled “can rice be frozen?” and was linked to this site. What a wonderful array of helpful information!! I’ve read every word of every comment on this topic and just want to say thank you.

    • Cathy says:

      @Elizabeth – I just did the same thing! Lots of good info in the comments section. I like the idea of spreading the rice out on a baking tray, freezing, then putting into a bag or container. I do this with partially cooked potatoes and berries.
      I also make small burritos with leftover beans/rice/meat/cheese/whatever you have on hand. I warm the tortillas, roll up the burrito, cool them down and then put in a freezer bag or other container. Pull one out when needed, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave for a minute, flip, microwave 1 more minute.

  7. Shari says:

    Another thing: The best way to cook brown rice is in the microwave. I use 1 cup rice and 2 1/3 cups liquid. Put in 2-quart glass or plastic bowl with whatever seasonings you like. Start on high power for 5 minutes. Decrease to 50% power and cook 20 minutes or until done, adding 5-minute increments as needed at 50% power.

  8. Shari says:

    I differ on how to cook rice on the stove. For as long as I can remember my mom has used a 10″ or 12″ straight sided skillet with a lid, and she uses what’s called the pilaf method. Heat a couple teaspoons oil in the pan, add the rice, and toss to coat for 1-2 minutes until it smells nutty. Then add the liquid and cook until done. I’ve never had a problem with it this way.

  9. Ciara says:

    Re cooling rice quickly for freezing, when it’s cooked transfer it to a sieve ( do this over the sink if there’s still water in the pot). Rinse the rice under cold water – cools instantly and is fridge / freezer-ready much sooner.

  10. Hana says:

    What about freezing creamed rice? I use this really healthy creamed rice recipe, so I cook a medium pot and eat it over the next few days. But, I’d find it less time consuming if I could cook a big batch and freeze it, but how well would that work?

    • Hmm. I’ve not sure because I’ve never made creamed rice before. :) Next time you make a pot, try freezing one portion and see how it works out.

    • Dr. Oz recommended, for bacterial safety, never leave rice in the fridge more than one day. Be careful, and good luck!

  11. Melissa S. says:

    I freeze rice sometimes, I usually use the microwave to reheat, but I’ve also put it in a skillet depending on what else I’m making.

  12. Shawn Marie Rivera says:

    When you cook rice (white or brown) do you cook it plain, freeze it, reheat, then season it, or do you season it while it’s cooking. We eat a lot of rice in our family and we like to mix it up with different flavor rice we like.

    • You can do it either way :) I like to freeze it plain so that I can use it in a number of different dishes with different flavors. It’s like a blank canvas!

  13. Beth Cooper says:

    I let mine thaw over night and then put it in a baking dish covered with a lid on 350 while I get the other stuff ready. The top might be a little dry but once I stir it, it’s okay!

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