I Learned You Can Freeze Cooked Rice, and It's Saved Me So Much Time
I’m too tired. I don’t want to cook. Let’s just order something. Let’s go out.
Not one of those phrases ever passes my lips. I’m serious. I love to cook. And even after a very long day, I do not find the idea of cooking a full meal daunting. But I do understand that not everyone feels that way. And, I admit that not having a large family to feed probably gives me more energy and freedom.
I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to convince people to do more “real” cooking during the week. But I don’t want to suggest to folks that they rely too heavily on shortcuts that won’t yield satisfying results. I feel that shortcuts, all to often, result in shortchanging both the diner and the dinner.
That said, I made a miraculous discovery during a stay in Idaho one summer. A great grocery store out in Boise (which, by the way is Boy-see not Boy-zee) had the most extensive bulk section I’d ever seen. I started buying small amounts of all sorts of grains and beans and various other pulses. I would make a few batches and use them for salads and bowls all week.
I was eating really well and healthily, and loving it. And boy, was it inexpensive.
One week, I had unexpected guests who took me out to dinner a few times. And I realized my stash of cooked grains would go to waste. I decided to try an experiment and I froze them. What did I have to lose!
When I defrosted them a few days later, you could have knocked me over with a feather. They were perfect. Almost as if I’d just made them. This, of course, sent me down a rabbit hole of research and experimentation. Big batches, small batches, fully cooked, partially cooked, very dry, very wet, a bit damp, huge batches, divided—I tried freezing them every which way so I could thaw them at different times, and see what variables caused any problems or differences. I was amazed (and thrilled) to see that they all worked fine. But I was happiest with batches that I had cooked the way I normally do. And to the doneness I usually preferred.
Because they were grains etc., I could make rather flat packages in zipper-style freezer bags for easy stacking. And I could essentially break off a frozen chunk the size I needed without defrosting the rest.
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If I wanted a grain bowl, all I had to do was thaw and add vegetables, vinaigrette, and (if desired), some cooked chicken or other protein. I could even forgo that part and thaw some of my cooked beans.
If I wanted a side starch, all I had to do was thaw and heat.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was life changing, albeit in a small way. Now, if I come home and want a meal that includes rice, or beans, or lentils, it’s moments away. Thaw on the counter. Thaw in the microwave. Brown the beef, or saute the chicken or shrimp, sizzle the sausage, stir-fry the...stir fry! Add a handful of chopped herbs and greens. Toss in tomato chunks. Or roasted green beans. Saute some mushrooms. Virtually nothing is off limits when you have such a convenient, ready-to-go base for your meal.
Yes, you’ll need to set aside a little time to cook a few batches in advance. But that time is virtually hands off. And you’ll need some room in the freezer. But again, not too much because these can be almost flat packages. Carve out a little time on a Sunday for this process and you’ll thank yourself for weeks to come.
Just remember to date and label your packages. Don’t skip this step. There are few things worse in the kitchen than mystery packages that somehow disappear into the depths of the freezer only to emerge years later, their identity a secret they refuse to divulge.