Boiling is Cool, But Here's Why You Should Be Frying Your Grains
Things are about to get crunchy.
Oh, you eat quinoa? You meal prep large batches of farro? You dabble in the world of wheat berries and millet? Genuinely, congrats. Grains are not only a healthy, wholesome component of a well-balanced diet, but they’re an easy, filling ingredient to incorporate into your day-to-day cooking. Like anything, they can be prepared a multitude of ways (there’s nothing wrong with a basic boil), but we like to think that one specific cooking method is particularly superior to the rest. That technique, of course, is frying.
Before you get your panties in a wad because frying a batch of these fiber-loaded gems would seemingly undo all of the healthful benefits that they have to offer, take a deep breath. By keeping the oil at a high enough temperature and frying them for a short bout, the grains don’t actually absorb much of the cooking oil. Rather, they acquire a delightfully crisp texture that makes them a wildly delicious addition to any leafy salad, snack mix, creamy soup, bowl of ice cream, pasta dish, or casserole. Any situation that needs a pop of nutty, earthy crunch is an ideal destination for these suckers. Heck, you could even hit them with a pinch of salt, and eat them straight up like the grain vacuum that you are.
So, here’s how it’s done. This technique, developed by Ann Taylor-Pittman, Executive Editor of Cooking Light and author of Everyday Whole Grains, works best with quinoa, millet, farro, brown rice, spelt, or barley. However, if you’re feeling adventurous in the bulk aisle, we’re not here to stop you. Before you fry the grains, it’s important to dry them out as much as possible so that they can get nice and crispy (without causing a chorus of potentially painful popping oil splatters) when dropped into the hot oil. To do this, line a couple sheet pans with paper towels and spread the cooked grains (yes, this trick does still require a preliminary boil on your grains) in a thin layer for 1-2 hours, stirring them occasionally.
Once dried, it’s time to get get crackling. In a large Dutch oven, bring roughly 6 cups of canola or peanut oil to 375°. Add a ½ half cup of your cooked grain of choice to the oil, and fry them until the grains are browned and crunchy, about 4-5 minutes. During this time, make sure that the temperature of the oil does not fall below 350°. To remove the fried grains from the pan, use a fine wire mesh ladle, and lay them in a single layer across paper towels to drain. Repeat this same procedure with remaining grains, 1/2 cup at a time. I would recommend frying as many batches as you possibly can so that you can keep them around for whenever you’re craving a serious crunch.
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If you’re short on time or absolutely terrified of dumping anything into hot oil (Don’t be! You can do it!), you could shortcut this method and pan-fry the pre-cooked grains in your cooking fat of choice in a large skillet or saute pan. As long as the pan is large enough that the grains can fry in a single, spread out layer, you’ll be good to go. They may not turn out as crispy as those that receive the deep-frying treatment, but they’ll certainly have more crackle and pop than a boiled grain.
Whichever frying route you choose to take, the final product will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or in the freezer for 3 to 4 months—i.e. just enough time for you to make another batch and relive the joy of crispy, satisfying munching all over again.