Some rice recipes (Indian cuisine or otherwise) – ask you to toast the rice before cooking it. Certain pulao recipes, risotto recipes, Mexican tomato rice, etc all require you to toast the rice in various fats – oil, butter, lard, etc and then proceed with cooking. What is the point of toasting the rice? Does it make any difference in the way the cooked rice looks or tastes at the end- shall we find out?
I am choosing to toast the rice in butter here -because it pairs really well with basmati rice (the rice I used for this experiment).
Version 1 (Control version) is rice made the traditional Indian way – by soaking the rice for 20 minutes and then pressure cooking it for 4 minutes (as listed in the Instant Pot booklet).
Version 1 (Control):
- Soak the rice for 20 minutes
- Cook it in the Instant Pot for 4 minutes, natural release
Version 2 (Toasted):
- Soak the rice for 20 minutes
- Drain, toast the rice for 2 – 2.5 minutes in 2 Tbsp butter
- Cook in the Instant Pot for 4 minutes, natural release
Here are the pictures of the process:
Soaking grains for both methods for the recommended 20 minutes.
Drain the rice…
At this point, cook the control version for 4 minutes pressure (as recommended in your rice packet).
For the toasted version, turn on Saute mode in Instant Pot and melt butter…
Toast the rice until it is golden in color (2-2.5 minutes)
Add the required water. See the butter floating on the top…
Set pressure cook time in Instant Pot (same time as control)
Allow time for natural release. Now open and compare both methods side by side:
Let’s take a closer look at the 2 results. Here’s the control version:
Here’s the toasted version:
So, how do they look, taste and feel with respect to each other? Let’s discuss…
Toasted version – looks shinier
I don’t know if the camera is picking up this difference, but there is a small visual difference in the 2 methods. The control version (v1) had a ‘Matte’ finish kind of appearance, while the toasted version (v2) looked ‘Shiny’. I think the shine probably comes from the glossiness of the hot butter.
Toasted version -Grains separated easily
With the toasted version, the grain separated easily from one another. Being Basmati, the grains are not that sticky by nature anyways.
Yet the toasted version’s grains could be easily separated without much effort at all compared to the control version. For the control version, I had to use a fork to fluff it (which is fairly normal, most recipes ask you to do that).
Toasted version – was less tasty
While I agree that my sample size was only 2 people 🙂 – however, when both my husband and my younger daughter (who according to me is a super-taster) blind-tasted the 2 versions, both loved the control version better. Both of them loved the chewiness and I guess the ‘natural taste’ of the plain cooked grain.
Toasted version – well-moisturized (day 1), got more dry when refrigerated
You know, how after keeping rice open for a while, the top layer kind of starts to dry out….That did not happen with the toasted version. Coating the grain with fat, kept it well-moisturized (kind of like our skin – is how I think of it) for a few hours.
But here’s the weird part. If you store the rice in the refrigerator, however, it gets quite dried out compared to the normal rice. I guess that’s why most take-out rice from restaurants become hard and unappealing after 1 night in the refrigerator.
Here’s a picture of normal rice the next day after refrigeration:
The above rice is softer and more hydrated.
Here’s a picture of butter toasted rice the next day after refrigeration:
It felt a lot more hard and brittle compared to normally cooked rice.-
However, I do have a way to freshen your grain if that happens. Just soak the dried-out rice in water for an hour or so. See how the butter floats to the top.
Drain out the water. Then just steam it for 10 minutes. Soft and fluffy grains again!!
If you compare my rice experiment results with what Kenji Lopez found in his book The Food Lab, it all adds up. Here’s what he wrote: “Toasted rice produces a risotto that is noticeably less creamy than one made with untoasted rice.” His theory was that the starch breaks down under high heat and the toasting process ends with less starch.
So, if you want a cohesive rice dish like – kichdi or bisibelebath or pongal – then don’t toast the rice. You want the starch, the creaminess, the softness. But if you are looking to serve guests rice in a buffett-style party with a dish like Jeera rice that will be kept open for a few hours, then go ahead and toast it. Hope that makes sense.
I hope you found this experiment in “To toast or not toast the rice is the question” useful. Please post your thoughts and comments below. I look forward to reading them.
Amazon Affiliate Link
Super interesting read for all food nerds (like me) out there: The Food Lab