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How to Reheat Rice So It’s Not a Mushy Mess
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

A steaming bowl of fluffy rice is basically the Goldilocks of grains: not too crunchy and not too starchy, but just right. But what should you do when there’s a serving (or four) too many? Easy. Celebrate your success and follow these straightforward instructions for how to reheat rice (and store it) so you hit the nail on the head the second time around, too. 

How to Store Rice for Best Results 

Having ready-to-eat rice in the fridge can cut a considerable amount of time (and chaos) from your nightly cooking routine. But it’s important to take food safety into account when storing your leftovers. That’s because cooked rice absorbs the cooking liquid, leaving you with a moist grain that bacteria love. Play it safe by cooling your leftover rice promptly and storing it appropriately. Here’s how: 

1. Spread leftover rice on a baking sheet and put the pan in the fridge, uncovered, so that it cools rapidly. This should take about 20 minutes (or the time it takes you to wash the dinner dishes).

2. Once cooled, transfer the rice to an airtight storage container or a ziploc bag, and place it in the refrigerator or freezer. Grains will keep for up to four days in the fridge and three months in the freezer, per the USDA

How to Reheat Rice in the Microwave

Good news: This trusty kitchen companion does a bang-up job when it comes to reheating rice. The microwave is by far the fastest way to get leftover grains on your plate, but be sure to follow these steps so your side dish stays satisfyingly fluffy. 

1. Pick a proper, microwave-safe container: Stick with something shallow, like a plate, so the rice can spread out and breathe. This will prevent the rice from sticking together in starchy clumps.

2. Dampen a paper towel with water and gently place it on top of the rice. This will help create and trap steam so the grain stays soft. There’s no need to form a tight seal (i.e., don’t press the paper towel on the rice or you’ll end up eating a bit of both).

3. Place the loosely covered rice in the microwave and warm for two minutes, checking halfway through to see if it’s ready. If not, give the rice a stir, replace the paper towel and let it spin for another minute or until piping hot.

How to Reheat Rice on the Stove

Rice can be readily warmed on the stove, but the direct heat will result in crunchy, dried grains unless you take the proper precautions.  

1. Add two tablespoons of water to an adequately-sized skillet and turn the heat to medium. When the water starts to simmer, add the rice. Stay nearby though, because the pan will be ready within moments and the water will evaporate just as quickly.

2. Cook, stirring frequently to break up the grains. Add splashes of water (or a little butter) as needed, so the rice stays moist and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the skillet.

3. Dish up the rice after approximately five minutes, or whenever it’s nice and hot.

How to Reheat Rice in a Wok

If yesterday’s rice isn’t going to be served as a stand-alone side, save yourself a step (and a dirty dish) by using a wok to whip up a sizzling stir-fry with speed. 

1. Heat the wok over medium-high until it’s nice and hot (roughly three minutes). Add a tablespoon of oil.

2. When the oil is shimmering, it’s time to get the stir-fry going. Add veggies first and saute for two minutes. When the vegetables start to sweat, add the leftover rice and stir to combine. There’s no need to add any liquid: Broccoli, mushrooms, carrots—they all contain their own moisture, which is released during cooking to keep your grains tender.

3. Don’t stray from the stove: Woks make meals happen fast, but the cooking process requires constant stirring. While you’re busy keeping things moving, be sure to take advantage of the wok’s unique shape—relocate ingredients away from the heat to prevent further cooking. (If you like broccoli with a bite to it, for example, push your greens to the side of the wok and keep your grains in the middle.)

4. After about five minutes of vigorous stirring, the rice (and everything else) should be ready. Scoop your meal into a bowl, find a fork and enjoy.

Now that you know how to reheat rice, we recommend you cook too much on purpose—you’ll never work hard for a weeknight dinner again.

RELATED: 14 Easy Rice Recipes

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