Instant Rice: How Does It Work?

Contrary to what we might think, instant rice is not some miracle bestowed upon us by the gods of grains. Yes, it does make our life significantly easier. And yes, it does allow us to get dinner ready in the blink of an eye. But even though it performs quasi miracles in our everyday lives, it itself is simply the result of a little food technology and a man named Ataullah Durrani.

The Beginnings
Durrani, an Afghan living in New York, was the cousin of the Afgan King. He moved to the U.S. to study engineering and pursue a research career in petroleum. Unable to get work, he found himself researching rice. At that time, rice was not a big part of the American diet because it was difficult to store and prepare. After much experimentation, and with some help from the Arkansas Rice Growers’ Cooperative Association, he was able to develop the instant rice product that we know today. He demonstrated his success to General Foods in the 1940s, who purchased his patent and began producing his product. At first, all instant rice went to the armed forces, but as early as 1946 they began marketing it for national distribution.

How does it work?
While most rice takes at least 20 to 50 minutes to prepare, instant rice can be ready in five minutes or less. How is this so? It's simple, really; instant rice has already been cooked. Before you bought it at the grocery store it was pre-cooked and then dehydrated. Essentially, you're just rehydrating the grain in your kitchen.

To produce instant rice it's first blanched in hot water, steamed and then rinsed. It's placed in large ovens to dehydrate the grain until the moisture content reaches about 12 percent. During this process the grain cracks and forms holes in the kernels, which allows it to rehydrate more quickly in the home kitchen.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Instant rice gives you the ultimate convenience, a warm meal in just minutes. But, there are some elements lost through its production. For one, cooking the rice this way drains much of its nutritional value -- though, companies have tried to make up for this by enriching the grain. Another loss is in flavor; instant rice tends to be a bit more bland than other varieties. Though again, companies have found ways to increase flavor by adding salt and flavorings. Lastly, the quick cooking method can also result in a grain that's less firm.

Do you eat instant rice? Leave a comment below.

While instant rice has a valuable place in many home kitchens, it's also helpful to perfect cooking rice the old-fashion way. Watch the video below for a quick how to.