Can You Put Warm Rice in the Fridge?

Making a big batch of rice at the start of the week is the perfect way to plan ahead. This delicious grain can be eaten with just about any protein and vegetable. From stir-fries to curry, there are a ton of dishes in which rice is the perfect complement. When rice is first cooked, it’s pillowy and soft, but can you put this wholesome grain in the fridge while it is still warm?

It makes sense not to put hot rice in the fridge. It will elevate the fridge’s temperature and cause bacteria to grow on other foods, but is a warm recess in the fridge susceptible to bacteria?

This article will answer the most frequently asked questions about warm rice and whether it should be in the fridge.

Let’s get into it.

What’s the problem with placing warm rice in the fridge?

Your ice has been boiling away for almost 20 minutes and absorbed much of the water it’s been cooking in. Hence the boiled rice is boiling hot.

Leaving rice on the side to cool is generally an acceptable thing to do. It is hot, so it should keep bacteria away. In the fridge, it would cause a deluge of condensation from the amount of billowing stems coming off the rice.

But warm rice still retains a lot of heat, so placing even warm rice in a fridge could become problematic and cause meats stored in the fridge to accelerate the bacteria growth that is almost dormant in the fridge.

How soon after cooking rice can you put it in the fridge?

You will need to master this balancing trick to prevent nasty bacteria from growing in your cooked rice.

After cooking your rice, it needs to have a temperature of 140℉ or above to keep bacteria from forming on the rice. This will mean covering the rice to ensure it remains warm.

In accordance with USDA guidelines, cooked foods can’t be left out on a countertop at room temperature for more than two hours. This applies to all foods. At two hours, the proliferation of bacteria can be so significant the food is rendered unfit to eat and should be placed in the garbage bin.

So there are two possible answers to the question. First, you can place cooked rice in the fridge when the temperature is 140℉. Second, you can place cooked rice in the fridge if it has not been on a countertop at room temperature for more than two hours.

Why can’t you put hot rice in the fridge?

The main reason you can’t or should not put hot rice in the fridge is that it will elevate the internal compartment temperature of the fridge. If you have cooked meats in your fridge, say chicken, beef or pork, and maybe shrimp, the elevation of the temperature inside the fridge will cause bacteria to grow on your cooked meats and fish. So, what is the big deal?

According to the FDA, your fridge temperature should be maintained at 40℉. A higher temperature will cause bacteria to proliferate on foods in the fridge.

Plus, your rice is only cooling slowly, so there is no real advantage.

What is the fastest way to cool down rice?

You can use some techniques to cool down freshly cooked rice to a temperature more suitable for the fridge without the rice sitting for a couple of hours.

Try these culinary tips:

  • Only cook rice that is needed for the meal. It solves the problem straight away, rice cooks quickly, and the preparation time is minimal to wash rice and place it in a pot or rice cooker.
  • Rinse your cooked rice in cold water. Assuming the rice has reached the desired texture and bite, then you can place it in cold water with ice. This will stop the cooking process and chill the rice immediately for refrigeration.
  • Drain the rice and spread it on a clean, shallow tray. This increases the surface area of the rice to allow the residual heat to dissipate faster.

You should not allow the rice to cool in a rice cooker or cooking pot.

Can rice sit out overnight?

If you let your rice sit out overnight, you ask for trouble. Rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

There is an interesting anecdote of friends who had a Friday evening ritual. They would have a few drinks and then go to an Indian restaurant, a pleasant evening.

They would all have one thing in common the following day: diarrhea. Not pleasant, but it happened. It must be the spices in the curry. The western tummy is not accustomed to spices and chilis, they thought.

Some weeks later, the restaurant was closed down. Guess what? Bacteria in the rice made customers have gastric problems. Rice at room temperature can be dangerous, and you should not underestimate the strength of bacteria in your food.

How do you store hot rice?

It is a misconception that you can’t store hot rice in the fridge because you can by taking a few simple steps.

Drain the rice thoroughly of boiling water and then transfer the boiled rice to a heat-proof sealable airtight container.

The container will radiate heat in the fridge, but nothing like condensation from an open pot of rice. Place the container on the highest shelf, which is usually the fridge’s coldest part.

Do not use mylar bags. They are great but not for this purpose, and the temperature of the rice could make the LLDPE layers may leach out chemicals.

If you are concerned about the radiating heat, place a kitchen towel around the container to act as insulation until the rice has cooled.

Should you Cool rice quickly?

The general consensus is you should cool the rice quickly. The faster, the better to prevent bacteria growth. Although the USDA is an authority on food safety, and you can take a lesson from their book, it’s still advisable to cool cooked rice fast for the longevity of the rice.

If your rice has been on the side for more than two hours, it’s garbage!

Can you eat rice cold the next day?

Cold rice dishes are popular with salads and make for a tasty meal, but the thought is you shouldn’t eat cold rice. Eating cold rice increases the risk of food poisoning from Bacillus cereus.

Bacillus cereus is going to make you sick. You may have abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting, which will happen 15 minutes after eating the food.

The key to this question is if you have prepared the rice yourself and know food safety has been adhered to, then you could assume it’s safe to eat cold rice.

Is it OK to reheat rice in the microwave?

It’s the best way to reheat rice, it takes fewer minutes, and the rice is piping hot. You may want to add a spoonful of water to the rice, as refrigerated rice and microwaves make the rice dry.

Can I reheat rice twice?

It is advisable not to heat rice twice, as the rice becomes dry and tough, but this is about portion control more than should you reheat rice twice.

If you make a batch of rice for the week’s meals, place the rice into portion sizes, so you only reheat what is needed negating the need for continuously microwaving the same batch of rice over and over again.

It also suggested that reheating rice more than once could expose you to food poisoning.

Can you freeze cooked rice and reheat it?

Yes, it’s actually thought to be more beneficial than storing hot rice in the fridge. The food in the freezer is frozen, and placing a hot container of rice is not going to make any difference as the rice will cool rapidly.

You can go straight from the freezer to the microwave. Just select a defrost-suitable option and then reheat the rice, so it is piping hot all the way through the rice.

Again portions will help with the process.

What is the best way to freeze rice?

Freezing rice is a simple process, but by following these techniques, you will find it much easier to handle the rice prior to freezing and post-freezing.

Top tips for freezing rice:

  • Spread the drained cooked rice onto a baking sheet, which will enable the rice to cool much quicker due to the larger exposed surface area of the hot rice.
  • After twenty minutes, the rice should be cool enough to handle with a large spoon. Scoop portions sized amounts of rice into zip lock bags.
  • Expel as much air from the zip lock bags as possible.
  • Flatten the bags and mark them bags with the freezing date for stock rotation.
  • Place the rice in the freezer until needed.

Final thoughts

Rice is one of those commodities we all eat regularly, so knowing how to handle cooked rice safely is essential to avoid food poisoning.

Remember the two-hour rule from the USDA, and if it has been sitting on the side for two hours, it’s garbage. 

Cooked rice in the fridge is good for two or three days. In the freezer, it’s good for a few months.


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