Why should (or shouldn't) we wash rice before cooking?
There are pretty confusing articles on this topic on the internet. Some suggest that we should wash them to remove starch, talc, etc. Some suggest that we should not wash them because they are fortified with minerals.
This also varies according to the type of rice - short grain, Jasmine, Basmati, etc. It would be great to have logical reasons instead of just instructions.
My Zojirushi cooker instructions imply that not washing rice is basically barbaric. A South Asian friend told me that washing Basmati is a really good idea, and generally imported Basmati gives off a lot of starch in a few changes of water.
Reasons to wash your rice:
Reduce/Control Starch levels
- Often when you're cooking rice you want distinct grains of rice and for your rice to have texture. In the case of Chinese fried rice for example, you specifically want your rice grains to not stick to one another. If you're talking white rice especially, there will be a lot more loose starch that will form a thickish paste if if you don't rinse it away.
To clean out impurities
- I imagine there was a time when there were a lot more impurities (dirt, dust, bugs, etc...). I don't know if that's necessarily the case these days with modern manufacturing. If you're concerned about your source, then this may be a factor for you. There's also the occasional random article that suggest rinsing to reduce levels of something like arsenic (see FDA warning on arsenic in rice)... I think 1. is your bigger factor here though.
Reasons to not wash your rice:
It removes nutrients.
- This is true for fortified rice. See here for more information on the fortification process. Note, whole grain/brown rices are less often fortified (I want to say they're not fortified, but I actually don't know for sure). So it would depend on what kind of product you're buying and where it came from.
You actually want to keep the extra starch.
- This is the case for things like risotto where the starch is what gives the dish it's creaminess. Serious Eats has a great article that talks about the process.
You might note that washing unfortified rice doesn't do a great deal. Also, debris in rice is still fairly common, so unless the dish specifically calls for the rice not to be rinsed (as with risotto) it probably should be rinsed
While I think that *arsenic* is extremely unlikely unless someone is trying to kill you, *pesticides* are very likely. Especially with (a) imported or (b) direct from farm rice, as it's only the mass production domestic rice that goes through rigorous food safety checks.
Besides toxic pesticides (some of which *are* based on arsenic by the way), your rice may have **Diatomaceous earth** mixed in as a non-toxic pesticide by natural food stores. This naturally-occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock when ground into a white powder dehydrates and slices pests such as moths. While not toxic, you should avoid breathing it and certainly need not consume it.
@Hack-R: Did you read the link? Arsenic accumulates in rice from the environment. (I'm not saying that's a reliable link, but it explains what people are concerned about.) There are other sources of arsenic than people who are intentionally trying to poison others. It is an element that can pollute water supplies or the soil.
@sumelic No, I was just responding to the answer, I didn't see the link. Fair point. Let me say that you were right and I now agree with you. I found a better link tho: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm319870.htm
About arsenic, the FDA says "rinsing rice before cooking has a minimal effect on the arsenic content of the cooked grain. Rinsing does, however, wash off iron, folate, thiamin and niacin from polished and parboiled rice." That link includes tables of reductions of those vitamins and minerals by rinsing, and also by cooking in excess water. Not sure if you'd rather clarify that rinsing doesn't really help with arsenic, or just avoid bringing it up?