Typically, I reheat my rice by adding a tablespoon of water to the bowl and throwing it in the microwave. This usually works, but sometimes I use too much water and am left with, well, rice soup. So I was intrigued when I heard about a method that uses an ice cube instead of liquid water.
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During my daily TikTok scroll, I saw a video that illustrated this method. It involves placing an ice cube on top of your leftover rice and putting it in the microwave for 1 minute. After the minute is up, the ice cube will be almost completely unmelted, with the reheated rice underneath it. Then, discard the cube and enjoy.
Apparently, the water from the ice cube turns to steam and steams the rice perfectly, eliminating the need to guesstimate how much water to use. Before I tried it, I reached out to our science research editor, Paul Adams, to see why the ice cube stays intact.
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“Microwaves heat food up by causing particular types of molecules—mostly water molecules—inside the food to vibrate rapidly. In ice, the water molecules are rigidly locked to each other in a crystal structure, so they don’t vibrate,” Adams said.
Then how does the water from the ice steam the rice?
“In this hack, the rice gets hot (because its grains contain water), and the heat from the rice warms up the surface of the ice cubes, so they melt a little bit," Adams said. "Then that liquid water released from the melting ice can be boiled by the microwave, so it turns to steam, and steams the rice.”
Paul then brought up another interesting fact: If rice is stored properly, you may not even need to add water (or ice) when reheating, since the grains would already contain enough water to steam themselves. I decided to make some rice and try all three methods to see if I even noticed a difference.
I took three bowls with the same amount of leftover rice, one using the ice cube method, one with a tablespoon of water, and one with nothing, and put them in the microwave for 1 minute. After testing them side by side, I really didn’t notice much of a difference between the three, but I did find that I preferred the ones where I added some form of water. They tasted a little fresher than the dry method.
Going forward, I think I will be employing the ice cube hack. It produces perfectly steamed rice, and I don’t have to worry about adding too much water. Plus, there’s just something fun about it!