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Long-Grain White Rice
Since white rice is neutral in flavor, does it matter which kind you use? We tasted six products to find out.
Published Feb. 1, 2010. Appears in Cook's Country February/March 2010, Cook's Country TV Season 4: Bayou Classics
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What You Need To Know
Aside from its longer, slimmer grains, what distinguishes long-grain white rice from medium- or short-grain white rice (the kinds used in risotto or sushi, respectively) is that after cooking it remains fluffy and separate. Long-grain white rice contains less of a starch called amylopectin, which is what makes rice stick together.
White rice is neutral in flavor, providing a backdrop for other foods. Nonetheless, higher-quality white rice—like good white pasta, or a real French baguette—offers pleasingly chewy “al dente” texture and a slightly buttery natural flavor of its own. The buttery notes are caused by a naturally occurring flavor compound, 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, and higher levels lend an almost popcornlike taste. While most of this subtle variation comes from the varietal of rice that was planted, processing also affects flavor. All rice starts out brown; to become white, it is milled, a process that removes the husk, bran, and germ, which contain flavor compounds as well as nutrients. The longer the rice is milled, the whiter it becomes—and the more flavor is removed. (Many brands of rice are then enriched to replace lost nutrients.)
In search of the most flavorful and best-textured long-grain white rice, we tasted six national brands, plain (steamed in our favorite rice cooker) and in pilaf. Our favorite had subtle “buttery and toasty” notes reminding us of “nuts” or “barley.” Even with the added flavors in rice pilaf, tasters preferred our winning brand for both taste and texture.
Everything We Tested
Tasters enjoyed this brand’s “smooth and distinct” grains, which offered “a little chew without being chewy.” The rice smelled and tasted “nutty,” “buttery,” and “toasty,” both plain and in pilaf.
“Fragrant and floral, like jasmine,” one taster wrote. Others picked up on “barley, nuts, and other richer” flavors. It was slightly stickier than the winner, which led a few tasters to disparage it as “mushy and thick.”
Recommended with reservations
This rice, produced by the Goya company, is lightly “chewy and sticky,” a quality tasters liked. But they weren’t impressed with its flavor: “Very boring, no real standout qualities.” Some noted a “sour flavor” in the plain tasting.
“Tastes like water, with almost no taste,” said one taster. A “bitter taste, slight mineral flavor that seems metallic,” said another. We did like its texture, however, noting the “firm, separate grains” and a “dry, slightly chewy” quality tasters described as more substantial than other brands in our lineup.
Tasters liked the rice’s “pleasant grassy and wheaty flavor” but found that the grains “lacked body and structure” and had a “gritty chew.” The rice is sold as “extra-long,” but tasters described the grains as short, “starchy,” and unpleasantly like “takeout rice.”
Most tasters described this rice as bland and neutral: “What little flavor that is there quickly dissipates.” A few tasters picked up “slightly astringent and metallic” off-flavors, while the grains struck tasters as “puny.”
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