How we tested
Although it’s usually stocked in the supermarket with long-grain, brown, and basmati, wild rice is actually an aquatic grass. (Wild rice is North America’s only native grain. It grows naturally in lakes and is cultivated in man-made paddies in Minnesota, California, and Canada.) When we tasted five brands both plain and in our Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, textural differences stood out the most; our top three, including our winner, cooked up springy and firm, while the other two blew out. What accounted for the difference? Processing. To create a shelf-stable product, manufacturers heat the grains, which gelatinizes their starches and drives out moisture, according to one of two methods: parching (the traditional approach) or parboiling. To parch, manufacturers load batches of rice into cylinders, which spin over a fire—an inexact process that produces “crumbly,” “less toothsome” results. Parboiling, a newer method, steams the grains in a controlled pressurized environment. The upshot: more uniform and complete gelatinization, which translates into rice that cooks more evenly.