Since I was a kid, my mom has always suggested cooling rice a bit before refrigerating it. I only realized how important it is once I grew up and refrigerated steaming-hot rice. Let’s just say I did more harm than good trying to skip a few steps.
Now, the question is can you put hot rice in the fridge, and how necessary is it?
You shouldn’t put hot rice directly into the fridge because the central area of the rice doesn’t cool down as quickly as the rest. It spends more time in the “danger zone” where bacterial growth can occur. Also, the rice’s heat may increase the ambient refrigerator temperature and cause damage to other food items.
Is It Safe to Put Hot Rice in the Fridge?
We’ve all had times when we’ve accidentally placed hot rice in the fridge! Yet, here’s what you need always to remember:
It’s incredibly unsafe to put hot rice in the fridge for storage.
The sudden temperature change can lead to bacterial contamination and spoil other refrigerated food items. Let’s discuss these issues in detail.
- Bacterial Contamination
The main reason behind refrigeration is to cool the rice and slow bacterial contamination. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. Freshly made rice is a perfect environment for bacteria growth if not stored properly.
When you store the hot rice in a container and place it in the fridge, the rice towards the center doesn’t cool quickly.
Instead, the steam from the grains keeps the container’s temperature in the danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F) for an extended period. This temperature facilitates the growth of bacteria instead of preventing it!
The steam may also condense and increase the moisture content of the rice, which can again make it easier for the bacteria to grow and thrive.
- Increase in the Temperature
Putting warm foods inside the fridge, including hot rice, can increase the surrounding temperature. After all, heat travels from hot objects to cold objects!
For instance, if you’re keeping a container of hot rice beside meat, the meat may heat up too and enter the danger zone. As a result, your meat could become contaminated, and you couldn’t use it for cooking.
I recommend watching this YouTube video if you don’t understand the issue behind keeping food in the danger zone.
What Are the Signs of Spoilage in Rice?
As I mentioned above, keeping hot rice in the fridge can easily lead to spoilage. You should always check for any signs of staleness if you make the same mistake.
- Sticky or Slimy Texture
This thought might gross you out, but rapid bacterial growth creates a slimy layer on food, including rice. Once you notice that your rice suddenly has a mushy texture instead of a dry one, discard it immediately!
- Foul Odor
Certain rice varieties like Basmati rice and Jasmine rice have a delicious aroma. However, the sweet and nutty smell becomes sour and unbearable when they get stale. This odor clearly indicates that the rice is no longer fit for consumption.
- Abnormal Appearance
You should always watch out for greenish-black mold growth, discoloration, or patchy white spots on your cooked rice. From my experience, any abnormal appearance points toward microbial contamination!
When Should You Put Rice in the Fridge?
Being a forgetful person, I often leave rice on my kitchen counter instead of putting it in the fridge!
However, you should never keep rice at room temperature for more than two hours. During this time, its temperature is between 40°F and 140°F, which causes the bacteria to multiply and contaminate the food.
How to Store Rice in the Refrigerator?
As mentioned earlier, you cannot put warm rice in the fridge. Follow the steps below to store rice in the refrigerator without damaging it.
Step 1: Allow the Rice to Cool
Before you place the rice in the fridge, you need to let it cool so it reaches room temperature and is no longer steaming.
- Use a Tray
If you want to cool the rice quickly, this is a simple method that I’ve been using for ages.
You just need to take the rice out of the cooking pot, spread it evenly on a tray, and break apart any clumps with a fork. I recommend dividing the rice portions and using multiple trays for cooling if you’ve cooked a large quantity.
- Use an Ice Container
This method is faster for cooling the rice compared to the one above. All you need to do is fill a large container with eight to ten ice cubes. Then, place the rice, in another container, on top of the ice container.
If you want to speed up the process, use a fork and fluff the rice gently for five minutes. Don’t do it too excessively, as it may break the grains!
Step 2: Transfer the Rice to an Airtight Container
After the rice has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container. Close the lid tightly to ensure no moisture loss or chances of bacterial contamination from other foods in the fridge.
Step 3: Store the Rice Away from Pungent Food
Rice doesn’t have a strong smell or taste of its own. However, if you place it around a foul-smelling food item, it may “catch” its odor!
I always store rice on the topmost shelf of the refrigerator, away from dairy items and meat. The top shelf is also away from direct cooling, which can dry out the rice.
How Long Does Rice Last in the Fridge?
You can only keep rice at room temperature for a maximum of two hours. However, what about the fridge? Is it safe to store rice in it for long?
Rice can last in the fridge for only three to five days. After this point, it loses its original taste and texture by dehydrating and becoming crumbly.
On the other hand, freezing cooked rice can keep it fresh for up to six months! Note that you can consume it even after six months, but it likely will not maintain its original flavor.
You might go wrong with many things in your life, but I hope putting hot rice in the fridge isn’t one! It can not only damage your rice but also increase the surrounding temperature and ruin other food items.
As I suggested in this article, just allow the rice to cool for a few minutes and then store it away!