Why, And How to, Clean Sushi Rice Before Using

Normally, sushi rice should not be cleaned if it was packaged properly and if you had to do so, it would only be because of a few reasons.

Why do you need to clean rice and how? When there is a lot of dirt and debris in the rice due to poor packaging, poor quality, or contamination, it needs to be washed. It is done by simply rinsing them in water and then either picking out the contaminants or until the water becomes clear. It all depends on the intent.

It is worth noting that there can be consequences to rinsing rice too much when making sushi, but this can be dealt with easily enough with the right information.

Reasons for Cleaning Sushi Rice

Once again, it is worth repeating that sushi rice should not be cleaned if it is already clean if at all possible. However, this does not mean that there are no occasions wherein rinsing the rice might be a good idea. You can refer to the table below for more information on these reasons:

ContaminationContaminants like insects, spilled fluids, or substances that can change the flavor or smell of the rice.
Dirt and DebrisTiny pieces of rock, dust, or shells from the milling process.
Poor QualityRice of horrible quality purchased from questionable sources.
Poor StorageRice was not stored in a clean, dry, non-humid place.
Old RiceRice has begun to disintegrate due to being kept in storage for too long.

These are just some of the reasons why you might want to rinse your rice. However, you should remember that doing so might affect a lot of things about sushi such as its:

·         Taste

·         Texture

·         Color

·         Aroma

·         Mouthfeel

·         Impact on other ingredients

To sum up, rinsing your rice could fundamentally change how your sushi is going to turn out compared to when you cooked the grains in its pristine conditions. On that note, there are just times when it can’t be avoided so the best that you can do is to minimize the damage as much as possible.

In the case of the reasons for rinsing brought above, there are a few steps you could take to make sure that the rice grains you end up with are as usable as possible. Just don’t expect a miracle since it is what it is.

Contamination – There are a lot of things that could come into play when we are talking about contamination aside from the potential factors given in the table above. You just can’t ignore the fact that potential contaminants are everywhere. Fortunately, rice is less susceptible to them due to its dry nature, but this doesn’t mean that it is invincible.

Rice grains are particularly susceptible to moisture, so accidental contact with fluids is a huge issue. This includes such instances as unintended spillage of used water, flavored beverages, sauces, or even moist food products. If any of these things happen, you need to rinse the rice but only up to a point. If one round of rinsing is enough, then that is enough.

That is just the start, though. You also need to worry about contamination via insects, which can get into the rice either while in the package or when it is in storage. A lot of this will depend on where you got the rice, to begin with. Grocery stores usually have to adhere to some pretty strict regulations, so purchasing rice that is in vacuum-sealed packages there is fine.

However, if you were bringing rice from another country because you were aiming for authenticity, then this is an entirely different matter. If you somehow managed to get it past customs, then you will likely need to deal with the same issues that the people in those countries have to contend with regarding rice. At that point, you definitely want to rinse the rice until you are sure that it is safe to eat.

Dirt and Debris – When talking about potential reasons for needing to rinse rice, though, the biggest one that regular rice eaters all throughout the world have to deal with is the matter of dirt, dust, and debris. Remember that the grains do have to go through several processing steps in order for it to be ready for the market such as the following:

·         Planting

·         Harvesting

·         Drying

·         Milling

·         Storing

·         Packing

·         Selling

In every single one of these stages, the rice comes in contact with dirt, rocks, and dust in one form or another. Don’t let the fancy packages fool you, either. Even some of the most expensive rice variants had to go through those exact steps or even more of them, as the lower-class types of grains did.

With that said, most rice packages you will find in the supermarket are actually clean enough so that washing them is no longer necessary. After all, you are putting the grains through the heat process of cooking. Unless the rice is obviously contaminated, which you can tell by the appearance or the smell, you can just go ahead and cook it.

Things are different when you take a look at the package and find signs of the issues brought up in this section. In unregulated packages, things like small pebbles can still get through. You definitely don’t want to end up eating these if you know what’s good for you.

If you know that the rice came from a particularly dusty region, you should also take precautions by simply rinsing the grains. Sub-tropical countries come to mind with regards to this particular matter, so be sure to keep a close eye on this detail.

Poor Quality – Different rice varieties inevitably come with different qualities, which will then require different approaches with regards to preparation, serving, and storage. This is why it is very important for you to know what the different rice varieties are so that you can make your choice in a more informed fashion.

To be clear, Japan rice that actually came from Japan is quite safe to use, regardless of whether you want to eat it as a side dish or as an ingredient for sushi. When it says that this is the case on the package, you won’t even need to think about this anymore.

However, if the rice comes from anywhere else, you will need to pay attention to the details a bit more. Look at the origins, the kind of rice it is, the conditions of the grains, the colors of the grains, and the quality of the packaging. If any of them seems a bit off to you, then rinse the rice before cooking.

Doing it once will do and rinsing too much can be detrimental. In any case, if you have rice that you need to wash that many times for you to enjoy it, then you might as well throw it away. That is not good rice.

Poor Storage – The responsibility of storage comes in multiple stages, so don’t think that just because something went wrong in this regard that it is on you. Storage basically goes through the following:

·         After harvest

·         After drying

·         After milling

·         During shipping

·         Before hitting the market

·         After purchase

Naturally, your role comes into play during the last stage and if the rice had already gone bad by then, you are not at fault. Just return the rice for a refund and buy a new sack that is actually of good quality. Once that is done, the responsibility of storing rice now falls on to you.

After you get home, you need to transfer the rice to a container of adequate size. It also needs to be re-sealable and contains anti-pest protection like rubbing or foam all around the edges of the lid. From there, it needs to be stored in a cool, dry place where there is no risk of humidity or contamination.

Please remember that storing rice in the fridge on a bowl with nothing but clear film to protect it is highly discouraged for a number of reasons. Not following any of these instructions could lead to the issues mentioned already.

Old Rice – Rice never expires but this does not mean that you can store it forever and expect the rice to maintain its quality throughout that time. The greatest secret behind the grains’ longevity is its dryness. However, the longer it is stored, the more moisture it loses. This will go on until it eventual crumbles into powder.

This is where the problem comes in when you are thinking of using old rice for making sushi. To begin with, you really should not do this. Even if we say that rice costs money, it isn’t really that expensive. In fact, rice is probably one of the cheapest food items you are going to find in the market. You can purchase a sack of it worth 20lbs of the grains and you would be fine.

However, if you absolutely need to use the old rice for whatever reason, then you need to consider a few things. To start with. You need to get rid of as much of the powdered grains as possible. This means placing the rice on a strainer, preferably one that doesn’t have that fine of a mesh. Some of the unwanted specks might still be too big.

After that, you can rinse the rice once and only once. The rice has already lost a lot of starch thanks to the fact that it has been in storage for so long. There is no need to rob of it of what little it has left. You should also soak the rice before cooking it so as to allow the grains to soak up moisture. This is to help make it more tender and more pleasant when you finally cook it.

At the end of the day, it will be up to you to make this decision. If, after inspecting the grains, you are skeptical of its quality then you should wash them to be sure.

How to Clean Sushi Rice

As already mentioned multiple times, you should avoid rinsing your rice before cooking as much as possible. However, if you simply must, there are other ways for you to clean the rice other than washing it. For a full list of the things you can do to potentially make the rice safe to eat, you can refer to the following:

·         Straining

·         Tossing

·         Toasting

·         Washing

To start with, if your issue has to do with powder or any tiny particles contaminating the rice, you can clean by using a strainer. Toss it around until the rice is finally free of the materials so that you end up with clean grains without having to sacrifice the starch.

Using a strainer that doesn’t have the finest mesh is important here since you want to get rid as much of any potential dirt or dust particles. Since they can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, using a strainer with bigger holes will make them more likely to fall through. Obviously, you need to make sure that the holes are not too big that the grains will also fall through.

If you are dealing with issues that are bigger than dust like rocks or any kind of contaminant of that size, then tossing the grains in a bowl could work. Basically, you place the grains in a plastic bowl that you can easily lift and toss so that you can pick out any rocks or other debris and throw them away. Continue to do so until there are none left.

As for toasting, the is done so that you can put the grains through a heating process with direct contact on a hot surface before cooking it the normal way. Try not to use oil or any flavorings for this kind of process though since you don’t want to influence the flavor of the rice too much. By toasting the rice, though, you are basically adding an extra layer of flavor.

Doing this and waiting until you hear popping sounds is highly recommended if you want to elevate your sushi experience, as well. It might be a bit unorthodox considering that this is a western technique, but this fact doesn’t have to be a hindrance to better sushi enjoyment. Just try to control your flames since making the heat too high will burn your grains rather than toast them.

Finally, if you absolutely have to wash the rice, try to do it only once. Place the rice in a bowl and then fill it with water until it covers the surface of the rice by half of its height. You then gently swirl it around to encourage any dust and debris to float to the surface. From there, you pour the rice and water through a strainer. You then place it in the rice cooker to cook.

A lot of Asian households have applied the practice of washing the rice until the water turns clear for years. They basically repeat the process until they can see the grains clearly through the surface. However, just because it is traditional, it doesn’t mean it is right.

Why Avoid Rinsing Rice When Possible

It has been mentioned several times in this piece already, but the matter of washing rice is just something that people do. You might be wondering why you would not wash something that has been washed before cooking by the very people who have been eating it for centuries.

Well, it’s for the same reason you don’t wash chicken carelessly if though most people still do that; things change. The culinary world is always evolving and food scientists discover new facets of everyday ingredients all the time. In the case of rice, grains that have been properly processed and packaged are already clean.

You really don’t need to clean them any more than they already have, which is why it is important for you to get your rice from a reputable source and with a brand that you can trust. Another reason why you don’t want to wash rice has to do with the starch, which has also been briefly touched on throughout this piece.

Basically, the reason why rice can be enjoyed as it is now is due to the starch that it contains. This is what allows it to puff up, it’s what makes the rice tender and chewy, and it is what gives the grains that excellent texture when eaten. With this being the case, removing that starch is a good way to rob the rice of the thing that actually makes it special.

Rice without starch is dry, firm, and can even cause stomach aches if you are not careful. These are some of the biggest reasons why you do not want to wash rice if you can help it. However, this is putting the issue on a more generalized term since this problem can apply to all purposes for the grains.

If we are going to get more specific about it by looking at how washing rice can affect sushi, you have the matter of stickiness to consider. Basically, one of the hallmarks of true sushi rice is the fact that is sticky instead of loose. This is then the reason why you can form the rice into any shape that you want and it will hold that shape.

With this being the case, if you take away the starchiness of the rice, you can easily imagine what would happen. The grains would become less sticky and then you would have issues molding or rolling them into usable sushi shapes.

Not only would sushi that falls apart easily be a huge turnoff for diners, but it can also actually be quite a risky affair. Simply put, if you eat sushi that is made of loose rice, you have a much higher chance of actually choking on it since you are supposed to eat each piece whole. Rice grains that make it up your nose or into your airway do not result in pleasant experiences, I can tell you that much.

Related Questions

Is Jasmine Rice Good for Sushi?

Traditionally speaking, jasmine rice is a bot to aromatic for sushi, which could make the enjoyment of the dish more of a challenge. Strong odors can affect the experience, after all, since the sense of smell is a huge part of eating sushi. However, if you really wanted to, you could use it.

Can Sushi Rice Be Flavored with Other Things?

If you are the one making the sushi and eating it, then there should be no reason for why you should not be able to enjoy flavoring sushi with things other than vinegar, sugar, and salt. Just don’t expect others to appreciate it when you feed them something like wasabi sushi rice.

How to Choose Your Sushi Rice?

If you are going to choose your sushi rice, it needs to be the right one so that you won’t encounter issues with it later on. As such, you need to make sure to take a few things into consideration that will help you make your decisions when you go shopping.

You can start by answering a few questions:

·         Do you want it to be authentic?

·         Are you willing to make compromises?

·         Are you adventurous?

·         Do you prioritize price or quality?

Authenticity is something that a lot of foodies love to tout when it comes to the kinds of foods that they consume. This is especially true for something like sushi, which has become something of a national food item for Japan, alongside ramen. With this being the case, if you want your sushi experience to be authentic, going with Japonica rice is definitely advised.

There are a lot of brands out there selling this type of rice, but not all of them are actually from Japan. As such, you need to check the label to see if it was cultivated, processed, and then packaged in its namesake country. If it isn’t, you are not necessarily losing much, but the perception can be an issue.

On that note, if you are willing to make a compromise with regards to the kind of rice that you will use for your sushi, you can just go with any kind of short-grain rice. This is how you can save some money while still being as close to authentic as you possibly can.

After all, some brands of short-grain rice are cheaper than rice being marketed as authentic sushi rice. When it comes right down to it, the difference can be minimal. So you can still enjoy your sushi if you are willing to overlook some small aspects.

Going even further than that, if you are the adventurous sort, you can actually find rice that might come with different characteristics compared to that of Japanese rice. There are variants with pleasant, but strong aromas. There are types that are more or less starchy, depending on what you want. There are also rice varieties that come with different colors

If you want your sushi to look red, there are rice grains that actually have that color. The Japanese even use this type of rice for celebrations, so it’s not as if you are moving too far away from tradition by doing so. Speaking of which, you can also find black rice in the market and this one has a lot of fiber, so you had better watch out for that.

Finally, depending on your priorities, you can either go with the cheaper brands of rice or the more expensive brands that come with higher quality. Of course, this puts this discussion in a rather broad term. Not all expensive rice brands are of good quality and the reverse is true for cheaper brands of rice.

If you can find rice that comes at a reasonable price considering its merits, then there’s no reason to go with that. Then again, it’s not as if rice is that expensive, to begin with. Regardless of the color, it’s one of the cheapest food items in the world.

The 5 Best Brands of Sushi Rice

If you want the absolute best experience when eating sushi, then you might want to think about going with the best brands of rice that you can find. To that end, here is a list of the five top brands of sushi rice available in the market:

·         Koshihikari Rice

·         Tamanishiki rice

·         Lundberg Organic Farms

·         Kokuho

·         Botan Calrose

Now, it’s worth pointing out that not all of these are Japanese rice but are rather short-grain rice. Many of them are used by sushi chefs all around the world to make their famous dishes. You can usually find them in supermarkets or specialty stores. However, if you can’t, then you can always turn to online shops for your needs.

They are becoming increasingly prevalent among food-focus online stores. So don’t worry about not being able to get them, provided you are willing to pay the price. 

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