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Guide to the Major
Types of Rice

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Guide to Rice Types

There are a whopping 40,000 varieties of rice in the world. Our guide to rice isn't going to cover all 40,000 (and would you really read it if we did?) but we'll give you an overview of the differences between the five major types of rice: long-grain white rice, long-grain brown rice, basmati rice, arborio rice and wild rice. What makes these types of rice so different? A lot of it has to do with the size and shape of the grain, how much or how little it's been processed, and the types and amounts of starch it contains.

Long-Grain White Rice

This is the standard white rice you find in American cooking. Sometimes referred to as 'carolina rice', this type is neutral in flavor and has a light, fluffy texture. In white rice, the husk and germ of the grain are removed, and therefore it takes a little less time to cook than brown rice.

Long-Grain Brown Rice

Any variety of rice can be 'brown' or 'white', but long-grain brown rice is the common type found in stores. For brown rice, the grain is kept intact or 'whole' with just the outer husk removed. The germ that's left on brown rice is a bran coating that's high in fiber, vitamins and healthy oils, and gives the rice its tan color as well as a nuttier taste and slightly chewy texture. It takes a bit longer to cook than white rice.

Basmati & Jasmine Rice

Basmati and jasmine rice are both distinct species of long-grain rice that are known for their perfume-like aromas. Jasmine rice hails from Thailand, and has a characteristic nutty aroma. The grains will cling to each other a bit, although it isn't as sticky as Thai 'sticky' rice. Basmati rice comes from India and Pakistan, and is most noted for its unique and strong fragrance with a mix of nutty and floral scents. Basmati rice is also remarkable for becoming longer with cooking rather than plumping in width. It has a light, dry texture with very little stickiness.

Arborio Rice

Now that we've covered a few types of long-grain rice, let's talk about our favorite short-grain rice: arborio rice from Italy. Compared to the super long-grain types like basmati, uncooked Arborio looks positively squat and round since its grain is so short! The combination of its short-grain, and its high amount of particularly sticky starches, arborio rice yields creamy, clingy rice that's perfect for cooking risotto. Arborio rice can be cooked in a similar fashion to typical rice, but to make as a risotto there is a special technique to unlock even more of that starch: use broth instead of water, and ladle the liquid into the rice in batches as it cooks versus all at once. And stir a LOT!

Wild Rice

Wild rice differs from the other featured types of rice in one crucial way: it's not actually rice! It's a separate variety of grass that is 'rice-like' enough that it's been given the name wild rice. Wild rice is remarkable for its dark, black color and especially chewy texture, due its somewhat tough outer sheath. Wild rice is frequently prepared mixed with other types of rice into a blend, adding that extra bit of bite and texture to a more delicate rice variety. 

What's your favorite way to cook with rice? Share with us at amyandmike@easyfoodandwine.com.


Next Article: Making Polenta

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