Tips for Cooking Whole Grains

Prepare a healthy and hearty dish of whole grains tonight.

  • It's usually not necessary to rinse packaged whole grains before cooking. If you've purchased the grains from a bin and they seem dusty, give them a quick rinse.

  • The amount of water each batch of grains absorbs varies somewhat so the easiest way to cook whole grains is in lots of boiling water — like pasta. When the grain is done, it will be one color throughout when cut in half crosswise.

  • Cooked whole grains often remain a little chewy.

  • Because cooking time and water absorption are unpredictable, it's most efficient to cook grains separately, then combine the cooked grains with other foods such as beans or vegetables.

  • Some grains, especially wheat berries and related grains like kamut and spelt, don't cook properly in salted liquid; the salt tends to harden the bran layer and the grains don't absorb water evenly. For this reason, it's best to add salt towards the end of cooking.

  • Toasting grains is a nice way to intensify their flavor. To toast grains, scatter them in a warm, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. Continue cooking until the grains emit a "toasty" aroma and/or darken slightly. Warning: when you toast grains, the bran layer develops little cracks. As a result, the grains absorb liquid more quickly but tend to burst open.

  • Cooked grains freeze beautifully. Prepare extra and freeze leftovers, well drained, in sealed containers in 1- or 2-cup amounts. Defrost them in a microwave or drop the frozen grains directly into soups or stews.