If you’re like me, then you probably want to eat rice at every meal. My household tends to have a lot of leftover rice, so I’m sharing my wisdom with you in regards to how long you can keep cooked rice in the fridge.
So, if you’ve been wondering how long does cooked rice last in the fridge, the answer is between three and four days. Below, are answers to the most commonly asked questions about leftover rice such as “How long to cook rice?” and “Does rice go bad?”
If you serve a lot of rice with your meals, knowing the answers to these commonly asked questions is critical. Let’s get started, shall we?
How Long Does Cooked Rice Last in the Fridge?
How long does rice last in the fridge? This is the million-dollar question, and as I briefly mentioned earlier, cooked, leftover rice can generally last between three and four days if constantly refrigerated.
This timeframe only refers to fridge storage. Generally speaking, leftover cooked rice can last in the freezer for up to two months. Keep in mind that anytime you freeze leftover food, you want to store it in the deepest part of the freezer.
This is not only the coldest section, so it’ll help keep your leftover food fresh, but it will remain cold even when you open your freezer door to grab other ingredients for dinner.
However, if you’re taking it out of the freezer to defrost it, make sure to thaw your rice thoroughly. The easiest way to do this is by popping it in the microwave until your food thermometer measures an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
How Long Can Cooked Rice be Left Out Unrefrigerated?
You know how it is. You cooked dinner and you unintentionally got sucked into a TV show or a conversation with your friend when she called. Or, maybe the kids needed something and you got distracted for an hour or two, so all your leftover food, including your rice, is just left there on the stovetop getting cold.
While you intend to put it away for tomorrow’s dinner, you might be wondering if it’s safe to put it in the fridge after it’s been sitting out for a few hours. The answer is yes…but it depends.
It’s generally recommended that cooked rice not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, as this is plenty of time (and the perfect temperature) to develop bacteria. This is because the types of bacteria that could grow on rice thrive in temperatures between 4-60 degrees Celsius.
Oh, but heat kills bacteria, right? So, can’t I just pop them in the microwave to kill off anything that grew in that timeframe? Unfortunately, no.
Bacteria on rice won’t be killed off by microwaving or reheating them. Anyone who digests rice that’s been sitting out on the counter or stovetop for more than two hours is putting themselves at risk of illness.
If you can avoid this, do so. Your stomach will surely thank you.
How to Store Cooked Rice Properly?
Now that we’ve answered a few questions about how long rice will keep both on the counter, and in the fridge and/or freezer, let’s take a look at how you can properly store it to prevent it from going bad and how long can cooked rice stay in the fridge.
Experts recommend refrigerating rice as soon as it’s done cooking (for the reasons mentioned above). To best store, it, spread it out on either a baking sheet or another type of tray so it can cool down quickly.
Once it’s cold, put it in a container with a lid and store it in either your fridge or freezer, depending on how long you intend to keep it as a leftover. Remember, cooked rice can last for up to three days in the fridge.
But why do you have to cool the rice before storing it in the fridge? The answer goes back to bacterial growth. If rice isn’t cooled quickly, Bacillus cereus can form and release harmful toxins that cause food poisoning.
Like I mentioned earlier, rice bacteria can’t be killed off through re-heating, so keeping your rice as cool as possible before storing kills these off before you wrap them up for leftovers.
Tips for Storing Cooked Rice
As briefly mentioned above, you’ll want to cool rice off as soon as it’s done cooking and put the leftovers immediately in the fridge to avoid bacterial growth. However, there are a few extra tips you should keep in mind when it comes to storing cooked rice.
First, let’s talk about the container. Because the risk of developing bacterial growth is so high, you’ll want to use an airtight container. Even if, let’s say, you ordered rice for dinner and it already comes in a cardboard carry-out box, take it out and store leftovers in an airtight container anyway.
If you don’t have an airtight container handy, a sealed ziplock bag will suffice. Just make sure that you get out all those little air bubbles first.
How to Know if Leftover Rice is Safe to Eat
We already answered questions such as “How long is cooked rice good for in the fridge,” and “how long can you eat rice after cooking?” But one question we haven’t tackled yet is how to tell if your cooked rice is already expired.
Leftover cooked rice can last for about two to three days when properly stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator. But, keep in mind, this is just a general estimate, so it’s important that you know how to tell if rice is bad.
The first thing you should know is that different types of rice will expire at different rates. For example, white rice tends to stay fresher longer than brown rice.
If stored properly, white rice has the ability to remain safe to consume for up to seven days. But, this is more the exception rather than the general rule.
Here are a few easy ways to know if your rice is bad:
- It’s dry and tough to eat. Rice tends to absorb a lot of moisture, but if it’s saved for too long, the rice will take in too much water and make it dry and tough to eat. Sometimes, the rice may be crumbly and fall apart with every forkful. If this happens, it’s a red flag that you should stop eating it immediately, as it’s already gone bad.
- It’s slimy: While gross to think about, slimy rice is even grosser to eat and unfortunately, it’s a red flag that the rice is expired. In fact, this slimy texture is a sign of bacterial growth and one of the first signs of the fermentation process. If your rice either looks or feels slimy to the touch, avoid it at all costs. The fermentation process involves the breakdown of bacteria to form organic acids, etc. That’s why if you’ve ever eaten something fermented, the taste, texture, and even the smell of it is much different than its previous state.
- It smells bad: Like all food, anything that has a foul odor shouldn’t be eaten. Smelly food is a sign of bacterial growth.
Reheating Leftover Rice
How long is rice good for in the fridge? Up to three days. Can you freeze cooked rice? Yes, for up to two months. How do you reheat leftover rice? Ah, we haven’t tackled that question yet.
Believe it or not, there’s sort of an art form behind reheating leftover rice. If you cook it for too long, it comes out all gummy and chewy, but if you undercook it, it feels like you’re biting into a rock. So where’s that happy medium?
The best rule of thumb, when it comes to reheating leftover rice, is to add a tablespoon of water to every cup of rice you plan on reheating. This will help the rice regain some moisture, which will help it from drying out when you reheat it.
And speaking of reheating it, you have a few different options available. First is the microwave. If you opt for this method, go ahead and pop your moisture-laden rice for two minutes.
This time frame will, of course, vary on the type of microwave you have. So if your microwave’s wattage is a little higher, you may have to cook it for less time, and likewise, lower wattage may require more cooking time.
The second option is to cook it on the stove for three to four minutes. This is my personal preference as it helps the rice come out pretty much as it did the first time you cook it, but if you prefer other methods, there are still two more available to go through.
Placing it in a rice cooker is another method, albeit, it’s probably one of the least preferred because it takes an hour to reheat. Ovens take a little less time at around 15-20 minutes, but both of these are extreme methods for something that can be done in such little time when you opt for either a stove or microwave.
Can You Eat Cooked Rice After 5 Days?
Though some experts argue that white rice can be safe to eat for up to seven days, it’s generally recommended that you avoid eating cooked rice after it’s been sitting in the fridge for five days.
However, this doesn’t apply to cooked rice that’s been stored in the freezer, of course. So, really, the answer to this question depends on where you decided to store your cooked rice.
We haven’t touched on this subject yet, but is rice bad for you? Rice is featured in so many different meals, including healthy ones, so it’s a natural question to ask. The answer is that, unfortunately, rice is both good AND bad for you.
A good diet includes whole grains, so brown rice is safe to consume because it’s made from whole grains. Whole grains are chock full of vital nutrients, including but not limited to fiber, iron, potassium, folate, and magnesium.
White rice, on the other hand, tends to be highly processed so it doesn’t have as many of these important nutrients.
But, that’s not to say it isn’t without its benefits, either, albeit, much smaller than whole grain rice. White rice does have a lot of folate in it, which helps your body produce DNA.
In short, both white and brown rice can be healthy to eat, however, just keep the white rice in moderation. As with any type of food, moderation is key so it’s possible to still have a healthy diet with it.