What Are the Best Tips for Whole Grain Cooking?

Emily Pate
Emily Pate
Learning about common grains is a great first step in whole grain cooking.
Learning about common grains is a great first step in whole grain cooking.

The best whole grain cooking tips cover the entire cooking process, from choosing the right type of seed for a given recipe to preparing finished food for serving. Whole grain cooking typically involves soaking, rinsing, and boiling, or alternate cooking methods like steaming. These grains typically take longer to prepare than their processed, enriched counterparts, but also require the same testing and post-cooking steps. The best tips for baking and cooking with whole grain flours help create a dish with a moist, soft texture instead of dry and extremely dense.

Familiarizing yourself with different types of commonly-found grains can help you to choose the best one for a certain recipe. Amaranth, a tiny seed-like grain native to Mexico and Central America, works well to thicken soups, for instance. Whole barley flour gives a nutty flavor to breads. Bulgur works well when you need a quick grain, and spelt flour can replace its whole wheat counterpart for gluten-free whole grain cooking.

Soaking whole grains and flour allow them to absorb more moisture and soften, improving taste and texture in breads or baked goods. The technique also breaks down enzymes and starches in the grains so that they digest more easily. It also reduces the amount of phytic acid in the grain, which keeps some nutrients from being completely absorbed. Rinsing the grains with running water also removes debris and dirt.

The majority of whole grain cooking involves boiling the raw good in water, unless you're baking with flour. Like rice, whole grains initially need to be brought to a boil, then lowered to simmer for anywhere from five to 50 minutes, depending on the type. Rice cookers can be used for cooking whole grains as well. Use the cooking times indicated on the product packaging, and remove from heat when the rice cooker indicates that the liquid has been completely absorbed by the grain. A slow-cooker set to low will also bring long-cooking grains like brown rice to a soft, fluffy texture.

Since whole grains have different cooking times, testing them to see if they are done is usually necessary. Grains like bulgur and whole brown rice soak up all cooking liquids, and small air holes begin to appear around the time that they should be removed from the heat. Thoroughly cooked grains have a soft, chewy texture, and they should be fluffed with a fork and left to rest for five to ten minutes before serving.

Whole grain cooking and baking with flours calls for special steps and technique as well. If stored in the refrigerator, allow flours to return to room temperature before using. When using a recipe that calls for white or unbleached flour, add a bit more liquid or wet ingredients, as whole grain flours absorb more water. Whole grain cooking typically requires longer prep and process, including beating, stirring, or kneading, to ensure a moist texture.

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    • Learning about common grains is a great first step in whole grain cooking.
      By: Elena Schweitzer
      Learning about common grains is a great first step in whole grain cooking.