I have a bunch of recipes which use leftover cold rice: rice salads, fried rice, rice cakes, and similar. However, I rarely have large quantities of rice left over in the fridge when I want them, since we don't eat rice with dinner most nights.

I've tried making some of these things with freshly cooked rice, but the recipes don't turn out well. Rice which has been cold for hours has a different texture and reacts differently to seasonings, oil and liquids than warm rice. The starches on the outside of the rice change somehow, and it becomes less absorbent and drier.

Is there any way I can quickly (as in, in less than 2 hours) produce rice which has the texture and starch structure of long-cold rice, at least approximately? Cool it down in an ice bath? Soak minute rice in cold water?

  • 3
    The title was a bit misleading to me. I thought you were talking about the instant 5 minute rice you microwave. It wasn't until I was almost done reading your question did I realize you weren't talking about that.
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:08
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    I'd prefer an answer from someone who's actually tried what they're suggesting. While the first answer below seems fairly logical, it's based on conjecture.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 4:21
  • @FuzzyChef You've got one now. It worked for me, I hope it works for you.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 11:28

2 Answers 2


It’s a funny thing, I’ve written 2 answers this week saying you should never refrigerate leftover rice, that refrigerating rice ruins it and that you should freeze it instead. Of course there is an exception to every rule, in this case that exception would be when you want leftover, refrigerated rice.

I do have a method to get that leftover refrigerated effect and have been using it to make fried rice for years, but I hadn’t answered this question because I couldn’t get it in under the 2 hour time limit, I’ve always kept it refrigerated on a cold sheet pan for at least 4 hours, 2 just isn’t long enough. Then I saw an answer to another question, and tried it: Rice gets burnt and watery Cooking the rice in the microwave as the poster suggested yielded rice that kind of felt like refrigerated, leftover rice to begin with. That gave me the idea to revisit this question. Several batches of rice (the ravens thank you) and a lot of tweaking later, I’ve got it. To buy an extra 20 minutes, I am choosing to interpret your question as reading “within 2 hours after the rice is cooked”.

I used American, plain, long grain white rice.

Before you start with the rice, place a sheet pan in the freezer. Thoroughly rinse 1 cup of rice in several batches of water. Rinse until the water runs completely clear. I don’t normally rinse American harvested rice, but here eliminating the outside starch helps achieve the effect we’re looking for. In a large microwave safe bowl mix the rice with 1.5 cups plus 2 Tbs water. Add salt if desired, I don't add salt to rice I plan to use for fried rice with soy sauce. Butter is also optional, I did not use it when I developed this method. Microwave on high for 14 minutes (YMMV*, my microwave is 1000 watts), don’t open the microwave, let the rice sit in there for 3 minutes.

--Time starts now!—

Pour 1 Tbs of neutral oil into a small bowl. Lightly dip the tip of a soft rubber spatula into the oil and spread the oil over the spatula head with your fingers. Using that spatula, gently fold the rice a few times. The object here is to rapidly cool the rice by folding, to not break up any individual grains, and to very lightly coat the rice in the oil. Repeat every minute for 5 minutes. Retrieve your now ice cold sheet pan from the freezer and dump the rice in it. Dip your fingertips into the remaining oil and using your lightly oiled fingertips, spread the rice over the sheetpan as thinly as possible, breaking up any clumps.

rice tray

Put the sheetpan in the refrigerator. 1 hour and 55 minutes later, you’re ready to make fried rice! I used the above method (complete with timer and no cheating) to make this fried rice:

rice rice grains

As you can see from the path I cleared with the spatula, the rice didn’t stick at all and you can see the individual grains on the spatula. Unfortunately, you can’t taste it, but I can tell you that it is as good as any fried rice I have ever made, and fried rice was on the menu at my restaurant/lodge – I’ve made a lot of it. At the lodge I would refrigerate fresh rice on a cold sheet pan for at least 4, preferably 6 hours and then freeze it in individual baggies until fried rice was ordered. That worked well too, but no better than this method.

*YMMV is a common internet abbreviation, Your Mileage May Vary. It's shorthand for noting anything that might be a bit different for the reader, in this case microwave time or power level depending upon the power of the reader's microwave.

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    Very good experiment! I was going to say that it isn't possible to do this, because the reversal of the starch gelation just takes time; but I forgot what terrible things a microwave can do to starch. And you even found a good reason to do it.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 20:02
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    What an impressive answer. Well thought out. And while I understand your reasoning here, I always cook rice with salt, as it makes a difference to how it cooks (I don't know the science, but you can see the difference between rice cooked with and without salt).
    – NBenatar
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 12:10
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    @NBenatar I always cook rice with salt too, except for the specific application of rice to be refrigerated especially for making fried rice. As I used to make batches of "rice to be refrigerated for fried rice" I've made it both ways and compared the final result (fried rice). The final result is better if the rice is cooked unsalted.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 12:45
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    Thanks! Sorry it took me so long to ack this; I've not been on cooking.stackexchange in a while. I'm gonna try it without the refrigeration and see how it works, too.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 19:54
  • Would be interesting to know if cooking longer under a lower power level in the microwave would be beneficial for reducing time further. I would love to experiment myself, but the fact I have a 5 yo, 2 toddlers, and another baby on the way... and I'm hardly a connoisseur of good fried rice to begin with, I don't expect I will be producing any "scientific" results until my kids are grown a bit more and/or I've developed my cooking skills further.
    – BVernon
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 6:40

I've just done a bit of research and apparently the point of cooling it (as partly explained by you above) is to let the grains of rice separate from each other and the whole mixture isn't so glutinous and flavours react differently to it.

The best way I can think of doing is by laying the hot rice on a lined baking tray that's been put in the freezer, then put it (with the rice on) in the freezer for just 5 minutes say as not to freeze the rice and ruin the texture. This seems the most logical way as it means the rice has the largest surface area to cool down.

Another way if the first is not possible (although not as good) is by putting the hot rice in a thin metal bowl above some ice water but of course you cant stir it or the gluten will come out and you'll end up with a sticky ricey mess!

Remember to use the rice up quickly and not to leave it at room temperature for long as this website shows, as it can cause food poisoning.

Hope this helps!

  • Putting a steamy hot pan of anything in the refridgerator/freezer should probably come with a caveat that it might detrimentally affect the other foods around it.
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:02
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    I think that link may be a bit too conservative- you can only keep rice for no more than 1 day in the fridge?! I want to see some actual data on this. Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 15:31
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    @sobachatina, I agree. I've definitely eaten rice that has been in the fridge after three days. And I've definitely left rice on the table for more than 1 hour at room temperature. In fact, in most asian cultures, a huge bowl of rice sit in the middle of the table throughout the meal which can last longer than 1 hour. And even then, sometimes the rice is left on the table if it is not finish(but covered) and is reheated later for the next meal.
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 16:29
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    @Jay: Let's be really careful about using anecdotes to make food safety claims. That said, from what I've read elsewhere, the risk from leaving rice at room temperature for a few hours is much higher than from leaving it in the fridge for a few days.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 17:58
  • This is a pretty good idea. Not awarding the answer yet though; I'd like to see an answer from someone who's actually tried what they're suggesting.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 4:21

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