Earthquakes and typhoons are as plentiful as rice where I live.

The power distribution system is incredibly sturdy here and power outages tend to be managed well, though they happen.

Many people keep a nice supply of rice on hand, but only have electricity for cooking and have no access to gas. For these people (me included) if there is an extended power outage, the main source for calories (rice) can not be cooked.

In the very unlikely situation where no way to boil water is available, is there any possible, known way one could prepare dried rice so that it could be safely eaten for its nutritional value?

note: I understand that one could build a fire, but really that's impractical in large apartment buildings.

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    Rice milk or horchata might be worth looking into. The nutritional values will be low but non-zero – canardgras Aug 24 '17 at 9:07
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    @canardgras good point, didn't know it was made with raw rice. – Luciano Aug 24 '17 at 9:15
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    As an additional way to save limited cooking energy, note that your rice needs not to be boiled all the time until done. Our great [...] grandmothers would have brought the pot with rice and water to a roiling boil, then placed it into an insulated container or simply put it into the bed and covered it with the (feather) duvet. A few hours later, the rice was ready to serve. – Stephie Aug 24 '17 at 20:40
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    @Stephie I think that's a very good point! It has to stay hot for X minutes, but not necessarily actively boiling. To save on fuel, bring to a boil and then just insulate the heck out of it. – uhoh Aug 24 '17 at 20:43
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    @uhoh works for other food as well, btw. I think if you add beans or lentils to your emergency supply of rice and prepare them by the same method, you will actually be pretty close to a balanced meal, considering the circumstances. – Stephie Aug 24 '17 at 20:48

Do not eat raw rice, you might get very ill. From LiveStrong:

Lectin is a protein that serves as a natural insecticide with a strong affinity for carbohydrates. Found on uncooked rice and beans, this protein is one of the top 10 causes of food poisoning and can lead to nausea, diarrhea and vomiting when eaten in abundance.

There are also Bacillus Cereus which is a bacteria that can be poisonous in a similar way and cellulose which is indigestible fiber. All of these make cooking rice a very important step for consumption.

Even if you wanted to ferment it, you'd still have to cook or steam it first. So I'd say you either pack pre-cooked rice or choose something else to eat.

On another hand, if you have access to electricity you can cook your rice in the microwave almost the same way as with conventional heat. Add rice and water to cover in a microwave-safe container, put a lid on it (leave a small opening so steam can escape) and turn it on for 10 or 15 minutes.

  • Yikes! This is good to know, thanks. I wonder what happens to the lectin when cooking. Most of the rice I see here seems to be ready to cook. – uhoh Aug 24 '17 at 9:06
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    lectin is a protein, so heat will probably break it down into more digestible bits or make it inactive – Luciano Aug 24 '17 at 9:10
  • Just wondering if it can be cold cooked by acid pickling? – rackandboneman Aug 24 '17 at 22:20
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    OTOH: gathering a little wood, or other simple fuel (even debris of damaged buildings) and making a small campfire between two bricks is perfectly sufficient to cook a small pot of pretty much anything. It takes the type of emergency like getting buried under a building for this not to be an option, and in that case lack of water will be a much more serious concern. – SF. Aug 25 '17 at 17:43
  • Of course, folks not used to cooking on fires will probably manage to have one get out of control, and the fire department may not be all that functional or able to reach the area, leading to further post-disaster problems... – Ecnerwal Aug 27 '17 at 16:44

There is no way to prepare the rice without heating. If you don't have a heat source, your stored raw rice is almost useless. I say almost, because in an emergency, raw rice is preferable to eat over things like cardboard or shoe leather or leaves of unidentified plants, but in anything short of a starving scenario, it is not suitable for eating.

You can consider ways to prepare the rice first and store it, then eat that when the emergency happens. Pressed cakes of puffed rice are a modern option, but I am pretty sure there must be durable breads made from rice flour too. The results are shelf-stable and can be kept for years as an emergency supply.

Another solution would be to store a camping gas stove and use it for cooking during an emergency. Then you can prepare your rice. This can present some practical problems though (will users remember to not use them inside, are you allowed to store gas where you live, do you have the storage space for a sufficiently large gas bottle to cook for a family for several days).

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    In challenging circumstances, having the ability to boil water has several benefits besides cooking rice. A small gas-powered cookstove (butane or something similar) sounds like a really excellent piece of equipment to have around. – uhoh Aug 24 '17 at 17:07

The answer as as you've seen from the others is "no." But since you are preparing for it then a simple inexpensive camp stove that runs on propane, butane, or liquid fuel is good for an emergency kit. The small ones for backpackers are very small and easy to store in house or car. Get a good pot and lid to make it work most efficiently.

jet burner

Pro for jet stove: small & cheap.
Con: fresh air/ventilation required, flames make fire (though some have a safety shut off if knocked over).

Other choices for an all around power outage kit could be an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) battery (though running a cooker would require a large, expensive one) or building a 12 volt system: a deep cycle battery, LED lights, charge phones, and 12v burners, stove, rice cooker, whatever you want. The battery and maintenance charger will cost some money, $100 USD or so depending on the size needed to meet your needs. The cookers are not expensive, but I'd test them to make sure they'll work for your needs.

Pro: All around solution for cooking and lights, radios, charge phones, etc. Can be solar charged.
Con: Requires some electrical knowledge and setup, expensive (about 300USD for all around system), bigger/heavier/less portable.

Update: since looking into this question I discovered more: lectin in the rice and other agglutinins have been increased in modern rice varieties, which have had their natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties engineered to be stronger (fewer pesticides, longer shelf life); they rely on full high heat cooking for edibility and safety.

  • The UPS is really a DIY answer. I've asked what to do if boiling is not an option, and you've told me how to boil. As far as gas, I think something like this link is a little better for family/home use. Considering the possibility of aftershocks, I'd rather have something with a low center of gravity that won't tip over in an earthquake, burning me with scalding water before setting my place on fire: wokshop.com/HTML/products/steamers/steam_hp_portablestove.html – uhoh Aug 27 '17 at 18:00
  • Good thought and there are arrangements where the gas bottle is attached by a hose so it can sit low. Also, small briefcase size butane stoves are cheaply available these days. – Hebekiah Sep 1 '17 at 20:14
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    Just saw that you linked such a device! I did say the answer was NO. Except you could grind it to a flour and drink it. Probably best to let it sit for a while and strain it. Lectin, cellulose, and bacteria can make people sick, things that cooking takes care of. – Hebekiah Sep 1 '17 at 20:33

Even in Asia, I'm sure you've heard of Minute Rice which is a brand name of instant rice. Instant rice is rice that's already been cooked and then had the water removed (dehydrated). It tastes pretty bad/bland unless you're someone who was raised on it. A person is meant to add boiling water to it, stir and cover (without cooking it) and it's supposed to be reconstituted in a minute or less.

Since it's already cooked, the boiling water is only meant to make it hot for eating. Cold water would also work but take longer to rehydrate.

You can make instant rice yourself, dehydrate it and properly store it for emergencies. You'd need to make sure it's throughly dry before storage and that your containers are completely water and air tight. A glass container with a snug lid would suit but I'm not sure if glass containers might not be broken during a catastrophic event. Metal or very good quality plastic would be safer.

I'd not plan on storing your instant rice longer than a year (or less) but then most food stored as emergency supplies need to be cycled yearly. Since instant rice doesn't have the best flavour, I'd use the old supplies to make congee where long cooking is best for it anyway. This site explains how to make your own instant rice. http://thehomesteadinghippy.com/make-instant-rice/

I don't have a dehydator but I use my oven to dry herbs. The oven setting doesn't go below 200° F (94-5° C) but I found that using a 100 watt incandescent bulb instead of the oven light bulb and leaving it on brought it close to the temperature a dehydator gives. I'd stir the rice around every few hours to make sure it dried evenly.

This is about the best solution to eating rice without any means of cooking it. Maybe not ideal but enough to provide your needs in an emergency. Instant rice only takes up a little more space than dried raw rice. You might even look into getting some of those food-safe silica gel packs for food products to absorb any moisture to be extra safe and add them to each container in storage.

Edited for further cautions It doesn't matter how much food you have to eat if your water supply isn't safe. A suggeston I read years back given by the UN has stuck with me so I did some digging to find it in order to provide a credible reference. You can sterilize your emergency water supplies without boiling or treating it with bleach or iodine as long as it's sunny.

Since the information is I'm a PDF file, I'll give the link but summarize it here. Essentially, the UV rays from sunlight will kill any pathogens present. If contaminated with chemicals from a spill, I won't work, of course. Containers used need to be clean and be clear plastic. Used pop or water bottles work well. Please look over the link given to find the simple steps needed. In many places in the world, safe water is hard to come by and even clean water can be germ-laden. This method ensures almost anyone can have access to safe water. In extremely dire circumstances, muddy water could be filtreed through cloth a few times and let stand to take the clear water off and then sterilized. Water can mean the difference between life and death. One should always be prepared for the worse case scenario.

Water Sterilization link Household Water Treatment and Safe - World Health Organization http://www.who.int/household_water/resources/emergencies.pdf

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    I am not sure I believe that a plastic bottle will transmit sufficient UV to sterilize a few liters of water like that, even if there is one WHO web site that seems to says so. I'd like to see some scientific verification. About the minute rice, the whole point of the question is how to eat what is already plentifully available everywhere; normal rice! I think a good separate question might be asked about preparing emergency food, if it hasn't been asked already. – uhoh Aug 27 '17 at 17:57

A parabolic rice cooker. You can make one at home using aluminum foil to create a reflective surface:

Video on youtube using a parabola and a pressure cooker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyIT_iAtpH4

  • I love it, thanks! – uhoh Oct 24 '20 at 2:29

Rice uncooked is not the best to eat for health reasons. But I have seen the very poor. Grind it between 2 flat rocks. Add water & let set for 2 hours before eating. Or make a rice mush this way over a fire of scrap plastic bottles & such. In a tin can. Not the best but you do see such in 3rd world Countries. That is Hunger. So how hungry are you at the time? Raw rice can be ate. On the other hand you have not led a life to adapt to such in life. So not cooking rice may prove fatal to some.


Yes. But first, you must grind the rice until it turned into powder. Then put a bit of water, just enough to make it like you are making a bread. Then let it ferment, slice like a bread, put in a flat wood or anything you can find that is clean enough to set it. Then let it sit under the sun for awhile. Couple of hours will do.

  • that's interesting... does this have a name? – uhoh Feb 8 '19 at 23:07
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    Can you offer more details on how to do this, or a link that provides more detail? – elbrant Feb 9 '19 at 2:38

I had one idea - though it's not very practical.

I know rice can be cooked, specifically popped, with heated sand - I've seen it done. So no boiling water required. (salt may be an alternative to sand, but that's speculation). It may be that soaking the rice beforehand will produce something closer to puffed rice, if the moisture will start to steam the rice before it dries out and pops/puffs - though that might also let sand stick better to the rice

The sand is usually heated with a fire, or some other heat source with which you could directly boil water. Even if not, that heat source - or the hot sand - can probably be used to heat up other things (rocks, etc) which can be used to indirectly boil water. So, fireless and waterless preparation is a very contrived situation.

If you wanted to try anyway, I would think it would work best with very dark sand - I know colored sands are available for craft purposes, though I don't know how food-safe they are. And to use it, solar heat seems like the best choice absent fire, electricity or other alternatives. If the sun is very strong, a thin layer may soak up enough heat to pop the rice (aka fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk heat). The heat may be concentrated with magnifying glasses or other lenses (even clear water-filled containers, aka plastic water bottles, supposedly), or with mirrors or other reflecting surfaces.

Of course, this is basically a solar cooker, and can almost certainly be set up to heat water or cook other kinds of foods. Or possibly start a fire, with which you can boil your water.

  • I think that popping needs much higher temperatures than frying an egg, and you are unlikely to get them from solar heated stone. Even if it did, I wouldn't try to use it in a survival situation. – rumtscho Sep 7 '17 at 5:47
  • @rumtscho - yeah, I said it probably isn't practical, but when I remembered the possibility it seemed too interesting not to mention. Not to mention in a survival situation one would almost certainly willing to go with any of the alternatives that do result in boiling water, so impractical solution for unlikely situation. – Megha Sep 7 '17 at 21:08

Rice is a well known desiccant, so it's always tricky to keep rice safe and dry. And also it's not recommended to can rice as well. However, shelf-stable rice products are available on the market. It might need some tooling and extra ingredients, but it should be possible to create shelf-stable rice portions at home.

I believe the commercial producers follow a similar process to canning and they make sure they acidify the product (most probably using lactic acid) in order to make it shelf-stable.

I'm not an expert on food safety, so I won't be giving a recipe and I never recommend getting a recipe online as well. Food preservation is a serious matter, and should be approached with utmost care and the guidelines should be strictly followed.

  • I believe that rice is not a very good desiccant at all, I think this comes from an urban legend about fixing your phone if dropped in water; 1, 2, 3. Personal experience + everyone I know + internet indicates that common varieties of white rice are just fine sitting in a bag for years, as long as you keep the bugs and mice out. – uhoh Feb 10 '19 at 2:21
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    Of course you can store "dry" rice for a couple of years. But after that it will no longer be dry. Yes, it's not a very good desiccant (and I had no such claim), but it's a desiccant after all... ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27869510 – zetaprime Feb 10 '19 at 2:32
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    I also recommend looking into academic sources on long-term storage of rice as well, general recommended practice is to use oxygen absorbers extension.usu.edu/foodstorage/howdoi/white_rice – zetaprime Feb 10 '19 at 2:36
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    Oh that's interesting; okay I'm going to look into this further, thanks for the link! The abstract doesn't mention a control (e.g. sand, or even nothing) but tomorrow the libraries will open (lunar new year shuts everything down for a week here) and I can have a look. – uhoh Feb 10 '19 at 2:37
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    a quick google search yields this poster: lsl.usu.edu/files/Angela-Hayden-poster.pdf – zetaprime Feb 10 '19 at 2:50

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