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Difference between Short, Medium & Long Grain Rice

Difference between Short, Medium & Long Grain Rice

It’s hard to think of a food that is more universal than rice. The grains are eaten around the world, with a place on the table from breakfast through dessert from usually daily meal to important festive occasion. Some recipes call for specific varieties, many specify the required rice by the classification of small, medium, or long grain rice. But what’s the difference between these 3 types of rice? And does it really matter which one we use?

The Difference Between Short, Medium, and Long Grain Rice

Rice varieties are classified as short, medium, or long grain based on their length-to-width ratio when cooked. Long-grain rice is long and thin roughly 4-5 times as long as it is wide, while medium grain rice is about 2-3 times as long as it is wide. Short grain rice is considerably wider than it is long.

More About Long Grain Rice

Long grain rice is slim and lengthy. This type of rice includes American long-grain white and brown rice, Basmati rice, and Jasmine rice, and produces distinct firm grains that stay fluffy and separate after cooking. The grains have a firm, dry texture, and are best for side dishes, pilafs, and salads.

More About Medium Grain Rice

It’s short and wider than its long-grain counterpart. This type of rice produces moist, tender, slightly chewy grains that stick to each other when cooked. Common medium grain rice includes Arborio and Valencia, which are typically used to make risotto, and Bomba rice, which is used in paella.

More About Short-Grain Rice

Short grain rice, named for its size, is only a tiny bit longer than it is wide. It’s very common for medium and short grain rice to get combined into the same category, which can make some of us to have confusion.

This squat, plump rice cooks up soft and tender and is known for sticking together and clumping. American short-grain brown rice and sushi rice are common varieties of short grain rice. Use short grain rice for sushi, molded salads, and pudding.

Substitute with Caution

If considering substituting the rice required by a recipe for one of a different size, do so with caution and be prepared to get a slightly different outcome that is intended for the recipe. Most recipes call for a specific size of rice because of the final texture of the rice after it’s cooked. Some dishes simply work best with the firm, the distinct grain we get from long grain rice, while others thrive on chewier medium grain rice or plump, sticky short grain rice. The difference is not just the size, but also the texture of the rice, so the rice we use in a given recipe really does make a difference.

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