Grains of All Kinds

Rinse your grains (optional)

This first step is optional (The exception, again is quinoa. More on this later), because today grains are all relatively clean. But rinsing accomplishes one important thing:

It gets rid of surface starch, which can make your cooked grains stick together.

This is a personal preference thing, and it really only matters if you’re cooking naked grains like white rice and pearled barley. If you like your grains a little stickier (easier to eat with chopsticks), then feel free to skip this step.

Otherwise, run the grains under cold water a few times and drain. A fine-mesh strainer helps, but you can also be clever with a pot and its lid.

The exception is quinoa (which is what I’m making in the video): it contains a bitter substance called saponin. Rinsing it will get rid of it. So I always rinse my quinoa at least twice.

Add water

Different grains absorb different amounts of water, so use the chart below to add the correct amount of water:

Grain Cups of Water
(per cup of grain)
White rice 2
Brown rice 1 ½
Wild rice 2 ½
Quinoa 2
Millet 2 ¼
Barley 3
Rye berries 3
Spelt 3
Farro (a.k.a. emmer) 3
Wheat berries 3

Astute folks may notice that whole grains here require more water, not less, than the naked grains. What gives!? Didn’t I say in the mission description that whole grains absorb less water?

In this case, the water serves another purpose: it helps circulate around the whole grains, cooking them evenly. Because whole grains are tougher, almost like they “resist” being cooked, you need all the help you can get. Extra hot water provides that help. And because whole grains don’t absorb water endlessly, turning into porridge like naked grains do, you can get away with using more water than you need.

Bring to a boil, lower heat, and cover

It’s time to turn on the heat. You know the drill here: turn the heat on as high as possible. Lidding it will also make it boil faster.

Once the water comes to a full, roiling boil (You may hear the lid clattering. That’s when you should stop checking Facebook and run to the stove), turn the heat down to as far as it will go, without the flame going out. The water will now slow to a gentle simmer.

Put the lid on, and set the timer:

Grain Cooking Time
White rice 20 minutes
Brown rice 30 minutes
Wild rice 40 minutes
Quinoa 15 minutes
Millet 15 minutes
Barley 25 minutes
Rye berries 60 minutes
Spelt 60 minutes
Farro 30 minutes
Wheat berries 60 minutes

Note: over the course of simmering, the liquid may start to foam up and spill out of the pot. If this happens, it means there is too much steam pressure building up. Try lowering the heat even more. If that fails, crack the lid open the tiniest bit to allow some steam to escape. But not too much, or else the water will evaporate, leaving your grains dry and undercooked!

When the timer goes off, check for doneness

When the timer goes off, remove the lid, get out some grains with a fork, and taste it. Does it taste good? Is it soft enough, or is it still hard in the center? Trust yourself here. There’s no Universal Correct Way to cook grains.

If you are cooking rice, quinoa, millet, or barley, you should also look at whether all of the water has been absorbed. If the grains are soft but there is still extra water, then turn off the heat and leave the lid off. Let the grains “air out” for a while.

On the other hand, if the grains seem tough and undercooked, you’ll have to cook it for longer. First check the water level. If all the water has been absorbed, add another ¼ cup of water. If you’re cooking rye berries, farro, spelt, or wheat berries, feel free to add a ⅓ cup more. Then simply put the lid back on and set the timer for another 5 minutes. Repeat this process of adding water and time until the grains are to your liking.

Once it’s perfect, go to the next step.

Drain excess water (optional)

If you’re cooking barley, rye berries, farro, spelt, or wheat berries, there may be some excess water. Drain this water out. Either use a fine-mesh strainer like the one in the video, or do this:

Put the pot lid on at an angle, leaving a small crack open. Grip the pot and the lid tightly with both hands using a towel, and tilt the pot over a bowl set in the sink. You may lose a few grains into the bowl. No biggie—that’s why the bowl is there. Retrieve them and you’re all set.

Rest. Fluff before serving.

Once your grains are drained (I’m a poet and I’m not even aware of it!), you can put the pot back on the stove with the lid back on, so they don’t dry out. You can leave them there until ready to serve.

Before serving, fluff gently with a fork or stirring utensil to separate the grains.

That’s it for making delicious grains! Here are some suggestions:

  • Make a delicious grain bowl by plopping some sautéed veggies and a fried egg on top
  • Make a healthy grain salad by mixing in some herbs, chopped tomatoes/cucumbers, and olive oil or lemon juice.
  • Stuff some grains into your next wrap, pita, or burrito
  • Eat it for breakfast. Whole grains like rye, farro, spelt and wheat berries are great as a granola substitute. You can even eat them with milk, fruit and honey.
  • Or just eat it as a side.


Nicely done!

You made some delicious food. Now go enjoy it!

P.S. - If you want to show off your work on the lesson gallery, send me a picture.

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