How long does cooked rice last in the fridge? Today, we will dive deep into the correct storage methods and timeframes for cooked rice of all kinds. This comprehensive guide will also look at some common signs of spoilage that will help prevent food poisoning completely.
For more guides on food safety techniques, go check out my website. There I discuss everything from The Right Temperature For A Fridge And Freezer, to more specific topics like How Long Does Salmon Last In The Fridge?
Is it safe to keep cooked rice in the fridge?
Despite popular belief, it is actually completely safe to store cooked rice inside the fridge.
If you don’t follow the proper safety procedures for this process, you could however risk getting some serious food poisoning, hence the misconception about storing it in the first place.
Furthermore, it is also completely fine to soak rice in the fridge overnight. In fact, I highly recommend it to ensure your soaking rice remains in a safe temperature zone. It’s small steps like this that help prevent avoidable issues like food poisoning.
What is the shelf life of cooked rice when stored in the refrigerator?
Rule number one: It is best to store cooked rice for only a day.
While it can stay safe in the fridge for between 3-4 days, I never store it that long. 2 days at the most! Here’s why:
Uncooked rice granules MAY contain spores of Bacillus cereus. Unfortunately, this is a deadly bacteria that often cause food poisoning. And as I have said often, there is NO WAY to see what bacteria is present just by looking at something. You need a microscope and vast knowledge of different strains.
Mild symptoms of food poisoning caused by Bacillus cereus usually include vomiting and diarrhea, so just imagine how severe it can get.
During cooking, spores are usually killed off. But not with this strain. Most of them survive.
So, if the cooked rice is then left in unfavorable conditions (or stored in the fridge for too long), the spores will multiply and grow to dangerous numbers.
Again, the rice can last 3-4 days inside the fridge. However, if you aren’t sure about the quality and safety of the rice, it’s best to use it within a day, maybe two at the most.
How Do You Know If Rice Is Bad?
There is no exact way to test the “safety” of cooked or uncooked rice – not without some scientific equipment at least.
However, once the bacteria have multiplied to extreme numbers, they will start showing signs of their existence on the rice.
Again, Bacillus cereus is a very dangerous bacteria. If you see ANY signs of spoilage on the rice, immediately discard it.
Freshly cooked rice has almost no smell at all. At the very least, it smells like rice.
As the bacteria reproduce and the rice starts to age, a strange smell starts appearing. It’s difficult to describe as it doesn’t necessarily smell rancid, sour, or tart.
It just smells off. Any change in smell should be taken as a sign of spoilage.
Most medium and long-grain rice types are fluffy and have an almost airy texture to them.
As the rice ages, the bacteria produce a slimy film that coats the granules. This makes them super sticky and gives them a very unappealing texture.
You should never eat rice that changed consistency. If you were working with sticky rice (like sushi rice) and it becomes slimy, it has gone off.
As rice ages, it doesn’t really discolor to such an extent that you can say, “It has gone off.”
But, a very tell-tale sign of spoilage is mold growth.
You will usually notice either green, blue, or black mold. The color depends on the bacteria present, which may differ depending on the type of rice and where it is from.
Remember, bacteria can be introduced at ANY stage, from growing the grains in the field to storing them in a dirty container.
Best Techniques for Storing Cooked Rice in the Fridge
Now that you know how long cooked rice last in the fridge, let’s look at how you should properly store it.
There are two ways you can go. Either way, you will first need to cool the rice quickly.
Spread the cooked rice onto a plate. Leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, then place it in the fridge to cool completely. You can wrap the rice with a layer of plastic and poke holes over the top.
This step is crucial. Rice is high in moisture and nutrients for bacteria to grow. Furthermore, it retains heat well, causing it to take HOURS to cool at room temperature. This puts the rice at a high risk of growing bacteria.
So, by cooling it quickly, you eliminate that risk. Once cooled in the fridge, you can proceed with one of these storage methods.
Method 1: Store In A Container
This is the easiest, but arguably less effective method.
Simply place the COOLED cooked rice inside the container and add an airtight lid.
Store the rice inside the fridge for a day or two.
Method 2: Store In Airtight Bag
This is the method I prefer to use. Once the rice is cooled, place it inside an airtight resealable bag.
Afterward, let out as much air as you can before closing the bag. This ensures that bacteria have a limited supply of oxygen to reproduce quickly. Additionally, it simplifies storage.
The timeframe I’ve laid out above applies to all kinds of rice types, not just white or brown. Never store rice for longer than 3-4 days in the fridge. But, preferably, only keep it for a day or two.
You can definitely freeze cooked rice to make it last even longer. Place your cooled cooked rice inside a resealable bag. Again, let out the air. Then, wrap the bag in a layer of foil to reduce freezer burn. Finally, store it inside the freezer for 3 months or so.