If stored at room temperature for long periods of time, the bacillus can multiply in cooked rice, increasing one’s risk of infection. Contrary to a popular misconception, however, reheating leftover rice in itself does not raise one’s risk of infection with Bacillus cereus, as long as you cook, store and reheat your rice correctly. This guide explains how to handle rice and leftover rice safely.
1. How to Cook Rice Properly
As we explained in greater detail in a previous article, you should always handle animal products and plant-based products separately while cooking, and wash your hands thoroughly before and between each stage of cooking. This is because animal products, such as meat and poultry, often contain pathogens that can spread to other foods aren’t typically exposed to temperatures as high as animal products are.
When it comes to cooking rice, high temperatures that kill germs are your best friend, so you should also keep an eye out on cooking temperatures and make sure to cook rice at a temperature above 60°C (140°F). Beware that lower cooking temperatures could do the opposite and urge bacterial growth, so we recommend making sure the temperature is high by using a kitchen thermometer.
Once cooked, serve the rice immediately and don’t let a bowl or rice sit at room temperature for more than an hour at any time.
2. Storage Tips for Cooked Rice
Since bacteria typically thrive in temperatures between 5-60°C (40-140°F), cooling the food as quickly as you can would prevent this from happening. It doesn’t matter if it’s plain rice, risotto, cabbage rolls filled with rice or any other rice dish, you should follow these tips to ensure the rice dish doesn’t harbor harmful microorganisms:
1. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers immediately after cooking. Side note: check the temperature in your refrigerator and make sure it’s below 5°C (40°F).
2. Don’t leave cooked rice at room temperature for over 1 hour.
3. Don’t store leftovers in the fridge for more than 3-4 days and in the freezer for more than 3 months.
4. Package your leftovers smartly: divide the rice into portions to avoid reheating and refreezing a dish several times.
3. How to Reheat Rice Properly
When reheating leftover rice, it’s important to make sure it has been heated up to a temperature of over 75°C (165°F) as quickly as possible and for at least 3-4 minutes irrespective of the way you’re reheating the rice (steaming, microwave or stir-frying).
This will ensure that the rice is piping hot and any bacteria potentially present in the food died off. Serve the rice immediately and try to avoid reheating for the second time. If you have a large quantity of leftover rice, we recommend dividing it into serving-size containers or bags.