Understanding Types of Rice

by Amy Chang

understanding types of riceThere are more than 35,000 types of rice grown throughout the world. A relatively small number of variations are grown commercially in the United States in addition to some hybrids and adaptations that have been made for growing in the various climates and soils of the continent.

Generally, rice is categorized by four types in the United States: Waxy or Sweet, Short Grain, Medium Grain and Long Grain. Each type has distinct characteristics in raw form, preparation and cooked results.

Long grain rice is light and fluffy with separate grains when cooked. The kernels of long grain rice are slender and long.

Medium grain rice is shorter than the long grain variety and wider. These kernels cling together somewhat when cooked and hold more moisture.

Short grain rice is soft and clings together when cooked. The kernels of this type are almost round and short.

Waxy or sweet rice that is produced in the United States is primarily used in commercial applications such as binder for sauces and gravies. This is because it is highly glutinous and the kernels lose their shape when cooked. In the raw state, this rice is chalky white, short and plump with opaque kernels.

In addition to their visual attributes, rice varieties can be discerned by their flavors. Aromatic rice can be described as having scent and flavor much like that of roasted popcorn. Although these traits are present in all rice varieties to a certain degree, they are more distinctive in those that are placed in this category.

  • Della rice is dry, fluffy and separate when cooked.

  • Jasmine rice is moist and clingy when cooked.

  • Basmati rice has grains which are slender and long and it is separate, fluffy and dry when cooked.

  • U.S. Aromatic Red rice has a savory, nutty flavor and is somewhat chewy when cooked. Similar to brown rice, it takes 45 – 50 minutes to cook and is a dark honey-red color.

Basmati rice originates in Pakistan and India and it is long grain rice that is aged to enhance its moisture content and aroma. The basmati rice grown in the United States is a hybrid of basmati and American long grain rice which results in kernels that are long and slender with a distinctive nutty smell and taste. It only expands lengthwise when cooked.

Black rice is predominantly grown in Asian countries and is aromatic and very dark in color. It is generally used for Asian desert recipes. The type of black rice grown in the United States is Black Japonica and processing of it is kept to a minimum in order to retain its naturally spicy flavor. This type is somewhat chewy when cooked has high fiber content.