You've decided to test out your cooking skills and impress your friends with a nice meal. It seems that the yummy recipe you've had your eye on requires rice. But wow! It takes sooo long to make even white rice, and you do not have the patience to wait out brown. You scan the shelves and notice good old Uncle Ben promising you rice in 10 minutes only! But how? You wonder what instant rice is. Is it magic? Is it healthy? Will it taste good?

What Is Instant Rice?

coffee, beer, tea, beans
Leanna Smith

Just like its cousins microwavable mac 'n cheese and popcorn, instant rice originated in America. In the early 1900's Americans had begun seeking simpler means of food preparation, which meant slow cooking rice was really unpopular. Ataullah Durrani, a member of the Afghanistan royal family pursuing an engineering career in America, found success in concocting the miracle rice by means of pre-cooking and dehydrating it.

The processed rice works fast in your microwave because in the dehydration process the little kernels all crack a bit, making it easier for the water to go back in. The problem is that while the rice is initially being sucked dry it is losing a lot of its nutritional value. If you've picked instant white rice, which has already lost most of its nutritional value being that it is processed brown rice, you've lost the vast majority of what makes rice healthy.

The processing that the rice goes through might also impact its taste. When you buy instant rice you may be sacrificing the flavor you would have gotten from the lost nutrients, which may leave you with a relatively tasteless rice. It is also very likely that the kernels will not stay very firm upon second cooking, leading to a mushy, sad, and possibly watery clump you might dub "cream of rice." Yuck!

How Is It Different?

cereal, wheat, rye, barley, flour, pasture, corn
Sarah Silbiger

Culinary masters around the world have been struggling through the arduous process of rice making, and still continue without the aid of market brands, because when it comes down to it the joy of cooking is working with your food. When you buy instant rice you lose not only the opportunity to season it in the pot, but you also lose the control over how it is seasoned. 

The most risky component of leaving your cooking to convenience is always in letting someone else decide what needs to go into it and how they will manage to keep it in your pantry so you might feel inclined to buy in bulk. This is where you get high amounts of sodium, sugars, and nasty preservatives which can all be detrimental to your health. Let the ingredient list and sodium levels determine your purchase. 

#Spoontip: when buying any kind of rice your healthiest option is to always look for higher quality organic brown rice

If you're looking for fast, that's what instant rice is. But if you're looking for flavor or a well balanced meal, instant is not the way to go. If the stove is daunting, invest in a rice cooker (not only is it easy to use, they are a staple appliance in parts of the world where rice is a primary part of the diet). For convenience, health, and good taste think outside of the rice box and try out other grains like bulgur or amaranth.