Cooked Rice Storage

How to store cooked rice? What is best practice?

Good to know in general

The bacteria that can cause food poisoning multiply quickest in temperatures between 4˚ and 60˚ C (40˚ and 140˚ F). This is why either continuous warming or refrigeration is recommended for all cooked food.

What about cooked rice?

When not consumed right away:

  • Keep it warm: cooked rice should be kept warm above 60˚ C (140˚ F) or
  • Cool it down: cooked rice should be cooled down to 21º C (70º F) or lower within 2 hours and then to 4º C (40º F) or lower within 4 hours.

Cooked rice may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days, or frozen up to 6 months.

Why so?

Raw, uncooked rice (among many other foods) may contain bacterial spores, specifically Bacillus cereus. Cooking deactivates  these spores. They remain deactivated with subsequent warming or refrigeration. But the spores can reactivate given sufficient time at room temperature.

What about sticky rice?

The above rules apply to all forms of rice, including sticky rice.

However, the traditionally practiced way of storing cooked sticky rice in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia is in a fairly tightly packed bamboo basket (กระติบ - kratib), without heating or refrigeration for a good part of the day, in a fairly warm daytime climate. The rice is either fully consumed or is reheated by steaming at the end of the day. While the practice is common in this region, we do not recommend it for those who are not used to it. We have found no sources describing the storage characteristics of this regional tradition. The subject deserves academic attention.

In traditional local use the kratib serves as both a storage and a serving basket, in English language it is solely referred to as a serving basket. Note also that the practice exclusively involves sticky long-grain rice, and not any other type of rice.

In our own kitchen any cooked food that is not consumed by the afternoon of the next day is appreciated by the chickens and the fish. Of course, any bones not turned to soup stock are for the dog ("Bruna") and fish leftovers are for the cat ("Poespoes").

Note: The above storage advice is based on careful research of figures given by official sources, published specialists, and experienced professionals (including ourselves). Most of these sources provide the same figures. Actual safe storage times vary according to local conditions. Consult with your friendly health professional for a final, authoritative opinion.