Use your grains for better meals

Whole grains are a great option for anyone and we encourage their use in the Eating and Activity Guidelines for Adult New Zealanders. They are an important source of minerals and vitamins. Adding grains to meals makes it easier to get 30g fibre in your day.

You can cook whole grains on the stovetop or in a rice cooker. Some smaller grains can escape out the vent hole of a rice cooker. Cut a circle of baking paper to cover the top of your rice cooker under the lid. You can also cook grains in a pressure cooker. Cooking time is affected by the PSI of your cooker.

Table: Cooking volumes and times for a range of whole grains available in New Zealand

GrainLiquid for stovetop:Bring to a boil, then simmer for:Liquid for pressure cookerPressure Cooker timeCooked amount
1 C Brown Rice2 ½ C45-55 min1 ½ to 2C12-20 min3 C
1 C pearl barley3 C45-60 min2 ½ to 3 C10-20 min3 ½ C
1 C Rolled Oats**2 C10 min2C10 min3 C
1 C Millet, hulled2 ½ C25-35 min3 C8 – 10 min4 C
1 C Quinoa1 ¾ C12-15 min2 C2-4 min3 C
1 C amaranth2 C20 min2 ¼ C5-7 min3 C
1 C coarse polenta3 C30-40 min4-5 C10 min3 C
1 C buckwheat groats2 C20 min1 ¾ C2-4 min2 ½ C
These are approximate guidelines, you will need to use your own pressure cooker manual to determine time more accuately.

Some whole grains are very quick to prepare. These whole grains are cooked, then dried again, so only need to be hydrated before use.

1 C bulgar wheat add 2 C boiling water – allow to stand for 20 minutes, drain, fluff with a fork, and serve

1 C cous-cous add 1 ½ C boiling water. Stand for 10 minutes, drain, fluff with a fork and serve.

Freezing grains

Most people are unaware you can successfully freeze grains. Once you have cooked your grains, drain them well. Spread grains on a shallow tray. Allow grains to cool for 10-15 minutes. Freeze the grains on the tray for up to 12 hours. Break off the tray into a container to use as free-flow grains – to be reheated in the microwave.

Grains freeze well for up to 3 months. Grains are more likely to be freezer burned if you eat them after this time. Make sure your bags are well labeled and you plan their use into your menu!

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