Short Grain Rice
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Short Grain Rice, sometimes called Round Rice, is another category of Rice that groups Rice cultivars by their size and shape. As with Long Grain Rice and Medium Grain Rice, there are a few different types of Rice that can be lumped in under the term “Short Grain.” Rice types are also sometimes grouped along a few dimensions such as color, stickiness, lineage, etc.

In practice, Short Grain Rice is the easiest to spot visually because if the Rice grain is short, plump, and almost round the Rice will be classified as a Short Grain Rice. The official metric is if the Rice in question is less than twice as long as it is wide then it is a Short Grain Rice. In addition to their grain sizes, most Raw Short Grain Rice grains are opaque and not translucent like Long Grain Rice or Medium Grain Rice.

More importantly, Short Grain Rice has a much larger proportion of the sticky Starch (Amylopectin) than the stiff Starch (Amylose). The sticky Amylopectin resides in the outer layer of the Rice kernel and any Amylose present will be in the harder inner portion of the kernel, known as the “pearl” (“Perla” in Italian). The preponderance of Amylopectin, which Gelatinizes (and gets sticky) when cooked, means Short Grain Rice should also be categorized as a Sticky Rice. The percentages of Amylose and Amylopectin vary within Short Grain Rice types, ranging from the very sticky Glutinous Rice to the somewhat less sticky Japanese Short Grain Rice or Baldo Rice. Brown Rice versions (the same grain but with its Rice Bran intact) of Short Grain Rice will be less sticky than White Rice versions (the same grain milled or polished to remove the Rice Bran) because the Rice Bran contains and protects the Amylopectin.

Season

Short Grain Rice is sown in the spring and harvested in the fall. See Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource for more information on the seasonality of Rice.

Cultivation

See Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource for more information on Rice Cultivation.

Production

Short Grain Rice is not the predominant variety of Rice grown in the United States. In fact, only about 1-2% of U.S. production is comprised of Short Grain Rice cultivars. California’s Sacramento River Valley accounts for most of this production. In California, Short Grain Rice accounts for about 7% of their crop by volume.

Both U.S.-grown, White and Brown Short Grain Rice are categorized into “Grades” (official U.S. Standards set by the Secretary of Agriculture) by the Rice growers before it even moves on to the Rice dealers. The standards are principally based on the cleanliness of the Rice, its purity (whether or not they are intermixed with other varieties), and the wholeness of the Rice Kernels.

White Short Grain Rice has 6 standard grades: Extra Fancy Rice (U.S. No. 1), Fancy Rice (U.S. No. 2), Extra Choice Rice (U.S. No. 3), Choice Rice (U.S. No. 4), Medium Rice (U.S. No. 5), and Sample Grade Rice. Brown Short Grain Rice only has 4 standard grades: Extra Fancy Rice (U.S. No. 1), Fancy Rice (U.S. No. 2), Choice Rice (U.S. No. 4), and Sample Grade Rice.

See Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource for more information on Rice Production.

Varieties

There is a lot of confusion about the different types of Short Grain Rice. Our list may not correspond with the lists compiled by others that you may have seen but we use grain size (almost round) and Starch content (mostly Amylopectin starch) as our benchmarks.

Some other sources list longer Rice grains (such as Arborio Rice, Valencia Rice, Calrose Rice, Vialone Nano Rice, or Sushi Rice) as Short Grain rice types. We don’t because all of these Rice grains are more than twice as long as they are wide. They also have a moderate amount of Amylopectin and a moderate amount of Amylose. If you are looking for information on these types of Rice listed above, you will find it Smart Kitchen’s Medium Grain Rice resource.

In our opinion, the Short Grain Rice types that you are likely to encounter are Glutinous Rice, Baldo Rice, and Japanese Short Grain Rice.

Purchasing

Short Grain Rice is generally available as both White Rice and Brown Rice. It can also be found in prepackaged containers and bulk bins depending on where you shop.

We would not usually buy Brown Short Grain Rice from a bulk bin because the grain is still encased in the Rice Bran (which contains Rice Bran Oil that can easily go Rancid).

We are more open to buying White Short Grain Rice from a bulk bin, but would want to make sure that the merchant has high volume and that the Rice bin is, and has been, properly covered. You don’t want any surprises in your purchase.

If you are able to visually inspect the Short Grain Rice before purchase, the individual kernels of the Rice should be less than twice as long as they are wide, and many types appear almost round. While you are selecting your Rice (in bulk or in packages), keep an eye out for any signs of moisture which can ruin Rice. Also, try and buy as few broken grains of Rice as possible. Your final dish will likely be a mess of overdone and underdone Rice if you cook with broken grains and whole grains: broken grains are smaller than whole grains and the two sizes won’t cook together uniformly.

Once we’re sure that the Short Grain Rice was actually short-grained, and that it had not been exposed to moisture, we would check the expiration date. Brown Rice can easily go bad if stored too long. Again, it is the Rice Bran Oil and Rancidity that is of concern. White Rice is less likely to go bad, since it is a dried kernel, but fresher Short Grain Rice makes for better eating.

Also, try and buy as few broken grains of Rice as possible. Your final dish will likely be a mess of overdone and underdone Rice if you cook with broken grains and whole grains: broken grains are smaller than whole grains and the two sizes won’t cook together uniformly.

Finally, if you are conflicted, for budgetary or philosophical reasons, about buying Organic, you may want to give in here and buy Organic Rice. The reason is that research indicates that domestic non-organic Short Grain White Rice contains 1.4 to 5 times more arsenic than organic Short Grain White Rice from Europe, India or Bangladesh.

Storage

How you store Short Grain Rice depends, first of all, on whether it is White Rice or Brown Rice. The only difference between the two is that White Short Grain Rice has been milled to remove the Rice Bran which allows it to better handle storage. Brown Short Grain Rice retains the Rice Bran (and airtight Rice Bran Oil which will easily go Rancid). Consequently, Brown Short Grain Rice has a shorter shelf life than White Rice and requires a little different handling and philosophy to maximize your yield and value.

With Brown Short Grain Rice, how you store it revolves around how quickly you plan to use it. If you plan to use it all in a few weeks, store the Brown Short Grain Rice in an airtight container in a cool dark place like your pantry. Sealed, it may last 3-6 months but will be best for only a few weeks. If you open your package from the pantry, store the unused portion in the refrigerator or freezer for a better shelf life.

In the refrigerator your Brown Short Grain Rice will last for 6-12 months in an airtight container. Frozen, you should get 12-18 months (for best quality).

Because it is a dried Grain, an unopened container of White Short Grain Rice will keep almost indefinitely in a pantry at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or frozen. Once opened, the only real risks to the shelf life are moisture and pests, including bugs and rats. Keeping the container sealed and airtight can protect against both of these.

Cooked, let the Short Grain Rice cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator. Cooked Short Grain Rice will last about 4-7 days in the refrigerator but it is best to use it within 2 days. 

Culinary Uses

Short Grain Rice can vary significantly in the amounts of the stiff Starch Amylose and the sticky starch Amylopectin that they contain. How sticky or stiff the particular Rice is will be the most important determinant of how it should be used.

In general, Short Grain Rice is very sticky with at most only 1% of the stiff Amylose, but there are exceptions such as Baldo Rice which has 20.5% Amylose and is consequently a stiffer grain. If you can, check the specific Smart Kitchen resource on the type of Short Grain Rice you are going to be using before proceeding. Glutinous Rice will be very sticky and Japanese Short Grain Rice types will be somewhat sticky. The most frequent use for Short Grain Rice is making Sushi Rice.

Cooked, they puff to full, fat resilient grains that are both separate and slightly sticky. For a more traditional, softer texture wash and soak the grains before cooking. Short-grain requires considerably less water for preparation than long-grain.

Substitutes

Medium Grain Rice (fluffier, less sticky)

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes