Rice in a bowl

How to Cool Rice Quickly (And Safely)

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Everybody loves a tasty dish that includes rice. However, you never want to let your rice sit at room temperature for extended periods of time. Instead, you should make sure that you are cooking, cooling, and reheating your rice correctly. 

The best way to cool your rice quickly is to either place your bowl of rice into a larger bowl of ice water so that it can quickly reach 41°F (5°C) or divide your cooked rice into smaller portions, such as a cup and place it in shallow containers that allow it to cool fast.   

Why Do You Need To Cool Rice Quickly?

Rice can start to form harmful bacteria in as little as an hour. In fact, once your cooked rice has reached room temperature, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator immediately if you are going to consume it within a few days or put it in the freezer to eat at a later date.

Either way, your rice should never be left out on the counter or table for an extended period of time. This is why cooling cooked rice quickly is so important; it allows you to consume or store it before it becomes contaminated. 

Can You Eat Rice When It’s Cold? 

Yes, there are plenty of dishes that call for cold rice, such as sushi. From a health perspective, cold rice contains higher resistant starch than freshly cooked hot rice. It allows your gut bacteria to ferment it like a prebiotic

There are plenty of studies that show multiple health benefits from eating rice that has been cooled in the refrigerator for one day. In particular, it can help reduce abdominal fat and improve blood cholesterol.

Are There Any Risks From Consuming Cold Rice? 

Like everything else in life, there are certain risks with eating cold rice. However, you can significantly reduce those risks by cooking and storing your rice accordingly.

There is a chance of getting food poisoning from Bacillus cereus, which may have formed spores on your rice prior to cooking it. If this happens, then you may experience:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal Cramps

However, these types of symptoms typically show up within the first 15 to 30 minutes of consuming it and rarely last for long periods of time. Many people experience this and don’t realize it was caused by the bacteria on the rice they just ate.

The goal is never to allow your rice to sit at room temperature, which can help avoid any chances of allowing the spores to germinate. Unfortunately, this bacterium can survive even after being cooked in high temperatures.     

How To Eat Cold Rice Safely

Since rice is considered a perishable food, it should be treated the same way you would consume other foods that can acquire harmful bacteria over time. 

You wouldn’t leave your cooked chicken on the counter for hours at a time, so you shouldn’t do that with your rice either!

Here are the best ways to safely consume cold rice:

  • Immediately cool your rice after it has cooked by either placing it in shallow bowls or in a much bigger bowl of ice water (don’t put your rice in the water). 
  • Consume it within one hour or put it in the refrigerator for enjoying it later on. Make sure your container(s) are airtight and don’t stack multiple containers on top of each other. 
  • Your refrigerator needs to be at least 41° F (5° C) or lower to prevent the spores from forming.   
  • You should eat your rice within three to four days or toss it out. 
  • You can freeze your leftover rice, but this should be done immediately after it has been cooled down. It will last for about one month in your freezer before it loses flavor. 

If you follow these steps, then your rice should not be able to form any spores that will germinate and cause you to get sick. 

Note: Consuming cold rice can be done safely as long as you actually eat it while it’s still cold. Do not allow your cold rice to get room temperature before consuming it. 

How Can You Tell If Cooled Rice Is Safe to Eat?

Rice in small container

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing if your cooled rice has been contaminated with bacteria or not. It won’t have a funky smell, the taste will be the same as other rice, and it will look perfectly fine.  

The only thing you can do to ensure that your cooled rice is safe to consume is to cook it accordingly and then properly cool it in either ice-cold water or place it in shallow containers. 

You don’t want to allow your cooled rice to sit at room temperature ever, so be sure to either eat it while it’s still hot or cold. If you want to save it for later, then be sure to put it in the fridge before it gets to room temperature. 

Is It Safe to Reheat Cooled Rice? 

Yes, you can safely reheat your cooled rice by making sure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F either in the microwave, oven or on your stovetop. 

You will only want to reheat your cooled rice one time ONLY, and you can do this if your cooled rice was adequately cooled down and stored correctly. 

Remember, there are no signs of contamination on rice other than after the fact of consumption. So always make sure you handle your cooled rice properly and take the steps needed to ensure it is safe to eat. 

Will Reheating Cooled Rice Kill Any Bacteria? 

No, you won’t be able to kill any of the toxins that have formed on your rice prior to reheating it. If your rice wasn’t stored correctly, then it will be unsafe to eat regardless of how high the temperatures are when you reheat it. 

You cannot kill this type of bacteria with high heat. Instead, you need to make sure you are taking every precaution when cooling and storing your rice before you preheat it. 

Ways to Reduce Your Risks From Getting Food Poisoning From Cooked Rice 

There are ways you can reduce your risks of getting sick when consuming cooled down rice. Below we will share with you all the measures you can take to ensure you and your family’s safety.  

Use this table as a guide for consuming cooked rice:

Where How Length of Time 
On the Counter or TableIn Bowl or On a PlateLess than 1 Hour 
In the RefridgeratorIn Airtight Container 3 to 4 Days 
Stored in Your Freezer In Airtight Container Up to 1 Month 

Tips for Eating Rice Safely 

Here are some tips that can help you make the right choices when it comes to cooking, storing, and eating rice. 

Tip # 1 Measure Your Portions 

When preparing a meal for yourself or multiple people, you want to make sure that you only cook enough rice that is needed to feed however many people you are serving. 

This is a great way to prevent your rice from sitting out too long or having to worry about storing it safely for later use. 

This also goes for rice that needs to be cooked in advance. You should only prepare the amount of rice that you’ll actually need and then make sure you store it correctly until it is consumed later on by you or your family members.  

Tip #2 Choose Wisely 

If you want to keep your cooked rice hot until you’re ready to serve it, then make sure it maintains a temperature of 140°F (60°C) or higher at all times. 

If you want to store your rice for later on, then make sure you cool it down as quickly as possible and put it in your fridge or freezer until further use. 

Do NOT leave your cooked or cooled down rice on your counter or tabletop for an extended period of time.

Once your cooked rice has been at room temperature for longer than an hour, it needs to be disposed of in order to prevent food poisoning. 

Tip #3 Don’t Take Chances 

You do not want to take any chances with getting sick from your cooked or cooled rice. You certainly don’t want to serve any of your guest’s rice that might be contaminated because it was left out too long or not stored properly. 

It’s better to make a pot of new rice before taking any risks with eating cooked rice that has formed spores of bacteria and can cause nasty side effects. When in doubt, throw it out!  


Knowing how to cool your rice quickly and store it properly can be the difference between getting food poisoning and safely enjoying your meal. 

Always remember that rice that has been cooked and cooled should never be left out at room temperature for longer than one hour. 

If you really want to ensure your safety, either consume your cooled rice or store it in the fridge or freezer before it becomes room temperature. 

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