It’s a question cooks like myself (too lazy to look it up) have been asking for years: to rinse or not to rinse before cooking? The short answer: It depends on the type of rice.
Some people believe that not rinsing yields rice with a sticky texture. Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, is in this camp: “An initial rinsing of the dry rice removes surface starch and thus a source of added stickiness.” For most long-grain and medium-grain rice, then, rinsing is a good idea. But if you’re using short-grain white rice to make a risotto, no rinsing is necessary—the extra starch creates the essential creamy texture. When white rice is milled, the outer husk and bran layers are removed to produce translucent grains, but this also removes some vitamins and nutrients. To make milled white rice healthier, the United States requires processors to enrich it with vitamins and other nutrients, which appear as a dusty layer on the individual grains. If you want to also preserve those nutrients, washing is a no-no.
There was a time when all white rice was processed with talc, a mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate (sounds tasty, right?) to give it a whiter, cleaner appearance. Back then, rice needed a rinse to remove this talc. Most white rice grown in the U.S. is no longer milled that way, but some imported rices have been processed with talc, powdered glucose, or rice powder (all safe to eat, but still). Because of this, Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann, authors of The Ultimate Rice Cooker Book, suggest leaving domestic rice as is, but rinsing imported rice (like jasmine and basmati) to improve the flavor and avoid the rice turning gluey. Most other recipes for Asian rice don’t call for rinsing, since a certain amount of stickiness is a good thing. Rather, they have you soak the rice before cooking.
It’s important to note that soaking rice is completely different from rinsing. Soaking gives the grains a head start on cooking and yields a better texture—it’s a common step in cooking basmati, which needs to be rinsed and soaked.
Greg Massa, owner of Massa Organics, a family farm in Northern California producing organic brown rice, notes that some people like rinsing brown rice to remove any bran dust before cooking. Bran dust doesn’t affect the rice as it cooks, so removing it (or not) is really more of a personal preference.
From here on out, I’ll take a pass on rinsing, but count me in on soaking Asian rices.