White rice and dry beans have a varying shelf life—if not stored properly, they can get dried out and develop fissures in the grains. When cooked, they might have a cracked, popcorn-y texture that’s more like couscous than rice, says Laura Murphy, manager of domestic and international promotion for the California Rice Commission. Old medium- and short-grained rice will also be less sticky after cooking. Long-grained white rice can last indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place, says Greg Yielding, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association. “They’ve found rice in archaeological digs that you could cook normally,” he says. Brown rice, which contains oil in its bran layer, can go rancid. It must be refrigerated and will only last three to six months.
Dry beans are good for at least two years if stored properly. That means in a closed container in a cool, dry, dark place (like your cupboard), says Randy Duckworth, executive director of the U.S. Dry Bean Council. If they dry out too much, you can wind up with “hard seeds,” beans with moisture content so low that they won’t rehydrate and soften, no matter how long you cook them.