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How to Wash Sushi Rice

This is a close look at sushi rice on seaweed and mat to be assembled.

You might think of sushi as a ready-made delight you can pick up at the grocery store deli or order at a restaurant. You can learn to make this at home though.

Now, you might find that surprising because sushi costs so much to order in a restaurant. Japanese restaurants make a big deal out of how much training and experience their sushi chefs have. So, it would probably surprise you to find out that you could purchase the ingredients to make sushi at your typical Asian grocery store and make it at home for a tiny fraction of the cost.

You do not even have to worry about setting up the oven properly. Hey, sushi is a meal you cannot possibly burn. You do have to clean the rice.

The methods of washing the rice are extremely specific, too. That is because the key to making your sushi healthily remains using all fresh, clean ingredients.

Related: Types of Rice | Types of Food | Types of Condiments | How to Store Sushi | What Goes with Sushi | Types of Sushi | Sushi vs. Sashimi | Sushi Rice Substitutes

What is sushi rice?

Sushi rice refers to a specific type of short-grain Japanese rice that differs from regular rice. Traditionally, it had bran attached and could be rather dirty with debris. This required washing. This short-grain rice also contains a great deal of starch.

In order to not overburden the sushi with rice starch, it received a second washing. To this day, many people wash their sushi rice twice, even though it would only require one cleaning now that growing and manufacturers cleaning methods have changed.

Cleaning Methods for Sushi Rice

Two main methods for cleaning rice exist. One uses a soaking method since if you scrub rice too hard it breaks in two. That renders it useless for making sushi. The other, more traditional method, cleans it using one of two dry options. While you can purchase rice and store it dry for months, before you use it, you must clean it.

You do not need a separate rice washer to do this. You can do the rice washing right in the cooker as the first method shows.

The Zojirushi Method

A close look at a sushi chef cleaning rice using the Zojirushi Method.

Today, most rice grains have had the bran removed by polishing during the manufacturer’s packaging process. This means it will absorb water quickly. For this reason, the cleaning method goes exceedingly quickly.

This keeps the short-grain rice from absorbing water before the cooking process begins and keeps it from absorbing the very dirt you are trying to wash off. The Zojirushi method requires 16 steps. You use your hands instead of a rice paddle for washing rice.

  1. Prepare the rice. Measure the desired amount of dry rice. Add the rice to the inner cooking pan of your rice cooker.
  2. Using the measuring cup again, fill it with cool, clean water.
  3. Pour this water into the inner pan.
  4. Using your open hand, stir the rice around in the water two to three times. Drain the water out of the pan.
  5. Repeat the process up to three times. The water should run clear after the second or third rinse. Each rinse should require no more than ten seconds. This keeps the rice from absorbing the starchy water.
  6. Loosely grasp the rice and stir the dampened rice 30 times. Use a circular motion. Avoid squeezing the rice when you do this.
  7. Fill a separate bowl of cool water and pour it into the rice.
  8. Loosely stir in two or three times and drain the water.
  9. Repeat steps seven and eight at least twice, but no more than four times.
  10. Repeat this process twice if you use fewer than four cups of rice. Wash it three times, if you use between four to seven cups of rice. Wash it four times, if you use more than eight cups of rice.
  11. Your water may still appear cloudy. This means you still need to keep washing and rinsing it.
  12. Each wash should take only 15 seconds or less. While this process may seem long broken up into a step-by-step method, it goes quickly since each rinse takes only 15 seconds. Your total rinses would be at most eight or nine, and that would take only about two minutes total. The quick, light washes prevent breakages and clean off the debris, starch, and residue.
  13. Once you get clear water, you give it one final rinse. You pour water into the inner pan to fill it.
  14. Stir with your open hand for a few seconds.
  15. Drain the rice.
  16. Repeat the final rinse twice.

You are now ready to make sushi! Your next decision will be whether to use cooked rice or steamed rice, but that is another article. If you do not want to wash your rice, continue reading to learn the two dry methods of rice cleaning.

Cooking Tip: You may want to speed along the cleaning process by filling more than one measuring cup with the appropriate amount of water. The total cleaning process of preparing the rice including all of the cup filling and emptying, etc. should only require a total of 10 minutes.

If the doorbell or phone rings, drain the rice and set it aside. Never leave it sitting in water while you attend to something! This ruins the rice.

Traditional Cleaning Method

A cook cleaning the rice in a pot using Traditional Cleaning Method.

A few traditional methods of cleaning exist, since clean water was not overabundant in ancient Japan. When you could not turn on a tap to access water, you strained and tossed, or toasted the rice to clean it.

Strain Your Rice

Use this method if you observe debris, powder, extraneous particles, or dirt contaminating the grains. This method tosses the rice similar to how you would toss a salad. Using a wide mesh strainer, you strain the rice without adding water. You need to use a strainer with mesh small enough that the grains do not fall through.

  1. Measure the rice.
  2. Pour it into the strainer.
  3. Toss the rice around in the strainer until the debris shakes free and drops through the mesh.
  4. Pick out any rocks or large debris with your clean fingers. Larger items cannot fit through the mesh.

Toasting the Grains

This involves just what it sounds like it does. You toast the grains of rice directly on a hot surface. This is not in lieu of cooking the normal way in water but in addition to it. Use no oil. Do not add flavoring either. The toasting process adds all of the flavors you need.

Toast the rice at low heat. Rather than using a timer, you need to observe the rice as it toasts. When you hear popping sounds, it has completed the toasting process. This process cooks off the dirt and nastiness. You can avoid rinsing altogether or simply do a quick 10-second rinse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use jasmine rice for sushi?

No, you shouldn’t do that. This type of rice is too aromatic and odoriferous. For the perfect sushi rice, you need a grain that finishes as sticky rice and cooks well with sushi rice vinegar.

Can you flavor sushi rice?

You can, especially if you make it for yourself. When cooking for others, you should make sure that they like the flavorings you add before you add them. They may want to add wasabi a little bit at a time after their sushi is made.

How do you choose sushi rice?

Choose authentic, good-quality rice such as Japonica rice. Check the label to ensure that your purchase is from Japan. Sushi rice should be grown, processed, and packaged in Japan.

How do you make your sushi rice turn red?

Sushi rice that is red in color comes from red rice grain. You must purchase red grains to get that color. In Japanese culture, this is used for celebrations.

How do you make your rice turn black?

No, the chef did not burn the rice or blacken it as the Cajuns do their chicken and fish. Black sushi rice starts out as black rice grains. This variety of rice has high fiber though, so use it judiciously or prepare to remain near the bathroom all day.

Is there brown sushi rice?

No. Brown rice does not get used for sushi. You will use it in some Chinese dishes and in Southern American cooking.

What are the best brands of sushi rice according to chefs?

This is an easy one. Those sushi chefs do really know their stuff. The top five brands of sushi rice are:

  • Koshihikari Rice
  • Tamanishiki rice
  • Lundberg Organic Farms
  • Kokuho
  • Botan Calrose.

Where Can You Buy Sushi Rice?

This is a close look at raw Japanese rice in a dark bowl.

You can still learn to make sushi if you live in the countryside or in an urban area without an Asian grocery. In larger cities, you can find these at most supermarkets or specialty grocery stores. You can also purchase these items online at Amazon grocery or from Walmart.

This will provide you a choice between white rice, red rice, and black rice, as well as provide the appropriate selection for sushi vinegar, sushi roll paper, and seasonings, so you can make sushi from a recipe. You can pick up seasoned vinegar as long as it is Japanese rice vinegar. Remember to purchase plain rice and salt, so your homemade sushi tastes great.


How Sushi: Why and How to Clean Sushi Rice Before Using

The NewLicious: Why You Should Always Rinse Sushi Rice before Cooking