How to Cook Grains From the Bulk Bin

©. Aimee Lee Studio

From amaranth to wheat berries, here's how to cook grains that don't come with instructions.

That bulk bins in supermarkets are becoming more common is a wonderful thing: A shopper is not restricted to specific portions; bulk items cost less and are ofetn fresher; and there is a glorious lack of packaging waste. All one needs is a cupboard full of empty jars and some reusable bags to get bulk items from bins to home. There's just one little problem – that glorious lack of packaging means a lack of cooking instructions, which becomes especially pertinent when it comes to grains.

Some cooking times and methods you may know by heart – but likely not all. When I first starting shopping in the bulk section, I started a list of the basics. These may not be exact, but they are a great starting point and you can adjust depending on the age and varieties of grains available in your market.

For most whole grains, follow this method

Measure grains and water according to ratio below, add to a pot (with a pinch of salt and splash of olive oil if you want) and bring to a boil. Bring heat down to a very gentle simmer, stir once, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let cook for the allotted time. Once the timer goes off, check to ensure all the water has been absorbed (if not, cook for a few more minutes); if the grain isn't cooked enough, add a little more water and continue cooking and checking. When done, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about 10 minutes to allow the grain to finish absorbing moisture, then fluff with a fork.

Amounts and cooking times

AMARANTH: One part grain to three parts water, cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
BARLEY (hulled): One part grain to three parts water, cook for 40 minutes.
BARLEY (pearled): One part grain to three parts water, cook for 20 minutes.
BROWN RICE (long or medium grain): One part grain to two parts water, cook for 45 minutes.
BROWN RICE (short grain): One part grain to two parts water, cook for 50 minutes.
BLACK RICE (forbidden): One part grain to two parts water, cook for 40 minutes.
BUCKWHEAT: One part grain to two parts water, cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
BULGAR: One part grain to two parts water, cook for 12 minutes, drain off excess water and fluff with a fork.
MILLET: One part grain to two parts water, toast in a pan first, then cook for 20 minutes.
QUINOA: One part grain to two parts water, rinse, cook uncovered for 15 minutes (until "tail" appears), remove from heat and cover for five minutes.
RED RICE (Bhutanese): One part grain to two parts water, cook for 30 to 35 minutes.
WILD RICE: One part grain to three parts water, cook for 40 to 45 minutes.<br/>WHEAT BERRIES: One part grain to three parts water, start checking at 30 minutes for pearled varieties; up to 50 minutes nor non-pearled. Basically, cook until tender but still chewy.

I will continue adding to this as new grains come into my life.