I added this technique to my repertoire when I was writing my book Simple Green Suppers. I wanted to incorporate more hearty grains in my meals, but I always found it frustrating when the measured amount of liquid wasn’t fully absorbed. I learned about cooking grains “pasta-style” — in boiling water — and I never looked back.

I use this method most often for farro, wheatberries, barley and short grain brown rice, but you can use it for other quicker-cooking grains, too (though sometimes I prefer the pilaf method for those since it infuses flavor during cooking). This is a great way to cook a big batch of grains to use in salads, “bowls” (what I call platters, not bowls!) or soups during the week. As a bonus, be sure to save the nutritious cooking water (now a grain broth) after cooking to use later as a base for a soup.  

Yields: 5 to 6 cups cooked grain; 4 to 6 cups grain broth

  • 2 cups short grain or long grain brown rice, red rice, black rice, soft wheat berries*, pearled farro, farro*, barley, or quinoa
  • Kosher salt and/or low-sodium tamari

1. Fill a pasta pot or other medium-large stockpot three-quarters full of water, add ½ teaspoon salt, and bring it to a boil. Rinse the grain (if unsoaked) in a fine-meshed colander or strainer and add it to the boiling water. Set a timer for the short end of the suggested cooking time and begin tasting the grain for texture when the timer goes off. Continue timing and tasting until you like the texture. (If, when cooking long-cooking grains, your water boils down to within a half inch of your grain, add a small saucepan of boiling water to bring the level back up.)

Barley: 25 to 35 minutes

Red Rice, Black Rice: 20 to 25 minutes

Brown Rice: 28 to 32 minutes

Pearled Farro or Spelt: 22 to 25 minutes

Farro or Spelt: Soaked, 25 minutes; unsoaked, 35 to 45 minutes

Quinoa: 10 to 12 minutes

Soft wheatberries: Soaked, 50 to 70 minutes; unsoaked, 60 to 90 minutes


Susie Middleton

2. Put a colander inside of a heat-proof bowl (to capture cooking liquid), and drain the grain well, reserving the pot. Shake the colander a little to get out excess liquid, and put the grain back in the warm pot (off the heat). Cover the pot with a lid and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes; the grain will absorb the remaining moisture and fluff up a bit.

3. If serving right away, season with salt or tamari and add a bit of butter or olive oil if you like. Or use as directed in your recipe. If cooking ahead, cool completely. It’s best to cool grains down quickly by spreading them out on a sheet pan or plate. Portion the grain and the broth into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

*If you have time, soak wheat berries and (unpearled) farro overnight in filtered or unchlorinated water. Cover the grains with at least a few inches of water and cover the bowl with a lid or sheet pan. Soak for up to 24 hours. Drain and cook.