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October 21, 2006 5:05 AM   Subscribe

Rinsing quinoa: is it really necessary? I haven't found a strainer dense enough that the quinoa doesn't get stuck in it to the point that rinsing it out is a real pain. Also, I often don't rinse it, and I don't notice any difference. Is there something inherently dirty about quinoa? I mean, it's still getting sterilized by boiling water, right? Why rinse quinoa but not rice, bulgur, etc.?
posted by bingo to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't rinse it. I put water in a pot, boil, put quinoa in, pour off any extra water, and eat. I have been doing this for years and have not noticed any adverse effects. I never considered rinsing it first.
posted by iurodivii at 5:18 AM on October 21, 2006

Most quinoa found in markets are relatively clean however, quinoa that has not been washed or processed clean will taste soapy and may have small stones and grit. It is more a question of who you get your quinoa from and their processing methods.

It generally wise to rinse grains just to remove dust or starches that have been used, in the case of rice, as anti-clumping. Beans I wash because I may find something gritty.
posted by jadepearl at 5:21 AM on October 21, 2006

Here is what I understand. When quinoa is harvested, the grains are coated with a substance that has a very bitter, unpleasant taste. The substance also takes quite a bit of rinsing to remove. When I was a kid (raised by hippy-ish parents who ate things like quinoa), quinoa didn't come pre-rinsed, and you really wanted to make sure it was well rinsed or you weren't going to enjoy dinner.

However, as an adult I still eat quinoa pretty often, and I can't recall once buying quinoa in the last 8 years or so that wasn't pre-rinsed -- or at least, pre-treated in some way to remove the coating, I don't know how they do it industrially. If you're not noticing any difference when you're not rinsing it, then it sounds like the quinoa you're buying has already had that coating removed. So, don't worry about rinsing.

Incidentally, many people do rinse their rice before cooking.
posted by louigi at 5:22 AM on October 21, 2006

I'm asking because in a lot of cookbooks (including my favorite, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, which is quite informative about all sorts of grains and how to prepare them) specifically instruct the reader to rinse quinoa before cooking.
posted by bingo at 5:23 AM on October 21, 2006

Ah. Thanks very much for the answers to far. Makes more sense now.

...and you really wanted to make sure it was well rinsed or you weren't going to enjoy dinner.

Dinner? Heck, I eat it for breakfast. :)
posted by bingo at 5:26 AM on October 21, 2006

Just for completeness' sake, the bitter unpleasant substance is saponin
posted by The Michael The at 5:43 AM on October 21, 2006

Quinoa seeds are coated in a bitter substance called saponin which acts as a natural defense mechanism(good) against birds because of its bitter taste(bad). Rinsing quinoa removes or reduces the saponin content making it much more palatable. Most commercally available quinoa is now processed before market to reduce the saponin level. You won't notice much if any diffference from rinsing quinoa that's been processed in this way. Unprocessed quinoa is still available and if you don't rinse that you will notice the bitter taste.

If your quinoa is not processed and you don't rinse it, you will notice a lot of foaming when you cook it. This is because the saponin has soap-like qualities.

I always rinse my quinoa, processed or not. I've been rinsing it for years and for me it is part of the ritual of preparing and eating this amazing food.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:47 AM on October 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

I love rinsing quinoa. I put it in a bowl or a pot, put in a bunch of water, and then stick my hand in and swirl it around a bunch. Pour out as much of the water as I can, do it again, and then cook. I've never needed a strainer, and it feels neat on my hand.
posted by jennyjenny at 6:03 AM on October 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I do exactly as jennyjenny does with quinoa. I don't use a strainer but just swirl it around in a pot with a few changes of water.

Incidentally, I almost always rinse my rice too, using this same method, and I have noticed a difference between rice that is rinsed and rice that is not. I've found when I don't rinse the rice, it can be a bit gluey and clumpy. I read in one of my cookbooks that during processing rice gets knocked around a lot, leaving it with a coating. Rinsing the rice helps ensure the rice grains stay separate during cooking.
posted by Sully6 at 6:10 AM on October 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I rinse my rice and have noticed the same thing as skully6. My rice comes out a lot better since I started doing that, and I can see the starch in the rinse water. This is rice I buy from the bins in a bulk food store.
posted by Melsky at 6:14 AM on October 21, 2006

i only know about rice, but a general rule is that most american brands don't need to be washed, and in fact shouldn't be washed - in the US our rice is generally fortified with iron and vitamins using a powder on the outside of the grains and most of the excess starch has already been taken care of. rinsing takes away the healthiness! it's a pain when i have to go through 5 changes of water to clean off my thai-supermarket rice but the california-born can go straight into the pot.

so um, yeah, i'm sure quinoa is just as ready-to-eat and pre-processed if it's from the states.
posted by soma lkzx at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think it's good practice to wash your quinoa ... you never know when your favorite supplier is going to change their supplier. I do it in the pot it shall be cooked in like everyone else.

A side note on rice: I am pretty sure fortified rice is a .. how do you say .. scam? You don't absorb most of pill vitamins and I kind of doubt coating food is really that healthy. Even if american suppliers wash their rice better you can't stop the generation of rice flour in transit .. rice flour is traditionally made by knocking rice together, after all.
posted by shownomercy at 7:56 AM on October 21, 2006

I too find quinoa nicer when rinsed -- I have a strainer much like this that works very well for the purpose.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:14 AM on October 21, 2006

Fortified rice is primarily intended to prevent some very basic forms of malnutrition in people who's primary food source is rice. If you eat a typically varied diet, you're not really going to benefit from rice fortification.
posted by IvyMike at 12:58 PM on October 21, 2006

I am the twelvth person in this thread to also rinse their quinoa like jennyjenny. Put the quinoa in the cook pot, fill up with water, swirl it around, use your hand or a plate to keep the quinoa in but dump 60% of the water. Repeat. Then cook. I do the same with rice.
posted by salvia at 9:44 PM on October 21, 2006

I, too, rinse quinoa a little bit. I also rinse most white rice, until it runs clear. But I've never bought American rice so it is probably a function of the basmati/jasmine. I don't rinse arborio or brown rice.

But really, I just popped in to comment on the great thread title.
posted by handee at 2:57 AM on October 22, 2006

I use a fine-mesh strainer (dislodging the last quinoa grains just requires turning it upside down and hitting the handle on the side of the pot). Glad to see that so many other people cook quinoa. I start to feel like a freak after long stretches of having to explain what it is, how to pronounce it, and what the point of eating it is, to people whose grain-based carbs consist exclusively of wheat, or wheat and rice.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:31 AM on October 22, 2006

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