Last year I wrote a post about the best way to store uncooked whole grains. Today, I'm sharing how to best store cooked grains and beans. This topic comes up a lot around here because whole grains and dried beans are time consuming to cook, and lack of time is one of the most common reasons people cite for not cooking with whole grains or making dried beans.
Yes, cooking beans and grains is time consuming. That's why you need to make it worth your effort. Most people who use whole grains often will tell you to make a large batch and store the rest for use throughout the week. But how do you do that? What is the best method for storing cooked grains? My conundrum has always been that I will make a big batch, but I get worried about how long they last in the fridge (what day did I make those again?) or I forget to use them and they go to waste. Then, I discovered that most grains and beans can be frozen with no ill effects.
I freeze my grains in resealable plastic bags in 2 cup portions, small usable amounts that work well for a meal on the fly. They take very little time to defrost (simply plop that sealed plastic bag into a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes and you're good to go) and take about 40 minutes off your cook time. They taste just as good as freshly cooked grains. Same thing goes for beans. They take a bit longer to defrost, but far less time than cooking from scratch. You can easily use any form of airtight container--plastic, glass, whatever. I like the bags because they take up less room in my freezer, can be easily labeled, and can be set in water to defrost quickly.
Grains that work well with the freezer method:
Grains that don't work very well, are those that tend to be softer when cooked, such as millet, amaranth, and teff. They'll freeze just fine, they just won't have the same properties as they did before they were frozen. All beans will work well when frozen, though lentils and softer beans may be a bit mushy upon defrosting.
That's the freezer method. If you are good about using your grains and beans throughout the week, airtight containers in the fridge work fine. Cooked grains and beans will last approximately 3-4 days in the fridge. They'll last about 2 months in the freezer.