Brown rice is rice that has not been hulled, leaving the outer layer of bran on the grain when it is sent to market. The name is a reference to the characteristic brown color of the bran, distinguishing it from white rice, which has been hulled to reveal the white endosperm. Any rice cultivar can be left unhulled, and the rice can be used much like white rice would be in cooking. Some people actively seek out brown rice, because they prefer the higher nutritional value and nutty texture.
Rice is a crucial cereal grass in the genus Oryza. It is heavily cultivated around the world for its nutrition, and it is particularly associated with Asian cuisine. Rice is grown in large water logged paddies, and the grain is cut whole for threshing. During the threshing process, the outer inedible husk of rice is removed to access the nutritious grain inside.
There are three parts to a grain of rice, starting with the outer layer, known as the bran. The bran is high in fiber, and often has a high concentration of nutrients as well. Inside the bran, the germ and the endosperm make up the body of the grain. The germ is a small nubbin on the grain that is often packed with nutrition, since it feeds the grain as it develops. The endosperm makes up the bulk of the volume of the grain.
When the bran layers are left on rice after threshing, the result is brown rice, which is considered a “whole grain” as a result, since it contains all of the edible parts of the rice. Brans actually come in an assortment of colors, ranging from the almost black bran of black rice to reddish brans like those found on wehani rice. Brown rice can come in long and short-grained varieties, and it has a wide range of flavors, depending on the cultivar. As a general rule, it is nuttier than white rice, thanks to the rich bran.
Leaving the bran on does have some negative impacts. The rice takes longer to cook than white rice, since water must penetrate the bran, which is designed to protect the grain inside. Soaking brown rice for several hours can reduce the cooking time greatly. It is also more prone to going rancid, since it is high in natural fats and oils. As a result, it should be kept under refrigeration until used, and it should ideally be used within six months of purchase.