When it comes to rice, time is money. To be precise, shaving 40 to 50 minutes off cooking time can cost up to 90 cents per serving. The eight quick-cooking brown rices we tested (available to subscribers) take 1 to 12 minutes to prepare compared with 50 to 55 minutes for a regular brown rice. But they cost 17 cents to $1.08 per serving compared with about 15 cents for regular brown rice.
The good news: The quick-cooking rices were about as tasty as the longer-cooking rice we used for comparison. Best was Trader Joe's Organic. Our trained tasters said it had moderate grain flavors and a slight toasted flavor, with no off-notes. It was al dente when heated in a microwave oven for 3 minutes as directed.
It makes sense to choose brown rice instead of white. Brown rice is a whole grain, with the bran layer of the rice kernel intact, so it has fiber and other nutrients, plus antioxidants not found in white rice, whose bran layer has been removed.
Regular brown rice has about 160 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, no sodium, and 2 grams of fiber. The quickest-cooking rices (1.5 minutes or less) have oil as an ingredient, adding calories and fat.
Our tasters also tried six chicken-flavored rice mixes and found that their quality varied. Near East and Zatarain's were very good. Near East was moist, flavorful, and well blended, and includes orzo and bell pepper. Zatarain's was mildly flavored and somewhat starchy. Both had a hint of chicken-broth taste. Near East costs 63 cents per serving, Zatarain's 50 cents.
Quick-cooking brown rice tastes about as good as the longer-cooking version, but you'll pay more. The tastiest: Trader Joe's Organic. Near East and Zatarain's were the best chicken-flavored mixes, but Knorr was almost as good, has less fat and sodium, and takes less time.