6 Barley Cooking And Storing Tips For Healthy Summer Meals
Image Credit: Freepik

If eating healthy during summers is your number one goal, then this is a must-read for you. In case you didn’t know, barley is a summer superfood, a whole grain that must be a part of your diet if you plan on eating healthy. This ancient grain has apparently been in use since the pharaohs ruled Egypt and is now grown in large parts of Asia and Africa. A diet of whole grains is known to be the healthiest, which is why adopting this ancient grain can really benefit you.  

Barley usually comes in two varieties, hulled and pearl. The former is minimally processed as the bran and endosperm layers are intact, which is why it is more nutrient-dense. Pearl barley, on the other hand, is more processed and not really considered to be a whole grain since the fibre-packed outer layers are removed. However, both types of grains are used extensively in healthy meals, especially salads. What’s more, barley water is also a beneficial drink for summers. 

When it comes to the benefits of eating barley, the first thing you should know is that the grain is packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. From improving digestion and lowering cholesterol to helping with weight loss and blood sugar control, barley does it all. These benefits are particularly essential during the summer months, when the digestive system functions more slowly than usual. If you want to include barley in your meals during the summer months and are wondering how to cook this grain at home, here are all the tips you will ever need. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Kunal Kapur

Know Your Barley

As mentioned before, there are two varieties of barley available in the market—hulled and pearl. The former is considered to be healthier, takes 20-30 minutes longer to cook and is more appropriate for salads. Pearl barley is much easier to cook but not considered to be a whole grain. Pearl barley also releases starch when boiled, which is why this variety is more appropriate for soups. So, pick the right kind of barley for your needs. 

Rinse Right

Like all whole grains, barley is harvested and stocked in large jute or other bags. Apart from the risk of contamination due to pesticides, there are also chances of a lot of dirt, dust and grit sticking to the barley grains. So, rinsing barley thoroughly and repeatedly with clean water is very important. This not only helps get rid of dirt but also reduces the risk of food contamination. In fact, all whole grains you use, including rice, should be rinsed properly before use. 

Soaking Matters

While soaking pearl barley isn’t as important, soaking hulled barley is definitely more important. This is because hulled barley has a thicker skin and soaking it in a lot of water for a good duration can help the water penetrate the grains better. To soak the barley, make sure the grains are properly washed and then soak them in plenty of drinking or potable water. Seasoning the water with salt is optional. 

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Perfect Water Ratio 

Knowing the grain to water ratio is the key to cooking any whole grain, whether it be quinoa or rice or barley. However, most grains like quinoa and rice require much less water to cook, with the ratio being 1:2—that is, one cup of grain for two cups of water. The ratio for barley, however, is 1:3 meaning you need three cups of water for one cup of barley. For hulled barley, you may need a bit more water than that. 

Season Properly

Most grains are usually neutral in taste, though some like quinoa and barley have a nutty taste. So, you need to add a few tweaks to ensure that the barley water is seasoned properly. The easiest way to do this is to add salt, bay leaves and a few whole spices like star anise and cinnamon to the barley water. Another way is to cook the barley in a vegetable or chicken stock or adding stock cubes to the water during the cooking process. 

Storing Tips

Cooking barley ahead of time for a meal prep is a good idea, but you need to store it properly so it doesn’t spoil. To do this, let the cooked barley come to room temperature, then store it in an airtight container for three-four days. Tossing in some extra virgin olive oil with the grains will also work. You can also freeze the cooled grains in a freezer-proof container and add it to boiling water in a saucepan to thaw properly before use.