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Using Rice to Keep Salt Dry-------Theory All Wet?


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#1 dcarch

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 08:27 PM

In another thread, it was mentioned that rice can be used to keep salt, spice, etc. dry.

I just cannot understand how rice can act as a desiccant. It does not have any hygroscopic substance in its composition, no more than any other similar organic material.

Rice in the open may absorb some moisture in the air depending on relative humidity, and once it is at that point, it cannot take in any more moisture. The amount of moisture it can take in based on humidity, I would think is extremely small.

As an experiment, I put some fairly dry rice in a container and measured the rice on a digital scale, the scale measured 11.11 oz.

I took the rice outside in extremely humid air, and left it there for two days and one night.

I immediately measured the rice again, it read 11.11 oz. apparently it had not gained more than 0.009 oz (resolution of my scale).

Is this another kitchen myth?


dcarch

#2 feedmec00kies

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 08:52 PM

I have no answers, but I know uncooked rice is often recommended for drying cellphones and other small electronics that get accidentally submerged, as seen on Lifehacker a few years ago.
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#3 heidih

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 08:52 PM

For years as a child in cheap diners I saw rice grains included in the salt shakers. We were told that it somehow kept it more "sprinkleable". Urban legend? This was the cheap Morton salt stuff.

#4 Lisa Shock

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:01 PM

I always thought the rice in salt cellars acted to physically break up clumps, like having tiny hammers inside the salt cellar.

#5 raybeezbabee

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:06 PM

I share LisaShock's conception of rice in salt; it is a mild desiccant and a mild breaker-upper of clumps.

#6 EatNopales

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:19 PM

We just spent 3 years living in Hawaii (Kailua on Oahu to be specific a please where almost all our furniture got moldy and got left behind)... Rice in Salt is no myth... without it you have clumps within 24 hours, with it... no clumps. If only there was a convenient way to keep clothes submerged in rice.

#7 Mjx

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 01:25 AM

Keeping rice in salt does keep it from clumping (I did this routinely, when I lived in a damp climate, until I switched to a salt dish), BUT you have to change the rice every once in a while. I've no idea of whether the effect is due to moisture absorption, mechanical impact, or a combination of these (I'd bet on option 3).
My mother keeps rice in the salt shaker, but has a fit if I so much as suggest replacing the original rice (now reduced to bits only a little larger than the salt crystals), so I can't imagine it's doing much (or really needs to, in Brooklyn; no idea why she put it in in the first place).


. . . .

As an experiment, I put some fairly dry rice in a container and measured the rice on a digital scale, the scale measured 11.11 oz.

I took the rice outside in extremely humid air, and left it there for two days and one night.

I immediately measured the rice again, it read 11.11 oz. apparently it had not gained more than 0.009 oz (resolution of my scale).
. . . .


Wouldn't the humidity in the enclosed space of a salt shaker, especially if it's made of something relatively non-porous, reach higher levels than what you'd get outside, even on a really humid day?


For years as a child in cheap diners I saw rice grains included in the salt shakers. We were told that it somehow kept it more "sprinkleable". Urban legend? This was the cheap Morton salt stuff.


Sort of funny... isn't Morton's the salt with the girl with the umbrella, and the slogan 'When it rains, it pours'?

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#8 budrichard

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 06:15 AM

Salt IS hygroscopic and will draw the moisture out of just about anything that has chemically free water in it.
Salts of any kind are desiccants, just look at the Egyptians and their mummies.
The theory is all wet.-Dick

#9 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 06:22 AM

Salt IS hygroscopic and will draw the moisture out of just about anything that has chemically free water in it.
Salts of any kind are desiccants, just look at the Egyptians and their mummies.
The theory is all wet.-Dick


Which is why it gets all clumpy in humid climates. The rice must help break up the clumps.

#10 dcarch

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 06:23 AM

Mjx, "---Wouldn't the humidity in the enclosed space of a salt shaker, especially if it's made of something relatively non-porous, reach higher levels than what you'd get outside, even on a really humid day?---"

Good question. Because of moth problems, my rice is always baked in the oven and then kept in air-tight containers, in sealed plastic bags. Even 11.11 oz ( a lot more than those few grains of rice in a shaker) of very dried rice in a very humid day did not absort any noticeable moisture.

a. I think the main function of rice in salt sakers is to un-clump salt by impact.

b. In an open container such as a salt shaker, the rice will reach maximum moisture soon and cannot possibly keep on absorbing moisture forever. Where would the moisture go?

c. In order for the rice to extract moisture from the salt, it has to have higher affinity chemically to water then salt. In general I think salt has a stronger attraction to H2O than rice. Infact, the salt is probably keeping the rice dry, and the salt is also keeping the rice from getting moldy. Hence, when you look at the rice in a salt shaker, it's so dry and nice, giving the impression that rice is a good drying agent.

I am under the impression that even chemical desiccant packs work only once, and in a tightly sealed container.

dcarch

#11 HungryC

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 07:35 AM

I think it's a mechanical solution to salt clumping. Standard salt will definitely clump in a shaker in humid climates. The rice grains seem to prevent big hunks of salt from forming, and furthermore, you can vigorously shake up a salt & rice filled shaker to make the salt flow freely again.

#12 Joe Blowe

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 07:49 AM

A little tidbit I remember from (I think) Alton Brown: Popcorn works better than rice as a de-clumper, and doesn't ever really need to be replaced. Not that I would know...
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#13 andiesenji

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 08:13 AM

I really don't worry about the technical details of WHY it works, I simply use it and from long experience, I have found it works for me. (And the laws of physics are not altered or suspended in my kitchen, as far as I know.)

Obviously other people have been using this solution to a nagging problem for at least a century, probably much longer, but as I have had this discussion with people who had been around that much longer than my 72 years, and I did a basic Google search and found thousands of sites that note this remedy for the problem, I figure it has worked for many others.

It isn't always easy to quantify these things because there are so many variables. There are some processes that are easy to demonstrate visually and there are some that occur on the sub atomic level and to us it looks like magic, unless one has equipment costing millions to show it.

I personally have had two salt shakers, side-by-side, same type of salt, one with rice and one without. The one without salt developed a hard surface which did not break when the shaker was inverted. The one with the rice poured freely.
When did I do this demonstration? 44 years ago when my husband questioned WHY I insisted on putting rice in the salt shaker. It convinced him!

Edited by andiesenji, 22 August 2011 - 08:15 AM.

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#14 dcarch

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 10:37 AM

andiesenji, "---Obviously other people have been using this solution to a nagging problem for at least a century, probably much longer, but as I have had this discussion with people who had been around that much longer than my 72 years, and I did a basic Google search and found thousands of sites that note this remedy for the problem, I figure it has worked for many others.---"

Note that my question is not if rice works to make salt flows better.

I am only questioning if rice acts as a desiccant.

A salt shaker is open to the atmosphere, normal atmosphere has infinte moisture content. Can rice keep on absorbing water indefinitely? Where do all the water absorbed go?

dcarch

#15 judiu

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 11:29 AM

No one can explain why bumblebees can fly, either, but they do! :biggrin:
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#16 FoodMan

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 12:15 PM

I use kosher salt and never use a salt shaker, so I never have the salt clumping issue. However, I always, always pack my meat grinder parts in dry rice in a Ziploc bag. Before I did this, I would wash the metal parts and dry them and they still managed to get slightly rusty/oxidized from humitity. Now, I dry them somewhat and then into the rice bag they go. They come out perfectly dry and pristine when I need to use them. So could I believe the solution to the initial question is simple:

Rice is dry. Put it in an environment where it has less water content than its surroundings, and water will move from where it is in high concentration to where it is in low concentration i:e rice.

As an experiment, I put some fairly dry rice in a container and measured the rice on a digital scale, the scale measured 11.11 oz.

I took the rice outside in extremely humid air, and left it there for two days and one night.

I immediately measured the rice again, it read 11.11 oz. apparently it had not gained more than 0.009 oz (resolution of my scale).


Your experiment is not very controlled. I would suggest you put something a little damp into a bag of rice and see what happens. Of course that will depend on the kind of material you decide to put in there too....

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#17 andiesenji

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 04:01 PM

No one can explain why bumblebees can fly, either, but they do! :biggrin:



Good point! :biggrin:
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#18 andiesenji

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 04:22 PM

andiesenji, "---Obviously other people have been using this solution to a nagging problem for at least a century, probably much longer, but as I have had this discussion with people who had been around that much longer than my 72 years, and I did a basic Google search and found thousands of sites that note this remedy for the problem, I figure it has worked for many others.---"

Note that my question is not if rice works to make salt flows better.

I am only questioning if rice acts as a desiccant.

A salt shaker is open to the atmosphere, normal atmosphere has infinte moisture content. Can rice keep on absorbing water indefinitely? Where do all the water absorbed go?

dcarch




I change the rice when I refill the salt containers - the big glass salt "box" by the stovetop gets dumped into a wire colander that catches the rice and the salt falls into a bowl. I apply new rice and dump the salt back into the container and add more it needed.

You can see the layer of rice in the bottom - I used pearl rice, it is sort of translucent but becomes opaque after it has absorbed some moisture so that's when I change it.
Salt box.JPG

salt box detail.JPG
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#19 Jaymes

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 04:43 PM

I use kosher salt and never use a salt shaker, so I never have the salt clumping issue. However, I always, always pack my meat grinder parts in dry rice in a Ziploc bag. Before I did this, I would wash the metal parts and dry them and they still managed to get slightly rusty/oxidized from humitity. Now, I dry them somewhat and then into the rice bag they go. They come out perfectly dry and pristine when I need to use them. So could I believe the solution to the initial question is simple:

Rice is dry. Put it in an environment where it has less water content than its surroundings, and water will move from where it is in high concentration to where it is in low concentration i:e rice.


In fact, although I'm no camper and have never done it, my backpacking friends tell me that in the morning, they routinely put regular raw, dry rice into a plastic bag, add water, and then set out on their hike. They tell me that the rice does not need to be cooked. It only has to be in the water. It soaks up all the water and is ready to eat by dinnertime.

#20 DanM

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 04:48 PM

My only issue with rice in salt is that it looks like weevils. I know it's irrational, but it just bugs me.
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#21 ScoopKW

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 05:32 PM

I know I read/saw Alton Brown address this (but I don't remember where) -- he said it's for breaking up clumps. Problem is, the rice itself breaks over time. Better to use unpopped popcorn kernels.
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#22 Joe Blowe

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 06:04 PM

I know I read/saw Alton Brown address this (but I don't remember where)...

Was it in Post No. 12 in this thread? :laugh::biggrin:
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#23 dcarch

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 09:18 PM


I use kosher salt and never use a salt shaker, so I never have the salt clumping issue. However, I always, always pack my meat grinder parts in dry rice in a Ziploc bag. Before I did this, I would wash the metal parts and dry them and they still managed to get slightly rusty/oxidized from humitity. Now, I dry them somewhat and then into the rice bag they go. They come out perfectly dry and pristine when I need to use them. So could I believe the solution to the initial question is simple:

Rice is dry. Put it in an environment where it has less water content than its surroundings, and water will move from where it is in high concentration to where it is in low concentration i:e rice.


In fact, although I'm no camper and have never done it, my backpacking friends tell me that in the morning, they routinely put regular raw, dry rice into a plastic bag, add water, and then set out on their hike. They tell me that the rice does not need to be cooked. It only has to be in the water. It soaks up all the water and is ready to eat by dinnertime.


Soaking something in water until it is puffed up wet is not considered desiccant in action or it is hygroscopic. I think that is more capiliary or osmosis in action.

If you leave salt in open very humid air it can have such strong afinity to draw in moisture that it will eventually melt in a puddle of water it absorbs. I seem to think that salt’s hydroscopic ablity is much stronger that rice, therefore it may actually be keeping the rice dry, not the other way around.

Nevertheless, the key question needs to be anwered is, where does rice keep all the water it draws in if it can continually keep the salt dry?


dcarch

#24 EatNopales

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 10:42 PM



I use kosher salt and never use a salt shaker, so I never have the salt clumping issue. However, I always, always pack my meat grinder parts in dry rice in a Ziploc bag. Before I did this, I would wash the metal parts and dry them and they still managed to get slightly rusty/oxidized from humitity. Now, I dry them somewhat and then into the rice bag they go. They come out perfectly dry and pristine when I need to use them. So could I believe the solution to the initial question is simple:

Rice is dry. Put it in an environment where it has less water content than its surroundings, and water will move from where it is in high concentration to where it is in low concentration i:e rice.


In fact, although I'm no camper and have never done it, my backpacking friends tell me that in the morning, they routinely put regular raw, dry rice into a plastic bag, add water, and then set out on their hike. They tell me that the rice does not need to be cooked. It only has to be in the water. It soaks up all the water and is ready to eat by dinnertime.


Soaking something in water until it is puffed up wet is not considered desiccant in action or it is hygroscopic. I think that is more capiliary or osmosis in action.

If you leave salt in open very humid air it can have such strong afinity to draw in moisture that it will eventually melt in a puddle of water it absorbs. I seem to think that salt’s hydroscopic ablity is much stronger that rice, therefore it may actually be keeping the rice dry, not the other way around.

Nevertheless, the key question needs to be anwered is, where does rice keep all the water it draws in if it can continually keep the salt dry?


dcarch




The same place our granite counters store all the water they draws in from the drained dishes.

#25 threestars

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 05:40 AM

Well I think when moisture gets into the just plain salt, it gets wet while if you have rice on it, rice somehow absorbs the moisture. Not sure how it works actually. Just my thoughts. I remember mom have rice on our salt container since I was a kid.

#26 ScoopKW

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 07:56 AM

Has anyone bothered to weigh the rice before and after its stint in a salt shaker?

My hypothesis is that the weight difference would be recorded as "diddly-squat."
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#27 andiesenji

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 08:03 AM

Has anyone bothered to weigh the rice before and after its stint in a salt shaker?

My hypothesis is that the weight difference would be recorded as "diddly-squat."



Excellent point! :biggrin:
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#28 dcarch

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 08:10 AM

OK! Look, I just found this:

http://en.wikipedia....Sodium_chloride

Sodium chloride,

"-----Sodium chloride is sometimes used as a cheap and safe desiccant because of its hygroscopic properties, making salting an effective method of food preservation historically; the salt draws water out of bacteria through osmotic pressure, keeping it from reproducing, a major source of food spoilage. Even though more effective desiccants are available, few are safe for humans to ingest.---"

As I suspect, when you put rice in salt, actually the salt is keeping the rice dry, not the other way around.

Salt is much stronger in grabing moisture than rice.

dcarch

#29 AAQuesada

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 04:29 PM

Has anyone checked McGee OFaC? I don't have my copy on me, curious what he has to say

#30 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 04:31 PM

dcarch, I think what might be happening here isn't that the rice actually keeps the salt "dry" (which, I agree with you, is pretty spurious given salt's reputation as a dessiccant) but rather that its action in the salt cellar helps to keep the salt loose and as such we perceive the salt to be "dry" simply because it isn't clumpy...

Just my 2 cents. When I lived in the Amazon, the common practice was to keep popcorn kernels in the salt to keep it loose.
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