I was eating a lovely meal at a corner diner with a dear friend and her young daughter when the child suddenly stared at the salt shaker in her hand.
She frowned and asked us what the little brown things in the salt were.
I blinked in confusion before realizing it was grains of rice in the salt.
While I knew the obvious answer that rice is a great way to break up salt clumps, I was gobsmacked when the child asked why they put rice in there and not buckwheat or beans.
Luckily, the chef is a dear friend of mine, and I called her over to ask for some guidance on this culinary conundrum.
The chef’s answer left me quite astounded.
Why Do People Put Rice in Salt
Rice is not only great at breaking up salt clumps, but it also prevents clumping in the first place since it absorbs moisture, drying out the salt. While other dried goods such as beans and wheat may also break up salt clumps, these aren’t as moisture absorbent, and they would give the salt an aftertaste as they contain more natural oils. Rice is flavorless, moisture absorbent, and cheap; plus, it isn’t as clearly seen in salt as a couple of large sugar beans may be.
Why Salt and Rice Works out so Nicely
Since the little girl was still quite young, I decided to explain the answer to her in simple terms that she could easily understand.
Salt is a mineral, and it also attracts moisture from the air. Salt is a natural clumping agent, and it is useful for absorbing moisture, which is why we use it to draw stains out of fabrics.
When I spilled some wine on my table at home, I quickly added a handful of salt to the tablecloth, and it quickly sucked the wine out of the white cloth.
This makes salt really useful as a stain remover at home, but salt is also clumping when you don’t want it to be. It sucks up water and other liquids all the time, making it clump.
Salt has a nasty habit of clumping together in the salt shaker and blocking up the small holes that the salt should pour through.
It’s really frustrating to have salt clumps in the salt shaker as this is also how salt loses its flavor.
Wet salt doesn’t taste nice, and it stops being really salty.
To stop salt from clumping and to preserve the pure salty flavor, it is necessary to place something with the salt that will suck the moisture out of it without adding anything bad to the salt.
We could add chemicals such as sodium sulfate to salt to dry it out further, but this may make the salt taste funny and cause it to not be so healthy for us to consume.
Some people are also allergic to sodium sulfate.
Luckily, salt is really friendly with rice grains, which also absorb moisture.
As a bonus, rice grains are completely organic, and they won’t leave any funny taste to the salt.
Why Rice Absorbs Water
Rice is a grain, but it is also a hygroscopic material, which means it absorbs moisture right out of the air.
Considering that I add two cups of water to one cup of rice when cooking, it gives you some indication of just how much water rice can absorb.
Top Tip: It may seem like an urban legend, but if you should drop an electronic device in water, you can dry out the circuitry by covering the item in dry uncooked rice.
The rice will not only absorb the liquid it comes into contact with, but it also draws the moisture out of the device since rice attracts moisture.
How to Put Rice in Salt
It’s very easy to add rice to salt. Simply follow these steps:
Step One: Open the Salt Shaker
Unscrew the lid of your salt shaker. Fill it up to the ¾ line with salt. It’s best to start with good quality dry table salt.
Step Two: Add the Rice
You can now add about a tablespoon of dry uncooked short-grain rice to the salt shaker.
Be sure to only use regular white rice and not rice that has been flavored.
Some basmati rice has been flavored with jasmine, which will make your salt taste like jasmine too.
Step Three: Close the Shaker
Next, close the salt shaker by screwing the lid back on. Shake the salt shaker vigorously to get the salt grains to mix with the salt.
Step Four: Extra Moisture Prevention
Since salt is also a moisture-absorbing substance, it will attract moisture from the air, which is why clumping happens.
To help your salt stay moisture-free, add a tablespoon of dry uncooked white rice.
When you store your salt shaker, place a paper towel over the top of your salt shaker.
The towel will help limit the moisture that can access your salt shaker.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rice in Salt
Is it good to put rice in salt?
Putting rice in salt shakers will ensure clumping doesn’t happen, and the rice grains are heavier, so when you shake the salt shaker, the rice will break the clumps apart.
Why do people put raw rice in salt?
Raw or uncooked rice will absorb water or moisture from salt. It helps salt maintain its flavor while the rice is flavor neutral.
How much rice should I put in the salt shaker?
Depending on the size of your salt shaker, you can put in half a tablespoon of rice to ensure the salt doesn’t clump.
The Final Salting
Since I had the lovely discussion about salt and adding rice to the salt shakers at that restaurant, I have begun adding a good measure of rice to my salt shakers at home too.
Now, I can pour salt with confidence, knowing the salt won’t stick to the openings or clump inside the salt shaker.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.