Cooking Barley

Hot Liquid Cooking Techniques for Grain | Cooking Barley

The three basic techniques for cooking barley with hot liquid are boiling, absorption, and steaming, which are perhaps the most popular methods for cooking most whole grains. Often a combination of these methods is used to cook grain depending on the type of grain, the particular recipe, or the desired effect. Some grains benefit from soaking before they are cooked because cooking with hot liquid alone may not produce the optimum results.

Hot Liquid Cooking Techniques for Grain


Boiling is one of the easiest methods for cooking grain. The grain is cooked uncovered in a large quantity of water. The grain and water are then dumped into a colander and drained for several minutes to remove the excess moisture. This method is often the best when there is some doubt as to the correct quantity of water that can be absorbed by the grain.


Cooking grain with the absorption method is, perhaps, the method that most people are accustomed to when cooking many types of grain, but it is often the most difficult. This technique requires that the grain be cooked in a specific quantity of liquid, which can be readily absorbed by the grain. The absorption method may require some trial and error, but it is most often successful when slight adjustments are made to recipes based on variables that may affect the success of the absorption cooking method, such as the accuracy of the heat source, the altitude, and age and quality of the grain.


Steaming is the third method for cooking grain and although it is the most time consuming, it produces beautifully cooked grain. The grain slowly absorbs moisture and cooks very evenly.

Steaming alone usually is not adequate for cooking many types of grain, so it is often used in conjunction with other cooking methods and techniques. Some grains are boiled briefly before they are steamed while others may simply require soaking in cold water for a period of time to tenderize the grains prior to steaming.

Cooking Barley

Barley is one of the best grains for soups because it is able to absorb a large quantity of liquid; therefore, it absorbs the flavor of the liquid as well. It tends to act as a natural thickener for soups. It is also delicious on its own when served as a side dish, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.

Preparing Barley as a Side Dish or Hot Cereal

One cup of barley grain that has undergone some processing, such as pearled barley, can be cooked in boiling water in a relatively short period of time. Pearled barley does not require soaking before cooking. Whole-grain barley should be soaked for several hours before cooking. When it is ready to cook, it can be prepared in the same manner as pearled barley, but it requires about twice the cooking time.

After bringing a quart of water to a boil in a saucepan, add one cup of pearled barley. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.
The pearled barley should reach the proper doneness in 30 minutes or less. Drain the barley if necessary to remove excess liquid; then fluff it with a fork and serve.

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