Pearl barley is a nutritious grain that has gained some popularity lately. People like cooking with it because it is a great stock for stoups, and it is good at absorbing flavour from liquids. So, the barley gets to be packed with flavour no matter what you are using it to make, which is helpful since the barley itself is a little bland. The taste you get from pearl barley is going to depend mostly on the kind of food it is cooked in, and that is one of the keys for how to cook pearl barley- make sure you cook it in something flavourful.
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This barley is kind of crunchy and packed with nutrition, so it’s more than just a simple flavour absorber. This kind of barley comes from the barley ears. When they are harvested, they get processed to remove the hull, creating what is called hulled barley, pot barley or dehulled barley. You will see this kind of barley used often in America, and even when it is hulled, the bran or fibre still remains, making it very healthy.
Since this grain is heavy non fibre, the cooking time is a bit longer than you might expect for a grain. It will take longer to cook barley than it would rice, for example. To make hulled barley into pearl barley, the grain needs to get polished. This is also called pearling, and it involves taking off the outer bran and making the grain look shiny.
How does pearl barley taste? It’s similar to a grain cereal, which means the taste is fairly bland and neutral. The texture is what makes it stand out, though, and you will find it is kind of crunchy. What I like about pearl barley is the creaminess it adds to soups and to stews. It’s the kind of grain that sticks to the spoon as you eat, which means it is thickening the soup when you cook it in a stock or broth.
If you are not seeing pearl barley in your local grocery, you might want to check the health food store. That’s where I have to buy mine from. It’s usually just regular un-hulled barley that I find in my grocery, but the selection may be different near you.
Cooking with Pearl Barley
Let’s talk about how long to cook pearl barley and to how to prepare it. Barley should be rinsed before you cook it, just like almost any grain. You definitely want to rinse it first if you are adding it to a stew or any kind of soup.
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You can actually add the pearl barley directly to a soup you are making. This is probably the simplest way to cook them and makes the most sense if you are making a soup using pearl barley. How to cook pearl barley in soup? Just add it in when the water is hot and let it simmer for around 30 minutes or so. Check the barley after that time to see if it is cooked.
If you have never cooked this kind of grain before, you may not be sure how to tell if it is done. How long to cook pearl barley in soup? It should cook until it has absorbed water and puffed up and become creamy. The barley should be chewy but also soft.
Slow cooking or simmering is the best way to cook the pearl barley. This way, you can be sure it will cook all the way through. If you make the heat too high to cook too quickly, then the grain will not cook all the way through. It may be too crunchy and not very edible at its centre if not cooked properly.
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Pearl barley makes for a great substitute in some dishes, like risotto. You can switch out the rice for barley and get a similar texture and taste. The barley will be able to absorb the liquid and will cook in about the same time, taking just a few minutes more.
What if you want to cook the barley in soup but not use it as a thickener? You can cook the pearl barley separately. How long does pearl barley take to cook this way when it is being cooked on its own? You just need to cook it for about 20-30 minutes. That way, it won’t make the food thicker and you will still get that great, creamy pearl barley texture. Once the barley is in the soup or other dish, it will start absorbing liquid and flavour but won’t make it as thick as if you had cooked the barley in the food.
Ways to Cook Pearl Barley
You don’t have to cook pearl barley on the stove each time. You can cook it using a pressure cooker, which may be more convenient and faster. This is a great method if you want to cook the barley separately for the rest of the food it will be going with.
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To cook pearl barley in the pressure cooker, just use one cup of pearled barley and two cups of cold water. You may want to add a pinch of salt to season and mix them all in the rice cooker. Be sure to mix before turning on the cooker, as that ensures that barley cooks all the way through and cooks evenly. You can use the rice cooking cycle (but don’t forget to rinse the barley first).
Let the barley rest for about 10-15 minutes after the cycle has ended, though. I like this method when I don’t want to be concerned about how long to cook barley with other food and don’t want to worry if everything I am making is going to be cooked thoroughly. I can just toss the barley into the pressure cooker and forget about it as I do my other cooking.
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How long does it take to cook pearl barley compared to rice? That will vary depending on how much barley you are using. If you are using just a single cup, you can give it about the same cooking time, but for additional cups, you may need to add another five minutes on top of what you would cook the rice for. Be sure to check your barley every so often as it cooks to make certain that it does not burn.
I have covered how to cook pearl barley on the stove and in the pressure cooker, and those are really the two best methods to cook it. There are lots of ways to use pearl barley, and I think once you give it a try, you will find it is a good substitute for couscous and rice in some of your dishes.