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How to cook hulled barley

How To Cook Hulled Barley

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If you’re looking for an ingredient that’s high in fiber and full of nutritious goodness, you need to try cooking barley! 

Barley is a nourishing grain that is full of vitamins and minerals. Consuming barley frequently can improve digestion, reduce cholesterol, and aid your overall well-being.

Barley comes in two main types, hulled and pearled. Hulled barley has been processed less than pearled barley, so it takes more time to cook. 

If you’ve never cooked hulled barley before, it may seem confusing, but you’re in the right place! 

You’ll learn how to cook hulled barley properly in this post. We’ll also cover the difference between hulled barley and pearl barley, as well as some examples of what you can do with barley. 

What Is Barley?

Barley is a whole grain with a gentle nutty taste and a chewy consistency. It’s also full of nutrients and high in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Its nutrition profile is why it’s a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet.

Barley comes in two different types, pearl barley, and hulled barley. 

Hulled Barley

Hulled barley is lightly treated to remove the inedible exterior hull, leaving the endosperm layer and bran behind. The grain is darker in color and is higher in fiber.

Hulled barley contains more nutrients, but it needs to be immersed in cold water for several hours before you cook it.

This form of barley also requires longer cooking time, ranging from 45 minutes to an hour. 

Pearled Barley

Pearl barley has had its bran and husks removed through ‘pearling’, the name of the refining process. Pearl barley is still a nutritious grain, but it contains less fiber and can’t be called a ‘whole grain’. 

Pearl barley is lighter in color and doesn’t need to be soaked beforehand. You can normally have pearled barley ready in under half an hour!

If you’re short on time, you may want to opt for pearl barley, as this can cook in less time. If time isn’t an issue, you can use hulled barley, as it has a better nutrition profile. 

How To Cook Hulled Barley

You will need three cups of broth or water to cook a cup of barley. This may seem like a lot of liquid, but barley, like a lot of grains, swells up a lot as it’s cooking. 

The steps used to cook hulled barley and pearled barley are the same, except hulled barley takes longer to cook. 

Follow these steps to cook barley:

Step One: Gather Your Ingredients 

Gather the following ingredients:

  • Hulled barley (or pearled): one cup
  • Broth or water: three cups
  • Salt: a pinch

Step Two: Soaking and Rinsing

If you are using hulled barley, you’ll need to soak the grains overnight. Add the dry hulled barley into a bowl with three cups of water. Leave the mixture overnight or for a few hours.

If you are cooking pearl barley, skip to step three.

Step Three: Rinse The Grains

Use cold water to rinse your grains inside a mesh strainer.

Step Four: Pour Into A Saucepan

Transfer the barley grains, broth (or water) into a saucepan with the salt.

Step Five: Boil The Barley

Bring the mixture to a boil on a high heat setting. Keep monitoring the pan, as it will bubble quickly as it boils. 

Step Six: Cooking

After the water starts boiling, decrease the heat so it starts to simmer gently. Cover the saucepan with a lid and leave to cook.

Hulled barley will need to cook for 40 minutes, at minimum. 

Pearl barley will need less time, 25 minutes, or more. 

Check the grains with the liquid level to see if they are done at these minimum times.

If they aren’t done, leave them to cook and check every five minutes until satisfied. You can add some more broth or water if necessary.

After the barley has finished cooking, it will have increased by two to three times in size. You’ll be left with grains that have a soft and chewy texture.

Step Seven: Resting the Grains

After the grains have finished cooking, remove the pan from the heat, leave covered, and let it stand for ten minutes. Once the time is up, you can drain the remaining water. Hulled barley will leave more liquid behind compared to pearl.

Step Eight: Fluffing and Serving

Fluff up the grains with a fork, then season as desired. You’re ready to serve! 

Cooked Barley’s Lifespan

Cooked Barley’s Lifespan

The good thing about barley is that it can be prepared earlier and stored in the refrigerator to enjoy when you wish. It can also be frozen if you want to use it later on.

If you want to store barley for later, leave it to cool at room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container, then store it in the fridge. The barley should last around three or four days.

If you want to freeze the grains, pour the barley into a freezer-safe receptacle, then freeze for a month. 

When you want to use it, make sure you defrost the grains in the fridge the night before. Next, heat on the stove at mid-high heat with several tablespoons of water. 

Use a wooden spoon to toss the grains from time to time, waiting until they are fully heated through. 

Things You Can Do With Barley

Barley has a light, nutty taste which has a lot of different uses. The notes won’t overwhelm any different flavors, so you can use them in lots of recipes. 

Barley grains can be used to substitute for other grains, but they do particularly well in place of farro and rice, as they have a similar consistency and flavor. 

Here are some things you can do with barley:

  • Use barley grains to bulk up lighter salads. 
  • Add barley to morning oats for a difference, then add tasty toppings, like cinnamon, brown sugar, or fruit slices to finish.
  • Use the grains as a base for stews to make them more filling.
  • Substitute rice for barley grains in dinner recipes to make them more nutritious.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, as there are lots of other things you can do with barley. Have fun being creative and coming up with unique barley recipes!

Final Thoughts

Barley is a nutritious grain with a nice taste and texture. It comes in two main types, pearled and hulled. 

Hulled barley is slightly more nutritious and takes a little longer to cook. Pearled barley takes less time to cook but has been refined more. 

You can cook both types of barley in the same way, but hulled barley needs to be soaked for a few hours beforehand, so plan accordingly!