To follow up from my post last week about hulling grains, I thought I would touch upon the difference between hulling and pearling when it comes to grains. We learned about hulling, where the hull is thrown into an impact huller and essentially smashed off of the grain. This leaves a grain intact and the hulled grain is considered to be a whole grain.
Pearling is a similar, but different process in which a grain passes through a pearling machine. This machine, at least the one they use where we buy our white rice, looks like two large roller mills. The grains pass between the rolls and the bran is gently pearled off, leaving the pretty white kernels intact. Pearling is done to lower the cooking times of grains and extend the shelf life.
By far, the most common grains we eat that have been pearled are White Rice and Pearled Barley*. The majority of barley that you find in boxed meals and canned soups is pearl barley. This barley is not considered whole grain. At Bob’s Red Mill, the pearled barley we buy has only been stripped of some of its bran, making it closer to a whole grain than others on the market- but try as you might, you can’t take some bran off and keep calling it a whole grain. It’s just not true.
*Whether it is the exception or the rule, the brown rice we purchase passes through a pearling machine to remove the hull leaving the brown kernel intact. I could not find out if this was a standard practice or just what our supplier does. I would hazard to guess that this is the standard for the industry.
For extra fun, watch this odd little video about pearling rice.