Can pearl barley be cooked in the microwave?

Pearl barley is a versatile and nutrient-dense grain that has been used in cooking for centuries. It can be cooked in a variety of ways, including on the stove and in the microwave. If you’re looking for a quick and convenient way to prepare pearl barley, then using a microwave might just be the perfect solution. In this article, we will discuss how to cook pearl barley in a microwave, as well as its pros and cons.


Before we dive into how to microwave pearl barley, let’s first define what it is. Pearl barley is a type of whole grain that has had its hull removed and then polished to remove any remaining bran. This process results in grains that are smooth and shiny, resembling pearls. Pearl barley is often used in soups, stews, casseroles, salads, or as a substitute for rice.

Pearl barley has gained popularity among health-conscious individuals due to its many nutritional benefits. It’s rich in fiber, protein, vitamins B1 and B3, magnesium, and selenium. Studies suggest that consuming whole grains like pearl barley may lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.

When it comes to cooking methods for pearl barley, there are several ways to do it – boiling or steaming on the stove or using a microwave oven. While stove-top methods require more attention during cooking time and involve messy clean-up work afterward; using a microwave provides greater ease-of-use with less overall mess while maintaining excellent flavor profiles.

How to Cook Pearl Barley on the Stove

Boiling Method:

One of the traditional ways of cooking pearl barley on the stove involves boiling it in water. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Rinse your pearl barley with cold water thoroughly.
  2. Combine 1 cup of rinsed pearl barley with 2 cups of water or chicken broth (unsalted) into medium saucepan over high heat.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and barley is tender.
  5. Turn off the heat, fluff the Barley with a fork, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Steaming Method:

Another way to cook pearl barley on the stove is by steaming it:

  1. In a colander or sieve, rinse 1 cup of pearl barley thoroughly under running water.
  2. Place your rinsed barley in a steamer basket over boiling water in a saucepan with roughly an inch of water in it.
  3. Cover with tight fitting lid and steam barley for 20 –30 minutes depending on preference until cooked and fluffy.

Cooking Pearl Barley in a Microwave: What You Need to Know

Benefits of Using a Microwave for Cooking Pearl Barley:

Microwaving pearl barley has several advantages over other cooking methods. Firstly, it’s faster – cooking time can be reduced by half compared to boiling or steaming on the stove-top depending on how much you are microwaving at once. Secondly, microwaved pearl barley requires less attention than other methods – there’s no need to check on your pot when using microwave as it heats up evenly throughout due to its sizeable capacity – thereby saving valuable time which could be utilized better elsewhere—a desirable feature that makes this method ideal especially during quick meal prep.

Essential Tools Needed for Microwaving Barley:

Here are all things you will need to cook pearl barley successfully in your microwave:

  • Microwave-safe dish (glass or plastic)
  • Water or broth (unsalted)
  • Measuring cup
  • Fork
  • Salt
  • Seasonings (optional)

Safety Precautions When Microwaving Food:

Although microwaves have become an essential kitchen appliance, it’s important to practice caution when using them. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while microwaving pearl barley:

  • Always use microwave-safe containers or utensils
  • Avoid crowding the dishes as this will cause uneven heating
  • Stir occasionally while cooking to promote even heat distribution
  • Be careful when removing hot plates from the oven to avoid burns

Step-by-Step Guide to Microwaving Pearl Barley:

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to cook pearled barley in your microwave for nutrient packed and delicious meals:

  1. Cleaning and Rinsing the Pearl Barley: thoroughly rinse 1 cup of pearl barley in a sieve under running water until water runs clear.
  2. Water to Barley Ratio: For every 1 cup of barley, add 2 cups of water or broth (unsalted) into your microwave-safe dish.
  3. Adding seasonings and other ingredients: You can add salt, pepper, garlic powder that fits your preferences if desired for added flavor profiles.
  4. Setting Your Microwave: Cover with cling wrap or microwaveable lid, cook on high for 20 minutes or medium power for 30 minutes stirring at least twice during cooking time
  5. Resting the Cooked Barley: Turn off the microwave and let it hang out in there for 2–3 minutes before using a fork remove from the heated oven allowing it cool down while your fist course is finished up.

Common Questions About Cooking Pearl Barley in the Microwave

Is it possible to overcook my pearl barley in the microwave?

It’s practically impossible technically overcook your pearl barely, so long as you’ve gauged the amount needed against cell capacity size of your microwave which differs between models; and followed all instructions carefully.

What should I do if my barleys turn out too mushy?

More than likely you’ll have used more water per barley size which compresses grains during microwaving. To fix this issue, simply drain the excess liquid by running cold water over your mushy barley.

Can I cook all types of pearl barley in the microwave?

Generally speaking, yes. However, some varieties take longer to cook than others, so it’s always best to check cooking times for different types of Barley as alternative types have varying degrees of hardness that might determine cooking time and prep work required beforehand.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Microwaving Pearl Barley


  1. Saves Time: Using a microwave cuts down on cooking time compared to other methods like boiling on a stove.
  2. Less Cleanup Required: With microwaves you typically only need one dish that can be easily washed or placed in the dishwasher.
  3. Saves Energy: Microwaves use less energy than conventional cooking methods like stovetop boiling or roasting in an oven.


  1. Inconsistent Results: Sometimes Microwaved pearl barleys will come out chewier than intended due to uneven heating.
  2. It May Not Be Ideal for All Types of Pearls: Some larger grain varieties may not fit inside the microwave dishes leading to undercooked or unevenly cooked pearls.
  3. Limited Portion Sizes: When it comes to microwaving grains you might be limited by your capacity constraints with respect to how much food can max out and still remain evenly heated – as smaller units tend have limited sizes when compared against other methods which could potentially strain family dinner plans.

Microwaved Pearl Barley Recipe Ideas

Microwave meals are perfect for those busy days when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. Here are three easy-to-make recipes that use microwaved pearl barley as a base ingredient:

  1. Creamy lunchtime risotto with peas and mint – Microwave barley until tender then mix in butter, milk, or heavy cream with shredded parmesan cheese. Add peas and mint for an extra burst of flavor and nutrients.
  2. Warm winter soup with chicken, pumpkin, and barley – mix together pearl barley, cubed pumpkin, chopped onion celery and thinly sliced carrot into a microwave-safe bowl of broth seasoned with salt and pepper then cook until barley fully absorbs liquid
  3. Oven-roasted halloumi, broccoli, tomato bowl topped with garlic Parmesan roasted mushrooms and avocado – begin by cooking your pearl barley before roasting the other ingredients separately in your oven then merging them in your heated up dish at once before garnishing on top!


Cooking pearl barley in the microwave is easy to do and offers many benefits compared to traditional stove-top methods. It’s faster, requires less attention from the cook during cooking time resulting in deliciously nutrient-packed meals that are perfect for busy people hoping for easy meal prep without compromise. Before trying this at home though make sure you follow all instructions carefully because safety should always come first even as convenience often persuades us otherwise!


  1. Q: Can pearl barley be cooked in the microwave?

    A: Yes, pearl barley can be cooked in the microwave. Simply mix one cup of pearl barley with two cups of water and microwave on high for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

  2. Q: What are some advantages of cooking pearl barley in the microwave?

    A: Cooking pearl barley in the microwave is faster than traditional stovetop methods, requires less cleanup, and is more energy efficient.

  3. Q: Should I cover my pearl barley while microwaving it?

    A: Yes, covering the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap will help to trap steam and ensure even cooking. Be sure to leave a small vent to prevent pressure buildup.

  4. Q: Can I flavor my pearl barley while microwaving it?

    A: Absolutely! You can add a variety of herbs, spices, or broth to infuse your pearl barley with flavor as it cooks in the microwave. Consider adding garlic powder, onion flakes, or diced vegetables for extra taste and nutrition.


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