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There are two types of barley available – pot barley and pearl barley. Pot barley is the more nutritious of the two but is less readily available and takes longer to cook. It is less refined than pearl, with only the outer husk removed, which also gives it a nuttier flavour. Pearl barley has all the husks removed and is then polished (pearled), resulting in a product that more resembles large grains of rice. Both types of barley are cheap and nutritious.
Pearl barley does not need to be soaked before use and will become tender during the cooking process. Pot barley is best when soaked overnight in cold water, then cooked in three parts liquid to one quantity of grain.
Pot or pearl barley can be used to bulk up soups and stews, or made into a salad for a substantial main meal, or it can be used in place of arborio rice in risotto. Pearl barley cooks to al dente in boiling, salted water in around 25 minutes, or around 40 minutes at a low simmer.
Watch our video on how to cook pearl barley:
Use within three months of purchase.
All year around in the dry goods section of grocery shops and supermarkets.
Choose your barley according to the dishes you wish to make. For soups, stews and slow-cooked dishes, both pot and pearl barley will work. However, you should use pearl barley in speedier dishes like risotto or salad.
Try arborio rice instead.