Cracked wheat is a wheat product made from whole raw wheat kernels which are crushed or cut into smaller pieces. There are a large number of uses for this food, and it makes a popular dietary supplement in many cultures. Many grocery stores carry cracked wheat, which should be stored in a cool dry place until use so that it does not go rancid. If not used within one year, the wheat should be discarded.
A similar product, bulgur wheat, is also made by cracking wheat kernels. Bulgur, however, is made from wheat kernels which are steamed and toasted before cracking, so that they develop a rich, nutty flavor. Bulgur also requires minimal cooking, since it is already partially cooked. Cracked wheat, on the other hand, uses whole raw wheat berries. Numerous other types of cracked grain are also available for use in various recipes and animal fodder.
Because cracked wheat is made from whole wheat berries, it carries a great deal of nutrition and fiber since it includes the fiber and nutrient rich outer bran and germ of the wheat. For this reason, it is often added to healthy diets, especially those eaten by people who are concerned about heart health. Other whole cracked grains may be used as well, for variation in flavor and nutrition.
There are a wide range of uses for cracked wheat. Many people use it as a base, like couscous, serving vegetables or meats alongside it. It can also be used in grain pilafs, and many recipes for multi-grain pilaf call for cracked wheat, since it is fluffy and flavorful. Many people also include it in multi-grain bread, pancakes, and other grain dishes. The crushed wheat berries may be soaked or partially cooked when they are included in recipes such as bread, to ensure that they are fully cooked when the food is served.
As with all grains, cracked wheat should be washed before use, to remove residual dirt and other compounds which may have adhered to the wheat during growing, processing, and shipping. The easiest way to do this is to measure the wheat out into a fine grained colander, running water over it and gently stirring it with a spatula or by hand to make sure that each grain is washed. Soaking the washed wheat will also make it cook more quickly. Some people like to put grains on to soak when they leave the house in the morning, so that they will cook quickly at dinnertime. Cooked wheat can be stored in a snug container under refrigeration for several days for use in salads, pancakes, and other foods.