Cracked wheat is milled raw wheat berries. The smaller pieces provide the same mildly nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture of the larger form but take much less time to cook. The grain cooks in about 25 minutes on the stovetop, depending on how firm you want the grains. Keep cracked wheat on the firm side for salad-style preparations, textured toppings or adding to dishes in which it may cook further. Simmer it longer to a softer consistency to use as a wholesome hot cereal or porridge.
Spread the cracked wheat out on a large plate. Sift through it all and pick out any bits of hull, stones or debris that may be mixed in. Push portions to one side of the plate as you go through it and clear it.
Put the cracked wheat in a mesh strainer and rinse it under a gentle stream of cold water, tossing the grains with your fingers to thoroughly rinse them. Continue for a minute or two, making sure the water runs clear.
Put the grains into a medium saucepan and add 3 cups of water or broth for each 1 cup of cracked wheat. Add a few pinches of salt if you're using water.
Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to moderately low to maintain a simmer. Cover the pot.
Stir the cracked wheat every 5 minutes. Replace the lid after stirring.
Cook the cracked wheat to the desired consistency, which should take around 20 minutes for a firm texture and up to 25 minutes for a soft texture. Watch carefully near the end of the cooking time so the grains don't become mushy.
Drain the remaining liquid from the pot. Fluff the cracked wheat with a fork before serving.
For a more flavorful savory alternative, cook cracked wheat in vegetable, chicken or beef broth instead of water. This adds significant saltiness and some depth of flavor to the grain. This works well for salad-style and side dishes. Cracked wheat is often confused with bulgur. They are the same food, but bulgur is parboiled, so it cooks more quickly. As long as you cook it for the right amount of time, the two are interchangeable in recipes. Use cracked wheat instead of couscous if you want a chewier texture and more pronounced flavor. Cracked wheat can also stand in for quinoa and other whole grains.