Pearl barley is a form of grain in which the tough outer hull is removed before it is consumed. Although not a whole grain, pearl barley is rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, fiber and protein, and virtually free of sodium, cholesterol and fat. Pearl barley is the most common form of barley, and typically is found next to dry beans and rice in supermarkets. Pearl barley is easy to cook on the stove, and is used in soups, stews, pilaf and a variety of hot dishes. Chill the barley for use in mixed vegetable salads.
Bring water, chicken broth or vegetable broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the pearl barley. If water is used, add a dash of salt.
Allow the water to return to a boil, then reduce the heat so the water simmers. Cover the saucepan and cook the pearl barley until the water is absorbed and the barley is tender -- about 45 minutes.
Fluff the barley with a fork, then transfer it to a serving bowl. Serve the barley hot, or use the barley as directed in recipes. Cool the barley thoroughly before adding it to cold salads.