Rice cookers. They are somewhat controversial in the land of kitchen appliances. Some cooks swear by them and others turn up their noses claiming “I don’t need some machine to cook my rice!” Well, if we are being honest, rice isn’t exactly easy. Making good rice takes practice, correct timing, and accurate measuring. There are all kinds of tricks out their, some of them seeming like old wives tales, on how to correctly measure the rice-to-liquid ratio. Such as filling up the pot with your desired amount of rice and then sticking your finger in it and adding water until the liquid comes up to your first knuckle. Who’s knuckle? Because depending on if it’s 5’4″ me or 6′ 2″ Joel, our knuckles are in very different places.
Also, what about how long to cook the rice? White rice cooks differently then brown rice, and wild rice is a whole other story. Maybe I’m partial to rice cookers because I really can’t cook rice with out them. Well, I could, but the rice never comes out as good as it does from a rice cooker. So here are my 5 reasons to get one, and use it!
1. Perfect rice, every time. Why? How? There’s a temperature gauge inside which measures when the rice is done, and auto switches to warm when the right internal temperature is reached. Genius!
2. Cook any combo of rice (have you tried the 1/2 white rice, 1/2 brown rice combo!? It’s amazing and your family won’t even know it’s full of fiber.) Cook any grains too… couscous, millet, amaranth, quinoa, whatever you feel like, the rice cooker can handle. Just look up the write liquid-to-grain ratio or reference your rice cooker’s manual. Since ours was lost long ago, I just found this recipe for quinoa in the rice cooker that I’ll be using soon.
3. Cook and steam at the same time. If your rice cooker comes with a steamer basket (or even if it doesn’t) you can make steamed veggies at the same time as the rice. I tried this with broccoli. I added it to the last 5 minutes the cooking time on the rice, and left it in there when the rice cooker switched to warm mode. It was perfect and crunchy, not over cooked. I would recommend looking up about how long it takes to steam your desired vegetable and then adding it in towards the end of rice cooking time (for calrose white rice it’s around 20 minutes, but since the rice cooker measures internal temperature, this will be a little different for each kind of rice, so you may need to experiment and adjust.)
4. A rice cooker doesn’t take up another burner or require you to worry about it. I cook a lot; weeknight dinners, family barbecues and dinners, and casual weekend gatherings. I rely on a side dish or two that I can set and forget-the rice cooker is it! Dinner on a busy Wednesday is easy-breezy with rice and broccoli in the cooker and chicken in the oven. Done.
If I’m making a whole bunch of food or trying to do some big batch cooking on the weekend, I love that don’t have to dedicate a burner to rice… I can put it on a counter top away from the stove and have it be out of the way of my cooking frenzy.
5. I can cook other things in a rice cooker besides grains… puddings, overnight oatmeal, beans, polenta, risotto… check out this Kitchn article for the how to! 5 things you can cook in a rice cooker other then rice.
Now that I’ve convinced you to use one, here’s some tips for cooking with one. Use the ratio specified in your instruction booklet. For our rice cooker, it’s 1:1 1/4 (1 cup rice to one and a quarter cups water)… no matter the kind of rice you are cooking.
Add the rice and water and flip the setting to cook. When it switches to warm, set a timer for 10 minuets.
When the ten minuets is up, scrape the bottom of the rice cooker with the flat rice spatula (most models come with one). Be sure to get all the brown bits on the bottom. This makes cleaning and serving the rice a lot easier.
Once the bottom is scraped it can sit on the warm setting for up to 30 minutes.
Leave the lid on until you are serving, or storing the leftovers. This keeps the rice from drying out.
There you have it! Simple but effective tips for your rice cooker success. I hope I’ve convinced you to try a rice cooker, or at least see it in a different way then you did before. It has a lot of potential and it’s a hard worker in my kitchen!
Yellow bowl, Now Designs, New Seasons Market (some stores, or here on Amazon)
Rice cooker, Salton, similar one on Amazon.
Alton Brown’s Kichen Gadget Yea or Nays article
The Kitchn, 5 Things You Can Make in a Rice Cooker article