Rice is a staple in many households, especially among Asians. With the increasing popularity and varieties of rice dishes, rice cookers have also become a staple in many homes. Why a rice cooker, you ask? Because it makes everything so simple; no need to look out for the rice while it cooks, and the result is perfectly cooked rice each time. It does not end there; you can also use the delightful appliance to warm your oatmeal breakfast or make delicious steamed spongy cakes. You can also prepare sticky sushi rice in a rice cooker. One kitchen appliance with multiple functionalities! Whether you have become addicted to rice or want just to utilize that rice cooker you got on your birthday, we will guide you through all the steps and answer all your questions.
What is a Rice Cooker and How Does It Work?
Are you excited to cook some rice but feeling a little intimidated? Or maybe you are running out of time? A rice cooker has got the solution to all your problems! It is automated and requires minimum supervision. The features of your rice cooker will depend on the model you choose, as a wide variety of them are available today. No matter the specifications and the cooking time, all rice cookers will turn off once it reaches 212°F.
The working of this countertop kitchen appliance is relatively simple. Add washed rice in the desired quantity, adjust the amount of water accordingly, and BAM! You have a plate full of fluffy rice.
Should You Rinse The Rice?
Overly sticky rice is an issue many amateurs may face while using a rice cooker for the first time. While many Asian cuisines require you to use sticky rice, sticky rice made accidentally can be rectified with an easy solution. Rinse the Rice!
Usually, rice gets sticky due to the starch on the grains. Broken rice grains and remnants add up as starch. Rinsing the rice can help you prevent this by washing away the excess starch – washing two times works best. You can directly add the rice to the cooking pan, add water, swirl the rise with your hands (gently or roughly, however you like it), and discard the cloudy water. Repeat this until the water runs clean, and you have got yourself the base of non-sticky, fluffy rice.
However, you need to be careful while following this process. Some rice brands in the US add nutrients, like iron and folic acid, which might wash away while rinsing. Thus, it is advisable to follow the instructions given on the packet specific to the kind of rice.
How Much Water is Needed to Put in a Rice Cooker?
First of all, use cold water or in room temperature for cooking rice. The general thumb rule with the water to rice ration for rice cookers is 1:1, i.e., one cup of water for each cup of rice. Since rice cookers are often used for cooking rice in larger batches, you can scale up the quantity of water accordingly.
Identifying the type of rice is also vital while deciding the amount of water to be added. Long grain rice requires more water. Cooking brown rice in rice cookers would require more water too. Apart from the instructions given on the packet, some basic measurements are:
- 1¾ cups of water per cup of rice for white, long-grain rice
- 1½ cups of water per cup of rice for white, medium-grain rice; 1¼ cups of water for white, short-grain rice
- Most Indian rice dishes prefer the rice to be drier. Therefore, Jasmine or Basmati requires 1-1½ cups of water for each cup of rice.
You need to play around with the amount of water and rice to identify your preferred ratio for consistent results. Consider factors like the type of rice, the rice cooker model, and your desired rice texture. Begin with a 1:1 ratio; if the rice is dry and hard, try adding ¼ of a cup of water. Similarly, if it is too sticky, try reducing ¼ of a cup of water. Experiment like this till you are satisfied.
What Can You Cook in a Rice Cooker Besides Rice?
Though the name ‘rice cooker’ may make you think you can only cook rice, you can use it to make several dishes. Pizzas, cake, ribs, steam veggies, dumplings, and oatmeal are some basic items you can make. You can also cook different rice dishes, such as risotto, rice pudding, and porridge, among many others. While making pancakes, cakes, and pizzas, rice cookers tend to use steam rather than direct heat. You can also steam vegetables and dumplings for a healthy but tasty meal using the steam pan attachment.
You can also cook grains, like quinoa, oats, and barley, in a rice cooker. Are you looking for a warm oatmeal breakfast? Go for that rice cooker. According to their cooking times, you will need to adjust the amount of water and the time required to cook the grains. You can also make different kinds of flavored rice by adding spices and vegetables with raw rice and water. In this manner, you can make flavorful Mexican rice in rice cookers easily.
Why Should You Use a Rice Cooker?
Whether you grew up with rice as a staple or planning on having rice more frequently, a rice cooker can make the entire process hassle-free. Rice cookers are well known for bringing out consistently excellent results with minimal supervision. You can get quality rice cookers in the affordable range of $20-$30. When cooking rice on the stovetop, you need to be vigilant and keep an eye on it at all times to prevent overflowing water, burnt crust, or soggy rice. The rice cooker cooks rice perfectly each time and only needs a minute to assemble everything. The process of cleaning up a rice cooker is also easier than most non-stick pots for stovetops, implying minimal elbow grease afterward.
Step-by-step Guide to Cook Rice in Rice Cooker
No matter the usual steps of using a rice cooker, one must always refer to the manual of instructions before attempting to use it. The steps for almost all models are relatively similar as follows:
- Gather the ingredients: While rice is the main ingredient, gather spices and other additions for a flavored rice dish. You may also choose to replace rice with stock for an added depth of flavor.
- Rinse your rice: This step cannot be skipped if you are looking for fluffy rice. You can do it in the cooking pan itself. A minimum of two washes is necessary and is often sufficient. However, keep rinsing until the water runs clear.
- Pour in the water: If you are using a rice cooker for the first time, go for the standard 1:1 ratio for rice and the amount of water needed. You can tweak this ratio depending on your preferences and the kind of rice after you see the results. There is another ‘first knuckle’ rule that is commonly used in Asian families. Insert your index finger, let the tip touch the top level of rice, and add water till the first knuckle. This is an unreliable method since you cannot identify the amount of water required as per the quantity of rice. Also, differences in knuckle sizes may lead to burnt and hard rice for some while soggy rice for others. Therefore, sticking to a particular ratio using measuring cups and standardized equipment is more reliable until you get more proficient in eyeballing the quantities to achieve your desired rice texture. Read up on these additional features and settings to experiment with more dishes and cuisines.
- Let it cook: After securing the lid, turn on the cooker. Although most rice cookers have convenient single-button controls, read the manual carefully and choose the most appropriate setting accordingly. On average, it will take around 20 mins – 30 mins for the rice to be ready.
- Allowing the rice to rest: Once the rice is ready, instead of serving immediately, let it rest in the pot for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the extra moisture to leave, giving fluffier rice, and the heat will get distributed more evenly.
- Fluff and serve: Fluff the rice using a spatula and serve in bowls!
How Long Does a Rice Cooker Take to Cook?
The exact time needed for a rice cooker to cook rice depends on two factors:
- The brand and model of the rice cooker
- The type and quantity of rice you wish to cook.
Considering these two factors, the approximate time needed by most cookers is around 20-30 minutes. The good news is that you do not need to sit around because your rice cooker will turn off on its own.
A rice cooker saves on time and energy, requires little to no supervision, and gives consistently good results. The immense versatility also makes it suitable for meeting all your cravings and experimental needs. So, go to your nearby superstore, choose the model that meets your requirements and get cooking. Experience your life becoming considerably more simple with the help of a multifunctional rice cooker. We are sure it will become your favorite home appliance in no time.