Have you ever tried cooking rice but ended up with a watery, mushy meal that did nothing for your taste buds? Having imperfectly cooked rice leaves many victims wishing they could just put their rice in a machine (cooker), press a button or flip a switch, and — boom — perfectly cooked rice is ready. Guess what: you can have all that with a rice cooker.
All rice cookers work the same. They aim to produce perfectly cooked, uniformly textured, and tasty rice. But different brands come with unique built-in materials, cooking, heating methods, and extra features that differ. For example, fuzzy logic rice cookers have microchips to detect water volume.
So, are you out there wondering about the logic behind rice cookers, how they work, their pros and cons, as well as factors to consider when buying one? Well, you’re in the right place. This guide looks at everything you need to know concerning rice cookers, so read on!
Is a Rice Cooker Important?
Well, a good number of people still question whether a rice cooker is worth it; what do you think? Is it a handy addition to your kitchen?
For many years now, people have cooked rice using the traditional manual way, which hasn’t been working in favor of everyone. And while not so challenging to crack through, the manual way of cooking rice calls for extra care and attention.
Here, you need to pay close attention to the frame from your gas or stove burner to keep your meal from burning and give it a uniform texture. Additionally, you need to keep your eyes on your timer to ensure your rice doesn’t over or undercook.
But thanks to the new technology and innovations, we now have the rice cooker. That means you can say goodbye to the hassle of gas or stove cooking by using this wonder machine.
So, Is a Rice Cooker Really Worth It?
Let’s find out.
Do you cook rice several times a week? Do you find it hard to make perfectly cooked rice on a gas burner or stovetop? Is your cooking area tiny with no cooktop? Do you want to cook your rice effortlessly every time?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then getting a rice cooker would be an ideal thing to do. This modern kitchen appliance will make things easier for you in the kitchen. You no longer have to fret about messing up your cooktop rice.
Imagine pouring your rice and water into a cooker, pressing a button, walking away to do other things only to come back and find your rice perfectly cooked! Sounds interesting, right? That’s what a rice cooker does; it’s indeed a wonder appliance in your kitchen!
But before getting this kitchen appliance, it’s good that you know a few things related to it, as outlined below.
How Does a Rice Cooker Work?
Before getting any kitchen appliance, it’s always advisable to have a rough idea of how it works. Is it too complicated, or would it be easy for any member of your family to operate it?
So, are you out there wondering what’s the logic behind this wonder kitchen appliance? Well, stress yourself no more; we’re here to lay it bare for you.
Here’s how you can effortlessly get perfectly cooked rice using a rice cooker:
Use a Measuring Cup To Measure Out Rice
Using a measuring cup, measure the amount of rice you want to cook. Most cookers come with their own measuring cups.
Regardless of the type of rice you’re using — whether white rice, brown rice, parboiled rice, or basmati, to mention a few — it’s always a good idea to measure how much you want to cook.
Rinse the Rice Three Times in a Rice Washer
Put your rice in a rice washer or the inner cooking pot of your cooker and wash it. You can wash your rice about three times to eliminate all the debris and impurities. Ensure you drain all the water used in washing.
However, it’s important to read your rice packaging because some rice types don’t require rinsing before cooking. These are the types of rice enriched with water-soluble minerals and vitamins, such as thiamin and iron. Such water-soluble elements tend to dissolve when you rinse your rice.
Follow the 2:1 Water-to-Rice Ratio Rule
Now, measure clean water and add it to your inner cooking pot (cooking bowl). In most cases, you’ll add water in the ratio of 2:1. That is two cups of water for one cup of rice (using the same measuring cup you used to measure your rice).
However, the water-to-rice ratio varies depending on the type of rice you’re making.
Pour the Water, Rice, and Seasonings Into the Cooker
Set your inner cooking pot with its contents (rice and water) into the cooker. At this point, you can also add your oil, salt, butter, or any other spices of your choice. Once you’ve added all the contents, put the lid on.
Plug the Rice Cooker In & Turn It On
Plug in your rice cooker and turn it on to start cooking. Most cookers come with some light displays near their program menu that show when the unit is on.
Once you turn your unit on, it activates the heating element and thermostat under the cooking bowl. And since the bowl is made of aluminum or other heat-conducting material, it conducts heat and starts heating its contents.
The thermostat is efficient in controlling the heat from the heat source and measuring the bowl’s temperature to prevent your rice from burning.
The heat below the bowl rises to about 212°F (100°C) for most appliances, causing the water to start boiling. The water turns into steam and carries heat to the rice, and your rice begins to cook.
However, depending on the type of machine you’re using, it’s a good idea to read the menu, as the cooking method may vary; not all units come with a one-flip switch.
Allow the Rice To Cook for 15-20 Minutes
Now, let your rice cook. The rice starts absorbing the hot water, and since it mostly consists of starch, the starch forms bonds with hydrogen ions in the water.
As the rice grains continue to absorb the water, they become less well connected through a process called gelatinization.
Once the rice absorbs all the water, the temperature in the cooking pot continues to rise. The thermostat detects the temperature change causing the unit to switch off completely or switch into warming mode.
The cooking time varies based on the cooking unit you’re using and the type of rice you’re making. For most rice types, it takes between 15-20 minutes.
Set It To Warm Mode To Get Rid of Excess Moisture
Once your rice is cooked, your cooker will automatically notify you. And depending on the unit you’re using, it may either flip the switch, turn off the light or make a sound. After your rice is done cooking, you can allow it to continue sitting in the warm mode as you finish up your other meal preps.
Additionally, keeping your rice in warm mode allows any excess moisture to evaporate, giving you a perfectly cooked rice that pleases your taste buds.
Then, use rice paddles or plastic serving utensils to serve your rice. Sit comfortably and enjoy your meal!
Types of Rice Cookers
Now that you know a rice cooker is an essential addition to your kitchen, and it doesn’t require special skills to operate, you’re likely more than ever determined to get one. But hold on a little bit; let’s first look at the types of rice cookers available in the market today.
Although rice cookers are designed for the same purpose (to give you perfectly cooked rice), they’re not all built similarly. In most cases, they’re fitted with different heating and cooking systems, meaning they work differently.
So, here are the common types of rice cookers you’re likely to find on the market:
Electric Rice Cookers
Electric rice cookers are perhaps the most common type of cookers available on the market. They’ve been in use since 1955 and are currently available in different sizes and types.
These cookers have a thermostat or thermal detector that detects the water level inside the cooking pot. Once all the water evaporates from the cooking bowl, the cooker automatically shuts off.
Cook/ warm cookers are among the most affordable and basic electric rice cookers. They mainly come with only two standard settings: cook/warm. Most of the units come with one switch or button that automatically switches from cook to warm when the rice is ready.
These cookers don’t come with fancy buttons or a program menu, and some are available in non-stick pots or steamers. Despite their rudimentary function, these machines are efficient in giving you the expected results.
Their affordability and ease of use make them a preference for many.
Fuzzy Logic / Smart Cookers
These rice cookers are sophisticated units and come as a result of many years of research and experimentation. They are highly versatile and flexible. The best thing about this cookers model is they’re fitted with artificial intelligence technology, allowing them to do almost anything for you.
Fuzzy logic or smart cookers pose as the classy smartphones in the world of rice cookers.
To increase their efficiency, they have built-in computer microchips, allowing them to make judgmental calls—they can detect the type or nature of rice and the volume of water, allowing them to make decisions accordingly.
These units can determine whether the rice is done or not, and they work in a similar way to a person cooking rice.
Additionally, smart rice cookers have unique pre-programmed functions and dedicated settings for various rice types such as mixed rice, porridge rice, glutinous rice, and brown rice.
And while they’re quite pricey than other units on the market, they’re smarter than most of them.
Pressure Multi-Cooker/ Instant Pot Rice Cookers
Do you have an instant pot or a pressure cooker in your kitchen? If so, then you already have an idea about how pressure multi-cookers work. These instant rice cookers are ahead of the game designed as rice cookers, slow cookers, and pressure cookers all in one.
A plus for these units is that they aren’t only designed for rice-making. They also make a wide range of dishes such as soups and stews.
Induction Heating Rice Cookers
Induction heating rice cookers are among the most expensive and highly effective models on the market today.
What’s unique to these cookers is that their heating coils aren’t only fitted at the cooking pot’s bottom. Instead, they’re fitted all over the pot, meaning your rice gets an even heat distribution.
The temperature inside the cooking pot is controlled by a magnetic field, meaning this unit can reverse human errors. Therefore, if you’re always messy in measuring your contents, this is the right cooker for you.
It fixes your mistakes to give you perfectly cooked and tasty rice.
With these types of cookers in mind, you can comfortably make a purchase decision depending on your preferred option. It’s also important to note that they all come at varying sizes and prices to meet your needs perfectly.
Factors To Consider Before Buying a Rice Cooker
As we’ve seen so far, there are different types of rice cookers, let alone different brands. So which one do you choose for your kitchen?
When looking for a rice cooker, there are a few factors that you should look out for to help you settle for the best. These factors include:
One of the primary factors to consider when getting a rice cooker is its capacity or volume. Capacity here refers to the amount of rice the unit can make in one cycle.
A rice cooker’s capacity is measured in terms of cups of rice it can hold. You can get a unit as small as 1 to 3 cups of rice or as big as 32 cups. It all depends on your culinary needs.
Small and medium-sized units are ideal for medium-sized families, while the bigger units are suitable for large gatherings, businesses, and food industry establishments.
When choosing a rice cooker, don’t overlook its bowl quality. The bowl quality refers to the quality of material used to make the inner cooking pot (bowl).
For most rice cookers, the inner bowl is made of either aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum is a good heat conductor and, as such, allows your rice to cook fast. However, some users argue that aluminum cooking bowls often make unevenly cooked rice.
On the other hand, stainless steel bowls are considered ideal because they make evenly cooked rice.
Additionally, you should consider the inner coating of the unit. Go for a durable coating that doesn’t flake off or peel off, making your rice toxic to consume. Non-stick bows are also ideal because they prevent your rice from sticking against the inner pot.
Non-stick coating keeps your bowl from scratches (only if you use the right utensils) and is also easy to clean.
Other coating materials you’re likely to come across include titanium, charcoal, and ceramic.
Heating and Cooking Method
Most standard units utilize a coiled heating element fitted under the inner bowl. When rice comes into contact with the heated area, it ends up becoming browned or burnt.
On the other hand, premium units use more advanced heating and cooking methods. Some use the induction heating method that utilizes alternating magnetic fields. Here, the whole pot acts as a heating element distributing heat evenly, resulting in evenly cooked rice with no burnt parts.
Meanwhile, other premium units use pressure heating and cooking methods and often result in softer, evenly cooked rice.
Having a budget in mind helps you make an ideal purchase decision. Given that different cookers come in different price ranges, you need to get a unit that meets your specific needs and still falls in line with your budget.
Features and Accessories
It’s also advisable to look at the features and accessories that a unit has. Some cookers come with a glass lid, allowing you to monitor whatever is cooking. Others come with a spatula, measuring cup, and a steamer basket.
You can also look at features like the keep warm function, presets, quick-cook function, timer, and digital display.
You should also consider other aspects such as the kitchen counter space. While small in capacity, some units have a large build making them unfit for small kitchen counters.
Additionally, if you intend to tag your cooker along with you for camping or other outdoor events, you should consider its weight and portability.
Pros and Cons of Rice Cookers
Still debating whether or not to buy a rice cooker? Let’s dive deeper and look at the pros and cons of using a rice cooker.
It Automatically Cooks Your Rice
Unlike with traditional or manual cooking, here, you just measure your contents, add them to your pot, turn the cooker on and ‘forget about it.’
Your device will automatically cook your rice to perfection and notify you when it’s ready. Depending on your device, it may either flip the switch, make a sound or turn off the indicator rights; it’s as simple as that!
Keeps Your Rice Warm
Once the cooking cycle is completed, most rice cookers switch to the warm mode.
This means the cooker keeps your rice warm without overcooking it until you’re ready to serve. Pretty interesting and convenient, right?
Easy To Clean
The ease of cleaning mainly depends on your cooker’s model. A good number of them come with removable non-stick cooking bowls that are easy to clean.
Additionally, most of their components are dishwasher safe, meaning you don’t have to wash them in the sink.
Ease of Use
The whole mechanism behind the working of this kitchen appliance is simple. For most of them, you only need to put your rice and water in, cover it, and press a few buttons to let the cooking process begin.
No special skills are needed; just following simple instructions.
One of the primary advantages of using a rice cooker is it gives you evenly cooked rice.
It adopts a mechanism that cooks rice to completion, draining all the water and moisture while still keeping it from burning.
By getting a perfect cooker model, you save yourself the hassle of getting multiple cookware. Most rice cookers are versatile, allowing you to prepare numerous meals from them.
You can comfortably steam your veggies, make soup, stew, fry eggs, and even make those giant pancakes you see on YouTube.
A good number of these units are pricey compared to traditional cooking pots. To make matters worse, the price range from one brand to another can be so big, leaving many confused about which one to pick.
Bottom line: if you’re going for a rice cooker, you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket to buy one.
Uses Non-Stick Technology
Given that most rice cookers come with non-stick cooking pots, you have to be careful about the utensils you use to scoop the rice out. It’s a good idea to use rice paddles or plastic serving utensils. This may call for the purchase of non-stick-friendly utensils, which may be expensive.
Additionally, if you use the standard metal serving spoons, you may ruin the non-stick interiors leading to an inferior cooking experience.
The Rice May Burn
If you aren’t careful enough, especially with your measurements, you may end up with burnt, browned, or poorly cooked rice.
The pros of using rice cookers seem to outweigh the cons. And you can proactively manage the few cons to have a smooth experience.
Safety and Maintenance Tips for Rice Cookers
To fully enjoy the benefits and service of a rice cooker, you must learn about its safety and maintenance tips.
For your safety when using a rice cooker, follow these simple tips:
- Ensure you read the instructions manual on how to use the cooker.
- Avoid plugging in the cooker when you aren’t yet ready to cook.
- Don’t immerse your device in water.
- When using the unit, place it on a flat or even surface.
- Avoid touching the hot exterior parts of your cooker with your bare hands. It’s a good idea to wear cooking gloves.
- Disconnect your unit when not in use.
- Keep your face and away from the cooker when opening the lid. The hot steam from the cooker may cause steam burns.
Rice cookers are sturdy kitchen appliances, and if given the right maintenance, they can withstand the test of time. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind:
- Ensure the unit is disconnected from the power source before you clean it.
- Give it enough time to cool before cleaning.
- Use warm soapy water to wash the inner cooking pot/bowl. You can also use mild dishwashers for cleaning. However, be cautious about harsh dishwashers and soaps that may trigger discoloration or affect the non-stick interiors.
- When cleaning your cooker’s exterior, it’s advisable to use a clean damp cloth.
- Thoroughly rinse your cooker and allow it to dry before storing it.
- Always use rice paddle or non-stick-friendly serving utensils to scoop out the rice. Metallic utensils may ruin the non-stick coating.
- Following the above safety and maintenance tips keeps you free from personal injuries and keeps your rice cooker in good condition.