A rice cooker is an electric automated appliance that allows you to cook perfect rice at home.
It works by holding the water and steaming the rice efficiently and evenly. It senses when the rice is done by the change of weight inside the machine.
Once cooked, most models will also keep the rice warm and until you are ready to eat it.
As a rice cooker is essentially a steamer it can cook meat. The best meats to cook in a rice cooker are soft thin meats such as chicken and fish. You can braise beef and thicker meats however you’ll need a certain amount of water or some-sort of water-based liquid (ie. broth or stock).
The ability to cook meat as well as rice in a rice cooker makes it a more versatile appliance than it may otherwise first appear.
This removes the need to purchase an additional appliance for meats if you already have a rice cooker, or can further justify the cost of purchasing a rice cooker in the first place.
How To Cook Meat Inside A Rice Cooker
There are three ways I cook meat inside a rice cooker. Each of these techniques are slightly different. The exact method usually depends on;
- The type of meat you are cooking
- Whether you are also cooking rice in the rice cooker
- How much time you have
I recommend trailing each of the methods with different meats to find out which technique(s) you prefer.
While steaming, it’s important that you monitor your meat’s temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure the meats you cook reach a safe cooking temperature.
Chicken and other poultry should at least reach 165F / 73.5c, while beef and pork must be cooked to at least 145F / 62c.
1. Cook Meat & Rice Together
A great way of using less dishes and pans is to cook meat together with the rice in the rice cooker. Simply, add in the rice and the correct amount of water then place your seasoned meat on top.
The pressure and steam created within the cooker should steam and thoroughly cook the meat as well as cook your rice.
Just make sure the piece of meat isn’t too thick or big; cut into thinner slices before cooking if so.
If you find that your rice is sticking to the bottom of your rice cooker with or without the meat then these strategies should help. I’ve noticed that this is more common when I try and cook meat and rice together in a rice cooker.
2. Steamed Fish or Meat
If you are looking to steam fish or meat, it is important to have a steam rack (this is the one I have) that can be slotted into the basin of the rice cooker.
You don’t want the meat to be touching the bottom of the rice cooker as that may lead to burning or a malfunction.
First, pour in the water.
It is recommended to use 2 cups (500ml) of water for fish and 2½ cups (625ml) of water for chicken, pork or beef.
Then simply place seasoned meat onto the steam rack and turn on the rice cooker.
To avoid overcooked meat, you may have to set your own timer as the rice cooker will only turn off once all the water has evaporated not when your meat has cooked.
Some rice cookers have timers included (like this one), others don’t and as a result, tend to be significantly cheaper as it’s simply an on and an off button (like this one). Alternatively, I’ve found a timer on my phone to be absolutely fine.
The more you use your rice cooker for this function the better idea you will have of what time it takes to cook your meat perfectly.
The great thing about rice cookers is that you can take off the lid without having to turn off the machine making it easy to check how cooked your food is.
Once done, you can leave the meat in the rice cooker set at the ’warm’ setting. However, avoid doing this for long as that may also lead to overcooked meat.
3. Braised Meat or Meat Stews
Cooking one-pot meals such as beef stew or braised short ribs can also be done in a rice cooker. This is a fantastic alternative to a slow cooker where you might otherwise traditionally cook braised meats and stews.
Simply turn on the cooker to the ‘cook’ function and, once hot, it can be used to saute any vegetables or meat before adding in the liquid and covering with the lid to allow the dish to fully cook.
For this kind of cooking, try to find recipes suitable for rice cookers as you may need to add more water or liquid to allow the rice cooker to work effectively.