Why Your Rice Cooker Smells Bad & How to Prevent It

Rice cookers have become a helpful appliance in households. They help people avoid having to settle for watery rice if they do not cook it well in a pot. However, this convenience comes with its price because rice cookers have a smell that users have to deal with.

Rice cookers smell because leftover rice residue gets acted on by bacteria and ferments, making it spoil and give off a bad odour. Using ordinary water and dishwashing soap to wash the rice cooker might not be sufficient to eradicate the smell, hence the need for more aggressive methods.

In this article I am going to talk about why a rice cooker may smell, what causes the smell and how to prevent it.

Why Does A Rice Cooker Smell?

Fermentation Of Leftover Rice

Rice cookers smell when there are leftover grains of rice in them and those grains of rice remain there until they ferment as all starchy food does.

Leaving some grains of rice inside the cooker is a recipe for disaster. You would get a funky smell when you do this and the cooker would need extensive cleaning to get rid of it.

Hurried And Inadequate Cleaning

When cleaning a rice cooker, one has to do it carefully and patiently because rice is a starchy food that can leave residue after cooking.

It is advised that every part of the rice cooker is taken apart and cleaned but if that advice is not followed, tiny bits of rice here and there can be left behind. Bacteria would act on these rice residues, causing the rice cooker to smell.

Bacteria From Old Rice Acts On The New Rice

Bacteria is tiny, so tiny that it is impossible to see it with our naked eyes, and unfortunately, they tend to act on food – rice included. If rice spoils once in your rice cooker, it means there are now bacteria in it. However, when you clean out the rice cooker, you get rid of most of these bacteria but “most” is not “all”.

The bacteria left behind will reproduce and be ready to pounce the next time you cook rice in the cooker. This cycle will continue and, in some cases, it would make your rice spoil faster than expected, and cause a bad smell to emanate from the cooker.

What Causes A Rice Cooker To Smell?

The Rice Being Cooked In It

Although the cooker exists to make the process of cooking rice easier, it impossible to say that it is not the rice that makes the cooker smell bad.

There are other cookers made for other types of food – like toasters for bread – that do not have this problem, so it is obvious the problem is with the rice.

The Moisture In The Rice

To cook rice – whether in a rice cooker or a pot – you need to add a lot of water. Bacteria tend to thrive in wet or moist conditions and since the grains of rice would absorb a lot of water when cooking, the residues and left-over rice grains in the rice cooker would be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

The fact that rice cookers are always covered makes moisture get trapped in them. If they were designed such that they could be left wide open, fresh air would flow in and out, taking some moisture with it so the cooker does not have a stale smell.

The Starch Released From The Rice

Most rice cookers operate at very high heat and this prompts starch to be released. This starch that has a smell attached to it gets released faster and in more quantities as you increase the temperature of the rice cooker.

If one does not wash and drain the rice many times over before then there would be so much starch released during cooking which would contribute to the unpleasant smell in the rice cooker.

How to Prevent A Rice Cooker from Smelling

Preventing bad smell in a rice cooker is not as straightforward as one might think because bacteria are stubborn and their minute size makes it impossible to target. Here are some ways to tackle the problem.

Ensure The Rice Has As Little Starch As Possible Before It Is Left To Cook.

As mentioned earlier, having a great amount of starch in the rice could present a problem. To combat this, thoroughly washing and sieving the rice before leaving it in the cooker to cook till it is soft and ready to eat is advised. Alternatively, the rice can be parboiled.

You could first wash it and put it in a pot to boil; the heat upon boiling would force the starch out of the rice. After five minutes, sieve the boiled rice from the pot, wash it again, and then put it in the rice cooker till it is ready to eat.

Remove Every Drop of Water Before Storing The Rice Cooker

The role moisture plays in making rice cookers smell bad which has been discussed should not be overlooked. After every use, make sure you get every drop or droplet of water out of the rice cooker by any means necessary. The easiest way would be to leave the lid of the cooker open so the drops of water would evaporate on their own.

Little actions like this would make a difference because if you feel impatient and store it with drops of water in it, you would need extensive cleaning the next time you want to cook rice in it if it has a smell.

Thoroughly Clean The Rice Cooker After Every Use

Cleaning a rice cooker takes more effort than when cleaning other appliances like electric blenders, for instance. For starters, one has to take safety precautions and not expose any electrical component to water. Special attention should be paid to the hot plate inside the rice cooker as that is what generates the heat used to cook the rice.

If it gets damaged, then the entire rice cooker would need replacing. Before any cleaning starts when you are done cooking, give the appliance half an hour to cool down.

To ensure a proper cleaning job is done, all parts of the rice cooker have to be taken apart and washed separately. The inner pot should be the first point of interest. If there is no leftover food in it, soak it in hot soapy water, then wash and air dry it (or wipe it with a dry cloth).

If some grains of rice got burnt and are stuck to the base of the pot, then you would have to scrape it with a spoon or a metal sponge. Once you have gotten those stubborn food particles off, wash the pot again with a sponge and rinse it.

Clean the lid of the rice cooker, which would be easy to do if you use a model that has a detachable lid. Take the lid off and soak it in hot soapy water, the same way the inner pot was treated; then wash, rinse and dry it. If the rice cooker you own does not let you detach the lid, use a soft sponge to remove any residue and stain.

Use another moist cloth to rub over it carefully in an effort to “rinse” it. Be careful though, so water does not get into the interior of the cooker.

Since you have taken off the inner pot, you would have to clean the interior of the rice cooker. A moist cloth would be your best friend here. Use it to remove any food residue and let it dry before putting the inner pot back in its place.

If there is difficulty getting any hard residue off even with a metal spoon or sponge, sandpaper could prove useful. Rub the sandpaper against the food residue until it comes off.

If there is a stubborn smell in the rice cooker that you need to get rid of, use a water-vinegar mixture. To form a useful mixture, you should mix one cup of vinegar with three cups of water. Pour this mixture into the cooker’s inner pot and turn it on until the mixture boils. Once the boiling point is reached, turn it off and leave the entire appliance to cool down.

When cool, rinse the inner pot with the mixture and dispose of it afterwards. Use normal warm water to rinse the inner pot one more time and the smell should be gone.