A rice cooker, or, how people may call it, a rice steamer, is an automatic kitchen appliance that is customized for cooking rice. The basic modes of this appliance are consisting of three main parts: thermostat, a heat source, and a cooking pot. The thermostat is designed to regulate the temperature of the cooking pot.
However, more sophisticated rice cooker models possess a number of other sensors and elements, allowing people to enjoy multiple ways of utilizing the appliance.
Rice cooker is designed in such a way that it cooks the rice automatically. The appliance is programmed to recognize the certain temperature of the rice. When the rice is reaching a particular temperature inside of the cooking pot, the rice cooker automatically switches to the warming mode. Moreover, some of the rice cookers are designed to keep the rice warm after it is cooked.
In addition, rice cookers are perfect for reheating the rice, as they are designated to keep the right temperature inside the cooking pot. Thus, it is simply impossible to burn the rice or to underheat it.
Furthermore, rice cookers come in a variety of sizes. Normally, the size of a rice cooker is measured in cups. The measurement implies the cups of uncooked rice that can fit in the cooking pot.
The smallest rice cooker’s size is 3-cup size. The next standard size is a 5-cup size, where the biggest size of a rice cooker is 10-cup. However, some brands are offering 4-cups and 8-cups rice cooker sizes.
Back in 1937, the first ancient rice cooker has appeared in the Japanese Imperial Army. The rice cooker was a primitive wooden box, where two electrodes have been attached to the opposite ends.
In order to cook the rice, people were filling the box with water and rice and the electric current was supplied. The current has caused the water to heat.When the rice was fully cooked, the reduction of the water caused the increase in resistance. This, in turn, has been cooling the box, yet keeping it warm.
Then, in 1945, the first electric rice cooker was released. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, which is a big Japanese company, has released its first rice cooker. The appliance had an aluminium bowl with a heating coil inside.However, this rice cooker needed constant attention of the user, because it did not have the automatic turn-off function.
Yoshitada Minami was the person, who has created the first practical electric rice cooker. Mr. Minami was working in the collaboration with Toshiba Electric Corporation. He has designed a triple-chamber rice cooker that was allowing to cook the rice in a proper way.
Back in the 1980s, some of the rice cookers started to exploit induction heating, which allows the appliance to control the heating process more precisely. Then, in the 1990s, China has commenced the mass production of the electric rice cookers with narrow function.
Also, Japanese producers have been trying to compete by targeting the niche model and offering extra features. In the 2000s, some of the more luxurious models have emerged on the market.
Nowadays, rice cookers exploit an insulated external container and the inner detachable pot. Also, rice cooker producers often coat the inner bowl with a non-stick surface.
How Does A Rice Cooker Work?
The rice cooker allows the cook to combine a certain amount of rice and water inside the appliance and just to let the device do the work. However, how exactly does it work?
The rice cooker is heating the mixture of the water and rice until the water is fully evaporated or until the rice absorbs the water. The water in the cooking bowl is reaching the temperature of 100 °C (212 °F). Afterward, it cannot get hotter than this boiling point, and eventually, all the water is vaporized. In case more water added, the rice will cook for longer.
Then, the heating process continues and the temperature rises above the boiling point. This causes the thermostat to trip.
The appliance is automatically switching to the low-power boiling point, where the rice cooker temperature is kept warm at approximately 65 °C (150 °F).
Some simpler cookers just switch off.
In addition, standard rice cookers can also be utilized as steamers for other products, since many rice cookers these days also include a steaming tray. It is possible to use them solely for steaming of for steaming, while cooking the rice. Additionally, some people use the rice cookers to prepare other grains by changing the amount of water for the cooking process.
The process of cooking rice previously was requiring the constant attention of the cook in order to make sure the rice was cooked properly and not burnt. However, electric rice cookers have automated the cooking process by controlling the heat and timing.
This not only has provided additional convenience for people, but also optimized the cooking process. For instance, people now could use the other heating device to cook something else, while the rice cooker does its job.
In fact, the rice cooker does not exactly speed up the cooking process. However, it comes in handy, since the only thing that is required from the cook is measuring the right rice and the water amounts.
Types Of Rice Cookers
Moving on to the types of rice cookers, there are many of them. However, we can define few key ones: standard rice cooker, induction rice cooker, multifunctional rice cooker, and improved rice cooker.
Standard Rice Cooker
Basic rice cookers also called on/off cookers. These are standard models, where the rice is cooked and the appliance is switched off automatically. Moreover, there is no light that signals that the rice is cooked.
This type of rice cookers has the on/off switch, which turns to the “off” position when the cooking process is over. The basic rice cookers do not usually offer non-stick surface bowl or steamer trays.
However, if you want the rice just to be done – these do a good job. Also, the most basic type of cookers come a cheap price range.
Improved Rice Cooker
The improved rice cooker is exactly what you think it is! It is an improved version of the standard rice cooker, with a number of added features. Improved rice cooker producers added few more things in order to improve the quality of cooking process and to diversify the features of the appliance.
The Improved rice cookers offer settings to cook one or two different types of rice, such jasmine or brown rice. Some of the improved rice cookers also have the steam function for fluffing the rice.
Moreover, most of them have the warming and the extended warming heat functions. This type of cookers sometimes also has the inbuilt digital timer.
To sum up the improved rice characteristics:
- They are simple to operate
- After cooking is done, they switch to the warming mode
- They have a nonstick surface cooking pot, which is easy to clean
- Improved rice cookers come in different sizes
- They have settings for cooking different types of rice
- Improved rice cookers usually have digital countdown
- Have removable power cord
As per the quality of the cooked rice, improved rice cookers will offer you only a slight improvement from the standard rice cookers.
Multifunction Rice Cooker
The multifunction rice cookers are the better version of the improved rice cookers. These appliances can not only cook different types of rice, but they also can cook sushi rice and rice porridge. This type of rice cookers is offering quite wide range of rice cooking settings.
The multifunction rice cookers enjoy the expanded control technology. Some of them will have digital displays with inbuilt countdown timers. Moreover, multifunction rice cookers have delay settings, which is very convenient for busy people or parents of small kids.
Some of the multifunction rice cookers can have the extended warming times and the reheat functions. Moreover, some models have the removable lids and power cords. Therefore, it is possible to use them as a serving bowl.
The summary of multifunction rice cooker characteristics:
- Easy to operate
- Switch to the warming mode once the rice is cooked
- Easy to clean, have a nonstick surface bowl
- They have the microcomputer technology
- Removable power cord and lid
- Can cook different types of rice and rice dishes
- LCD control panel and the timer functions
Multifunction rice cookers produce the higher quality of rice than the standard and the improved ones. However, these come at a mid-high price in the market.
Induction Heat Rice Cooker
Induction rice cookers are perceived to be the best rice cookers in the market. They not only provide the cook with multiple rice cooking settings, but they are also designed to perform a bunch of other cooking tasks. These cookers come at a high price, however, if you are ready to spend the check, the quality of induction rice cooker will not let you down.
The basic rice cooker works by simply transferring the heat to the inner cooking bowl via thermal induction. This produces lower and less steady heat. An induction rice cooker exploits a magnetic field that heats the pot very quickly, once it touched the cooking bowl.
The produced heat tends to be higher and more constant. The drawbacks of an induction rice cooker include its price and the high amount of electricity they use.
Summing up the induction rice cooker overview:
- They produce higher and steadier heat than basic rice cookers
- They always cook perfect rice
- Most of the induction rice cookers have different settings for various types of rice
- They also offer digital and/or multifunction control pads
In spite of the drawbacks we discussed earlier, induction rice cookers always get a very positive customer reviews.Moreover, the popularity of induction rice cookers is currently on the rise.
How To Use A Rice Cooker?
The rice cooker cooking process is pretty simple, as it requires the minimum involvement of the cook. There are some basic steps for making perfect rice in the rice cooker:
- Measure the right amount of rice
- Combine the rice with the right amount of water
- Let it soak
- Cook the rice until all the water is evaporated/absorbed
- Steam the rice
- Fluff the rice
You might want to follow these particular guidelines for cooking the rice in your rice cooker. However, you also can skip some steps, if you wish so. Now let’s dig deeper and discuss the process in more detail.
Measuring The Rice With A Cup And Putting It Into A Cooking Bowl
Some rice cookers have a detachable cooking pot, where other suggest you to out the rice directly into the cooker.
Usually, rice cookers will also have a measuring cup or scoop to measure the right amount of rice. The normal volume of the cup is 180 mL or ¾ cup. However, it is possible to use the standard measuring cup, as well.
One cup (240 mL) of uncooked rice will produce approximately somewhere from 1 ½ cups (360 mL) to 3 cups (720 mL), depending on the kind of rice. Therefore, it is important to leave a room for the rice to expand, preventing the mess or a spillover.
Rinsing The Rice
Some people prefer to rinse the rice before cooking in order to remove any excess elements from the rice grains. Moreover, some of the older milling practices cause the rice starch to emerge. The starch needs to be rinsed off the grains in order to prevent clumping of the rice.
In case you decide to rinse the rice, pour the clean drinking water into the bowl. Moreover, you can rinse the rice under the faucet. Stir the rice in the clean water, until the rice is fully covered. Keep stirring the rice with your hand until the water will become not transparent.
Drain water through a sieve and add the clean water. Repeat the stirring moves. Proceed with this actions until the water stays clean after stirring the rice in the bowl.
Measuring The Water
Most of the rice cookers recipes suggest using cold water. The amount of water you want to add depends on the kind of rice you are cooking and how moist you want it to turn out. Usually, rice cookers have the graduated marks inside of the cooking bowl, which indicate how much rice and water should be added.
However, if your rice cooker does not have these marks, we suggest using the following amounts depending on the kind of rice.
There is no best type of rice for rice cooker, as the quality of the end meal is totally depending on the measurement of rice and water. Keep in mind that you can adjust these as per your taste.
White, long grain
1 3/4 cups of water per 1 cup of rice (420 mL water per 240 mL rice)
White, medium grain
1 1/2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice (360 mL water per 240 mL rice)
White, short grain
1 1/4 cups of water per 1 cup of rice (300 mL water per 240 mL rice)
Brown, long grain
2 1/4 cups of water per 1 cup of rice (520 mL water per 240 mL rice)
Parboiled (not half-cooked at home)
2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice
Basmati or Jasmine rice
no more than 1 1/2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice.
Cooking The Rice
In case your rice cooker has a detachable cooking bowl, place the bowl with the rice and water back into the rice cooker. Then close the lid of the rice cooker, plug the appliance in, and press the switch to turn it on.
The switch must click when the rice is done. In many rice cookers, the rice will be then warmed until you unplug the device. One major thing to keep in mind: DO NOT lift the lid to check how the cooking process goes.
If you open the lid, the heating process will be disturbed and the rice might take more time to cook. Moreover, it is very dangerous, since the steam might cause burns on the skin.
Afterward, you might want to leave your rice to rest for 10 minutes before removing the lid. This is optional, but some of the rice cooker instructions recommend this step. You can also unplug the appliance for the resting period, as it will minimize the amount of rice that is stuck to the cooking bowl.
Once your rice is ready, open the lid and fluff the rice. Use some utensil that will not damage the surface of the cooking pot and stir the rice in order to break up the clumps and release the steam. Like this, you will prevent your rice from overcooking.
Cleaning And Maintenance Of The Rice Cooker
The key tips for cleaning and maintenance will help you to keep your rice cooker alive for longer.
One of the main things to remember is to thoroughly clean the rice cooker every time after using it. Needless to say, you want to make sure you give rice cooker the time to cool down before you start cleaning it.
In case any food pieces are left on the surface of the cooking pot when you use it next time, they will stick to the pot even more. This will make cleaning process even harder or even compromise the effectiveness of the rice cooker.
If you are using any cleaning solution, do not leave any excess chemical inside the rice cooker. In general, it is recommendable to avoid using any cleaner on the cooking pot’s surface. In case you are using a cleaner, use a moist rag to absorb any traces of the chemical.
You will also want to wipe away all the excess moisture that is getting inside the cooker. Make sure the cooking pot is dry after you clean it.
One of the key things – avoid using abrasive sponges at any cost. The harsh sponge might damage the nonstick surface of the cooking pot.
In case you going full cleaning mode on your rice cooker, it best to wash each part individually.
The inner bowl can be detached and left to soak in the mixture of hot water and soap.
In case there is a thick layer of rice stuck to the surface of the pot, remove it with any plastic or silicone utensil after soaking the pot.
Wash the utensils of the rice cooker, when the pot is soaking.
In case there are still some hard pieces of rice stuck to the cooking pot, you can take the plastic or silicone utensil and gently scrape them off. You want to make sure you are not putting much effort into the movement, otherwise, you might damage the surface of the pot.
The lid of the rice cooker might be also detached. If your rice cooker allows you to remove the lid, wash it as any other detachable part. In case the lid is not removable, use a sponge soaked in hot soapy water to remove any excess particles of food from the lid. Be careful and try not to get the water inside of the rice cooker.
The removable parts are also suitable for dishwasher washing.
Before putting the detachable parts back into the rice cooker make sure they are completely dry.
In case you want to clean the inside of your rice cooker, use a moist sponge or cloth. Again, make sure it is 100% dry before using it.
Now, when you aware of what the rice cooker is, how to cook rice in it, its history, and the types of rice cookers, it is high time to take a look at the actual rice cookers to consider. We will be discussing some of the most common and popular rice cooker model in our Rice Cooker Buyer Guide.