Rice is the foundation of so many incredible meals. Whether it’s the perfect fluffy bed of grains for a serving of Indian curry, or a delicious sidekick for a host of different proteins and veggies, a hearty scoop of rice is hard to beat.
As simple as this staple food may be to prepare, there are still many things that can go wrong when you’re cooking rice on a stovetop. If you’ve ever ended up with a mushy end result or grains of rice burnt into the bottom of your pot, you know exactly what we’re talking about!
Once you start using a rice cooker, it’s almost impossible to go back to the old way of doing things. This simple kitchen appliance is widely available these days, often at a very affordable price point. If you want to learn how to cook the perfect pot of rice every single time, here’s how you can make it happen with a rice maker.
What is a rice cooker?
A rice cooker is a small kitchen appliance that is specifically designed to cook all types of rice to perfection (as well as other grains). Rice cookers are automatic, so all you need to do is place the correct amount of rice and water inside the machine, and it will take care of all the hard work for you! No more stirring and checking on your rice every few minutes – you can focus on preparing the rest of your meal while your rice maker works its magic.
Fun fact: Did you know that the development of the modern rice cooker can be traced back to the early 1900s? While there were a few iterations that preceded it, it wasn’t until 1956 that the first commercial model became available, when Toshiba released an automated cooker for at-home use. The product was so incredibly popular that half of all Japanese homes had a rice maker of their own just four years later!
How do rice cookers work?
Rice cookers use precise technology that monitors the machine’s internal temperature to create perfectly-cooked rice. The cooker begins by boiling the water very quickly, and once the temperature inside the appliance rises above a certain point (212°F to be exact, which is reached once the rice absorbs all of the water), it will automatically switch to its “warming” function. The process is usually very fast – within 20 minutes, your rice will be ready to go, and will remain warm until you are ready to serve it.
The model of rice maker you choose will be highly dependent on how much rice you typically need to cook. If you’re preparing meals for a family of four, for example, you would be better off purchasing a cooker with a higher capacity. Most rice cookers come in three, six, or 10-cup capacities (and that’s referring to cooked rice, not uncooked!).
Do I need to wash the rice first?
Many people like to rinse rice before adding it to the cooker, all that really does is remove excess starch as the rice grain is already milled so the outer part has been removed along with anything it may have come into contact with.
There are certain benefits to washing rice, like more consistent results if excess starch is removed, but it’s always best to read the packaging before you do so: some rice varieties are pre-cleaned, so there is no tangible benefit to completing the extra step.
How to cook rice in a rice cooker ?
Hungry? You’re only a few steps away from a pot full of piping-hot rice. Follow these simple instructions for a finished result that’s perfectly fluffy, sticky, or tender, depending on the type of rice you choose!
Step 1: Choose your rice
Different dishes call for different varieties of rice. For example, Basmati rice is a wonderfully nutty grain that is commonly used in Asian and Indian cuisine, while regular brown rice is a great pick for people who are looking to pack some extra whole grains into their diet.
Step 2: Measure out your rice
Different varieties of rice require different amounts of water. Typically, a rice cooker will come with instructions that indicate the rice-to-water ratio that is best for that specific appliance. The water levels below (per 1 cup of rice) are a good rule of thumb in case you don’t have your instruction booklet on hand.
Long grain white rice: 1 ¾ cups
Medium grain white rice: 1 ½ cups
Short grain white rice: 1 ½ cups
Long grain brown rice: 2 ¼ cups
Basmati or Jasmine rice: 1 ½ cups
Many rice cookers also come with their own measuring cup to make the process even simpler for you! If your machine comes with its own cup, be sure to use it – sometimes, the measurements will be slightly different than what you might already have at home, and catered to the cooker’s required ratios instead.
Step 3: Rinse the rice (optional)
Dainty brand rice does not need to be rinsed. All of our rice is cleaned at our mill in Windsor, Ontario, where we run it through sorting equipment to remove foreign material. However, if your rice’s packaging suggests washing it before putting it inside the cooker, place it in a bowl and rinse and drain it until the water runs clear.
Step 4: Add the rice and water to the cooker
Transfer the rice to the pan (the removable bowl-shaped part of the appliance). For lightning-fast cleanup, you can line the pan with a reusable rice napkin, which can be cleaned using warm water and soap.
Once the rice is inside the pan, use your measuring cup to add in the required amount of water, and place the pan inside of the cooker. If your chosen recipe calls for any spices, oils, butter, or extra ingredients to be added to the rice, you can place them inside the pan at this stage.
Step 5: Cook the rice
Plug in your rice maker and let it cook according to the instructions. Like we mentioned above, the process should only take about 20 minutes, so you can use this time to prepare other components of your meal.
Step 6: Keep the rice warm (optional)
One of the best things about rice cookers is that they are usually able to keep rice warm for hours without burning it (Try accomplishing that using a stove!). This feature is especially useful if you’re cooking a more elaborate meal that takes a while to prepare, or cooking your rice in advance. For best results, let your rice sit for about 10 to 15 minutes on ‘warm’ mode before serving.
This grace period will allow any excess moisture to evaporate or be absorbed by the grains, so you can enjoy an even fluffier batch of rice.
Step 7: Serve your rice
Remove the rice from the pan using plastic utensils or rice paddles, then serve. Bon appétit!
Here is a video to help you!
Can I prepare other foods using a rice cooker?
Yes you can! Don’t let its name fool you: a rice maker can be used to cook nearly any type of grain under the sun, including quinoa, barley, farro, oats, rice pilaf, risotto, polenta, and grits. In fact, you can even use it to steam vegetables if you have a steam basket, or tenderize meat like pork and chicken.
Quick rice flavouring tips
When it comes to flavouring rice, a little extra effort goes a long way. Here’s how to spice up different varieties of rice before, after, and during the cooking process – you’ll never look at rice the same way again!
- For Basmati rice: add fresh lime zest and a dab of butter to cooked rice for a little extra zing, or put a cinnamon stick, garlic, and cloves inside the water while it cooks to give your rice some serious complexity and depth.
- For Jasmine rice: instead of water, try cooking Jasmine rice in coconut milk or coconut water. You can even add a crushed stalk of lemongrass for an aromatic punch if you’re making a Thai curry.
- For brown rice: toasting brown rice in a little butter or olive oil before cooking it brings out its flavour and adds a fantastic nutty note to the finished dish.
- Spice it up: add whole spices, like cardamom or sprigs of thyme, to boiling water to give your rice a stronger flavour. For a more subtle flavour, you can add ground spices, like curry or cumin.
- Tea time: infuse your next rice dish with a comforting, herby taste by adding a tea bag to the water as it boils. We recommend orange blossom or green tea!
- Quick fixes: jazz up any type of rice with a dash of fish sauce, a dash of soy sauce, a sprinkle of natural salt flakes, a sprinkle of lime or lemon zest, or a sprinkle of unsweetened or sweetened coconut flakes.
Rice cooker recipe ideas
Now that you’ve got a rice cooker, you’ll want to use it every night of the week! When it comes to this super grain, the sky’s the limit: rice can be enjoyed across cultural lines, and is a key part of local cuisines across the globe.
For these recipes, you can use your rice maker just like a crock pot: simply toss in the ingredients and let the cooker do the rest. Click the link above each summary for a detailed ingredient list and step by step recipe.
With just 7 ingredients (plus some salt and pepper), you can have a hearty, flavour-packed dish ready to eat in less than half an hour. Add rice, butter, curry, chicken, tomato, and stock to the pan, then start the cooking process. Once the cooker switches to ‘warm,’ lift the lid to add peas, then keep the lid closed for 5 to 10 more minutes. For a veggie alternative, replace the chicken with chickpeas, and swap butter for olive oil if you’re vegan.
Enjoy the punchy aromas of basil and bring out Basmati’s natural nutty notes with this ultra-simple recipe. Cook your rice using regular water or soup stock, then add in some pesto once the rice is finished. Garnish with slivered almonds (you can also use pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, or sunflower seeds) and a few extra dollops of pesto.
This is the ultimate easy, cheap, and healthy meal. Oh, and did we mention it’s also really filling? Step one is to place some rice, water, olive oil, and kidney beans inside the rice cooker pan (you can swap the water for soup stock and the oil for butter if you prefer). Once the mix is finished cooking, garnish it with sliced green onions and serve!
Tip: if you have yellow onions or garlic lying around, you can chop them up and add them in to further enhance this dish’s flavour. Serve the rice on its own in a bowl, or inside a taco or tortilla alongside fillings like guacamole, salsa, cheese, and sour cream.
Looking for a quick side dish that will liven up your plate? This tomato herb rice recipe couldn’t be easier to pull off. Simply add Basmati rice, tomato paste, soup stock, and olive oil to your rice maker, and cook according to the machine’s instructions.
When it’s finished, sprinkle some sliced green onions and your herb of choice on top – you can try basil, parsley, thyme, cilantro, dill, or a combination of two or more! For some extra colour and pizzazz, you can fold in some chopped cherry tomatoes as a finishing touch.
Make any night fajita night with this no-brainer rice cooker recipe. Combine Basmati rice, water, butter, fajita seasoning, chopped onion, and chopped bell peppers to your rice maker’s pan, and start cooking. When your rice mixture is ready, add in some cherry tomatoes for a splash of acidity and, if you’re feeling bold, a few dashes of hot sauce. Get an extra dose of protein by adding cubed chicken during the first step of the process.