Rice cookers are convenient, versatile and easy to use. A standard rice cooker will only require only two or three steps for rice preparation, resulting in perfectly cooked rice in about 20 minutes. Additional steps can be used if the product, and your interest, warrants it.
Types of rice cookers
A standard rice cooker has a removable cooking pot placed inside a heating unit. On the front of the cooker is a lever or a button that switches the unit on. These simple cookers are designed to shut off automatically when the rice has finished cooking by using heat and moisture sensors.
More advanced cookers may have additional compartments to cook two or three different foods at the same time or include a steamer basket that goes on top of the rice compartment. Others may have preset timer capability or a warming feature that will drop the temperature of the unit after cooking has completed.
Measuring the rice
Regardless of what style cooker you have, the steps for cooking basic rice will remain the same. Place the appropriate amount of water in the cooking compartment and then add the rice. Some cookers will have lines placed on the inside of the unit to tell you how much water and rice to add. If not, use the measuring cup that comes with the unit for proper amounts.
Rice cookers use particular industry standards for measuring water-to-rice ratios. For short grain white rice the general rule for rice cookers is 1 ½ cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Longer grain rice, brown rice and fragrant rices will have slightly different proportions. Check the manufacturer's guidelines for more information. Some people like to soak their rice for up to half an hour before placing it in the cooker but it's not necessary unless you prefer a stickier rice. You may also rinse the rice well before placing it in the cooker which will remove starches from the grain for a fluffier rice.
The cooking process
For cooking, lightly oil the liner basket and put the water and rice in. Place the lid on the cooker, turn the unit on and leave it alone. You won't need to stir the rice or even lift the lid to check on it, the cooker will do the job without any fussing on your part. In fact, the rice will turn out much better if you just leave it be.
Your cooker may have just one indicator light that is on while it's cooking, and turns off when it's done. Other cookers may have two lights, one for the cooking mode and another to tell you when it's switched over to warming after the rice has cooked. Other models have alarms that sound when it's finished cooking.
When the cooker has shut off or switched to warming mode, the rice should be done. Lift the lid carefully and watch for escaping steam. Your rice should be perfect and ready for the table. Using hot pads, lift the cooking basket out of the unit. You can also serve straight from the cooker if you prefer.
Some people have experimented with other uses for rice cookers such as cooking spaghetti, hot cereal or adding vegetables or meat into the rice while it cooks. Check with the manual the cooker came with to get an overview of all features and possible limitations
Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.