A rice cooker is a very convenient way to prepare rice, beans or other dishes. It is an appliance that helps you to cook rice without the hassle of using the old-school stove top method but, sometimes, even simple kitchen appliances like these can turn out to be more hassle than they are worth.
The problem is that if used incorrectly say, for example, if they boil over or burn your rice then, suddenly they just aren’t as convenient. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try the rice just doesn’t taste like it should. So, why does this happen, and is there a way to get the perfect rice that a cooker promises?
Well, sometimes it can be down to the instructions and knowing a few tips or tricks can make you love your rice cooker again. In this short article I have put together a few basic tips to help you get the most of out of your rice cooker. Hopefully that will be the end of your burnt or soggy rice!
How does a rice cooker actually work?
Before we get into troubleshooting and what happens when a rice cooker doesn’t do its job, let’s take a quick look at how it works. A properly functioning rice cooker does a few basic tasks but, if there are issues with any of these tasks then it can lead to unpleasant results.
A rice cooker is basically a sealed container where water can boil very quickly. This is because the air pressure is lower inside the cooker and so the water boils faster than it would in a normal pot.
Most rice cookers have a temperature reader or a sensor that turns the cooker off when the water has boiled. Some turn on a warming function automatically. Once the water has reached boiling point, the temperature rises and it means that the rice should have absorbed most of the liquid.
It might seem boring (or terribly obvious), but reading the instructions of your rice cooker will make life much easier in the long run. Check that you use the correct quantities of rice in relation to the water as this ratio is incredibly important for good results. Also check if a different type of rice requires any different methods or settings.
For example, Basmati rice may need a different approach than Jasmine. Brown rice will need a completely different approach. But, what if you read the instructions like a novel and still don’t get the results expected? Well, let’s move on to troubleshooting and discover some tips that can help with common problems.
Some tips for common issues
The first aspect of your rice cooker that needs to be checked is that it seals well. An ill-fitting lid, a warped edge or a bad seal on the lid are all things that can be bad for cooking. But, this will really depend on what type of cooker you have and how it is designed.
The ratio of water to rice is an essential thing to get right in a rice cooker. The rice will absorb the liquid and expand as it cooks so, too little liquid and it will burn, too much and it will spill over and leave you with soggy rice. Again, read the manual and make sure you measure the water before starting to cook.
If your rice cooker has a non-stick pan or bowl it is important to wash the rice before you cook it. There may be broken grains that causes extra starch in the water and can cause the grains to clump or stick to the bowl. When the grains stick to the bowl the rice can burn more easily.
Troubleshooting some more issues
The most common issue is that your rice is not the texture you expected. If the rice is too sticky or watery the ratio of the amount of water to the amount of rice was out of whack. Try to reduce the water you added to the rice slightly to get rice that is less watery or, you can also adjust the cooking time.
Depending on your rice cooker, you can choose a cooking mode designed for a different type of rice that does not take the same amount of time. If you reduce the cooking time, there will be less time for the grains to absorb moisture and therefore it should not be so soggy.
If the rice is burned it may be that it was too dry after cooking and the warming function has burnt it rather than just keeping it warm. In this case, you will need to look at the settings of your rice cooker and see if you can adjust them. If you can, you may want to remove the rice once the cooking is done and reheat it when you need it, rather than using the built in warming function.
If you added spices or other ingredients to the rice, it can change how the grains absorb the water or how long it takes to cook, so this may call for a little experimentation on your side. When you add a new ingredient you need to adjust the cooking time, or the amount of water.
Believe it or not but this is not an issue that only affects mountaineers in the Himalayas. Altitude can affect the way your rice cooker works and may make the instructions seem inaccurate. So remember, perhaps the altitude of your kitchen (we’re talking about folks who live well above sea level now, not a kitchen that’s in a condo on the 4th floor at the seaside!) is messing with your cookers settings. A higher altitude, means there is less air pressure, which in turn means water boils at a lower temperature. Its simple physics but something we tend to overlook.
If you live at altitude then you might need to add a little more water and adjust the cooking time if you live in an area where the air is a bit thinner. You could add more water to adjust for the longer cooking time and the lower boiling point, or you could adjust the cooking time and keep the water the same. This might need a little trial and error.
These tips will hopefully help you to solve some of the common rice cooker issues you can encounter. Other common faults are electrical faults with the cooker itself but, in that case, the best thing is to let someone who knows their way around appliances take a look. Good luck with your rice cooking!