Rice is a staple food for many cultures and has been an important part of human history. It’s also one of the most popular foods in America, with over 100 million pounds consumed every year. So many people love rice, but it is not an easy grain to cook to perfection with stovetop cooking pots. Rice cookers are the answer to this problem but how do rice cookers work?
A rice cooker works by using the scientifically proven water to rice ratio in the appliances bowl insert. When the cooking cycle is started a heating element with built-in temperature control sensors is activated. Water boils and turns to steam upon reaching 212℉, the thermostat turns off and the steam cooks the rice.
Before we deep dive into how rice cookers work you need to know what a rice cooker is!
What Is a Rice Cooker?
Rice cookers are electrical cooking appliances that cook rice by setting the cooking time and leaving the appliance alone until the rice is cooked. The science behind them is actually pretty simple. A heating element boils water, which then steams the rice in the insert pot or bowl rice is ready in about 20 minutes.
A basic rice cooker has an outer casing usually made from aluminum or steel that helps regulate the temperature required for cooking rice.
There will generally be a manual knob on the front of the cooker that allows you to choose the cooking function required. New models may have an electronic keypad with more cooking options available.
Inside the bottom of the casing will be an electric heating element and a thermostat for regulating cooking temperatures.
To finish off the outer casing you will find heat-resistant feet that are also designed to protect your countertops from being scratched or damaged.
Next, there is an inner cooking container or bowl that holds the rice and water, this bowl can be made from various materials. Including ceramic, non-stick, and stainless steel.
Lastly, is the rice cookers lid. This can be made from either glass or metal and should sport a heat-resistant knob for safely removing the lid from the cooker. The lid fits snugly onto a lip at the top of the bowl insert to keep the moisture inside the cooker so the rice can cook to perfection.
How Does A Rice Cooker Work? – Deep Dive
A rice cooker is an appliance that if used correctly will cook the perfect rice for your needs every time. You simply add the required ratio of 1:2, of water and uncooked rice (typically measured either by weight or cup) to the insert, and press start!
The machine automatically sets the time to cook the proper amount for whatever you have chosen. The heating element powered by thermocouple power heats up the insert until the water begins to boil at which time steam will start to cook the rice. The sensors tell the thermostat to revert to warm until the steaming stops. Lastly, the thermostat turns off when the water has been fully absorbed by the rice.
There is no guesswork on how long it should take; just add the correct rice to water ratios and let it do its thing! And unlike boiling pots over high heat, a good quality electric appliance prevents scorching which can create unpleasant flavors and textures found in overly-browned grains. Cleaning is easy with a wash in soapy water and a quick rinse under some running water.
Expert Tip: Only ever use the spoon supplied (or similar) on the inside of the cooking insert. Any other tools will scratch the inside of the pot and you will be open to food sticking and burning during cooking time.
Using a Rice Cooker
Every rice cooker is different it can take a few tries to get a perfect balance, but once you do it’s easy!
Rice Cookers Instructions
Before you use your rice cooker for the first time, I recommend reading the manufacturer’s instructions.
Clean Before First Use and After Cooking
Before using it for the first time, wash and dry the inner bowl and all of its accessories in hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly before reassembling the appliance.
TIP: No abrasive cleaners or scourers or scrubbers. Soft clothes and soapy water is all you should need. Clean the entire rice cooker after every use for the best results.
Cleaning up a rice cooker after use is easy! To start, make sure to remove all the pieces of food and wash them in warm soapy water. Next, take out the insert bowl from your appliance and wipe it with some soap-sparingly on both sides. Make sure you’re safe by not using any scrubbing tools that may scratch or damage your bowl or any surface of your cooker.
Are, rice cookers dishwasher safe? Parts may be dishwasher safe, cooking bowl, lid, and accessories, but the electrical casing of the unit should NOT go in a dishwasher. Check manufacturer’s instructions as every brand may differ.
Read more about electrical appliances and dishwashers here…
Rice Cooker Accessories
The measuring cups that come with your rice cooker are specially designed to work well for cooking rice in that particular size cooker. Don’t use other cups because they won’t be the right size and could ruin your rice!
The cooking bowl of a rice cooker is delicate and needs some protection. Do not use anything other than what’s supplied. If you’re using the right accessories then your rice cooker should be safe from scratches!
Cooking Times for Rice Cookers
Be aware that different types of rice will require different cooking times – brown rice will take longer than white rice. Brown rice also absorbs more water so check your rice to water ratios. Following is in-depth information about rice to water ratios…
Must read: In-depth tutorial on how to use a rice cooker – How to Use a Black and Decker Rice Cooker
Rice to Water Ratio
When cooking rice in a pot the general ratio of water to rice in a rice cooker is 1:2. That means 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water.
The caveat to this when cooking in a rice cooker is that you must use the measuring cups provided with the cooker. This is because a rice cooker measuring cup generally measures 180 milliliters while a standard U.S. cup measure is 240 milliliters.
NOTE: The rice cooker cup measure could also vary from brand to brand.
Rice Cooker Rice to Water Ratios and Rice Cooking Time CHART
|RICE Type||Rice to Water RATIO||Cooking Time|
|White rice – short grain||1 cup rice: 1 1/2 cups water||15 minutes|
|White rice – long grain||1 cup rice: 1 3/4 cups water||15 minutes|
|Basmati rice||1 cup rice: 1 1/2 cups water||15-20 minutes|
|Jasmine rice||1 cup rice: 1 1/2 cups water||15-20 minutes|
|Brown rice – long grain||1 cup rice: 2 1/2 cups water||45-50 minutes|
|Wild rice||1 cup rice: 2 1/2 cups water||45-50 minutes|
Difference Between Cooking White Rice and Brown Rice
The only difference between cooking brown rice vs white rice is the rice to water ratio.
Unlike white rice, which requires about 1 1/2 cups of water per cup of dry grains and takes a mere 15 minutes or so for cooking (depending on the type), brown rice necessitates twice as much liquid and an additional 30-35 minutes.
Brown rice is a lot higher in fiber than its whiter counterpart because it’s made from unpolished whole-grain kernels that haven’t been stripped down during milling – with all their natural complex carbohydrates intact!
Understanding the Properties of Rice
Believe it or not, there is a science behind cooking rice it is not as easy as combining water and rice and then adding heat. When you understand the properties of rice you will see how fragile rice can be to prepare.
Types of Rice
The makeup of rice is important to understand before you learn how to cook it. Rice has a lot of starch which makes it sticky, and also gives it a slightly sweet taste. What this means for cooking methods is that the type of rice you choose will depend on what kind of texture you are looking for in your dish. For example, if you want a fluffy consistency, then use long-grain white or brown rice. If you want something more chewy and firm with some bite to it, try short-grain brown or black rice instead!
How Much Does Rice Expand
Different types of rice have different absorption rates, use this general rule to work out the dry amount/weight against the cooked volume – “3X RULE”.
|Rice Type||Uncooked Rice||Cooked Rice|
|White, Brown, or Wild Rice||1 cup||3 cups|
|White, Brown, or Wild Rice||185 grams||555 grams|
How Does a Rice Cooker Know When Rice is Done?
A rice cooker is able to determine when the cooker reaches 212 degrees with its thermal sensors. The rice will be cooked as the water has been absorbed and the cooker will stop cooking the rice most rice cookers will then revert to keep warm mode.
Related read How to Fix Undercooked Rice (Guide for All Cooking Methods)
Do Rice Cookers Use Less Water?
A rice cooker uses less water than a stovetop, oven, or microwave cooking. In fact, the average amount of water used by a rice cooker is about half. Rice cookers have temperature control heat sensors, once the water is boiling it turns to steam which is what cooks the rice. The white rice to water ratio is 1:2 cups.
The caveat to this is of course the type of rice you want to cook some rice types such as brown rice and wild rice need more water to absorb. They also need more cooking time. Check your manufacturer’s instructions that come with your rice cooker, so your rice turns out perfectly every time.
Related read How to Reheat Leftover Rice in a Rice Cooker
What Else Can Be Cooked in a Rice Cooker?
A rice cooker cooks your favorite type of rice perfectly every time, with no fuss or mess. It also has to ability to steam and slow cook if the bowl insert is suitable.
A rice cooker can also be used for cooking other foods, like oatmeal and soups! You can even cook other types of grains like quinoa, farro, barley, millet, eggs, potatoes, and more!
Learn how to steam food in a rice cooker in this article How to steam in a Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker
Why Would You Want a Rice Cooker?
On the fence about whether or not you should purchase a rice cooker? The benefits of a rice cooker are:
- Set and forget – add ingredients choose cook time and wait for the result
- The thermostat prevents rice from burning and sticking. Sticking and burning of rice can occur even when you are watching rice cooking in a pot on the stovetop!
- Rice is not the only dish that can be prepared in the rice cooker
- Quiet to run
- Conserves energy and saves you money
- Affordable to purchase
- Easy to keep clean
- Compact to store
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Is It Worth Getting a Rice Cooker
As with any other cooking pot or appliance, my advice is always if you buy it and use it then it is worth it.
I have a Black and Decker Rice Cooker that I have used for years. It just will not pack it in. But mark my words when it does I will be rushing to buy this (Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker – video above) awesome highly rated and coveted brand of rice cooker.
Final Thoughts About Rice Cookers and How They Work
If you’re looking for some delicious dinner ideas, try cooking up some brown rice in your new favorite kitchen gadget! You can also use your new device to make oatmeal, quinoa, risotto, and more!
It’s easy to clean too – just rinse out the pot and lid after each use. Another bonus of using a rice cooker is that you don’t have to worry if you set and forget it – it’ll automatically switch off when the rice is cooked so it will not burn.
Need some help choosing the correct rice cooker for your needs – check out my in-depth article How to Choose a Rice Cooker
One-Pot Cooking Rocks