How Do Rice Cookers Work?

In preparation for our impending nuptials, my girlfriend and I have decided that we need to lose some weight. Which means no more eating out until after the ceremony. So we went to the mall last night and bought a rice cooker. Unfortunately, the device seems to be smarter than I am, and I can’t figure out how it works. The instruction manual says that it will cook either white or brown rice, and that all I have to do to achieve this is to put the rice and the water in the cooker, push a button, and the cooker will take care of everything. As soon as the rice is cooked, it will automatically shut off and keep it warm for me. How does it do this? We all know that brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as white rice does. How does the cooker “know” what type of rice I am putting in it? The button is the only control on the unit. What if I put Minute Rice in it? Will it magically realize this and cook it for only five minutes and shut off?

I took it for a test drive last night, and I wasn’t notably impressed with the results. I took one cup of Uncle Ben’s regular long grain parboiled white rice, rinsed it cold water, and put it in the cooker. I then added one and a half cups of water, per the instruction manual. The rice wasn’t bad, but about a fourth of it was burned and stuck to the bottom of the cooker, necessitating an overnight soaking to remove. When I looked at the instructions on the back of the box, it called for two and a quarter cups of water to one cup of rice, not one and a half cups of water. What gives? I’d really appreciate some advice here, lest I have to pack my girlfriend into her wedding dress with a crowbar.

Huge WAG, having never used one…as long as the right proportion of water-to-rice is in the cooker, all it needs to do is wait for all the water to be either absorbed or evaporated - which it can identify by the temperature rising from the steady state it will have been in while the water was simmering.

And whaddya know, my while-typing search of www.howstuffworks.com proves me right :smiley:http://home.howstuffworks.com/question35.htm

Oh, and the best way to cook rice is to get completely plain stuff…no parboiled, easy-cook, or anything like that. Just regular basmati. Or long-grain if you insist.

A rice cooker has a thermometer. When it senses that the temperature is hotter than the boiling point of water (when the water has been absorbed or boiled off), it shuts off.

be skeptical because I don’t know what I’m talking about. My new daughter is Korean and despairs of my understanding rice.
Rice cookers are an Asian design meant for Asian rice. They prefer what we call ‘short grain’ rice, which looks like a little rugby ball and cooks up real gooey. You describe long grain rice, which looks like a little pencil and does not stick together.

So your cooker isn’t designed for what you’re cooking.

Asians use rice the way Americans use bread; sitting on the counter ready to use. So the cooker sits on the counter (or floor, for a big one) and keeps the rice ready for instant use.

If you have a cheap cooker, it won’t work well, no matter what you put in it. You describe a cheap cooker if it burns the rice. Try popping it into warm before it burns.

And you won’t lose weight on rice unless you don’t eat very much. It’s about the same as bread or potatoes.

Rice cookers are built to cook raw rice. Parboiled rice is already partially cooked, so I’m not surprised your Uncle Ben’s (ugh!) got burned.

How does a rice cooker know when to turn off? at How Stuff Works.

Sally owns ten rice cookers and have tips and reviews. Most notably, she points out that you can’t use a little bit of rice in a big rice cooker. A quick run by unclebens.com shows that those packets - which cook in the microwave in ninety seconds, incidentally - have eight ounces of rice. That is not a lot of rice.

This matches well with my own experience. Also, the ‘keep warm’ feature on the rice cookers I’ve used will dry out the rice and eventually burn it. Don’t let it sit for more than ten or fifteen minutes before you shut it off. It will stay warm for a while.

Refrigerate excess cooked rice in a closed container, and reheat by adding a splash of water and microwaving gently in an open container, or on the stove in a closed saucepan on low. It might need a little stirring either way, depending on how much you’re warming up.

Basmati is a good, hearty, all-around long-grain white rice popular in India. Jasmine is another excellent long-grain white rice from Thailand with a wonderful scent. Both are widely available in US grocery stores, in package sizes that might be easier to deal with than Uncle Ben’s. If you can be troubled, gently browning long-grain rice in a dry skillet before cooking will make it taste better.

Short-grain rice is primarily used to make ‘sticky rice’ which is coated in su while hot to preserve it and, well, make it sticky. This is the sort of rice used in sushi. A rice cooker can handle long- or short-grain rice just fine, but I think you’ll be happier with long-grain unless you have a special project in mind.

Cooking short grain rice in the Filipino style is very simple. Observe:

Get a 3 quart pot with a lid (preferably glass). Put in a quantity of rice that, when leveled out, comes to a depth equal to the first joint on your forefinger. Rinse the rice several times with water, until it runs as clear as you have patience for (more cloudy = more starch = more gummy). After rinsing, add enough water to double the total depth - shake the pot to level the rice, barely touch the rice with your fingertip, the water should come to your first joint again. Now put the lid on and bring to a boil. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID UNTIL IT IS DONE. When the water boils, turn the heat to low and cook 20 minutes.

The glass lid is so you can see the water boil before it spills over and makes a starcy mess. If you don’t have a glass lid, watch for steam shooting out to indicate boiling.

the trick is to use real rice - doesn’t matter if it’s short grain, long grain or brown but none of that minute rice or other pre-cooked/semi-cooked abominations.

Then it’s really a matter of experimenting with how much water is needed. Rice cookers are pretty forgiving, so a bit too much or too little water won’t matter. Most rice cookers come with hash marks like a measuring cup to help out.

as pointed out in an earlier post, cooking a lot of rice in a small cooker or a tiny amount in a big cooker is usually a recipe for disaster.

sturmhauke nailed stove top rice cooking (but a rice cooker is a lot easier)

Please don’t use the parboiled crap (and I say crap because if you ever brought parboiled rice into a Filipino house hold you’ll be told to take it back where you bought it). I myself will NEVER allow parboiled rice into my home, it’s just a travesty.

Rice cookers were invented to make cooking regular rice easy. All you do is measure out your rice using cups (most cookers come with a measuring cup), and then add water to the line in the pot that says “cups”. Pretty much all models i’ve come across have lines in the pot to indicate water of level for cups of rice. Some of the best Asian models can even keep the rice warm all day, but you have to keep the lid on it, and sometimes adding a little water will keep it from drying out. But, we usually just turn it off and keep the lid on it, and consume as needed.

I prefer short grained sticky rice because i prefer it to hold its shape when i’m eating it and not fall off of my fork or chopsticks. Longer grained rices tend to be less sticky (i don’t like jasmine rice much for this reason, although, I can get a stickier and softer jasmine rice if i add a little more water than the water per cups of rice level indicates).

If you’re cooking less than one cup (and i’ve done this in a cooker that only is supposed to cook no less than 2 cups), it’s best to just cook it on the stove. Although it’s easier to burn rice this way if you don’t watch it.

I also never wash my rice. I find it’s more useful to remove possible bits of husk, but i’ve never gotten a “gummy” result from not washing it. Sometimes talc is added to keep the rice dry.

The only rice i’ve never cooked in a rice cooker is Philippine “malagkit” which is a glutinous rice used a lot in desserts (actually i’ve only ever heard of it being used in desserts). The rice for meals is a longer grained type. But every Filipino I know (my family included) here in California seems to prefer the Japanese sticky rices (such as from companies like Calrose or Botan) for meals, not the less sticky Chinese or jasmine rices.

Just a tad off topic, but my best friend comes from a large family of frequent rice eaters & ricer cooker users, and he laughed at me when he saw me searching for my little rice measuring cup & carefully measuring the rice & water I put in my cooker. Then he showed me the trick his family uses.

You put however much rice you want to cook in the cooker, then add water, rinse the rice once or twice, then just add enough water so that the level of the water is a teensy bit deeper than the first fold at the tip of your index finger, if you poke your index finger so that it’s just a smidge into the rice. That’s basically 1 1/4 inches (or about 3 1/4 cms) on my index finger. Just figure out about what that is on your index finger and you’ll never have to measure the rice or water again.

While I agree with you in terms of taste, cost-effectiveness, and utility, I see no technical reason why this would not work. I haven’t actually tested this empirically, but I haven’t heard anyone but the OP say they have, either, and the OP doesn’t appear to have been using enough rice.

I’ve no intention of experimenting, either, but if someone cares to I’d love to hear about it. My presumption at the moment, however, is that “instant rice” should cook just fine in a rice cooker.

I see my experiences with short-grain rice have not been very broad. Still, I’ve always found long-grain rice to be more flavorful and aromatic than short-grain, although I can see how the short-grain’s clumpiness might be useful for ease of eating. I do use short-grain rice in puddings, but I suggest that only long-grain works well in soups.

Matter of preference, ultimately, I suppose, and I suggest anyone in doubt try a few different varieties of rice. I’ll still keep using Basmati for most things, myself.

You guys are good. :smiley: I tried everything you suggested and it worked a lot better. First, I chucked the Uncle Ben’s stuff and used some Trader Joe’s long grain brown basmati. I also doubled the amount of raw rice to two cups as quotzh suggested. Much, much better results. I used exactly one part rice to two parts water and it was some of the best rice I’ve ever tasted. There was still a little bit stuck to the bottom of the pot, but it wasn’t scorched. I think I’ll go back to the mall and get a smaller and better quality cooker for everyday use, so that I can cook an amount suitable for one or two people with none leftover.

That’s the good stuff! And you will always get that with the smaller cookers.

My WAG is that these abominations have a much shorter cooking time, and that a rice cooker is designed to cook raw rice and doesn’t have a setting for abominations. Therefore, end up with scorched rice

I use a method similar to that explained by levdrakon. I put the rice in the cooker without measuring it. If it is new rice I put my palm on the surface of the rice then fill it with water till it comes up to the middle of my first knuckle. If the rice is older I put a tad more in.

I also rinse my rice 6-7 times till the water runs clear before I cook it and I generally only use jasmine rice as I prefer the flavour.

Thermometer? Not quite. It is a thermostat which controls temperature. A thermometer measures temperature.

I don’t like jasmin- too perfumy. And I don’t rinse as I like sticky rice. I use any old cup for measuring as long as the proportions are 1:2.

I add zuccini, carrots, and yellow squash to the rice in the rice cooker and let it all cook at once. You can use broth for some or all of the water, too.

Sometimes I add broccoli and cream of mushroom soup, and add alittle cheese afterwards for a quick and easy broc-cheese casserole.

I’ve also added bits of chicken and celery with broth or soup for a casserole.

I sometimes lightly grease the bottom of the cooker to prevent sticking, but find I get more sticking when I’m cooking less rice. Perhaps it gets a little too hot.

Wouldn’t a thermometer be the thing that senses the temperature inside the pot, and triggers the “off” mechanism?

To get brown rice that’s not all mushy, soak it for six hours first, then rinse it well and cook as usual. It takes a little extra planning, but it definitely improves the texture of brown rice.