Monday, October 1, 2012

Rice cooking -- without any hard work

So I made snide comments last week about people who can't cook rice.  In the spirit of improving everybody's lives, let me talk a bit about the helpless cook's best friend -- the rice cooker.

You've probably seen rice cookers in Asian buffet restaurants, big industrial models that do 30 or 60 or 100 cups at a time.  They're available for home use too, in any size appropriate to your family.  My cute little cooker produces two big servings at its smallest quantity, and goes up to six or seven at maximum capacity.

You measure out some rice into the little cup, then fill up the pot with water to the line.  If you used one cup of rice, fill up to "1" and if you used two cups, fill up to "2."  I usually do a can of chicken broth instead of water, which brings the liquid level up above the "1" line, so to compensate I use a bit more rice.  Add a bit of butter or olive oil, and in return the cooker will produce a nice browned crust on the bottom.

After several years of just cooking rice, I've learned to experiment with adding new ingredients as seasoning (one of my favorites is salsa), although I haven't yet gotten to the point of using the cooker to make things like chili or stew.  I have also gotten good results by replacing some of the rice with other rice-like substances such as orzo, quinoa or lentils.

I like my rice on the wet side, like risotto, so often when the cooker flips over to "warm" I'll add a little boiling water from my electric kettle, stir it in, and cook a minute more.

My cooker also includes a steamer basket so you can cook your broccoli or whatever at the same time as your rice, without throwing them all into the same pot.

Probably the greatest rice cooker aficionado is Roger Ebert, the former movie critic (Siskel & Ebert) who took a blog post and expanded it into a book.  His theory is that you need no other cooking mechanism to achieve nirvana -- "the Pot" can do everything.  He endorses its use in the office, in the dorm, in the attic.  I haven't read the book but I am persuaded that I should be more adventurous in my cooking adventures.  My next experiment, following Ebert's lead, will be to make steel-cut oatmeal in the cooker.

With this handy kitchen appliance -- mine cost considerably less than $20, as I recall -- you could theoretically live your life without a stove.  Not sure I want to go that far, but I'm intrigued by how far I can push its capabilities.


  1. I love my rice cooker too and I have a white/brown blend I've perfected over the years. I always make up extra rice because it freezes. Bet you could make eatmore in your rice cooker.

  2. K -- what's your blend? do you put them both in at the same time? I often blend brown rice and wild rice, which cook at the same time.