How to Cook Rice in a Rice Cooker

Rice is undoubtedly among the most palatable foods you can cook in many different ways. It is a fantastic source of complex carbohydrates and is abundant in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

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For these reasons, rice is a very common food and a staple for most people around the globe. Unfortunately, a lot of people have trouble making perfect, fluffy rice, and I used to be one of them. My rice would either turn up soggy, burned, or underdone. 

In addition, there are many different types of rice, each with its own unique qualities, which made it more challenging for me to master the art of perfect rice preparation. 

As it turned out, all I had to do was ask my buddy Amy, who has a major in culinary arts, and she was able to assist me get past my obstacles and figure out how to use a rice cooker properly. To that end, I’ll detail some of the tricks I’ve picked up over the years for making properly cooked rice in a rice cooker.

Why Use a Rice Cooker

With the touch of a button, a rice cooker can prepare perfectly fluffy white or brown rice in 20 to 60 minutes (though fancier rice cookers may have more buttons you would have to press). Moreover, the pot can be used for both cooking and storing any leftovers, simplifying the process.

So, whether you eat rice occasionally or are crazy about it, a rice cooker is a game changer. To find out how beneficial a rice cooker is and what to look for when purchasing one, I spoke with numerous seasoned cooks. To my surprise, I learned that you could use a rice cooker to prepare foods other than rice.

Rice cookers significantly simplify the process of making rice. All you need to do is combine rice and water in the cooking pot, put it in the cooker, and push a button. This eliminates the need for many other steps you would otherwise have to take. 

In addition, you won’t have to keep an eye on the pot to make sure the rice at the bottom doesn’t burn or the temperature doesn’t become too high or low. A rice cooker will keep your food warm even after the rice has finished cooking. Some models (like the Zojirushi) also include a delayed timer that allows you to set a certain time for your rice to boil.

However, there are other ways to easily prepare rice, such as in a microwave, on the stove, in an Instant Pot (both jasmine rice and basmati rice varieties), or in a slow cooker (both long- and short-grain varieties). Still, a dedicated rice cooker with a simple interface is even easier to use and is worth considering if you love eating rice regularly.

Decide Which Rice to Cook

Image of a man pouring rice in a rice cooker

The first thing to decide is what kind of rice you want to cook. You can choose between quality and flavor profile among the many different types of rice grains. There are so many kinds of rice that even a small selection at a well-stocked grocery store can be confusing. 

Broadly, you can choose between most types of white or brown rice for most recipes. Some recipes call for a certain kind of rice, like Arborio for Italian risotto or Valencia for Spanish paella. However, you can make other recipes with any rice. Learning about the different kinds of rice can help you choose the one that will work best for you.

Despite such a huge variety of rice, there are only three different grain sizes. Moreover, the amount of water needed to cook each one is very different.

Medium-grain sushi rice is one of my favorite kinds because it is deliciously moist and slightly sticky. It is the perfect rice for many Asian-style dishes you can make at home.

The Different Classifications of Rice

Knowing the classification of rice is important so you can buy the type or variety that goes best with your dish. We classify rice based on its length, color, where it comes from, quality, and texture, among other things. You can use these taxonomies to sort different kinds of rice.

Length

Length is a typical way to group rice into categories. The United States is the only country that divides rice into short, medium, and long types based on how long its grains are. Rice is often called “short-grain” or “long-grain” in other countries. This means that what people in the United States call “medium-grain” rice is either “short-grain” or “long-grain” rice in other parts of the world. We measure the length of a grain of rice as a percentage of its width.

Long Grain: Long-grain rice is at least three times its width, with many types being four or five times longer than they are wide. The longer the grain, the fluffier the texture will be. Moreover, long-grain rice tends to stay fluffy and separate after cooking. Long-grain rice is the most common type of rice grown and eaten in the United States, and it cooks well both when boiled and when baked.

Medium Grain: These are twice as long as they are wide, with a soft and chewy texture. After cooking, medium-grain rice isn’t as sticky as short-grain rice but sticks together when cold. When cooked, it retains a lot of water and stays a little firmer than short-grain rice.

Short Grain: Some types of short-grain rice are the same length and width. They almost always have a length-to-width ratio of less than two and are stickier than any other rice; so much so that the grains tend to stick together during cooking. However, this can be less of a problem if you wash the rice well and cook it in a steamer. It is often used in sushi, risotto, stir-fry, and even desserts because it becomes soft and sweet when cooked.

Color

Brown and white rice differ depending on how you process the rice after cultivation. White rice is made by removing the bran layers from the rice grains during processing. Brown rice, on the other hand, is the whole kernel without the hull. 

When the outer layer of the bran is taken off, the inside of the rice kernel looks white or off-white. The polished kernels taste and look smoother than brown rice. However, they do lose some nutrients when the bran is removed. White rice is often fortified with vitamins and minerals like iron, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin to compensate for the fact that white rice has less nutrition than brown rice. While making white rice, dyes are sometimes used as well. This explains the unique green color of bamboo rice.

Texture

After it’s cooked, rice can have a wide range of textures, from very sticky and mushy to firm and fluffy. Sticky rice is also sometimes called glutinous rice. Even though it has the word “gluten” in its name, glutinous rice does not contain gluten. However, it may resemble some properties similar to gluten, making them great for sushi and other sticky foods.

Why and How to Rinse the Rice

Rinsing rice under a sink

After picking your favorite type of rice, it’s time to start the actual cooking. Start by lightly rinsing, swirling, and draining the rice once or twice with cold water. This process will help you eliminate any extra starch that has built up from broken grains or other debris. However, don’t get rid of all the starch if you plan on using chopsticks. Leaving some in will make the rice sticky making it easier to eat.

With a little water and hand mixing, you may wash rice directly in the rice cooker pot. Keep in mind that you don’t need water that is fully clear; only rinse as necessary.

Knowing that certain white rice produced in America has iron, folic acid, and other powdered nutrients added to it is important. Therefore, over-washing your rice will cause you to lose these extra nutrients.

Make Sure Your Water-Rice Proportion Is on Point

Below are the two methods you can use to ensure the right water-to-rice ratio for cooking. 

  • Using a Measuring Cup

Use a measuring cup to be precise with how much rice you’re using and the appropriate amount of water to balance it. You can change the water-rice ratio depending on the type of dish you want to make. I use the same measuring cup for the rice and the water.

Generally, the water-to-rice ratio is one-to-one for all grain lengths. When I use this ratio, the rice is always excellent and fluffy.However, certain tweaks may be necessary depending on your personal preferences in rice texture and flavor, the type of rice you use, and the capabilities of your rice cooker.

Take note that these proportions differ from those typically used to prepare white rice in a conventional oven or microwave. Additionally, a somewhat different cooking process is required for brown rice cooked in a microwave or rice cooker.

  • The Knuckle Approach

You can use the knuckle measuring method by rinsing and draining your rice, then shaking it until it is completely level in the pot. Reach down and into the rice so that only the tip of your index finger touches the surface. The next step is putting water in the pot to keep the level below your first knuckle. 

However, I don’t recommend using this method as many things could go wrong. This isn’t a very accurate measure, and factors such as how well the rice is leveled, the length of the finger used to measure, the size of the cooking pot, etc., are never accurate.

If you’re trying to adjust a recipe for different types or amounts of rice, the variations and inaccuracies of the knuckle method can quickly get out of hand. In other words, unless you have your grandmother’s uncanny ability to judge measurements just by looking, you should avoid using your knuckles.

Powering on the Rice Cooker

Now comes the fun part! Once you’ve filled your rice cooker pot with rice and water, place it back into the rice cooker and turn on the device. For most rice cookers, you only need to push one button, and you’re set to go, but for others, you may need to adjust a few more settings. So, reading the instructions and getting used to the controls is a smart idea.

Just don’t open the lid while the rice cooker is running; it won’t end well. The rice cooker is designed to retain moisture for optimal cooking, so have faith in the process. Most modern rice cookers include a warming function that will keep the rice hot for hours after cooking.

Let it Rest, Then Fluff

Let the cooked rice sit in the cooker for a while. In my experience, waiting around five to ten minutes allows the heat to disperse more uniformly and the moisture to evaporate more rapidly. Still, if you’re starving or in a rush, you can eat it right away; just have some water handy to quell your tongue’s fiery reaction. After removing the lid, fluff the rice briefly with a rice paddle and serve.

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How to Cook Rice in a Rice Cooker

Learn how to cook rice in a rice cooker tested in our kitchens.
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Asian
Servings 2
Calories 222 kcal

Equipment

  • Rice cooker

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 to 2 cups uncooked rice depending on the type
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Some tap water to rinse the equipment

Instructions
 

  • Get the ingredients you'll need.
  • Run cold water through the rice cooker. You can gently sift the rice with your hands to clean it. When the water starts to change color, pour it away. Repeat this process a second time. The last step is to get rid of all the water.
  • With a rice cooker, ensure that you follow the instructions for the rice brand you're using. If you cook 1 cup of rice with 1.5 to 2 cups of liquid, you'll get about 3 cups of cooked rice, which is enough for six 1/2 cup servings.
  • Turn on the rice cooker and follow the directions to cook the rice. Try not to remove the lid while the rice is cooking.
  • When the rice is ready, close the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Lift the lid and fluff the rice with a rice paddle or a rubber spatula.
  • Make bowls of rice and enjoy.

Nutrition

Calories: 222kcalCarbohydrates: 48g
Keyword how to cook rice in a rice cooker
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Pouring out rice with a wooden spatula

Conclusion

Aside from rice, You may use a rice cooker to prepare any other grain, whether grits, farro, polenta, risotto, rice pilaf, barley, quinoa, or polenta and grits. My own experiments with some of these recipes produced better results than I had anticipated. The handbook for your rice cooker may even provide instructions on how to cook them. You may also use a rice cooker to steam things like vegetables. 

Our recipe works just as well with any other variety of rice grain. The ratio remains the same whether you use short, medium, or long-grain rice. Moreover, you can maintain the same ingredient ratio to make extra rice. One cup of rice equals two cups of water, and so forth. 

So, we hope you’ve found this article helpful for the next time you need to use your rice cooker to prepare rice or for something else. Bon Appetit!

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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