When it comes to using a rice cooker correctly, you should know the mechanics of the machine. So, how does a rice cooker work? If you’re thinking about buying one for yourself, this is a reasonable question. After all, you want to know the methods and what it’s capable of doing before splashing out any cash.
With this article, we will get into the actual workings of a rice cooker in a bit. But what exactly are rice cookers, and are they only good for making rice?
Why You Need a Rice Cooker
Let’s get real here for a second. Trying to get perfectly cooked rice every single time is not easy. It just feels like a hassle and is something of a mundane task.
You try to weigh out the right amount of rice grains with water. And set a time for it, then you take the rice out either a fraction too early or a fraction too late.
The problem is that this will often then ruin your entire meal. This is why you need a rice cooker. By using a rice cooker, you will be able to cook rice perfectly every time. They are relatively inexpensive for electric rice cookers and easy to use.
The Basic Concepts of a Rice Cooker
You can use this particular appliance for more than just cooking rice. However, you should be aware that it is also suitable for long-grain rice and brown rice, jasmine rice, white rice, and any other types of rice you care to try.
You can use it for cooking perfect rice every time. This applies no matter if you are looking at rice pudding or the perfect cooked rice to accompany your main meal.
The way it does all of this is very simple and basic. However, it’s effective, and the best thing about being able to use a rice cooker is that it will not leave you with uncooked rice, nor will it lead to burnt rice either.
Yet, there’s more to this than what we just explained. You will also have to know the different kinds of rice because they each have their cooking times and methods.
Different Types of Rice Cookers
However, before we do that, we need to stress that there are different types of rice cookers. Some are more elaborate and fancy when we say different types than others with an on/off switch.
Now, there are many companies out there that make their versions. Some are more elaborate than others. Although rice cookers are different from multi-cookers, some instant pots or multi-cookers also have a rice-cooking function.
The best advice is to shop around and pay attention to your own needs. There will be a rice cooker perfect for your requirements, and they don’t have to cost the earth either.
The Most Basic Rice Cooker
The most basic version on the market has a switch for putting on the heating element and then an option to keep the rice warm. However, this version is quite outdated, as even more intelligent rice cookers are no longer that expensive.
With this basic model, you may still need to keep a close eye on things, so if you struggle with getting perfect rice, this model may not be the best one.
Smart Rice Cookers
With a smart rice cooker, you will have something capable of doing a bit more than the basic rice cooker mentioned earlier.
These rice cookers work by keeping track of the temperature and the water level, and that’s why these rice cookers are so good at giving you the perfect rice. They can often connect to your smartphone, too, so you can know what is going on inside your cooker.
You will also find that these rice cookers come with special settings for other options aside from white rice; it will have different settings for brown rice, sushi rice, porridge, rice pudding, and a whole host of other things. Of course, it all depends on the one you own and its manufacturer.
In all honesty, if you plan on doing a lot of cooking and not just rice, then investing in a more advanced modern rice cooker is a good idea. It gives you so much versatility regarding what it can be used for. It can be more like an instant pot in a certain sense.
Slow Cookers or Pressure Cookers
Other options are using a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. However, while they use the same approach, which means water and rice ratios, there’s not the same sense of control as a rice cooker.
How It Works
How does a rice cooker work? You should know that the cooking process with a rice cooker is along the same lines as how you would cook rice on a stovetop. That means you need to weigh out the amount of white rice, brown rice or any of the other types of rice that you plan on cooking and then have the correct amount of water to go with it.
We will go into a quick example to better describe how this works. It is very easy to follow.
Keeping It Simple
If we go to the absolute basics here, rice is cooked by adding water, and this machine cooks rice the same way. There’s nothing elaborate or fancy.
It uses a heating element to heat the water and the rice and begin the cooking process, just like if you were to put your rice in a saucepan on your stove.
The Inner Cooking Container
With a rice cooker, you have the cooking bowl included, and that’s where all of the action happens. The rice cooker works by heating the inner cooking pan so it boils and cooks whatever is inside.
These cooking pans are made of metal. And do remember that not only can rice be cooked in it, either. You can cook porridge, other grains, and even vegetables in there, but that all depends on the type of rice cooker you own.
The Heating Element and Sensor
Below the cooking pot sits the heating element and the temperature sensor. With several rice cookers, both of these parts will be sitting on some spring mechanism, and that’s to make sure they are then pressed against the pot.
That will allow them to work correctly, and the cooker will then be capable of cooking your rice to perfection.
The metal bowl in the rice cooker will often be made of aluminium. The key here is to let the heat be conducted and carried across the bowl. This will allow the water to reach a boiling point since rice cooks at specific temperatures.
Due to the bowl’s material, be aware that the whole bowl will get hot, so be careful if you need to remove it after cooking.
The Cooking Process
So let’s go through the stages to show how rice cookers work.
When you switch on your rice cooker, the heater will work on building heat and warming up the bowl. As the bowl heats up, it transfers heat from the bowl to start cooking rice.
But there’s an important point to make.
Right at the outset, you have more water than rice; that means the water will boil quickly, and the cooking rice part will follow.
Once the water boils, it sends the steam up through the bowl. And that is how the heat is dispersed.
However, this also means that there is one important thing going on. How the steam and heat are dispersed leads to the temperature at the bottom of rice cookers staying pretty constant and not going above a certain figure. This stops the rice at the bottom from burning, which means there’s more control over the water.
While the water is boiling, the rice manages to absorb some of the water. However, the water level is still important as you want it to absorb water, but not too much of it, as that will then break down the rice structure and lead to soggy rice.
Rice cookers work by controlling this absorption, but it only works when you have added in the correct amount of water in the first place.
Water and rice quantities are where people tend to make mistakes. However, your rice cooker does take control of that by keeping an eye on the temperature.
After the Water
Once the water has been absorbed and turned to steam, the rice can start to burn. This is where people struggle when cooking rice manually, as they don’t pay attention to cooking times or have the wrong boiling temperature for too long, and rice cooking is a fine art.
But that’s where rice cookers make such a difference.
Once the water has been absorbed, it will stop cooking your rice instantly. It does this as a mechanism in which the rice cooker picks up on the water and temperature issue and moves over to the keep-warm function.
That’s because as soon as the water is absorbed, the temperature in the cooking pot will start to climb quite quickly. This increase is picked up, and if you aren’t careful, it will lead to the rice burning, which will ruin the taste.
Understanding the Cooking Cycle
As rice is such a staple food, removing the need to understand the actual cooking cycle is an amazing thing. You can forget about the cooking time of the rice according to the type of rice as well since you need to press a button, and the rice cooker is going to do the rest for you.
This problem of understanding the cooking time with different types of rice tends to be the area where people go wrong. This is removed by a rice cooker, thanks to how it works.
All you need to be wary of is the water quantity. Apart from that, your rice cooker will do all the hard work.
Aside from that, you can then turn your attention to other things, allowing the rice cooker to keep your rice warm until you are ready to serve.
Once the rice is cooked, and the rice cooker has realised this, it then goes to the keeping warm part, and that’s where rice cooking becomes something of a finely tuned art.
Now, at this point, it doesn’t matter the type of rice you are cooking – that doesn’t change according to the item you own.
How a rice cooker can switch to the keeping warm function varies according to the brand. The older versions used a specific switch consisting of two pieces of metal that expanded with heat. This then triggered a break in the circuit, and it stopped cooking, switching to it merely keeping warm.
You may even hear an older rice cooker make some clunk sound if you have an older rice cooker.
However, modern rice cookers take a different approach.
These cookers will often make a ringing sound or some other way to tell you that things are cooked and it’s just keeping the rice warm. However, it doesn’t make a big song and dance of it, and you would get down to the act of looking after your rice.
Caring for Your Rice Cooker
Aside from knowing how a rice cooker works, you will also need to know how to care for your rice cooker since you want this to be able to work for a prolonged period.
It’s very easy to do this. You need to wash the cooking pot and wipe down the exterior when it gets grubby.
The inside of the cooking pot will usually be non-stick, and if you use your rice cooker for other food, then wiping off the excess as soon as you can is always a good idea.
While rice cookers are usually very sturdy, and their parts could be considered water-resistant, they are not water-proof. It would help if you dried your cooking pot before placing it into the rice cooker. Before you cook your rice, you should not spill the contents into the rice cooker. If you put the cooking pot into the rice cooker, you should ensure that the rice cooker is off.
Apart from that, you have little else to do when caring for your rice cooker.
A Quick Additional Note
But here’s something important to remember when it comes to rice cookers. They are automated cookers. The inner bowl is designed specifically to allow the induction heating to cook all rice evenly. The rice cooker should be on an even surface to ensure that everything in the bowl is evenly spread and not over to one side.
This would lead to rice partly cooked in one part and uncooked in the other.
Cook Your Rice Perfectly
This article has now answered the question: how does a rice cooker work? You can see that there is nothing too difficult about setting it up and starting to use it. The good thing is you can guarantee that your rice cooker will result in your rice being cooked to perfection every single time.
A rice cooker is a wonderful machine. It makes the job of cooking rice so much easier than you have ever experienced before. If you plan to cook rice or even saute onions or steam vegetables, investing in this machine can be wonderful.
If you want your rice to be as well-cooked as possible, you must choose the best rice cookers possible. You should make sure the rice cooker can cook rice perfectly, but it should also be durable enough to last for years on end. Remember that a rice cooker is a part of any household’s kitchen appliances roster, so you should choose only the best quality rice cookers possible in the market.