How does a rice cooker work? – and other frequently asked questions

How does a rice cooker work | How Does a Rice Cooker Work ? and other questions that you might be asking when it comes to using your Rice cooker .

How does a rice cooker work?

To get rice to the finished product it needs two things: Water and heat. The principle behind a rice cooker is simple but very clever, check this out:
Water boils at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) and the temperature inside a container will never go above this point while there is water in there (you can never burn food as long as it has water in it right?)
Boiling water will cook the rice as long as it is boiling
Rice takes a set time to cook, when you add water to a rice cooker this will boil for a certain length of time and then will have completely turned to steam.
When there is no more water in the rice cooker the temperature inside will begin to go up as there is still heat being applied to cooking area of the rice cooker.

Here is where the clever bit comes in:
Rice cookers at their very basic level have a thermocouple in them that will switch off the heating element so that the rice does not get burnt. So how does the cooker know when the rice is done?   Simple really – when the temperature inside starts to go above the boiling point then the rice is cooked and it will turn off the heat. If you have ever burnt rice (yes, I am talking to you) you might have noticed that this is always because the water in the pot has been boiled away.

Depending on the type of rice cooker you have or are looking for and the sophistication, this end process will have different results. Most of the better ones will have a warming facility that will keep the rice ready and warm until you need to eat it. The better the model the more functionality you will have and you are able to do things like set the  time so that the rice is cooked when you get home from  work or whenever you need it.

There are three types of rice cookers:

On/off rice cooker

These are the most “basic” of the rice cookers, they will do the job but generally there are no extra frills on them – if you are looking for something just does the job then this is it.

Fuzzy logic rice cooker

The same principle as above but a little more complicated, Fuzzy logic rice cookers have computer chips that will allow them to make adjustments to the cooking process, thus allowing the cooker to make “judgement calls” in a similar way that a human might.

fuzzy logic ricer cooker

Induction heating Rice cooker

This is the top of the range rice cooker and the cooking process is really at a whole new level of precision. The whole inner cooking pan is heated so that you get a much more even cooking spread. If you would like to read more about this check out my article on rice cookers. Check out our review on the Zojirushi Rice Cooker and the NS-ZCC10 5 Neuro Fuzzy logic rice cooker . For more on other types of induction cooktops  

How long to cook rice in rice cooker?

The different types of rice’s will take different times to cook, whether you are cooking rice on the stove or in a rice cooker the time will be the same more or less. There are other factors that will have an effect on this time, for example the altitude that you live at, the higher you are above sea level the longer it will take to cook you rice , or anything for that matter. You can read more about this here.

One big difference with rice cookers is that water is added to the rice cold while generally if you are cooking rice on the stove top you will normally add the rice to boiling water.
Cooking times may also vary according to the amount of rice being cooked and of course the time may vary from models of rice cookers because the process that they use to cook the rice will be different.
So here are the estimate cooking times:

  • White rice – will be about 18-25 mins
  • Brown rice will be about 30-40 mins
  • Wild rice will be about 45-60 mins
  • Basmati rice will be about 15 20 mins with 5 mins left to steam after it is cooked

These are just guide lines, generally your rice cooker will set times that you can use to cook the rice. You can also use the rice cooker without these settings if you feel that you want to see what you can cook independently or if the rice produced is not quite right (remember what was said about altitude.

How much water to rice in a rice cooker?

The amount of water that you put in the rice cooker will have a direct effect on how long the rice will cook for. Rice cookers work on the basis that water will boil at a constant temperature. If the temperature rises then this means that the water has been used up and the system will basically shut itself down or go into warming mode where it will keep the rice warm. It is for this reason that the amount of water that you add to your rice is very important as it can result in either perfectly cooked rice or a potential disaster.

  • White rice = 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water
  • Basmati rice=1 cup rice to 1 cup of water
  • Jasmine rice= 1 cup rice to 1 cup water
  • Brown rice = 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water (this takes longer to cook)

It is important to note that these might vary according the type of rice cooker that you have and as such should be used a guide line.

How to cook basmati rice in rice cooker?

One of the most important steps in this process is to rinse or wash the rice before you cook it. Not washing can lead to your rice coming out sticky and clumping together. When you are rinsing the rice, keep repeating until the water is nearly clear and then it is ready to cook.

indian basmati riceYou should be using the ratio of one cup of rice to one and a half cups of water for the cooking as this will give you the correct cooking time for your rice. You may have to experiment with this slightly if it does not come out exactly as you want, but this is a good place to start.

You should add about half a teaspoon of salt per “cup” of rice that you are cooking. I am inclined to add salt whenever I am cooking rice and even pasta as this gives it flavour and helps with the cooking process as when you add salt to water it will raise the boiling point of water. If you don’t add salt your cooking times might be a little bit off, again just experiment with the ratio of water to rice to fine tune this.
You should also add a little butter or olive oil into the mix when you start cooking. I like to add just a little bit but you will have to play about with this (maybe start with a teaspoon per cup)
Start the rice cooker and let it do its magic.
I would leave the rice in the rice cooker once it is cooked without disturbing it for between 20-30 mins to rest. After this the basmati rice should be ready to eat.

To recap:

  • Rinse rice until the water is more or less clear
  • I measure of rice to 1.5 of water
  • Add half a teaspoon of salt per cup of rice
  • Add some olive oil or butter
  • Cook

Once cooked leave to rest for between 20 – 30 mins.

How to make yellow rice in a rice cooker?

The key ingredient in making yellow rice is turmeric. ( This is a spice that is used across the Middle East as well as parts of Asia. One of the dishes that it can be added to is rice and a teaspoon of turmeric will give your rice a lovely yellow color. You might have seen this for example in some of the Indian dishes that you have ordered out.
To make this in your rice cooker is quite simple,

  • Measure out your rice for the rice cooker
  • Wash you white rice before you are about to cook it
  • Add the water
  • Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of turmeric and stir in
  • Cook your rice as you normally would

When it is ready you will have yellow rice.

How to season rice in a rice cooker?

There are many ways to season rice while cooking it in a rice cooker. The easiest and most common way is to simply replace the water with stock or beer. I have heard that chicken stock will go very well with brown rice.

You can add herbs and spices to the rice as you are cooking. For example turmeric will make you rice go yellow and will make a great companion for curry.
If you are feeling a little indulgent you can add butter as it starts to cook, Persian rice often has butter in it as it is always amazing.

The bottom line is that you can add almost any spice that you want while it is cooking, try even adding some finely diced veggies to make it colourful as well. 

How to make fluffy rice in a rice cooker?

Making fluffy rice in your rice cooker can be done quite easily. The trick is to get the right type of rice to do this.
You will need to find a short grain rice preferably Japanese as they make some of the best rice.

You can use local as well but it will not be as good.

The trick to getting this right is to polish the rice. This is a process of adding cold water to the rice (usually in the inner cooking pot from the rice cooker) and then forcibly working the grains of rice through your fingers. This action will further remove the starch from the rice. Do this for about 30-40 seconds and then pour out the water leaving the rice behind. Repeat this process about 4-5 times until the water is clear.

Add the polished rice and the correct amount of water to the rice cooker, leave this to sit for 30-60mins.  Now you will need to cook the rice like you normally do in the rice cooker.  Once complete you might want to fluff it up with a fork – Now you should have the perfect fluffy rice. 

How big is a rice cooker cup?

Rice cookers come with a cup that holds about 180ml. This is a lot smaller than the standard American cup which is 240ml. This can sometimes cause confusion for Americans when cooking rice because the measurements inside the rice cooker relate to the rice cooker cup, not the American one.

One rice cooker cup of rice will feed two people who are having a normal portion of rice.

How hot does a rice cooker get?

The inside of the rice cooker will get hot enough to  boils water, in fact most rice cookers have a fairly advanced thermostat that allows them to  regulate this pretty concisely. Water boils at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) and will never go above this temperature. When the   water in the rice cooker has been used up the temperature will start to go up, this is one of the ways that the rice cooker will know that the rice is cooked. If the temp goes above this, it will shut down and just keep the rice warm till you eat it.

The rice cooker is very well insulated so the outside should never get hot, Be careful though if you have a glass lid as this will get hot and you should not touch it without gloves when it is cooking.