Rice cooker problems
- Mrs. Smith
When I received an "Aroma" electric rice cooker for our wedding I was thrilled. It's huge, heavy, and looks a lot like the ones I've seen in Japanese and Chinese restaurants. However, I've had problems with it.
I've tried to follow the directions of the very confusing and contradictory instruction booklet, which makes you use a plastic cup to measure rice and water rather than using standard measures.
No matter what I do -- rinsing the rice, not rinsing the rice, using the measuring cup included, using the lines on the inside of the cooking pot (which of course don't jive with what it says in the booklet) and the same thing seems to happen. Most of the rice is nicely cooked, but some always sticks to the bottom of the cooking pot, making a white, tough rice-y film.
My question is -- is this caused by too much water or too little? Is this just a fact of life with rice cookers?
I never had this problem. My Zojirushi had a nonstick coating in the cooking container. Is yours nonstick?
Do your instructions call for soaking the rice before cooking? I recommend doing so, for about an hour.
Also, you might want to open it and stir a few times toward the beginning of the cycle.
My rice cooker came with a funky little cup, too, and I was supposed to add water to the line on the cooking container. I found that I like my rice cooked with more water than the instruction book called for. This may be an issue with your machine's instructions, too. Asians usually cook their rice much drier and more al dente than Americans like.
I like long-grain rice, all types, cooked with 1¾ cups of water per cup of rice, measured in the same measuring cup. Short grain rice and sweet rice needs less water.
I would definitely rinse Asian rices. Many of them are quite starchy, which can make gummy rice.
My rice cooker does the same thing, and I too have been curious about it. I soak, I rinse... I can't seem to fix it.
bear in mind that the instructions of the japanese rice cookers are aften geared to the typical Japanese short grain rice - though the cookers do work well with other sorts, you may need to jigger the water amount a bit to get it right with long grain rices, sticky rice, etc. Second, with my old cooker, you use the cup to measure the rice and the lines on the side for the water. It generally works just fine doing that. the cooker recipes specify rinsing the rice and often rice is soaked as well. Soaking certainly improves basmati and many long grain rices.
As for the crust at the bottom, I get that sometimes - its considered a delicacy in many asian countries - such as persia. I think in China the pieces can be fried (cant remember what this is called, though. Sometimes the crust develops if the cooker is left in its warming stage for a long period. Sauteeing the rice a bit can reduce the tendency to stick, and even if it sticks, it will lift off readily if soaked a bit.
But remember that rice is variable in its water content and practice makes perfect - if you use the same kind of rice repeatedly in your cooker, you will get it adjusted to suit your taste. So be patient, this is a great tool!
That plastic cup is a Japanese rice cup, about 6 ounces, designed for serving two people. Using a rice cooker is confusing when instructions and/or recipes do not define what they mean by "cup", unfortunately. So don't feel that your intelligence is the source of the confusion; it isn't.
One quick and dirty rule of thumb for white rice is the old knuckle's worth of water above the top of the rice. More for brown rice and other whole-ish grains.
Small rice cookers (4 cup cookers) generally need a bit less water than standard ones (6 cup cookers), and vice versa for large ones (10 cup or more cookers).
Nothing prevents you from adding some non-stick spray to the pot, by the way. However, as noted, if you are lucky enough to get a crust (in many cookers, it is hard to get one!), the crust is considered a delicacy or good luck in many places.
I've owned a few rice cookers, and the problem with the rice sticking to the pot sounds like the pot is not non-stick. Some rice cookers come with non-stick pots and some don't. I don't think there is much you can do besides get a rice cooker with a non-stick pot. Most Japanese ones have non-stick pots. You can tell by feeling the pot. If the inside is really smooth, it's probably non-stick. Zojirushi is a good brand, a favorite for Japanese yuppies, and it cooks rice perfectly every time without presoaking the rice.
My mother always presoaks the rice to make it more tender, but I don't since I like the rice firmer. I hate mushy rice. But presoaking is good for cooking brown rice in the rice cooker.
I've heard the advantage to some Chinese brands, is that some have a steamer thingy that sits inside the pot over the rice so that while your rice is cooking or just keeping itself warm that you can steam buns or the like.
In Korea, the burnt rice on the bottom of the pot is eaten as a snack. I wouldn't exactly call it a delicacy though. In the olden days before instant rice cookers and non-stick pots, the rice almost always got burnt and stuck on the bottom. This snack is the more burnt (to a brownish hue), crunchy rice on the bottom.
There is also this other thing to do with the rice stuck on the bottom of the pot. Sometimes, hot water is poured into the pot and mixed with the rice that's stuck on, and it's eaten like some plain congee. I personally don't like it, but some think it's quite tasty. I hate mushy rice.
I can't determine if it's nonstick or not. It's extremely slippery, but doesn't seem to have that Teflon coating that my nonstick saute pans have. It never actually burns to the bottom -- just sticks and congeals. It's very easy to get off, though -- just push with the little plastic rice paddle that comes with it. No scrubbing or scraping involved.
I'm going to continue to fiddle with the water content, and try the stirring method.
Incidentally -- this rice cooker is a giant. It cooks 12 cups rice if filled to capacity. Maybe my little 2-person meals worth of rice is too little for this behemoth?
re: Mrs. Smith
We always make more rice than we need for dinner so we can use the extra to cook a "Travis" for breakfast (named after our friends who make it when camping). In the morning we chop up any leftover meat, veggies, mix with rice, add beaten up eggs, herbs and cook. Almost any combination works. (Just realized this does not solve your problem since we still get a crust in the rice cooker).
re: Mrs. Smith
It's entirely possible. I know that the less rice you cook, the easier it is to screw something up. When I cook rice on the stove, I use 1 generous cup of white rice to 1 1/2 cups of water and it comes out beautifully. You can always make extra, chill the remainder, and have fried rice the next day- the fried rice actually comes out better if you let the rice chill overnight.
re: Mrs. Smith
Since you don't mention what you consider a 2-person portion of rice, i can't opine for sure, but the size of you cooker may be part of the issue. I have a 6 cup capacity rice cooker and when ever i make less than 2 cups (dry) of rice the odds are increased for problems (mushy, browning bottom).
Soaking can be helpful and is, to me, absolutely necessary for the rice to develop optimum flavor and texture. 10-15 minutes minutes for most polished rice and 30 minutes to an hour or more for brown rice. In most cases soaking too long is never a problem, (although fermentation might start after 12 hours). The soaking time brings to mind a significant point i don't notice that anyone mentioned: the rice. All rice is not created equal. The freshness and type of rice can greatly affect the optimum amount of water for cooking. There is a great variation in moisture and rate of absorbtion betweens extremes. Therefore, particularly while you are getting the hang of rice preparation in your cooker, it is good to purchase the same type/brand for a while and also to purchase it from a source where the stock turns over regularly to ensure you aren't getting something that has been on the shelf for a couple of years.
I generally cook Japanese (or USA produced Japanese style) short grain rice. I let it soak about 15 minutes and use a 1 cup scoop to measure the rice and fill water to the lines marked on the cooker. If I know the rice was harvested/milled less than 9 months prior (some japanese rice is dated/labeled) i will fill the water a hair less the first time. If it comes out too wet, i will adjust a little more for the next batch. Conversely if i suspect the rice is a little old I will increase the water slightly and also the soak time. It seems to me that I more often get the brown crust when the rice is older and I have not let it soak an extra amount of time. I use essentially the same method for basmati and jasmine rice (both are long grain) as well. Although I have never purchased packages of either of those which seemed to have the extra fragrance of having been recently harvested and milled.
Finally, all this is not to say that the browned crust of rice is a bad thing. As others have mentioned, that crust can be used for special treats and dishes and as is common in Latin and Asian cuisines.
Which means if you want the crust. Don't soak.
I believe that basmati and perhaps other rices are "aged", and this is considered a desirable characteristic. Flour is another commodity that I have read is sometimes considered improved by aging. I think it may be a misconception in our society that fresh = best. I agree with you though that white rice is more attractive than tan - with basmati, soaking is a must, and both the whiteness and the length of the grains are enhanced quite a bit by a relatively lengthy soak. So I imagine that this would be the case with other rices too, particularly those that may be older and dryer.