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Rice cookers... a revelation?

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  • Idas Dec 30, 2013 10:54 AM

HI,
I have been researching getting a stainless ricecooker (to avoid aluminum and non-stick chemicals) and almost bought a Buffalo smart cooker.
Then I went to our Auntie's house for dinner and she made rice in her ancient Tatung indirect (double pan) rice cooker.
Then it hit me, her rice is light and perfectly cooked with no sticky bottom because it's STEAMED!!
Darn, I wish I had realized this difference 30 years ago, upgrading modern ricecooker one after another trying to find the best steamed rice. Modern rice cookers don't steam rice, they boil it until it evaporates, recycling moisture sort of steaming it.

Am I nuts to donate my fancy rice cookers for a simple stainless Tatung?
Sure, it's not a cool looking but the difference in rice texture was a revelation. It will take my chau fun to a new level.

I feel silly for not realizing this before.
Any thoughts?
yours truly, a fun fan,
Idas

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  1. Wish I could find the website to link you to because this is the best way to cook rice I've tried.

    Measure out your dry rice into a bowl that will have enough room for the rice to expand as it absorbs water. This bowl should also fit into a steamer or pasta insert that's in a large, lidded pot.

    Wash the rice until the water is clear, drain it and put it in the bowl.

    Put water into the large pot with the steamer/pasta insert and bring to a boil. The water should be under the bottom level of the insert.

    Now, bring another pot/kettle of water to a boil. Pour the boiling water from the pot/kettle over the rice to the depth of about one knuckle (3/4 inch). There's some leeway here. No need to be exact.

    Put the bowl of boiling water covered rice into the steamer/pasta pot and cover with the lid.

    Cook with the lid on for about 25 minutes. Remember to keep the water at a simmer under the rice. The nice thing about this method is that after the 35 minutes, you can just keep the water hot and hold the rice for an hour, easily, without burning it.

    Remove the bowl of rice when you're ready to serve. Loosen it with a fork and you're done.

    1. <Modern rice cookers don't steam rice, they boil it until it evaporates>

      They all boil. The older rice cooker use the "double boiler" design because back then there wasn't a very good way to control the temperature. These old designs use a steady power, not a steady temperature. As such, it was very easy to burn the rice. The double boiler is a simple way to prevent burning the rice. Today rice cookers have much better temperature control and can prevent burning rice without resorting to the double boiler design.

      If you are really talking about steaming rice, then it is something else. The old rice cookers cannot do it. You need this:

      http://huggins.me/recipes/wp-content/...

      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_JAP5L60DHlg...

      It is a very good method especially for glutinous rice. I use this to make my lotus leaf chicken warps:

      http://www.chow.com/uploads/4/3/0/504...

      <her rice is light and perfectly cooked>

      That is because she perfected the rice-to-water ratio. Every rice cooker is different. The ratio will be slightly different as well. Of course, every rice brand is slight different as well. This is why some people get stuck with one brand of rice with one specific rice cooker.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        "The ratio will be slightly different as well. Of course, every rice brand is slight different as well."

        I agree. Not to mention, even within the same brand, the age of the rice makes a difference too. I remember every time we opened a new 50 lb bag of rice, we had to re-adjust the water ratio because we were used to the amount needed for the second half of the bag. And not just age after you've brought it home but how long ago it was harvested and how long it sat on the store shelf too. And then there's "new crop" rice which can have a noticeably different behavior. It can take a whole lifetime of experience to make rice consistently.

      2. Steaming rice without special equipment shown here:

        http://shesimmers.com/2012/08/how-to-...

        She uses a splatter screen and a bowl.

        1. We've only had a Ricer for about six months. It's a very inexpensive Presto cooker. It allows another veg to be steamed (in an upper tray) while the rice is in process.

          Both DW & me love this device. Just sayin'.

          1. I am rice obsessed but too busy a home cook for the amazing steamers that sit on top of a pot (to die for in flavour) so I need a rice cooker but truly the indirect contact rice cookers are indeed different.
            Normal modern absorption rice cookers all have heat contact with the bottom element. Induction models might differ slightly in that the heat transfer is magnetic and might radiate better if the pot was a very good conductor of energy. ....otherwise mainly at the bottom boiling the rice much hotter in one area causing that rice to overcook. Some folks are cool with rice a bit sticky and that's cool. All the fuzzy logic in the world won't change that amount of direct heat overcooking the bottom grains.
            The Tatung (and other original design rice cookers) have a significant amount of fluid poured outside the rice pan to buffer the heat and carry the heat up the sides and over the top.
            Yes, part of the cooking is through absorption but a significant amount of cooking is from steaming above and the bain marie style bathing of the sides to even out the heat. This makes for a more even cooking imo.

            I would love to hear from Chowhounders with family experiences in cooking rice for a generation or two who have used various rice cooking machines. On the plus sides, they look easier to clean (no valves or gaskets to wash nor replace.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Idas

              We've been using rice cookers for as long as I can remember. Just the simple one with a heating element at the bottom, a pot where the rice and water goes in, and a cook or warm function. Nothing else. Costs $20 or less, works forever, makes perfect rice as long as you know how much water to add (don't blindly follow the markings on the pot, the machines vary a little).

              1. re: Sirrith

                I blindly follow the markings on my machine's pot (Zojirushi NS-ZAC18) and results are quite good every time. The machine has for different modes -- Normal, Softer, Harder, and Quick -- and different rices react better depending on the mode. Once it's dialed in, cooking rice is a no-brainer (well unless you believe the hype that the machine includes some sort of fuzzy logic AI circuit :-))

            2. I finally bought a Tatung old school style rice cooker.
              From Newegg.com all stainless steel.
              Turns out, in fact the "non-direct heating" is in fact the best way to cook rice.

              It has water under the rice pan and inside as well.
              It balances the heat so no waste stucky rice on the bottom.

              It's a bit noisy but the results are amazing better than any super fancy super tech rice machine..
              hooray!!
              i

              4 Replies
              1. re: Idas

                <It balances the heat so no waste stucky rice on the bottom.>

                I am glad that your Tatung rice cooker is working out for you, but do you think a lot of people actually get stucky rice on the bottom of their rice cookers?

                I am wondering how many of us here get wasted stucky rice at the bottom of their rice cookers. I don't.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Never have.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Nothing sticky or gummy in our house. We have a 10 cup Zojirushi IH. It also cooks pasta perfectly.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      only if I'm lazy and my measurements are off, like too little water. I always add a bit of oil so it turned into pre fried rice. Here's to multitasking!

                  2. I cooked mine in a steamer for years before getting a Zojirushi micom rice cooker. Personally I won't be going back to the steamer method. The rice isn't better from the steamer and the rice cooker keeps the rice warm for as long as I want so I never have to worry about timing it with the meal.

                    22 Replies
                    1. re: rasputina

                      <I never have to worry about timing it with the meal.>

                      This is the only thing that would ever make me buy a rice cooker. We don't eat rice more than about once a week, maybe twice, so it's not a critical item for us as it is for many others. Also, i don't want to give up any more real estate, and I'd hate to store it in a cupboard. It's like once a week use is too often to store, not often enough to justify the counter space.

                      But no more timing worries would be nice. How big (space-wise) are the smallest cookers? We only cook about 1-2 cups (finished volume) at a time. Are there any cookers that will work with only ½ cup of uncooked rice?

                      1. re: DuffyH

                        We use ours about once a week and store it in the cupboard. It's not a hassle for us...just pick it up and plug it in. We aren't fans of appliances on the counter. But I completely understand "different strokes..."

                        Since we rarely cook single serving meals, and nearly always have leftovers, we typically cook a minimum of 2 cups and up to 4 cups of rice. We don't mind reheating rice the next day...and it's nice to have some in the refrigerator in case we want to throw together some fried rice.

                        1. re: JayL

                          Hi Jay,

                          I like keeping things off the counter, too. My only exceptions are the things that are too bulky or heavy for me to lift without risk of injury to me or the appliance.

                          A smallish rice cooker would be fine stored away.

                        2. re: DuffyH

                          This one http://www.amazon.com/Zojirushi-NS-VG...

                          Works with as little as 1/2 cup of uncooked rice.

                          It does have a keep warm but not a reheat feature. Mine has reheat also, which works really well. I have a 10 cup of a different model though. I don't think that model I linked has a brown rice mode either, if you need that.

                          1. re: rasputina

                            It looks so adorable.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              It DOES look awfully cute. A bit like Marvin the Martian's cousin Zoji.

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                <Marvin the Martian's>

                                Oh you remember him. :) He was an important icon in our dorm floor.

                                Anyway, this one will match the Mars better, also from Zojirushi

                                http://st.houzz.com/simgs/caa19dc20e1...

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  LOL! That one reminds me of one of the green guys in Toy Story who worshipped The Claw. I love those guys. :)

                            2. re: rasputina

                              Thanks! It looks like it will easily do anything we'd like it to.

                              What's the deal with the 'pre-rinse' function? In the video, they measure dry rice into the cooker, rinse and then fill to the appropriate line. I don't understand pre-rinse.

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                There is rice sold that is called pre rinsed aka musenmai. It basically has the starchy outer layer removed so it doesn't require rinsing. It uses a different rice cooker cup to measure ( the Zo comes with both cups) and it requires a different proportion of water and has it's own cooking mode in the rice cooker, just like brown rice has it's own.

                              2. re: rasputina

                                I just found this one, too. A lot less $ than the Zoji, and very well reviewed. No keep warm function, but that's not an issue for us. We only need it to stay warm for a few minutes, 10 max. usually. It lacks a mixed/brown rice setting, but reviews indicate it cooks brown rice just fine.

                                I did note another, cheaper, Panasonic that doesn't really turn itself off when time's up, but has a beeper to remind you to unplug it. I don't think I want to go anywhere near a cooker like that.

                                Mostly, we need it to not burn, ever, and to cook the rice consistently.

                                Plus side - it's even smaller than the Zojirushi, but it does lack the cute factor, and some of those great functions on the Zoji.

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Well no keep warm defeats the whole purpose of

                                  "never having to worry about timing the rice with the meal"

                                  Honestly keep warm is 90% of why I use a rice cooker. I can and have made great rice on the stove. But the rice cooker will keep it warm and ready to eat for 24 hours if I want.

                                  1. re: rasputina

                                    Keep the rice undisturbed and the lid closed and your rice will keep warm for quite some time.

                                    Rice & potatoes seem to have a decent thermal capacity.

                                    1. re: JayL

                                      I have a rice cooker with keep warm, don't need any tricks.

                                      1. re: rasputina

                                        LoL

                                        It isn't a trick.

                                        Our cooker keeps warm as well, but I rarely use that function since it stays hot by itself long enough on most occasions.

                                        Enjoy your rice!

                                2. re: rasputina

                                  It looks like a Star Wars character.

                                3. re: DuffyH

                                  I've got a 3 cup Zojirushi and regularly cook 1/2 cup of Calrose for breakfast. I'm the only one who eats rice in my house and use it several times a week. Best kitchen investment ever! The "keep warm" function is so convenient. Mine's got a little carry handle and the cord is retractable. It takes up very little room- I keep it on an awkward little bit of counter that's just wider than the cooker. My stand mixer is squirreled away in a closet, on the other hand...

                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                    So the 1/2 cup is a 1/2 rice cooker cup then I'd guess.

                                    1. re: rasputina

                                      Yes, although a rice cooker 1/2 cup is just a little less than an actual 1/2 cup (for the OP- I'm sure you already know).

                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                        Interesting. That is a really small quantity of rice at least for my house.

                                        I have a love hate relationship with the rice cooker cups. When we moved somehow the cups didn't get put inside the rice cooker and it took me a couple weeks to finally find the box they were put in. In the meantime I was forced to measure the rice with a regular measuring cup. Except I don't have a 3/4 cup dry measure so I'm mentally trying to keep track of how many scoops with the 1/4 cup measure to for 3 cups of rice ( or however much I was making that day).

                                    2. re: Hobbert

                                      My stand mixer doesn't get used very often, mostly for kneading bread, but it's just too darned heavy to haul out when I need it. It would never, ever get used if I had to take it out of a cabinet. Same deal with my 11-cup food processor.

                                      But something like this, OTOH. I'd kind of see it like my small slow cookers or my mini-prep food processor. Just not that big a deal, you know?

                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                        I hear ya. My rice cooker is so light, I'd have no problem keeping it tucked away. The stand mixer...that thing kills me. So heavy, but I just can't bear to get rid of it for certain tasks.

                                4. Why can't they make it with a Fuzzy Logic feature??