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Dec 30, 2013 10:54 AM

Rice cookers... a revelation?

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,

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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:

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

      <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:

        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 :-))