Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Rice cookers are a common kitchen appliance in many Asian households. Why? Because rice is a staple food in Asia. Bigger rice cookers can make 20 portions of rice in a little under an hour; and that’s just the ones for home use! Imagine industrial ones!
First, we must understand how rice cookers work. Rice cookers bring up the contents to a boil, then a sensor is triggered and the heat shuts off. At this time, the heat is sealed in because of the air-tight lid. This air-tight lid of many rice cookers ensures that not too much moisture is lost, but just enough steam is released to maintain a safe pressure and prevent boil overs. This is what ensures fluffy rice without a single grain stuck and/or burnt at the bottom. Additionally, most rice cookers have a “keep warm” setting that maintains the temperature of the rice after the rice is done cooking (cooking time is usually 40-45 minutes). This setting can be kept for hours, even a couple days.
So, when rice isn’t a staple in your home, why bother buying a rice cooker? Other than quick and no-fuss rice, what else can rice cookers be use for? Here’s a list of our favorite foods you can make in the rice cooker.
1. Soup, Stews and Curries
This is when the “keep warm” function becomes your best friend. If you add all the ingredients for a stew or curry in the rice cooker, it will keep it on a constant low heat for a long time. This is great for stews and curries that require a really long cooking time to get all those flavors blended beautifully together and break down any meat into tender pieces.
Yes, you can keep a pot on low heat on the stove for hours but that can be dangerous and troublesome for many reasons. The biggest trouble is that it can’t be left alone. Someone must always be watching it as it is an open heat source and therefore a fire hazard. Additionally, because the heat source is only at the bottom, the heat is not evenly spread out. The food has to be stirred every few minutes or so to ensure that the whole dish gets cooked evenly.
Back to the rice cooker then! Rice cookers evenly heat the stew/curry for many hours whilst also being a closed heat source. Which means you can add in all your ingredients before you leave the house, and come back hours later to a lovely piping hot stew or curry!
Here’s a great recipe for Beef Rendang that can be cooked in a rice cooker!
This is a super easy recipe, and almost the same as cooking Jasmine or Brown Rice in the rice cooker.
Simply add 1 ½ times more liquid (water or stock) than couscous and cook it on the “white rice” mode. That’s it. Then just walk away until dinnertime.
Much like other rice dishes, you can play up the recipe by adding it other ingredients in the cooker like spices, scallions, garlic, even some meats! We recommend pairing the couscous with a spicy Red Curry.
3. Caramelized Onions
An awesome way to make a big portion of caramelized onions without much effort. All you need to do is add sliced onions, oil, salt and a little water in the rice cooker, and cook and leave on “keep warm” for a total of 60-90 minutes, depending on how many onions you used. If it is a particularly big batch, open and stir briefly every 40 minutes.
Because of the constant heat and pressure control, none of the onions burn and what you are left with is beautiful sweet and jammy onions. Perfect for a French Onion Soup, French Onion Dip, or just caramelized onions to pair with dishes like burgers or sandwiches.
No, seriously, pancake. A really big one. Hear us out.