by Lindsay Wilcox
If you frequently end up with brittle rice, you could benefit from a rice cooker, which steams rice and cooks it uniformly. With a few pointers and plenty of rice to work with, you can complement every meal with hot, fluffy rice cooked to perfection in your electronic rice cooker. Read on for tips on using your rice cooker at home or at work.
Figure out the water/rice ratio. Before using a rice cooker, especially an automatic rice cooker, you'll need to determine the amount of rice and water you need. A good rule of thumb is equal parts rice and water, or one cup of water for every one cup of rice. However, even the best rice cooker will vary from other appliances, so it's best to check the instructions on the rice and on your automatic rice cooker to determine the right ratio. When you buy rice cookers, look for models that include notches to measure rice and water so you can easily see how much you need to add.
Rinse rice. While some rice, such as jasmine or basmati, is flavored and should not be rinsed, you'll want to rinse other types thoroughly before cooking them in an electronic rice cooker. Pour rice into the bowl that fits into your rice cooker or another large container, cover it with water and stir the rice around. Drain the cloudy water and keep rinsing until the water is mostly clear; drain the water and add the right amount to begin cooking it in your rice cooker.
Place the lid securely on the cooker. Once you're ready to make rice in even a small rice cooker, cover the base with its lid and press the button to begin cooking. You'll want to be sure that lid fits securely on any rice cooker, including a small rice cooker, because the rice relies on the build-up of steam to cook properly.
Add flavoring first. When you don't plan to cover your rice with a sauce, you'll want to add seasoning to the rice in your rice cooker while it cooks. Use chicken bouillon cubes, bay leaves and other herbs you can easily add to the rice cooker for flavoring. Buy rice cookers with nonstick bowls to prevent rice and seasoning from sticking to the bottom and sides.
Leave the lid on. Avoid checking on the rice in your rice cooker while it is still cooking, because this will release steam and dry your rice out quickly. Once your rice has finished cooking, let it continue to sit in your electric rice cooker until you are ready to eat it, at least 10 minutes. This allows it to continue cooking a bit and keeps it moist and hot.
Don't unplug your rice cooker. If you'll be serving family members later when they get home from work or school activities, keep your electric rice cooker plugged in so the rice stays fresh and warm even after it has finished cooking. The best rice cooker will keep grains tasting great hours after you first open the lid.