If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’re probably already familiar with my slight obsession with my rice cooker.
But I’ve never really shared exactly WHY this little 5 pound appliance of love has made its way into my culinary heart, and I figure it’s about time I explain myself. Away we go…
Why A Rice Cooker is Helpful
When I told my culinary school classmates and teachers that I was head over heels for my rice cooker, they all scoffed and waved me off like I was somehow cheating at cooking. But let me tell you, using a rice cooker is NOT cheating – it allows you to do soooo much more with your meals!
Things like grains, beans, and lentils can be very temperamental to cook on the stovetop. Don’t cook them long enough, and you have hard, chewy kernels or excess water needing to be drained. But cook them just a few minutes too long and you have a pile of mush, or a black layer of rocks cooked to the bottom of your pan. Enter the rice cooker – an absolutely fool proof way to cook just about anything.
All you literally do is add whatever it is you’re cooking, top it off with the appropriate amount of water (ratios found in the owner’s manual), and press GO. It even SINGS to you when it starts and finishes! And while your rice/quinoa/lentils are cooking, you can be busy at the stovetop or cutting board, getting the rest of your meal ready, and not worrying about burning your grains.
Another HUGE perk of the rice cooker is the timer function. You can set your grains up with water, enter the time you want them to be ready, and walk out the door to work. When you get home, the “keep warm” function will ensure that you have delicious fluffy grains waiting for you – all ready to go! This function also works for overnight preparations. I set mine up with steel cuts oats almost every night, and in the morning I have hot, delicious oatmeal ready to be dished out and topped with goodies.
How to Use the Rice Cooker
Like I said, it’s basically a series of measure, dump, cook. Easy as that. Now there are quite a bit of settings that come along with the machine, and you’ll need to pay attention to which settings to use for more specialty things like sushi rice (sushi) or steel cut oats (porridge). But for the most part, anything can be cooked on the regular or quick cooking settings.
And when I say anything, I mean ANYTHING. This bad boy is not just for vegetarians! Think of it as a really high-tech slow cooker – you can do grains, beans, vegetables, slow-cooked meats – the works. For learning more about how to use the rice cooker to it’s full potential, I highly recommend purchasing The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook – only $12 and full of invaluable information and recipes.
On the quick cooking setting, your grains will go from this…
…in about 30 minutes. Just enough time to get the rest of your dinner ready, candles lit, and the table set. Once the grains are cooked, cleaning this appliance is a piece of cake. The only piece that really needs to be rinsed is the non-stick bowl that removes from the inside. No burnt pans to scrape and scour!
So Which One Should I Buy?
I’ll admit, I am pretty brand biased here. I am sure there are other models out there, but from my experience Zojirushi wins the crown, and I’m only going to talk about the models that I have personally used myself. The model that I currently abuse at my house is the Zojirushi 5.5 Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer with Induction Heating System…
Now while I absolutely LOVE this machine, I am the first to admit, it is a little pricey, coming in at around $260. I got mine as a gift from my foodie mother in law (thank you, Tina!). BUT – here is the big but – I use my rice cooker every single day, if not more than once a day, so I more than get my money’s worth. I would tell any bride to register for this instead of the over-hyped and rarely used KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Unless you are a hardcore baker, I guarantee you will use this more. But for those of you who can’t imagine plunking down a car payment for a rice cooker, you are in luck – there is another option!
When I first started working at the farm, my boss asked me “is there anything we don’t
have that you think we need here in the kitchen?” My response was immediate “Duh – a rice cooker and a Vitamix!” One week later, I had both! But since I wasn’t sure how much she wanted to spend, I did my research and found a very similar, yet more budget-friendly model – the Zojirushi 5.5 Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer, coming in at just $135.
There aren’t quite as many specialty settings, but to be honest I don’t use those all that often. The main difference is that it is missing the induction heating system, which is wonderful, but not entirely necessary. It is the same size, and has most of the same funcionality. I used this rice cooker all summer at the farm, and never over or under cooked a single thing.
This is probably also a good time for me to point out that, if you haven’t notice, I’ve opened up an Amazon Store! I get emails every day from readers asking where I got my rice cooker, running shorts, food processor, olive oil mister – the list goes on. After endless emails and referrals, I figured it was high time I made the info easy and accessible to everyone.
The store only contains products I use and have myself. There probably won’t be any big promotions to tell you about, or fancy coupon codes – just what I use, and where I get it from. In my opinion, Amazon typically has the best prices on the market, so I figured placing my store there only made sense.
After all, you have a rice cooker to save up for, right? :)