How Do Rice Cookers Work? – Your Questions, ANSWERED

Published Categorized as Journal, Kitchen Accessories Tagged

Rice is the most common staple food in diets across many different cultures. It has great nutritional value despite being very cheap. It is also so versatile, it will go with almost anything!

One thing I’ve found quite difficult is getting the cooking of rice right. There is only a small window when your rice comes out with that fluffy texture. But when you’re making a big family dinner, usually rice is the food that gets the least attention. If you’re like me I usually leave the rice to cook away by itself, until i remember to check it. And it’s a little overcooked and lumpy!

Since I bought my rice cooker, gone are those days! Every time, it produces nice fluffy rice that hasn’t been overcooked. Whether its long grain brown, long grain white, basmati, or jasmine rice, the rice cooker has you covered!

So, how does this miracle appliance work?

Table of Contents

cooked rice

What is a rice cooker?

A rice cooker is a fantastic appliance that will cook a variety of different types of rice and grains. Rice cookers operate by boiling the water so that the rice absorbs it, but have it timed perfectly. Once you set it up, you can just leave it be and tend to all the other cooking so that every aspect of your meal is perfect!

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There’s also no worry with a rice cooker that it will boil over or burn, so your rice cooker can be left to its own devices.

Benefits of a rice cooker

There are so many different benefits to having a rice cooker. While you might be thinking thing is just another gadget, you’ll find that if you buy a rice cooker, it’ll become one of the most valuable appliances you have! It truly can play a role in cooking at least one aspect of almost every meal!

Perfect results every single time

Have you ever spent an age carefully cooking all the meat and veg, then adding in all the sauce ingredients, letting it stew for a while to create the perfect meal, for it to then be ruined by some overcooked rice? Yeah, me too!

Without fail, your rice cooker will produce perfectly cooked grains every single time. So if and when you do forget about the rice, you’ll have the timer on the rice cooker to look after all the work involved with the rice!

Can cook a variety of different foods

Not only does a rice cooker do rice, but you can also do a whole range of other foods.

You can cook all types of grains with a rice cooker, including oatmeal!

Some more advanced models even have a built-in steamer that enables you to cook vegetables, sear meat, and even make stews!

Passive cooking

The best part about the rice cooker is that once you start your appliance, you can just leave the rice until it’s finished. There’s no need for regular fussing and taste testing of the rice to make sure that it’s not overcooked.

All you need is to set it up and can forget about it until the timer goes off!

While you can leave it to work to its own devices, it is after all a kitchen appliance. At the very least, I would generally just stay in the same room while it is in operation, just as a precaution.

No need to guess

Often I’ve put in what I think is enough rice for the amount of people I’m cooking for, and then turns out that I’ve cooked way too much rice. Sometimes I may end up having to throw some out!

The rice cooker is great for this as it eliminates guesswork. And you won’t find yourself adding in cups of water halfway through the cook either.

Once you measure the volumes of rice and water correctly, without fail you’ll achieve perfect rice every time.

frying rice before cooking

How do rice cookers work?

How the rice cooker actually works is quite elementary.

Once you add your desired amount of dried rice and water, the appliance will automatically set the time to cook depending on the amount you’ve added.

Powered by the thermocouple, the heating element gets up to a temperature for the water to boil, allowing the steam to rise and cook the rice.

The built-in sensors will then revert the thermostat to warm until all of the water has been steamed. The rice is cooked by steam.

When all the water is gone, this will trigger the thermostat to turn off as all the water will have been absorbed by the rice.

The great thing is there is no guesswork involved in the process, once the correct ratios have been added to the cooker, perfect results will ensue every time.

What utensils should I use with a rice cooker?

A good tip to follow is making sure that you only use the spoon supplied (or any silicone/plastic scoop) to ensure that metal doesn’t scratch the inside of the pot, as this could cause food to stick and burn to the cooker while cooking.

rice out of the cooker

Using a rice cooker: A step-by-step guide

While every rice cooker is different, they all follow the same concept. Make sure to give it a few tries when you first purchase to get used to your new appliance and get that perfect balance.

Manufacturers guidelines

It’s always a good idea to take a quick run through the manufacturer’s guidelines before you start using a new appliance.

This will keep you right and warn you of any safety features the particular model you purchase will have!

Always wash your cooker before and after use

As I always say, make sure you wash your appliance thoroughly before you first use it. You should always follow the rule of thumb that you never know where it’s been. This mentality will keep you right and keep your food clean.

Once you’re finished using your rice cooker, it is easiest to clean it while it is still warm and before any residue hardens onto the walls of the cooker.

How to wash your rice cooker

Remove the insert bowl in which the rice goes, and you can soak it in warm soapy water. Use a sponge to remove any food stuck to the insert.

It is important to make sure that you’re not using scrubbing utensils that might scratch the interior of your rice cooker. You don’t want the rice to start clinging to the interior of the cooker!

How many types of rice cookers are there?

Now that we know how the rice cooker works, next is to go through the variety of different types of rice cookers.

Basic cook/warm rice cookers

This is the most basic version of a rice cooker. There are two settings – on and warm (also could be labeled as “cook” and “boil”, but it’s the same idea).

These can come in at a really cheap price and even so, still be very dependable and last for years.

Cuckoo CR-0671V 6 Cup Basic Electric Rice Cooker and Warmer, Nonstick Inner Pot, White/Purple
Buy on Amazon

Smart rice cookers

This is the next level up from the smart rice cooker. These models have the ability to detect the water and rice volume within the cooker and make adjustments as needed.

They are often referred to as the fuzzy logic cookers due to their use of artificial intelligence which detects the volumes within the cooker.

Aroma Housewares ARC-1120SBL SmartCarb Cool-Touch Stainless Steel Rice Multicooker Food Steamer, Slow Cooker with Non-Stick Inner Pot and Steam Tray, 20-Cup(cooked)/ 5Qt, Black
Buy on Amazon

Multi cookers

These are multi-function cookers that are so much more than a rice cooker. This model can also double as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and much more. You can go from preparing a simple bowl of sticky rice to preparing an entire meal with these rice cookers!

De'Longhi Livenza 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker Programmable SlowCooker, Bake, Brown, Saute, Rice, Steamer & Warmer, Easy to Use and Clean, Nonstick Dishwasher Safe Pot, (6-Quart), Stainless Steel
Buy on Amazon

Preparing your rice

Another key aspect to cooking perfect rice is making sure you prepare it correctly. Following these simple steps will enhance your rice, even more, getting the perfect texture every single time!

Washing your rice

Rice has a lot of starch in it which makes it quite sticky. If you wash your rice before you cook it, this will give it a really fluffy texture and prevents the rice from clumping together!

Wash your rice at least twice before cooking it, to get rid of the excess starch.

Cooking times for different rice types

Generally, I would say that the ratio of rice to water is one cup of rice to two cups of water. (1:2).

That is a general ratio for all rices and if you want to get the ratio just right, there are more specific measurements for each type of rice.

Below I have made an easy-to-follow chart that outlines the different cooking times necessary for all the different types of rice.

(Don’t forget that how much rice you serve also affects cooking time)

Table of rice cooker rice to water ratios with cooking time

Rice typeRice: water ratioCooking time
Basmati rice1: 1.515-20 minutes
short grain white rice 1: 1.515 minutes
Long grain white rice1: 1.7515 minutes
Long grain brown rice1: 2.545-50 minutes
Jasmine rice 1: 1.515-20 minutes
Wild rice1: 2.545-50 minutes
rice remnants in cooker

Properties of rice

For the best results, it’s best to understand how rice works.

Rice has lots of starch in it, which is what makes it sticky and gives it the slightly sweet taste.

Different types of rice have different resulting consistencies. If you want a rice that has a fluffy consistency, then using long-grain white or brown rice will give you these results (Tip: Wash the rice before cooking to remove excess starch and give an even fluffier texture).

If you want rice thats more chewy and firm, for example for sushi, then short-grain rice or even black rice would be best!

Aroma Housewares ARC-1120SBL SmartCarb Cool-Touch Stainless Steel Rice Multicooker Food Steamer, Slow Cooker with Non-Stick Inner Pot and Steam Tray, 20-Cup(cooked)/ 5Qt, Black


How does a rice cooker know when the rice is cooked?

There are thermal sensors within the rice cooker that will trigger the cooker to return to warm mode once the temperature reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this temperature, the water will have been completely absorbed and the rice should be completely cooked.

What other foods can rice cookers cook?

Rice cookers can cook a wide variety of different foods, including any grains and oatmeal, or it can steam vegetables.
Depending on the model you’re interested in, some can cook meats too!

Are rice cookers dishwasher safe?

Some parts of the cooker, like the cooking bowl, lid, and accessories may be dishwasher safe, but the electrical unit is not dishwasher safe.
It is always best to read the manufacturer’s instructions before use in order to know what the best practice is.

What’s the difference between cooking white and brown rice?

While brown rice has an overall better nutritional value, it takes a lot longer to cook.
Where white rice might need approximately 1.5 cups of water per cup of dry rice and takes approximately 15 minutes, brown rice will need at least 30 to 35 minutes to cook.

How much does rice expand?

Each type of rice has its own absorption rate. A general rule to follow among white, brown, and wild rice is that the resultant weight will be 3x times more than the original.
So, the cooked weight of one cup of rice will approximately equal the cooked weight of 3 cups. Easy, right?

How do you fix undercooked rice in a rice cooker?

If you find the rice is a little undercooked, you can simply add 0.25 cup of water to the rice cooker and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, and allow to rest with the heat off for a further 5 minutes.

The rice keeps coming out undercooked, why?

This is probably because the seal isn’t being sealed properly each time, which is allowing the steam to escape instead of cooking the rice.
Some rice cookers have a locking lid like an instant pot, while others you just need to place it on like a crock pot.
If you find that there’s a lot of steam escaping from the cooker, you can put a tea towel between the pot and the lid, which will help seal in more of the steam. This should help to fully cook the rice within the same timeframe.

rice cooker on kitchen counter

Rice Cookers Do Their Job Super Well!

By now, you should be able to fully understand how rice cookers work and how to use one, too.

There are some great models available and the best part is they can cook a variety of different foods too, making them a useful tool in cooking any meal!

Of course you will have to think about what your needs are and depending on how many you’re cooking for.

Overall, there is definitely a rice cooker there for your needs and I hope this guide will help you to choose the perfect one.

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By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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