Rice is an easy to make, easy-to-store dish that compliments just about any main course or forms the base of any number of creative dishes. And while the word “rice” usually is associated with plain white rice first, there are numerous varieties available—brown, black, wild rice (which is not truly rice), basmati, yellow and others. Rice is filling and, when stored properly, can be kept almost indefinitely. Those traits made it a popular item while people stocked their pantries during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rice can be cooked on a range, but if you are a frequent consumer of the world’s most popular grain, a rice cooker may be the way to go. Rice cookers are made to take the guesswork out of cooking rice and allow you to prepare it in minutes with minimal effort and cleanup. Using a rice cooker can also free up a burner on the range for other dishes. While it is designed to make cooking rice easy, the rice cooker’s name understates this appliance’s capabilities. Many models are can also cook other foods like vegetables, oatmeal or other grains, and some can work as a steam cooker or slow cooker.
What makes a perfect order or rice? Tastes vary, but AHAM member Zojirushi, which manufactures rice cookers, suggested that it should meet these characteristics, which the manufacturer uses to define the best-tasting rice:
Appearance: Each grain looks plump, not smashed. An overall sheen makes the rice glisten.
Texture: There is a stickiness, but does not clump together. There is elasticity without breaking apart.
Taste: There is a distinctive sweetness unique to rice when chewed. Good rice is not bland.
Even though rice cookers are incredibly easy to use, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure your rice cooker turns out a perfect order of rice, every time. Zojirushi offers the following tips:
When measuring water, avoid the “knuckle” method: A common way of measuring water when cooking rice involves putting one finger on top of the rice in the pot and adding enough water to reach the first knuckle. Instead, follow the recommendations in your rice cooker’s use and care manual for measuring water. Some include a cup for proper measuring.
Make adjustments for different kinds of rice: The brand and model of rice cooker you use may have different settings for different types of rice, such as brown rice, long grain, jasmine, or for other dishes like porridge or quinoa. If your rice cooker doesn’t have those settings, check with the manufacturer to see what they recommend for cooking different types of rice or other foods.
Wash the rice before you cook it: This is especially important with more starchy varieties, like short and medium-grain rice. This removes debris and starch from the surface of the rice, which can cause the rice to clump together or become gummy during the cooking process.
Fun Facts about Rice
Uncooked white rice will last for years: Don’t worry about that uncooked white rice going bad. It can last between 10 and 30 years, depending on how it is stored. Brown rice, on the other hand, will only last three to six months.
Rice is grown on every continent: While 90 percent of the world’s rice is grown in Asia, rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Four U.S. Regions Produce Most Domestic U.S. Rice: Nearly all of rice produced in the U.S. is grown in four regions – Arkansas Grand Prairie, the Mississippi Delta, the Gulf Coast (Texas and Southwest Louisiana), and the Sacramento Valley in California.
You can make your own rice flour: Rice flour has become a common substitute for wheat flour to make foods gluten-free. You can make your own rice flour at home with a blender or food processor. Try this method from The Frozen Biscuit.
Rice has a lot of variety: That’s an understatement. There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice! Fortunately, for cooking purposes, you can probably break it down to the length of the grain: short, medium or long.