How to Use a Rice Cooker

Beth Asaff
bowl of rice

If you love cooking rice and vegetables at home, you'll find it helpful to know how to use a rice cooker. Rice cookers are specialized devices designed to cook rice with a minimal amount of effort on your part. This handy small kitchen appliance can make your life easier and your food tastier.

Cook Rice in Six Easy Steps

Most new rice cookers will include manufacturer-supplied instructions. These directions are the easiest way to operate your particular unit, but in general rice cookers function the same way. Basic instructions are similar.

Cooking Steps

The following steps will have you making rice in no time:

  1. Add the rice to the rice cooker pot. Read the directions on the rice package, and measure rice according to these instructions. Use a regular measuring cup for this step, since rice cookers sometimes come with non-standard measuring devices. Consider rinsing the rice if you are not sure of its cleanliness.
  2. Add the amount of water specified on the rice package. Be careful not to fill the cooker beyond the overfill line.
  3. Add salt or seasonings to your rice. You may want to include a bit of olive oil or butter to give the rice a richer flavor, and it's fun to add dried herbs that complement the rest of your meal.
  4. Put the rice cooker pot into the cooker unit, and cover the pot with the lid. Most cookers come with a tight-fitting lid, but if your lid is too loose, consider adding a layer of aluminum foil.
  5. Plug in the cooker and push the button to start cooking rice. If your cooker has a timer, you may choose to have the rice cook at a later point in the day. Some higher-end units include a warmer, which will help the rice stay warm after it has finished cooking. While the rice is cooking, refrain from lifting the lid to check on it.
  6. When the rice is done, the cooker will beep or make a clicking sound. It's a good idea to let the rice sit in the pot for about ten minutes after it has finished cooking. This allows the grains to plump up a bit more.

Cooking Ratios and Time

Rice Type Cups of Rice Water Amount Cooking Time
White 1 cup 1.5 cups 10 minutes
Brown 1 cup 2 cups 20 minutes
Wild 1 cup 2 cups 20 minutes

To figure out how much time you need, simply multiply the cups you need to cook by the time. For example, cooking three cups of white rice will take you roughly 30 minutes.

Helpful Tips

As you use your rice cooker, you may want to consider the following helpful tips:

Black and Decker Rice Cooker
  • When your rice is almost done cooking, you may want to add some vegetables. To do this, be sure the veggies are clean and cut up into small pieces. Open the lid very carefully, watching for hot steam. Dump the veggies on top of the rice, and then quickly close the lid.
  • Fluff the rice before serving it. You can do this in the cooker, but it's best to do it in the serving dish. Use a fork to give the rice the maximum amount of lift. If your cooker has a nonstick surface, be sure to avoid metal utensils that may scratch it. Many rice cookers come with a flat rice paddle that is excellent for this task.
  • Once you're confident that you know how to use a rice cooker, consider using the unit to cook fish or thin strips of meat. This may take some experimentation, and it's essential that all meat be properly cooked before you consume it.
  • If you live at high altitude, consult your rice cooker manual for special instructions. You may need to vary the amount of rice and water, as well as the cooking time for the cycle.
  • Consider substituting chicken broth for water in your rice recipe. Broth adds more flavor to your rice, and it's a great way to add variety to the dish.

Purchasing Information

Rice cooker units range in price from under $15 to over $150. Cost is usually dependant on the size of the cooker, the brand name and the features included with the unit. You can find simple models designed to cook just enough rice for one person, or select a model with a warming feature, nonstick pot, timer and other useful gadgets. Most appliance brands, such as Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach, have rice cookers on the market.

Take the Burn Out of Cooking Rice

If you love rice but hate the sticky mess and burned on residue that can come with preparing it in a pan, a rice cooker might be for you. Once you learn how to use this device, you'll find it is one of your most useful kitchen appliances.

How to Use a Rice Cooker