Rice cooker

From Academic Kids

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Electric rice cooker including scoop, before cooking

A rice cooker or rice steamer is a self-contained electrical appliance, used primarily for cooking rice. There are also microwave, gas and open flame variants.

Contents

Description

The preparation of rice has traditionally been a tricky cooking process that requires accurate timing, and errors can result in inedible undercooked or burnt rice. Rice cookers aim to avoid these problems by automatically controlling the heat and timing in the preparation of the rice, while at the same time freeing up a heating element on the range. Although the rice cooker does not necessarily speed the cooking process, the cook's involvement in cooking rice with a rice cooker is significantly reduced and simplified.

Typically, a rice cooker contains an insulated outer container containing a heating element, into which is fitted a non-stick or teflon-coated inner removable bowl, which often has graduations marked in cups of rice (white). Whereas less expensive and older models use simple electronics and mechanical and thermal sensors, high-end rice cookers use microchips to control the cooking process and often incorporate a timer which can be used to set the desired "ready time". Many rice cookers can keep rice warm safely for up to 24 hours. This helps to avoid the dangers of food poisoning due to Bacillus cereus. Rice cookers, when purchased, normally include a small "cup" measure and a plastic paddle for doling out the cooked rice.

Restaurants that serve a lot of rice, particularly those specializing in Asian cuisine, often use industrial size rice cookers that quickly and cheaply produce large quantities of cooked rice. A rice cooker is a standard appliance in kitchens around the world, especially in Asian countries.

Small, basic rice cookers can be purchased in the US at discount retailers often for as low as $10-$15, and units with large capacity and different selectable electronically-controlled cooking cycles can cost up to $100 or more.

Basic principle of operation

The bowl in the rice cooker is usually removable, and beneath it lies a spring and thermostat. These form the main components of the rice cooker. The spring in the bottom is simply to ensure contact of the thermostat to the base of the cooking bowl. In a rice cooker the amount of rice and water are exactly measured. During cooking the mixture is continuously heated. The temperature cannot go above the boiling point of water—100°C (212°F)—as any energy put into the system at that point will only cause the water to boil. At the end of cooking all of the water will have been evaporated or absorbed by the rice. If the heating continues past this point the temperature surpasses the boiling point. The thermostat then trips, and switches the rice cooker to "warm" mode, keeping the rice no cooler than approximately 65°C (150°F) (simple rice cookers, like the one below, may simply turn off at this point).

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Electric rice cooker after cooking

Cooking rice with a rice cooker

To cook white rice, the rice is measured and optionally rinsed, then added to the inner bowl. Cold water is measured and added or simply added up to the appropriate graduation in the inner bowl. Sometimes there are separate scales for brown rice (as more water is required) or for cooking other foods in the appliance.

Once the lid is closed and the cooking cycle has been activated, the rice cooker does the rest. Fancy models give a countdown in minutes to the "ready time," and beep when done, whereas less expensive and older models simply click or ring a bell when done.

Rice cooker techniques

Rice cookers are typically used for the preparation of plain or lightly seasoned rice, but more elaborate recipes are possible using a rice cooker, and there are cookbooks devoted entirely to dishes prepared using a rice cooker. One of the more unexpected dishes that can be made in a rice cooker is a beef stew. By simply adding ingredients and setting it to "warm", a rice cooker would cook that at about 65°C (150°F). In few hours, the stew is fully cooked and ready to eat.

Some rice cookers are designed to accommodate a basket above the rice. This basket is generally used to steam vegetables, holding them in the steam coming off the rice.

Some vegan cooks consider rice cookers to be an invaluable tool in the preparation of vegan meals. They find it extremely versatile, allowing a variety of meals to be cooked with minimal preparation and no attention during the cooking process, which suits contemporary busy lifestyles well.

External link

ja:炊飯器 zh:电饭煲

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