How to Use a Rice Cooker to Make Perfect Rice Every Time

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Knowing how to use a rice cooker properly is the key to making perfect rice every time, and these step-by-step instructions and expert suggestions make it easier than ever.

Whether you’re looking to make mouthwatering side dishes or main-event meals, knowing how to make rice like a pro is one of the most important kitchen skills to have. After all, it’s one of the most delicious and versatile carbohydrates on the planet. Making rice is even easier if you know how to use a rice cooker and these step-by-step instructions prove it. Ready, set, rice!

Why Is Using a Rice Cooker Better Than Other Methods?

Rice cookers are extremely popular small kitchen appliances that count billions of fans around the world thanks to their ease of use and ability to churn out perfectly cooked rice every time. Rice cookers even count popular professional chefs as their fans. “Rice cookers are so loved because you push a button and you have perfect rice in 30 to 40 minutes,” says celebrity chef Ming Tsai, a James Beard award-winner and founder of MingsBings. “Good rice cookers keep the contents warm, if sealed, for up to three days. There is no risk of burning the rice, and there is nothing to forget! You can just push a button and walk away if you complete the steps properly.”

Even if you’re accustomed to using the best instant rice brands, these rice tips and tricks will gleefully convert you to using one of the best rice cooker models on the market.

How much rice do you put in a rice cooker?

metal measuring cup filled with uncooked white riceTMB studio

Knowing the right rice-to-liquid ratio is probably the most important factor in understanding how to use a rice cooker properly. Most models direct you to combine 1 cup of rice with 1-1/2 to 2 cups of liquid to make roughly 3 cups of fully cooked rice. That’s enough for 6 half-cup servings (or typical side dish portions). If you double the recipe and make even more rice, you’ll be able to try this 7-day meal plan for a big batch of rice.

How long does 1 cup of rice take to cook in a rice cooker?

Most rice cookers fully cook a batch of rice, whether 1 cup or more, in 30 to 40 minutes. If you’re adding extra ingredients or alternative liquids, the time may differ slightly.

Do I put water or rice first in a rice cooker?

Most chefs, including Tsai, agree that putting well-rinsed rice in your rice cooker first and then adding water is how to make jasmine rice at home like a pro. This method also works on most other varieties including long-grain white rice and most basmati.

How to Use a Rice Cooker

Tools and Ingredients

  • Rice cooker or pressure cooker with a rice-cooking function. Tsai says he uses a top-rated Zojirushi rice cooker and warmer, but notes that pressure cooking devices like the Instant Pot are also good choices.
  • Rice washing bowl or strainer. This OXO Good Grips rice washing colander helps dirty water and grit pass through as you rinse your rice before adding it to your cooker.
  • Rice paddle. You’ll want to scoop rice out of your delicate rice cooker’s surface with a dedicated rice paddle. These wide-surfaced spatulas get perfect serving sizes without damaging the rice cooker’s nonstick surface or compressing the freshly cooked grains.
  • Ingredients. Rice, water (or broth) and salt.

Directions

1. Rinse your rice

Start by rinsing a cup of rice under cool, clean water in your rice washing bowl or strainer.

2. Add the rice to your cooker

Turn your rice cooker on and then add your rice to the interior. Your rice should be slightly damp from rinsing.

3. Add water

Some chefs prefer to use broth for added flavor, but if you’re just figuring out how to use a rice cooker for the first time sticking to water is best. Water also offers the cleanest, simplest end result and can store nicely for several hours (or even days) in your cooker with the warming function turned on. Use 1-1/2 to 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry rice. Using 1-1/2 cups will result in a slightly grainier yield, while a full 2 cups will give you a stickier result.

4. Add salt

Half a teaspoon of salt (or slightly less) per cup of dry rice is an easy measurement to start with.

5. Stir everything with your paddle

Use your rice paddle to combine ingredients.

6. Close the rice cooker

If you’re using white or basmati varieties, use the rice cooker’s “white rice” setting. Most modern rice cookers also come with settings for brown rice and other types, which you can choose before running your device.

What Else Can I Cook in a Rice Cooker?

As you can see, using a rice cooker is straightforward. It’s easily one of the best kitchen appliances that practically cook for you. If you are using a pressure cooking model like the Instant Pot, you can make flavored rice dishes like this flavorful green rice and even hearty gourmet oatmeal recipes. Several affordable rice cooker models like this bestselling Black + Decker 16-cup model offer functions that also steam vegetables and fish, too.

How Do I Clean a Rice Cooker?

The vast majority of rice cookers on the market have removable interior baskets that are made of nonstick materials. When you’re done cooking your rice, simply turn the cooker off and allow the entire device to cool to room temperature. Then remove the basket and wash it with warm, soapy water and a sponge. Although some baskets are advertised as dishwasher-safe, the harsh environment of a dishwasher may damage the nonstick materials of your rice cooker. Washing by hand is best and usually takes just a minute or two.

Tips for How to Use a Rice Cooker

dumping uncooked white rice into a rice cookerTMB studio

  • Don’t mix grains. “You can use short-grain white rice with short-grain brown rice, or long-grain white rice with long-grain brown rice, but you cannot mix short and long grain,” Tsai explains. Sticking to one rice length ensures that each grain cooks evenly.
  • Make sure you can keep your rice warm. “Be sure the rice cooker you choose has a warming function,” he says. “If it is a sealed rice cooker, it makes rice that can keep for literally four days. It just has to be kept hot under light pressure, and it will last for a while. Otherwise, use your rice within hours.”
  • Be mindful of your altitude. “Rice cookers that cook under pressure work better at altitude,” says Tsai.

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Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Taste of Home. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.