For those of you who might wonder why anyone would ever want a seemingly single-function (not to mention LARGE) appliance, allow me to show you exactly how exciting this thing really is.
First, let’s get one thing straight:
Almost all rice cookers also function as steamers, so there’s another use for it already. Devoted roaster that I am, I don’t do a ton of steaming, but for what it’s worth, I used my rice cooker exclusively for steaming frozen dumplings and broccoli while I was living in China. Why? I didn’t actually know it was a rice cooker at the time. Don’t laugh—if you were able to go out for amazing Chinese food for $4 or less per meal (which also kept us drunk for an entire year, might I add), you wouldn’t have spent much time in your kitchen either.
But I digress.
For my first feat of rice cooker mastery, I cooked rice.
Don’t laugh—this is a big step for someone who previously could not recognize a rice cooker in the first place.
I was delighted to find that it came out just like it does in restaurants! Perfect and chewy (this was brown rice), and without the usual soggy layer that I always got when I used to cook it stovetop.
I put some in a bowl,
covered it with some roasted stuff,
and ate it. The end. I guess that’s not a very exciting story, so for argument’s sake let’s say I also found $10.
Now that I had the hang of rice cookery, I got a little wacky and engaged my favorite rice cooker feature (which we should note is not standard): the delay timer.
It was a Thursday evening after work, and I was about to leave for a 7pm dance class. I didn’t want to have dinner right before dancing because that feels crappy, but I knew I’d be ravenous when I got home, even if I did have a snack to tide me over.
Rice cooker to the rescue! HEAB gave me this brilliant idea, to which I added a few extra ingredients. Into the rice cooker went 1 cup brown rice, 1 can light coconut milk, 1 tbsp curry powder and about 1/2 tsp salt, plus a healthy heap of frozen veggies.
I set the delay timer to have it finished when I got home from class. I arrived home to a delicious waft of curryness and hastily threw some kabocha (which I’d chopped and tossed with oil and S+P before I left) into the oven to roast. Meanwhile, I stirred 1 can of (drained and rinsed) chickpeas and a spoonful of peanut butter into the finished rice mixture and left it on the warm setting.
30 minutes later, dinner was served.
And it was pretty much the best (homemade) thing I’ve eaten in a while.
The lesson here? You can cook rice in liquids other than water! Don’t laugh—we all know someone with a talent for burning water, to whom cooking rice in something else would surely seem extremely dangerous.
Now we have established that your rice cooker can, in fact, produce an entire meal for you, involving as little or as much work as you’d like. If I hadn’t taken the time to roast that squash, I could have been eating as soon as I was able to get a bowl from the cupboard.
So let’s get fancy, shall we? Let’s test this thing’s limits!
Select a recipe. Gather some extra-special ingredients. A little local kimchi:
Some toasted nori (The TJ’s clerk told me some customers practically rioted when they ran out of this stuff):
(Don’t laugh—I know that bad things would happen if anything came between me and my favorite ice cream, so I’ll have a little sympathy for the nori
And assemble your first homemade bibimbap! After my rice had cooked, I just threw in the rest of the ingredients, though if you read the recipe I was following you’d note that I could have even steamed the spinach and salmon in the rice cooker too—I chose to do them stovetop, in the interest of time.
Resetting the cooker back to cook mode meant that the eggs cooked right in there, after a few minutes.
Stir it all up…
I plated my bibimbap over some arugula for no particular reason except it needed using (I know, I am so not Korean for doing that. News flash.) and served it with some roasted kabocha because I’m obsessed with it right now.
I used the little nori strips as grabbers for each bite, laying them over the food and pinching the ends together with my chopsticks—observe mad skills:
And it was so. good.
Maybe worth rioting.
Do you own a rice cooker? Tell me your favorite recipes!