So, you’ve decided to buy a rice cooker, and you’ve mastered the basics of cooking rice and steaming veggies. It’s time for How to use a Rice Cooker – Level Two… where we’ll start learning the rice cooker’s best kept secrets!
In this installment, we’ll go over applications for which the rice cooker is particularly well suited – those things that I would still consider making in a rice cooker, even in a fully stocked kitchen – from mushroom risotto, to soft-boiled eggs, to chicken noodle soup!
————————– Level Two Guide ————————––
- Risotto -
Risotto may be a good first dish to try out in a rice cooker, because the intuitive leap from plain rice to rice product isn’t so daunting. And because rice cookers have an even, low heat, and a non-stick surface, they’re excellent for cooking Risotto without having to stand over a hot stove, stirring for more than half an hour. You can go all out and prepare a fancy, full-fat Risotto with expensive mushrooms and dozens of ingredients… or, at the opposite extreme, dump in a just-add-water packet. I only recommend you start out with a little less liquid than recommended in a standard, stove-top recipe – you can always add more as needed, but less water tends to evaporate in rice cooker preparation. Half the fun is experimenting, but here’s a tasty and not too complicated Risotto recipe that is already rice-cooker-ready!
- Soups and Stews -
So, can I just dump a can of Campbell’s soup in there? How about adding in some chopped veggies? Can I cook my grandma’s famous Italian wedding soup? Yes, yes, and yes – assuming you know how to make grandma’s famous soup to start with. Making soup is very straightforward in the rice cooker – basically the same process as over the stove, perhaps with a little less water and a few more minutes – and I love that it will keep my soup simmering on very low heat so I can help myself to seconds and thirds throughout an evening of studying! Although I’d hesitate to call any soup recipe impossible, you might have the best luck early on with ‘slow cooker’ soup recipes, like this one for Spicy Chicken Stew. Rice cookers are also ideal for making egg drop soup – I can’t even make it any other way.
- Oatmeal -
Yes, oatmeal’s also quite easy to make over the stove, in the microwave, or even with boiling water (it’s versatile stuff). But the rice cooker is cleaner than the stove or the microwave, and always seems thicker and tastier to me than the add-water stuff. If you like to add your own flavorings and ingredients, the rice cooker will give them more time to penetrate the oats. If you have a fancy rice cooker with a timer, breakfast items are especially attractive as you can set them up to go before you sleep, and wake up to hot, delicious cereal. You can use instant oatmeal, or the real deal – just roughly follow stove-top instructions, and you should be good to go! If you’re feeling extra creative, try out Footprint Magazine’s Savory Oatmeal recipe!
- Eggs -
Whether you like them scrambled, fried, poached, basted or boiled, you can make eggs just the way you like them in a rice cooker. I use mine to hard-boil easter eggs every year for my dorm friends, and to fry eggs to top ramen noodles and stir-fries. Out of everything on the level two list, I find eggs the most useful because there’s simply no way to fry an egg in the microwave, on a toaster or with any other dorm-approved devices. Because rice cookers operate at a fairly low heat, I find that they are especially well suited for poaching eggs or frying them over-medium.