Only use your rice cooker for cooking plain rice? It could do so much more. Try these simple additions to supercharge your fakeaway this Friday night.
See the best rice cookers we recommend.
1) Use stock instead of water
Rice cookers require two simple ingredients – rice and water. But if you were to swap your water with stock, the flavours will soak up into the rice as it cooks and you’ll have a much tastier dish.
The stock will have to be prepared separately. Dropping a stock cube into the rice cooker won’t do the trick, so make sure to dissolve it in water first.
- Simmer spring onions, ginger, chicken bones, water, garlic, cloves, black pepper, salt, onions and carrots in a saucepan for a delicious Chinese-style chicken stock for your rice.
- Take out the chicken bones and swap the spring onions and ginger for leeks, celery and a bay leaf for a classic vegetable stock.
- Or you could dissolve a beef stock cube and add chilli flakes or a chopped chilli for rice with a kick to warm you on these cold nights paired with a steak.
See which wines go best with tasty rice dishes in our expertly curated A-Z list of wine pairings.
2) Add extra vegetables
Many of the simplest rice cookers also double up as steamers. The heating element at the bottom evaporates much of the water during cooking and the lid will keep most of the steam inside.
This makes the top of the cooker the perfect place to steam your vegetables. Some of the rice cookers we recently tested come with steaming trays to make it even easier to steam your veg.
Remember to put your vegetables in at the correct time. Medium-sized florets of broccoli take about 5-7 minutes to steam, for example, so you’ll want to add them to your rice cooker 5-7 minutes before your rice is done.
Aim to chop your veg into equal size pieces to help them cook evenly, and make sure to keep them at the top of your rice cooker until they’re all cooked. If you mix them in too early they could end up at the bottom where they might burn.
3) Add marinated meat or tofu
Popping your pre-cooked, marinated meat or tofu into your rice cooker is an easy way to get extra delicious flavours infused into your rice during cooking.
The rice cooker will do a fine job of steam cooking the meat through to finish it off (and will do this very successfully with fish), but partially cooking it in a frying pan or wok first will help to crisp it up before you finish it off in the rice cooker. You won’t get that lovely charred texture if you simply leave it to steam.
If you have the time, marinating your meat or tofu 24 hours before cooking gives it optimum time to absorb the flavours. Try combining garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, olive oil and a little salt and pepper for a mouthwatering Middle Eastern-style marinade.
See our roundup of the best reusable freezer bags to use for marinading.
4) Dry fry your rice first
Before adding your rice to your rice cooker, try using a little oil and putting it on a low to medium heat in a pan. Keep stirring and turning it for a few minutes and then transfer it to your rice cooker.
This adds a lovely smoky flavour to your rice and will give it a little extra crunch. Be careful not to dry fry it for too long though if you don’t like your rice too crunchy.
Sesame or peanut oil are best for dry frying rice as they can take higher temperatures than most other oils before they burn.
The oil also helps prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the rice cooker too much during cooking, which is something we found to be very common in our rice cooker tests.
5) Whip up some sticky rice
Some more sophisticated (and expensive) rice cookers have a variety of programs to suit different grains of rice and styles of cooking them.
But don’t be put off if your rice cooker only has basics in its locker – you can still make sticky rice with a couple of extra steps.
Firstly, sweet rice (also called glutinous rice) is the best for sticky rice, as other rice types will most likely come out of your rice cooker either too soggy or too dry.
Wash the rice properly before cooking or it’ll come out starchy. Place it in a bowl, fill it up with water and gently move the rice around with your fingers.
Drain out any cloudy water and repeat the process until the water stays clear. Then leave the rice to sit in the water you’ll use to cook it (approximately 1.25 cups of water to every 1 cup of rice). Leave it for an hour or two to soak before cooking.
It shouldn’t take much longer to cook than standard white rice but make sure all the liquid has been absorbed or you’ll end up with soggy rather than sticky. As we found during our rice cooker tests though, each rice cooker needs mastering, so you’ll most likely need to experiment with your ratios before getting it consistently to your liking.
Not got a rice cooker? You can give all of these hacks a go in your pan, but make sure you keep the lid on as much as possible to retain the steam and all those sumptuous flavours.