I am always surprised by the fact that other people are surprised that I cook my rice in a rice cooker! The response is always along the lines of “I thought you would cook it the traditional way”, well I am cooking it the traditional way; it is simply a modern tradition! Give me a break here; I know there is probably a better way of putting this but Google translate isn’t helping out today for the English equivalent of the Thai phrase I would like to use.
I think in non-Asian households a rice cooker is probably viewed as one of those gadgets that will be used once and then end up in the attic along with the vibrating foot spa that seemed like a good idea at the time. And certainly if you rarely eat rice then it would become just another gadget taking up space. However, if you do eat a moderate amount of rice then I will tell you why a rice cooker can be a great investment.
In countries like Thailand and Japan, rice is far more than just food, it is sacred and revered, it’s deep within our spiritual heritage. That also means that we are extremely respectful in the way we cook rice, and if rice cookers were not so good at doing exactly that, then the rice cooker would never have become the essential piece of kitchen equipment that it is in Asian households.
Can you cook rice better using a pot on top of the stove? Personally, I don’t think you can, and I know I have better things to do with my time than to keep a constant eye on a pan of simmering rice that can become a glutinous mess the moment you’re distracted. That alone is one reason to buy a rice cooker; the fact that it can produce perfect rice every time, all you have to do is switch it on and forget about it. And the reason you can forget about it is because when it’s finished cooking your rice it will keep it warm for you. How bad is that? In addition, if you need another reason to buy a rice cooker then how about this, the money you can save!
Whenever I walk into a supermarket, shelf space devoted to bags of rice is far smaller than the space allocated to microwave instant rice and boil in the bag rice. The simple fact is that in countries like the UK people tend to go for the easier, and far more expensive, ways of cooking rice instead of using a rice cooker and buying their rice by the kilo. The boil in the bag rice or the microwave rice will never produce the perfectly fluffed rice that a rice cooker can achieve. The instant and boil in the bag varieties are not only vastly more expensive, they are also inferior. Even if your tastes stretch to the more exotic concoctions of flavoured rice in microwave pouches, you can still produce a far better result with a rice cooker with a little bit of experimentation.
My rice cooker pictured below is the all singing dancing variety with “fuzzy” logic. Not cheap, but with the large quantities of rice I often have to prepare it was more than worth it. Features such as the cool wall, vacuum type lid and it’s programmable functions are worthwhile for me.
I’m not saying that you need one like that to cook excellent rice, you can buy a perfectly good rice cooker for less than £20. In fact, I have done on quite a few occasions as I’ve bought the one below from Argos for friends, all of whom have been delighted with the quality of the cooked rice it achieves. Not as versatile as my Panasonic and rice “heaven” is a little beyond it but then again it is a fraction of the price.
I can promise you that if you eat even moderate amounts of rice, not only will you save money with a rice cooker but you will be amazed at the difference in the quality of the rice it produces. White rice, brown rice, cooked and fluffed to perfection, this is one gadget that won’t end up in the attic!