How do rice cookers work?

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I have read many ‘expert’ like explanations of how do rice cookers work, which made my head spin. They are all a bit too confusing for my liking, so I will try to give you a more straightforward description. 

Usually, you are cooking rice by combining it with water in a 1:2 ratio in a pot over some form of heat. You stir and mix it occasionally, and when you see there is no more water, you turn the heat off and serve.

The issue comes with patience and focus. You won’t pay attention for a second, and it burns immediately. It happened to all of us. 

So how come rice cookers do it every time perfectly without you watching over it or even being present?

In simple terms, a rice cooker is watching over the cooking process for you. All rice cookers have some sensors. In most cases, heat-based ones switch the heating off when the temperature rises over a certain amount. 

That’s it. That’s the whole magic.

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So we have the basics down, now let’s get to a nitty-gritty explanation of the whole thing.

Rice cooking in detail

For a long time, I have been thinking about how rice cooking works anyway. I always knew that it absorbs water, but how come that the perfect ratio is in general two cups of water to one cup of rice. 

Well, let me explain. 

As I have mentioned in the article answering a question, if you can cook quinoa in a rice cooker, the rice is mainly made out of simple sugars (starch). Although the central part of rice is simple sugars, they are not the only part. 

There are many others, and one of the most important in this regard is oxygen atoms that could be found in the ‘body’ of rice. The water that is passing by them is absorbed. 

So you put the rice and water into a pot, heat it, and wait. As the water starts boiling at 212°F (100°C)it starts to release the vapor, which is, in turn, sucked in by rice. 

And in about 20 minutes you got your fluffy rice. The critical part of this process it occasionally stirring, as you have to provide even distribution of boiling water and vapor. 

The second you run out of the water and keep the rice over the heat, it starts burning, and the whole thing is ruined. 

Now let’s take a look at how rice cookers do this. 

Also if you would like to know, if the rice cookers are worth it, check out my article here.

Cooking rice in a rice cooker

The process of cooking is quite similar. You put the rice and water into a pot and press start. The rice cooker brings water to a boil. Steam starts to create and is slowly released at the top through a hole in a lid. 

The vapor goes through the whole rice, which absorbs it and cooks. By the end, you might hear a click, which gives you information that the rice is done. 

But there are three main differences. 

One of them is that the whole cooking is done in an enclosed space with just a small hole in the lid to release excess steam. 

This is important because you have the best spread of steam throughout the whole rice cooker. Every piece of rice gets its fair share of water, and it gets fluffy and cooked evenly.  

The second one is the fact that you do all the mixing in the beginning, right after you put the water and rice in. Usually, you would be mixing the rice in a pot, so it is getting all the necessary moisture. 

The third one is that there is, in most cases, a heat sensor that turns the heat off or switches the rice cooker to a warming setting. This is the biggest thing that is making the whole thing so much easier for you. 

When there is no water present in the pot anymore, the heat can rise above the 212°F (100°C)which would cause the rice to burn. So the rice cooker auto-switches itself to warm in more advanced models and to off in basic ones. 

The heat sensor keeps your rice from burning and getting destroyed. 

How cool is that?

There is, of course, a much more in-depth and complicated answer, but we will look into it later. 

I do hope that this simple explanation answered your question: How do rice cookers work. 

And in my opinion, it is a pretty smart and ingenious way. 

Until next time I wish you smooth and happy cooking. 

Vojta Vevera

Combining a love for cooking and using all kinds of technological gizmos helps Vojta to bring the experiences and excitement to all his articles. He is always doing his best to serve you with great information. Mixing over 15 years of cooking experience with his analytical mind and love for all technological things.

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