A rice cooker is one of the most essential appliances in a household that regularly consumes rice. It has successfully replaced the old-fashioned way of cooking rice via cast-iron or clay pots over a coal stove and frees up individuals from having to check how their rice is cooking every now and then.
The first ever electric rice cooker came from Japan, which was introduced by Toshiba in 1955. Other companies soon followed suit and added their own versions, features, and functionalities in an effort to acquire a market audience.
But how does a rice cooker work? The rice cookers of today are versatile in that they can be used to cook other food other than rice. Thanks to modern technology, there are now many different types of rice cookers in the market. Let’s see how each one operates based on their unique cooking mechanisms.
The Four Phases of Cooking Rice
How does hard, raw rice become soft, fluffy and delicious? Two elements are involved- heat and plenty of water. Here are the four main phases of cooking rice:
A rice cooker automatically does all of these by themselves. More often than not, a rice cooker is made up of 5 elements: the main body, an interior cooking pan, a thermal sensing unit, an electric plate, and the operating buttons.
How A Rice Cooker Cooks Rice
Rice is washed with clean water to remove any remaining dust or dirt. The appropriate amount of water is poured into the cooking pan along with the rice grains. The whole cooking pan is put inside the main body of the rice cooker, which depresses a spring-loaded thermometer unit. This device gauges the pan’s temperature and it’s usually located at the inside bottom of the rice cooker.
A heating plate then starts to heat and this transfers to the cooking pan. The cooking pan’s material may vary- some companies use materials that have a high conductivity rate such as aluminum or copper. The type of material largely determines the length of time needed to cook the rice.
Rice starts to cook when water starts boiling at 100 degrees C, or about 212 degrees F. The thermal sensor will be the one to maintain the heating and keep it at boiling point. Temperature is regulated as long as there’s water inside the cooking pan. Once all the water has boiled off, then the temperature will rise and the sensing unit inside the rice cooker will cause the heating element to go into warming mode. The rice will have cooked and is now in the resting phase.
Cooking rice is more or less the same regardless of type. Some rice cookers are basic models. Some use fuzzy logic, while others use induction heating.
Fuzzy Logic Rice Cookers
A rice cooker that has fuzzy logic can make minute adjustments to cook the perfect pot of rice. For example, when one cooks rice on a particularly hot day, the fuzzy logic contained within the rice cooker will adjust the heating element in order not to overcook the rice. This technology allows a fuzzy logic rice cooker to optimally cook different kinds of rice such as brown rice, white rice, mixed rice, rice for porridge, rice to make sushi, etc. Some models offer cooking varieties such as making wet, sticky or soft rice.
Induction Rice Cookers
Traditional electric rice cookers have a heating plate that heats the cooking pan underneath. Induction heating rice cookers, on the other hand, relies on the current being supplied directly from the wall socket to cook rice. The current passes through the copper coils, creating a strong magnetic field which invariably heats up the cooking pan.
The heat level may be adjusted by weakening or strengthening the magnetic field. Some benefits include an even heating adjustment that encompasses the whole cooking pan and an accurate temperature sensing method that allows the rice cooker to make adjustments as needed.
Other Rice Cooker Features
High-end rice cookers come with advanced features that make cooking rice easier than ever. The most common ones have “keep warm” settings that will keep your rice hot and ready to eat at a later time. Some tout a speed cooking feature, while smart rice cookers can be set to cook rice at a set time.