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A rice cooker pan is a dish designed specifically for cooking rice. These types of dishes are supposed to solve the problems that can result from the traditional water-and-saucepan method of cooking rice. They typically are electrical units that operate away from a stove, but different styles of rice cooker pans create a wide range of results.
The majority of rice cookers are actually two pans that work together. The outside pan or shell contains the electrical and heating components of the cooker; it is attached to the electrical cord that plugs into the wall socket. The inner pan sits inside the shell and is where the chef puts the rice and water. The ability to remove the inner pan is practical given the need for cleaning of the unit following cooking. This pan sometimes can be purchased separately, eliminating the need to replace the entire unit if the original inner pan wears out or is damaged.
There are two main types of rice cooker pans, the first of which is the plate kind. These cookers have a heating element that sits underneath the bottom of the inner pan, which allows the heat to rises from the heating element to cook the rice. These are a basic cooker that usually have just two settings: cook and warm. A temperature sensor in contact with the pan detects when the temperature of the pan is high enough to switch the pan to the warm setting and prevent the rice from burning.
The second type of rice cooker pan cooks by induction. These work by passing a current through a metal coil, creating a magnetic field. When the chef inserts the inner pan into the the cooker and the magnetic field, the magnetic field creates heat that cooks the rice. Some models generate more cooking heat by making the inner pan of a magnetic material, which resists changes in its magnetism level, so it ends up creating some friction on a molecular level.
In comparing the two types of rice cooker pans, an induction rice cooker pan usually is the better option. Plate rice cookers always generate heat only at the bottom, so cooking of the rice is uneven through the entire pan. With an induction rice cooker pan, the rice is more evenly cooked because of the inner pan's placement in the magnetic field. It also is very easy to make subtle temperature adjustments by manipulating the magnetic field via computerized settings connected to buttons or dials. Plate versions tend to be less expensive, however, so some people who do not cook rice with high regularity prefer these models.
Some rice cooker pans double as steamer pans. To use the pan in this way, the chef places a small rack or basket on the bottom of the inner pan, along with some water. He then adds whatever items he would like to steam to the rack or basket and turns the pan on. Rice cooker pans that double as steamers normally come with some recommendations for cooking times and water amounts for various vegetables within the owner's operator manual.
Regardless of whether a rice cooker pan is of the plate or induction style and has a steaming option, rice cooker pans come in a variety of sizes. A cooker that makes four to six cups of dry rice is standard, but there are mini ones that cook just two cups that are good for individuals. Larger ones can cook up to ten cups of dry rice and are better for families or large groups.