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For some cooks, preparing rice that is overcooked or underdone is cause for concern. Slight variations in temperature, or leaving the rice on a few minutes too long can contribute to meals that aren’t as perfect as they could be. Many cooks turn to a rice cooker, to ensure they have perfectly cooked rice every time. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2005 for instance, companies manufactured over 80 million of these meal saving machines.
The typical rice cooker is a plug in appliance that uses electricity, timers, and precise measuring to create perfect rice. Some models utilize gas instead, and a few rice cookers are designed for use in the microwave. Most commonly though, the rice cooker will simply use one of your home outlets, and use electrically produced heat. More expensive types may have sensors, timers, settings for cooking different types of rice (white, brown or wild), and can keep rice warm for a long time without cooking it more.
Usually, you add rice and water to a removable bowl in the rice cooker machine. This is then placed back in the rice cooker, and sits atop a heating element. The most important part is your ability to measure appropriate rice/water amounts, and choose the setting or set the timer for the type and amount of rice you wish cooked. Rice cookers may vary as to how much time different amounts and types of rice will take, and most take approximately the same time as rice cooked on a stovetop. The simplest cookers may only have directions and calibrations for white rice, but most, given the emphasis on complex carbohydrates, now have settings for cooking brown rice too.
You’ll find that some rice cookers will allow you to prepare other foods. This can vary but you may find the manual that came with your rice cooker suggests things like delicious beef stew made in the cooker. You can also find a lot of recipes online, most of them typical crockpot fare.
There are commercial versions of the rice cooker, which are much appreciated in dining halls, and in restaurants that serve a lot of rice. If you’ve ever praised the deliciousness of rice at Chinese food restaurants, its perfection is often attributed to being cooked in commercial sized rice cookers. Not only does this result in excellently cooked rice, but also it leaves burners on the stove free for the preparation of other components of a meal.