All good things about rice and how to prepare it

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Rice has been cooked on stoves or over open flames for centuries.  But for the modern kitchen, a rice cooker is a simple and efficient way to cook rice.   When used properly, a rice cooker will give you perfectly made rice every time.

Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day.

Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.

~ Confucius

Some people will even tell you that a rice cooker is so simple to use that it doesn’t even need instructions.  Just add equal parts rice and water and turn it on.  Unlike cooking rice on the stove, you don’t have to keep a continual watch on a rice cooker.  Rice cookers come with automatic timers that click to let you know the rice is ready.

Still, while rice cookers are simple in concept and use, it’s a good idea to know how they work and be familiar with the best way to use them.

 Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.

~ Chinese Proverb

The way most rice cookers work is simply to boil the water and monitor the temperature.  The water boils away and the temperature rises.  That signals to the rice cooker that the rice is done and it’s time to turn off.  That’s where knowing the right combination of water and rice is important.  Not enough water, the rice will be overdone.  Too much water and you get just the opposite. The rice will be underdone.  With enough use you can adjust the doneness of your rice to your taste preferences.

Rice is a beautiful food. It is beautiful when it grows, precision rows of sparkling green stalks shooting up to reach the hot summer sun. It is beautiful when harvested, autumn gold sheaves piled on diked, patchwork paddies. It is beautiful when, once threshed, it enters granary bins like a (flood) of tiny seed-pearls. It is beautiful when cooked by a practiced hand, pure white and sweetly fragrant.
~ Shizuo Tsuji

When the rice starts cooking you’ll hear the gurgling noise of the water boiling.  When the water boils away the cooker will beep or click to let you know the cooking is done.  The rice cooker then keeps the rice warm until you’re ready for it.  It’s a good idea to allow the rice to rest for five or ten minutes before you open the rice cooker.  Opening the cooker two soon will give you rice that is still moist and a bit gummy.  Allowing the rice to rest allows the excess water to evaporate or steam out of the rice.

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Some cookers will allow you to take the rice directly to the table to serve.  Hamilton Beach offers several models of rice cookers that will cook from four to twenty cups of rice.

Of course you have to ask yourself whether you really need or want a rice cooker.  Do you and your family enjoy rice with a lot of meals?  Are you looking for a quick way to get basic rice to the table in a quick and easy manner?  Then a rice cooker is exactly what you need.  If, on the other hand, you’re in to gourmet preparations of multiple varieties and recipes of rice, you may want to reconsider that purchase.   But if you make rice two or three times a week, then a rice cooker is almost a necessity.

Film critic Roger Ebert was such a fan of his rice cooker that he wrote a full-length book on why you should own one.  The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker is available from Amazon.  Ebert talks mostly about the concept of healthy eating, but he offers practical advice on the various uses of rice cookers.  Ebert wrote a blog post about using a rice cooker where he talked not only about rice, but about making things like soup and oatmeal as well.

Who Produces the Most Rice?

Some 90% of the world’s rice is produced in Asia. The International Rice Research Institute notes that as of 2012 the top rice producing countries in the world were:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Indonesia
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Vietnam
  6. Myanmar
  7. Thailand
  8. Philippines
  9. Brazil
  10. United States

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There’s no reason your rice cooker has to be limited to cooking plain white rice.  Try Steamed Salmon with Brown Rice or stir up some Lentil and Veggie Soup.  You can even use your rice cooker for breakfast and some Overnight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal.

Sure, you can always heat up the stove and cook in a pot. But for the efficiency, versatility and the reasonable price, you can’t go wrong with having a rice cooker in your kitchen inventory.

Facts about Rice

  1. Rice is second only to corn in terms of worldwide production and is the most important grain grown for human consumption.
  2. There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice.
  3. The average American consumes about twenty pounds of rice annually.  About four pounds of that is in American brewed beers.
  4. Rice is a traditional symbol of life and fertility, thus the reason rice is thrown at weddings.
  5. Rice feeds two-thirds of the world’s population and has fed humans for more than 5,000 years.
  6. Rice contains a number of vitamins and minerals and is rich in nutrients.  Brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice.

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