I’ve spent four years of my life working part time at a kitchen appliances store, selling and explaining Japanese rice cookers to various kinds of customers. From old ladies who use it every day since tens of years ago to young adults moving out and cooking by themselves for the first time. For every single rice cooker I have sold, I have also given some advice to the customers on how to keep it durable. Today, I would like to share with you the top 10 tips I recommend for new rice cooker owners to help their rice cookers last longer. If you have missed my post on the Japanese Rice-Cookers, please check it out right here.
1. Don’t wash the rice inside in the inner-pot
My first and strongest advice is to avoid washing the rice inside the inner pot. Sure, the high-end rice cookers tell you that it is absolutely fine to do so, and they even give you a 2 or 3 years warranty on the inner pot, but cheaper rice cookers aren’t guaranteed. And, why risk it when you can simply grab another bowl to wash the rice in? 100 yen stores sell rice-washing baskets that help drain the water out easily. If you have stepped on rice, you know that it is hard, sharp and it hurts, so you can imagine that washing the rice inside the pot wouldn’t do any good for the coating.
2. Use the provided rice spatula
When you open up a new rice cooker, you would find the rice spatula in the box too. It is included so that you wouldn’t use anything else, particularly wooden or metal to scrape the rice out (not that you should need much force anyway). Even if you have lost yours or the spatula got old, grab a couple new ones from the faithful 100 yen shop and put that metal spoon far away from the inner-pot.
3. Wipe the outside of the pot first
A common mistake some people have is placing the pot of uncooked rice into the cooker with the outside of the pot being wet. Not only could it damage the rice cooker’s heating elements, it also affects the cooking temperature of the rice. So give it a quick wipe on the outside first before you put the rice in.
4. Don’t keep warm for TOO long
“Can I keep the rice warm for 24 hours?”
Well, technically, you can. Personally I wouldn’t, because having warm moist rice that have been in the pot for more half a day doesn’t sound appealing, and if you are using an older type cooker, the prolonged warm-heat could damage the coating of the old style inner-pots as well. So when my customers asked me for a number, I would often reply “5 hours”. If you need rice later, you should pre-program the rice cooker’s timer to cook a fresh pot later instead.
5. Cook at least 1 cup for a 5-cups cooker, at least 3 cups for 10-cups cooker
This tip has to do with having enough contents in the rice cooker as it cooks. Modern rice cookers wouldn’t burn out, but having a thick enough layer of rice and water is better for the rice and for the pot too. On a related note, I usually recommend people to cook around 3-4 cups for a 5 cups capacity rice cooker to achieve maximum fluffiness, and around 7 cups for a 10 cups capacity.
6. Don’t re-cook to re-heat
Some people, including my mom used to put old rice into the rice cooker, add some small amount of water, then press “cook” again. This isn’t recommended because the rice cooker wasn’t programed to react to this strange balance of cooked rice and arbitrary amount of water. So instead of doing that, I would recommend other methods of storing and reheating old rice, such as freezing them then using the microwave.
7. Experiment with small amounts at a time
For those planning to cook more than just rice with the rice cooker such as soup and cakes (YES, that is a thing), be careful with your experiments. The worry is that if there is too much ingredients, the liquid might overflow and leaks into the cooker’s element. So if you aren’t following the measurements from a recipe, be cautious of the amount.
8. Soak the brown rice first (if the cooker doesn’t cook it)
If your rice cooker doesn’t have a brown rice function/recipe, and you ABSOLUTELY must cook brown rice in the cooker, soak the brown rice beforehand and don’t cook to the maximum capacity. This is to soften the shell of the rice, as well as avoiding the potential overflow. For the long run, however, you might want to consider buying a newer rice cooker with the exact function instead.
9. Stick to white rice with the light grey inner-pots
If you are using an older-style rice cooker with the light grey coloured inner pots, I would recommend (on top of all the other tips) you to stick with cooking white rice and refrain from recipes with oily ingredients. Oil boils at a different temperature. After cooking with oil and grease, you will likely see a brown ring on the side of your inner pot soon. You don’t need to dispose of it immediately and waste it, but it also doesn’t do any good to the pot’s condition.
10. Washing the inner-pot: Soak first and soft sponges
Finally, when you wash the inner-pot, use the softest sponge you have. If you have some dried rice at the bottom, don’t try to scrub it out, but let it soak in warm/hot water so the soft sponge can do the rest for you easily. If you need to use force to wash the pot, you are doing something wrong and try to treat it nicer.
You’ve probably realized that many of the tips refer to ways to protect the inner-pot from getting damaged. From my experiences, most of my customers decided to purchase a new rice cooker to replace the old one because the inner-pot has been damaged. A rice cooker is indeed a very durable kitchen appliance as the functions are rather simple, but it does help to give some thoughts and treat it vulnerable parts well. With care, your handy rice cooker will be able to serve you hot steaming rice every single day for many years.