I Need To Get Out More

Internet, you have been hiding something from me. Seriously, you've been holding out!  I mean, you must have been, because why else would I have made it 29 years---much of them spent living IN ASIA---without ever having owned or used a rice cooker?

That's right, a rice cooker. Have you ever used a rice cooker? Because I used one for the first time last night, and I have to say, I don't think I'm ever going to be the same again.

Sean and I have a long history of sucking at making rice. I don't know why, we just can't do it: it always turns out soggy or gloopy or sticking to the bottom of the pan. We either get burnt rice or gelatinous rice, never anything in between. In fact, our ineptitude at making rice has started to seriously cripple our curry-making habit. We both like making and eating curries, you see---even if it's just the kind where you open a jar of sauce from Trader Joe's and pour it over some chicken in the pan, and let's be honest, it's usually only that kind---and yet I found myself thinking the other day that we hadn't done it in ages. And do you know why? Because our rice-making handicap was holding us back!

So then my friend May gave us her old rice cooker after she got a new one. It sat on our kitchen floor for a few days while we ignored it and based our evening's menus on dishes that wouldn't damage our fragile self-esteem---because honestly, WHAT KIND OF PERSON CAN'T EVEN MAKE RICE? WHAT DO YOU THINK SUCH AN EMBARRASSING SHORTCOMING DOES TO A PERSON'S EGO?---and then last night we found ourselves at an impasse. Tired, hungry, and desperate for some dinner, we found we had exactly three ingredients left in our kitchen: a package of chicken breasts, a bag of rice, and a jar of Trader Joe's spinach punjabi curry sauce.

We looked at the rice cooker. The rice cooker looked at us. Somewhere in the background, this began to play. "It's time," I said. "We are using this rice cooker. The rice will no longer mock us. I refuse to be the rice's bitch."

And guess what, Internet, it turns out that a rice cooker is insanely easy to use. For real! You just put the rice in, put the water in, walk away, and twenty minutes later, voila, perfectly-cooked rice! Honestly, it was like a miracle. I felt like I'd just discovered tinted lip balm or Judy Blume, you know, something really, really life-changing. "This exists?" I whispered to Sean. "All this time, we've been ruining our rice in a pan and.....this exists?"

It wasn't all smooth sailing, of course. For a start, we couldn't figure out how much rice to put in it and how much water; it seemed to be a tricky ratio. After some general futzing and incompetence, we admitted defeat and called May to ask, and she passed the phone over to her husband, who talked us through it patiently, like we weren't the first panicked morons ever to not understand how you make rice. 

"The rule of thumb---" he said.

"Quite literally!" intejected May in the background.

"----is to put your finger into the bowl with the rice in it, and fill it up with water to your knuckle," he continued.

"Thank you," I said. "God, you're like the Rice Cooker Emergency Hotline. You should have a 1-800 number. I should be paying you $2.99 a minute for you to give me this advice."

So we hung up and I put my finger in the bowl with the rice and Sean started pouring the water in it. "Keep going," I said. "Keep going, keep going, keep going."

"Um, it's past your knuckle!" he said.

"No, it's not," I replied. "Keep going."

"Dude, it's totally past your knuckle," he said. "It's almost at your second knuckle."

"Second knuckle?" I asked, wide-eyed and white-faced. "We have second knuckles? Oh my god, he didn't say which knuckle! I just assumed he meant my......you know, my main knuckles. Like the ones Joaquin Phoenix wrote his message on."

(Oh, do you need a visual of that? You obviously don't subscribe to Us Weekly like I do. Here you go.)

Sean, however, insisted that May's husband had probably meant the first knuckle, and so then we had to BAIL OUT the rice/water mix, scooping the liquid out with a spoon until it only reached my first knuckle. It was quite the exciting evening in the old NBB household, I tell you. Except the reward was perfectly light, perfectly fluffy, perfectly fragrant rice, and I am now a total rice cooker convert. And holy mother of pearl, I'm sorry, but I seem to have just written an entire blog post about cooking rice. What's next, a dissertation on my dust bunnies?

Camels & Chocolate
Feb 26, 2009

Hmm. We own a rice cooker, but SVV's always the one to use it. I assumed if need be, I could pull it off with panache. But after reading this, maybe I do need a thorough tutorial.

Anne & May
Feb 26, 2009

Perfectly cooked rice in every pot! Let them eat rice cakes!

I fought getting a rice cooker TOOTH AND NAIL because I hate appliances that only do one thing. But my husband is the son of RICE GROWERS of all things so he insisted. And here's the thing, there's no going back.

Plus, it also steams things! Buy some frozen potstickers, or veggies, or edamame and steam away.

So glad the rule of knuckle worked out.

Feb 27, 2009

I grew up using a rice cooker. I didn't know that there were other ways of cooking rice until I was 16 and a friend told me she cooked rice on the stove. My mind was blown. I had to stop and have her explain it to me, like I was dropped on my head as a child.

I probably shouldn't have admitted that on the internet, but there it is.

Rae Rahman
Feb 27, 2009

I'm with Amanda; I grew up using a rice cooker (I'm Malaysian and every Malaysian household had a rice cooker or two) and had no idea you could cook rice on the stove until I moved to Australia at age 19. The very idea of microwaveable rice is blasphemous to me!

Having said that, I've actually never heard of the knuckle rule. I usually just add a cup of water for every cup of rice, making sure that there's about half an inch of water above the surface of the rice. I really want to try the knuckle rule though.

Feb 27, 2009

Yes, I too have always had a rice maker. They are amazing!!!!
I have a friend from Korea and she constantly keeps her rice maker going. Always warm rice.
Did you rinse your rice? She taught me to rinse your rice out before you make it, that way it won't stick to rice maker or turn brown.

Feb 27, 2009

My best friend from high school is Hawaiian and it was "the" appliance in their home, always percolating. So when I got married I was not surprised to receive one for a wedding gift. That was 17 years ago and that cooker still makes the best pot of rice ever.

Feb 27, 2009

Us? We just use equal parts dry wice and water. 2 cups of dry rice + 2 cups of water = perfect rice for 2! Gotta have a rice cooker that seals well, too!

Feb 27, 2009

The only way I could ever cook rice is to put in way to much water and cook it like you would cook pasta, draining it at the end.

Feb 27, 2009

I always use the instant rice... comes in a bag, all you do is drop the bag in boiling water. 10 minutes later - perfect rice! Every time!

Feb 27, 2009

That is so funny, because as soon as I started reading his instructions, my first thought was, "But WHICH knuckle??" My (Asian) friend told me that you should put in the rice and then put your hand flat on top of it, and add water til your hand is just covered. I'm not sure whether that would correspond to the first or second knuckle! :)

Feb 27, 2009

My boyfriend and I fell in LOVE with his roommate's rice cooker a few months ago; when we moved into our own apartment recently, it was our first joint purchase...awwww. But seriously, it will change your life. Also, they have ones that steam veggies AND cook meat---did it come with a little tray?

As far as the water goes, we're pretty anal retentive around these parts and measure it cup by cup per the instruction book...maybe the internet has one you can download? The whole knuckle thing seems strange as I have really tiny hands and my boyfriend is a giant---also, ewwwww...fingers in my rice?!

Feb 27, 2009

Once you get the hang of that, your next step would be to buy one of these. http://www.amazon.com/Tiger-RFE-1100-Rice-Dispenser-Pink/dp/B00065YBJA

Because, really, who doesn't need a container to store 25 lbs of rice? You know, in the case of a natural disaster?

Feb 27, 2009

I've heard that rice cookers are awesome, but I have a confession to make - boil-in-a-bag rice. Ten minutes in boiling water and I have yet to screw it up (except for the time the bag melted to the pot). I'm intrigued by a rice cooker now though!

Feb 27, 2009

I'm not usually a fan of single-purpose kitchen appliances, but you would have to steal my rice cooker from my cold, dead hands. I too grew up with rice on the stove, and I always dreaded the boiling over and burnt mess I usually made.

I would recommend getting "The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger & Julie Kaufmann. They've got great recipes for cooking things like risotto and oatmeal in your rice cooker--genius!

Feb 27, 2009

I love this post! You can talk about just rice, we don't mind. :)

We have similar rice issues (my husband is no longer allowed to make it) so I'm thinking this needs to be our next purchase.

Feb 27, 2009

OK, first off, this post is hilarious and made me laugh. You are fabulous at dialogue and should do it more often.

Second, which knuckle?! I hesitate to even ask this because it makes me seem like a moron, but I am still confused! And besides, we're talking in serious/panicked tones about rice cooking, so whatever. We're all morons.

But...we have three knuckles. Right? Three? I don't know about you, but I can bend my fingers in three places and I don't know which is the first or the second, nevermind the third. And your reference to Joaquin's knuckle writing, while hilarious, does not help because the letters are written between knuckles!

I think we need a diagram. There has to be some former anatomy major or textbook artist out there who is just dying to diagram this for us. Come on!

Feb 27, 2009

I have a rice cooker that I don't use because I lost the measuring cup thingo. So how much rice do you put in when measuring water to the knuckle?

Feb 27, 2009

I got one for Christmas and I double, not triple love it.

Do you like rice from Chipotle? If so I have mastered their rice with rice cooker rice (perfect consistency). Do the rice like you normally do, then dump the rice in a bowl and put a couple of small pats of butter, a handful of chopped cilantro, lime juice -- fresh is great, but I usually just use a capful or so of bottled (to taste) and salt. Mix it all up. Chipotle at home!

Feb 27, 2009

Love this post all about rice. I had tears in my eyes from laughing! I'm definately making some rice tonight!

soul fusion
Feb 27, 2009

Long time fan of the rice cooker and I second the comments about rinsing the rice first. If you plan far enough ahead (I never do), it is good to soak the rice and then rinse. I think it gets rid of some of the starch or something. But now I'm not even sure why I do that other than a friend from Thailand passed along the advice for sticky rice . . .
Also, the rice cooker is great for steaming all sort of things including chicken! Put the steam plate thing on the bottom, drop in a couple of chicken breasts, squeeze some lemons over it, pepper and whatever herbs are lying around and you have deliciously moist lemon pepper chicken.

Feb 27, 2009

Yeah, rinsing the rice first is key. And my husband puts a teeeeeeny tiny bit of oil in the rice cooker, too. He brought the rice cooker to our relationship. I thought Minute Rice was okay until I moved in with him. Now we would be lost without it. Long live the rice cooker!!

Feb 27, 2009

my asian nanny totally hates me because i don't have a rice cooker. ha.

Feb 27, 2009

Dude, I love rice cookers! I registered for one when we got married. They are EXCELLENT for making brown rice perfectly, which can be very difficult otherwise. I also love that THEY KEEP THE RICE WARM after it is done cooking! Most rice cookers come with a little one cup measure to scoop out rice, and and then a guide on the inside of the rice cooker bowl to tell you where to fill up the water to. I'm surprised yours doesn't! In Vancouver, not having a rice cooker is practically a sin. I'm glad you've made such a life changing discovery.

Feb 27, 2009

i'm a bad rice cooker too. it's a hard thing to admit.
only you could write a compelling post about rice...
i'm confused about the knuckles. don't we have three of them? (on each finger except the thumb of course.) one that's right behind the fingernail, one that you use to knock on a door and the... um... biggest one that you would use for impact when punching someone. and didn't phoenix write his 'bye good' message *between* knuckles?
sorry, i have obviously never used a rice cooker before...

Rice Mama
Feb 27, 2009

Growing up in a Vietnamese family, the rice cooker is a mandatory kitchen appliance. It cooks perfect rice all the time and it keeps it warm -- 'Set it and forget it!' When my husband and I first started dating (he's Caucasian, my mother bought him a rice cooker.

If you have the Asian type of rice cooker (dump in rice and water, close top and push the button), there really shouldn't have been any need to measure water with knuckles. I just dump in however many cups of rice I want to make (my cooker's minimum is 3 cups and goes to 8 cups) and then fill the water to the appropriate marking in the pot (i.e. 3 cups of rice = water to line "3"). Easy peasy.

Feb 27, 2009

Except you don't have dust bunnies...thank you Swiffer. ;o)


Feb 27, 2009

You can use chicken broth or veggie broth or apple juice or pretty much any liquid to cook your rice!

Enjoy the ease of the rice cooker. I wouldn't know how to make rice without mine!

Feb 27, 2009

My love for the rice cooker is so great that it was the first appliance I ever owned (I got it before I even graduated college)(I didn't have any utensils or non-plastic cups, but I had a rice cooker) because otherwise I couldn't make non-burned rice if my life depended on it.

My rice cooker even has a little steamer basket on top, which makes it even MORE awesome. Throw in the rice, throw veggies on top in steamer, cook and then dump all together with trader joe's curry. yum!

Feb 27, 2009

You are so funny. I've heard of that rule of "thumb" before (shouldn't it be "rule of knuckle" in this case?). The other rule of thumb that I pretty much always go by is this: 1:2. One cup of rice to two cups of water. Two cups of rice to four cups of water. You get the idea.

As for rice cookers. Well. I've never had a problem with cooking rice in a pot on the stove so I always thought they were kind of dumb. And then my parents got one. And now my brother has one. I can see the allure to them. But I'll just stick with my pot & lid on the stove.

Feb 27, 2009

I love you all. I just do. And I would very much enjoy reading this Dust Bunny Dissertation.

Feb 27, 2009

OMG, I would die without my rice cooker! And YES, rinsing is a must because a lot of grains contains saponins, which are like nature's pesticide. Your quinoa or rice might be a little bitter if you don't rinse.

Also, you should try cooking quinoa in your rice cooker (1/2 cup quinoa, 1 cup water) and substituting it for oatmeal! It's so delicious and full of protein!

Feb 27, 2009

Only you could make a post about cooking rice so entertaining!
I grew up in Hawaii where rice cookers were a staple in every house. I've never cooked rice any other way, and like another response, I'm always shocked when people cook rice on the stove. LOVE my rice cooker! :) Welcome to the Rice Cooker Nation, Holly - we're happy to have you!

Feb 27, 2009

A friend of mine has the rice cooker from Pampered Chef which goes into the microwave. It was so easy that I thought "I must have a rice cooker." But instead of buying the PC one, I picked up one at Target. It works fine but I can't make instant rice in it and I love instant rice. Plus this whole set it and forget it is not actually true because I let it sit for about a half hour and it was kind of crunchy.

So I'm going to get the PC one and donate the one I have to Bridging.

Vampy Varnish
Feb 27, 2009

I make perfect rice without my rice cooker, never had any issues. My mom taught me the knuckle rule a long time ago. I also love the Trader Joe's Jasmine Rice in the freezer section that you just microwave for 2-3 mins and it's perfect! I got a rice cooker about 5 years ago and have never used it because I never felt the need. I hate too many kitchen gadgets on my counter and when I store them, I tend to forget about them! :)

Operation Pink Herring
Feb 27, 2009

Bailing water out of a pot or pan is pretty much a nightly occurence at my house. I had to bail milk out of boxed mac-n-cheese a few months ago. I thought it said 1 1/4 cups.... not ONE QUARTER OF ONE CUP. Oops?

Feb 27, 2009

You would think I might be able to make rice, I mean, I write a food blog! But I too fail at the rice making. Which is why I too was amazed when my Korean brother-in-law showed me the Magical Rice Cooker. It even keeps your rice at perfect temperatures throughout the day. It truly is a Modern Marvel. Have fun!

Feb 27, 2009

Rice cooker is the best present I ever bought "for my husband"... heh!

Forget all that knuckle bullshit. You put in one cup of rice, use one and a half cups of water. Two cups of rice? Three cups of water. And so on.

Perfect rice EVERY TIME.

Feb 27, 2009

I, like most of the other commentors, am strongly opposed to appliances that only do one thing. EXCEPT for a rice cooker. OMG, it changed my life. There's just no other way to cook rice. Period.

The only other kitchen tool that changed my life was a microplane. Oh. My. God. Seriously. After years and years of avoiding recipes that called for zest of a lemon/lime/orange/whatever because I hated, hated, hated zesting the things only to end up with a pulpy mess, and not some nice, crisp citrus peel... well, a microplane changed everything. I microplane with wild abandon now. Everything? ZESTED! Try one, and I will sit back and share the joy with you.

Feb 27, 2009

we got one from christmas last year- changed my life. no seriously, now there is no excuse not to eat rice, so we eat it all the time. I often even make a big pot on sunday and keep it in the fridge so that it is available for lunches and such. best thing ever.

Feb 27, 2009

omg! i LOVE the rice cooker. and you know what's great too? if you can get one that steams as well. i buy those frozen dumplings from trader joes and then steam them in the rice cooker. voila! easy!

Feb 28, 2009

You had me laughing for sure, but when I read the comments I was amazed... is it really that hard to make rice? I always do it on the stove - one cup rice to two cups water, put on high until boils, turn down to low and simmer until it looks done and dry. I can't remember the last time we've had 'bad' rice. Still... enjoy the cooker and the accompanying domestic bliss. :-)

P.S. Your 'have a pulse' checker is about the most complicated thing I've ever done. This is the fourth attempt. Honestly, it's impossible to tell whether some letters are uppercase or not.

Feb 28, 2009

My little rice cooker has markers on the side of the bowl showing how much water for every mark of rice (I think the ratio is 1:2)

And I love making fried rice with the leftover rice the next day. Yum!

Feb 28, 2009

I love rice cookers. Mine has a timer function, so I can put rice and water in it in the morning and then come home to freshly cooked rice!

I just do twice as much water as rice, and that always works. I use brown rice though so that might be different. I've also cooked barley in the rice cooker, which is a nice change.

Mar 01, 2009

Hah! Brings back vivid memory of my own pre-rice cooker ownership Great Rice Cooking Experiment -- which took ALL of an entire weekend a decade or so ago. I mean, it's not *just* the water ratio/cooking method, you know. There's long, short, medium, jasmine and goodness knows how many other kinds of actual rice to deal with. Plus, do you want it on the dry side for curry sauces, or sticky for sushi? I could never get it right. So one weekend I decided to get all scientific. Laid out about six different kinds of rice, and cooked portions of each, rinsed/non-rinsed with various ratios of water (everything from boiled like pasta then drained, down to just barely steamed at very low temp -- I think there was even a "covered in the oven" method going on at one point too) kept careful notes, and ran taste/texture/"toothsome-ness" tests on the results. I have no recollection as to the final verdict because eventually someone took pity on my and gave me a rice cooker. There's definitely been no looking back! I'm gonna look for that cookbook recommended by commenter Betsy -- sounds like there's no excuse for calling this appliance a one-trick wonder. Thanks for the topic, Holly!

Hey, maybe you can run a series of posts like this on subjects suggested by your readers who need help/suggestions about...? I certainly second the request for a discussion on dustbunnies. And, while we're at it...any one got a cure for out-of-control piles of paperwork??

Mar 02, 2009

Dude, I own TWO rice cookers. I actually didn't know you could cook rice on the stovetop until a year ago...

In my defense about owning two such appliances, one of them has a built-in timer so that I can come home to freshly cooked rice. :) It kind of kicks ass.

Mar 04, 2009

Okay, every time I go to get a pedicure, I see that the girls who work there have rice cookers stashed in the back. And I WANT to ask them about them each time, but I don't, because I'm convinced they're talking about me and/or my feet in Korean, and so I get all pissy and don't ask. Ha! I showed THEM, right? Oh, wait. But! I am glad to hear that you have one, and lo! It is awesome.