why I love my rice cooker

On the inside door of all my closets hang shoe racks. One closet door stores shoes, but the other uses the pockets to store batteries, flashlights, camping supplies, scissors, and cat toys. An underbed storage box holds wrapping paper and ribbon. Under the sofa hides a very large, folded up canvas containing a painting my boyfriend did several years ago, one so large we don’t have a wall on which to hang it. A side table houses games, electronics, office supplies, and is topped with cookbooks (arranged in what I hope is an attractive, bookish tableau).

In a small apartment, where live a woman who likes to cook and is learning to sew and a man who is building a boat (it’s hanging on the wall) and owns every tool that might possibly be needed in motorcycle repair, space is at a premium. Sitting next to the front door is a box destined for Goodwill, containing spatulas we no longer use, shoes we no longer wear, and small appliances we no longer have room for. We don’t own a toaster; we make toast in the oven directly on the racks (and catch the crumbs with aluminum foil that lines the bottom of the oven). We don’t own a microwave, though almost everyone we know has tried to give us their old ones. We work hard to only keep on hand those appliances that actually get some use.

Enter the rice cooker.

This happy red plug-in bowl makes perfect rice and makes my life easier. It takes up about a square foot of space, but we don’t keep it on the counter. It’s stored in a cabinet high enough that it isn’t in the way, but low enough that I can reach it. This rice cooker, a gift from my mom this past Christmas, makes the perfect sushi, basmati, and plain old white rice.

Making rice on the stove (or in a microwave) is possible, but I’ve scorched so many pans of sushi rice that I finally stopped making it, even though I have haiga, a delicious, almost-not-white-and-thus-moderately-healthier grain. Haiga has a nutty flavor and a sticky texture that makes it easy to eat with chopsticks and the perfect accompaniment to dumplings, tonkatsu, and stir-fry. But it, like any other rice, is not scorch-proof.

This rice cooker is worth the real estate it costs to have in my small home. With it, I come home, rinse the rice, soak it in the pot, turn the pot on about half an hour before I want to eat dinner, and it’s ready when I am. It has a warmer function, so once the rice is done cooking, it stays steamy without getting mushy. It also won’t burn, and it produces the stickiness I want in haiga and the drier texture I want for basmati, all with the same amount of work. If you live in a small home and eat a lot of rice, a rice cooker might make dinner a lot easier.

Sushi Rice
Serves 2

You will need:
1 rice cooker
1 cup sushi rice, rinsed
Rice wine vinegar, to taste (optional)

To rinse the rice, place it in the bowl of the rice cooker and run cold water over it. Drain the rice (I just tip the side of the bowl carefully) and repeat until the water runs clearer. When the rice is rinsed, pour another 1 cup + 1 tbsp of water into the bowl. (Optional step: soak the rice like this for about half an hour, until the grains are plump.)

Cover the bowl with the lid, turn the rice cooker on, and make the rest of your meal. When you’re ready to serve, drizzle a small amount of rice wine vinegar over the rice and stir it in. Serve immediately.

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