A few extra (and scattered) thoughts on the merits of owning a rice cooker occurred to me since my initial post on the subject:
1) Different Grains
Rice cookers enable you to cook any kind or rice and still be certain that the rice will come out well. Thus you can try more dainty types of rice that might not hold up quite as well in a pan. Imagine, instead of making plain old run of the mill rice, what about beginning a regular habit of trying different rice varieties? You could try extra-fragrant rice varieties such as basmati or jasmine rice, or try the thick starchy goodness of arborio rice. Any of these rice types can be cooked in a rice cooker without difficulty.
2) Would You Like Your Rice Al Dente?
You can also make any type of rice "softer" or "harder" in texture by modifying slightly the amount of water you add to the pan. Do you prefer your rice a bit al dente? Just fill the rice cooker with water to a bit below the appropriate numbered line. Do you prefer your rice a bit mushier and softer? Fill it a bit above the line.
After you've made your fair share of batches of rice with your new rice cooker, you'll be well on your way to becoming a rice epicure.
3) Rice and Diet
A quick follow up thought on using rice to stretch out meals. Last time, we talked about how many of our favorite recipes, like Groundnut Stew and Crockpot Chili, could be served on top of rice. This extra serving of rice was a great way to stretch out meals as much as 30% or more, making meals all the more laughably cheap and letting us cook a little less often. The problem is, if you're the type of person who eats 30% more food at every meal as a result of using a rice cooker, all of my savings assumptions obviously collapse in a heap of pure white carbs. White rice is not necessarily a healthy food when eaten to excess.
4) An Irrelevant Comment on Outsourcing
Back when I got my rice cooker, the consensus opinion was that you had to get a Japanese-made rice cooker. Amusingly, even my Chinese classmates had Japanese rice cookers and viewed them as superior and much more reliable.
Now, of course, all of the Japanese rice cooker makers outsource their manufacturing to China. So I suppose these distinctions are meaningless now.
But I think I can still safely say my rice cooker, which was a college graduation gift dating back more than 17 years ago, turned out to be the most reliable item in the entire history of our kitchen. It's paid for itself dozens of times over.
Now that's a worthwhile kitchen tool.
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