Rice CookerTake a long, hard look at this photo.  What do you see?  3 photos of meals cooked in a crockpot, right?  Looks like some chicken with asparagus, some sort of rice dish and a beef stew?  Well, you would be half right – those 3 dishes are exactly as they appear, but this isn’t a crockpot.  Nope, it’s a rice cooker!  I know, right!?  Who knew!? With the realization that these photos were of rice cookers came a revelation: rice cookers aren’t just for cooking rice, they are a kitchen workhorse that, if used properly, could help home cooks everywhere reduce their time slaving in the kitchen.

The story goes like this:  I had $25 in Amazon gift cards loaded in my account and I was trying to think of something useful to buy. We have an older model Elite Gourmet rice cooker that was on its last leg, and frankly it didn’t work very well – we assumed this was because we hadn’t followed the instruction manual and weren’t cleaning it properly, which in turn caused the rice to ALWAYS stick to the bottom of the cooker. But things aren’t always what they seem.  Keep reading 🙂

Once I decided a rice cooker might be a good investment, I popped over to Amazon, searching for a trustworthy cooker that would do the trick.  I was immediately overwhelmed with all the options, from the cup sizes that seemed to be more varied than women’s bra sizes, to some brands I had never heard of.  Where to begin!? But I finally decided on the Presto 05813 16-Cup Digital Stainless Steel Rice Cooker/Steamer, and I can’t wait til it arrives!

Since the Amazon search wasn’t going well, I went to the “world wide interweb” to find some rice cooker reviews and helpful tips that might help me narrow down my options. I stumbled across this blog post that was crammed full of reviews, tips and general insights into all the features that rice cookers can offer. I also came across this nifty article that explains how you can actually cook entire meals in rice cookers – just like a crock pot, but with steam! These sites have a TON of useful information that are too many to list in my blog post, but I strongly recommend looking them over.

But I did want to take a minute to outline 10 reasons that steaming food is good for you, courtesy of HubPages.

1. Retains food’s valuable nutrients, vitamins and minerals
2. Maintains food’s moisture and freshness
3. Keeps food’s vibrant colors and natural flavors
4. Softens food’s fibers, making food tender and easily digestible
5. Discards the need for cooking oil or fat, resulting in light and healthy meals
6. Cooks almost all kinds of food from vegetables to meats to seafood to fruits and pasta
7. Cooks food fast and easy – cooks a complete meal in just under 30 minutes
8. Cooks over a single heat source a load of different layers of food stacked one on top of the other – saves time, energy and money
9. Keeps your kitchen clean – no oil, no smoke, no mess – cleaning up is easy.
10. Keeps everyone happy and healthy with loads of recipes for delicious and nutritious steamed dishes

Once the rice cooker arrives, I will try a 30-day challenge to see what kind of stuff I can make – as well as what works, and what doesn’t.  There will be a lot of recipes I will try, so again I have created a Pinterest board to track all the recipes.  No need to sign up to view it, but you all know I highly recommend it!

P.S. – the chinese writing in the title of this post is a rough translation of “rice cookers aren’t just for rice.”  It actually says “rice cooker not only in order to rice.”