It all started with a video dropped into our cooking Slack.
In case you don’t feel like watching, it’s Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng’s alter ego Uncle Roger losing his shit at a BBC Food show, in which the host completely fucked up cooking Egg Fried Rice. There are several things wrong with the host’s rice cooking method — not washing it, draining it with a colander, and then rinsing cooked rice a second time before putting it in a frying pan. But one avoidable gaffe was the host cooked the rice on a stovetop in a saucepan.
I get that not everyone comes from a rice-eating culture. That was made abundantly clear to me when many of recipe Slack’s denizens noted that they did not own a rice cooker. I was once again reminded that many people have been self-harming for years with gummy, mushy, hot wet rice. This is unnecessary madness.
A rice cooker is perhaps one of the first appliances I ever learned how to operate. It was easy. My parents had a basic, yellow Zojirushi with a single button. You washed the rice in the inner bowl, like a civilized person, measured the water up to the first joint of your finger, and then… pressed the button. Sometime later, the cooker dinged. You opened the lid and voilá, perfect rice every single time. Over the years, our rice cookers got increasingly fancier. The number of buttons increased. Steamer attachments were added. Scheduling functions made it possible for you to prep the rice in the morning before work or school, and have it ready by the time you got home for dinner. Whatever the advancements, one thing always remained true.
The rice was perfect. If it wasn’t, it’s because you, the human, fucked up somewhere.
I have heard some people claim that they have mastered the stovetop rice cooking method to the point it’s just as good as a rice cooker. One, they need to take several seats because that is a bald-faced lie. Two, even if you do make adequate rice on the stovetop, that requires a vigilant eye. With a rice cooker, you can literally do anything else with your time.
“B-b-b-but it only does one thing and I don’t eat rice nearly enough or in such quantities that I need a rice cooker!”
Shhhhhhhhhhhhh. First off, do you think single people in Asia don’t exist? Do you think they’re just sitting alone in their apartments, cooking 5-cup batches of rice all day, lamenting their lack of counter space? That’s ridiculous. There are one-person rice cookers out there! In college, I had a teeny Zojirushi that made two cups of rice max in 30 minutes. It cost 80,000 yen (roughly $112), was glorious, and probably the only reason I didn’t starve. Sure, years later, my mum laughed in my face when I gifted her a 6-cup rice cooker when her faithful 25-year-old one died. (“Ten cups or bust” is her motto.) But my point here is rice cookers come from all sorts of brands in all sorts of sizes and capacities.
Second, if you think the only thing a rice cooker can do is cook rice you have been lied to your whole life. You can plop an egg in a rice cooker while you cook your rice (or other grains) and wow, you have easy soft- or hard-boiled eggs. If your rice cooker comes with a steamer rack, you can steam veggies while your rice cooks. You can use it to cook a one-pot soup, frittatas, applesauce, and apparently, even yogurt. Guess what. You can even cook barbecue ribs in a rice cooker. Hell, if you don’t have an oven, you can use it to bake cakes — a thing I did while living in Tokyo as most apartments don’t have ovens. My point is, it is not a single-task appliance and it’s not a gadget that’s limited to Asian cuisines either.
Look, I know some people just won’t buy a rice cooker or will opt for a hulking Instant Pot that also winds up with a thin layer of rice stuck to the bottom. You do what’s best for you sweetie. But I have never been without at least one rice cooker in my home for 32 years and you know what? I’ve never had to eat shitty, goopy rice either.
Oh, and wash your rice you godless heathens.