Making More than Arroz in a Rice Cooker

Cuban-style Chicken Cooked in a Ricer Cooker

photo by Bonnie,

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The sound of steam quickly rising from the rice cooker on the kitchen counter, followed by the “ding” of done, is a vivid, burned-in-my-brain memory of my parents’ house.

When I got married, my father gave us a rice cooker of our own, un Hitachi, as some Cubans call it, using the name of a popular brand for arrocera.

It didn’t last long in our home. My husband and I preferred to cook el arroz in a pot.

It was a bit shocking to my father that we ditched the ricer, for the ricer is easy and wonderful, he said. He always insists there is something wrong with el Mahatma I buy here in Nashville because he can’t seem to get the rice right in a cazuela.

I learned recently — because I asked the Latin tribes I hang with on Facebook — that there is a divide between the Ricer People and the Cazuela People.

The Cazuela people think you’re not a real Latina if you use a Ricer and the Ricer people think the Cazuela People are foolish for not using such a simple tool. (Watch funny this video and you’ll see.)

Or something like that.

The divide is as great as that between the People Who Wash Their Rice and the People Who Do Not Wash Their Rice. (Read this hilarious and enlightening conversation we had over at the Tiki Tiki Facebook).

I am suddenly now and again: a Ricer People…and a Rinser People!

Y porque?

I was given a copy of the newly released 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes: Also including Legumes and Whole Grains by chef Katie Chin (Robert Rose). So many of the recipes include delicious and healthy grains I love: Farro, quinoa, millet and wheat berries. Plus mucho friojoles!

The dishes range from breakfast tamales to quinoa paella and Brazilian rice with scallops. I have highlighted the Latin ones, but the book contains an international feast of creative and easy one-pot meals, plus steamed cuisines like seafood, dumplings and flan.

Who knew! I thought the only thing that ever came out of a ricer was arroz blanco, and the occasional arroz amarillo. (I confess to rarely eating white rice anymore)

In the last two days, I have made Chin’s Farro Risotto with Fava Beans and Zucchini and Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms and Thyme. Tasty, easy and all in less than a hour in the brand new $24 ricer I just bought. (Based on the book’s tips, I bought a medium-sized ricer with a brown rice setting and a steam basket.)

Bonnie of Sweet Life made the book’s Cuban-Style Chicken, pictured above. Read below for the recipe.

But first, more on rice.

To Wash or Not to Wash Rice

When we had this talk on our Facebook page, there was a lot of divide over it. It was hilarious, actually. Among my friends, the Washers thought the Non-Washers were Sucias and the Non-washers thought the Washers were a little ridiculous.

I asked chef Chin about it. Her answer:

“It’s important to wash white rice (with the exception of Carnaroli and Arborio) because it eliminates the excess starch. If you don’t wash it, it can come out really mushy. Washed rice comes out fluffy and light and you will really notice a difference.”

And so, my lazy days of non-washing are over.

Dos Dedos Trick y the Mount Fuji Technique

A few Latinas said their moms don’t measure the rice and water, they just make sure there is at least two fingers worth of water above the rice.

Chef Chin wrote that in many Asian households, they do the Mount Fuji: With the tip of your index finger, you touch the rice and add enough water so that it reaches your first knuckle. (This technique is for long-grain white rice, medium-grain and short-grain Asain rices.)

Slow Cooker vs Rice Cooker

As a devotee of the slow cooker, I wondered why I needed yet another appliance. The new lesson: A rice cooker is basically a fast slow cooker, one in which you can prepare a large variety of one-pot meals. Again, not just arroz blanco comes out of el arrocero.

“A rice cooker is much faster than a slow cooker and enables you to saute and then simmer, so you can even make risotto dishes in a rice cooker,” Chin said, adding:

“Rice cookers maintain a higher heat level during the cooking process and therefore require less time and because of the ability to saute in the pan before you simmer, you’re able to achieve a wonderful, browned texture to meats for a stew, for example. In addition, you can steam everything from whole fish to chocolate cake in a rice cooker.”

She clinched me at chocolate cake.

Y Tu?

Are you a cazuela cooker or an arrocero devotee?

Did you know you could make so many cool things in a ricer?

Cuban-Style Chicken made in a Rice Cooker

Excerpted from 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes by Katie Chin © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Makes 4 to 5 servings


• Large rice cooker; fuzzy logic or on/off


1. Marinade: In a bowl, whisk together cilantro, thyme, lime zest, jalapeño, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, allspice, lime juice and oil.

2. Place chicken in a large sealable plastic bag and add marinade. Seal and turn several times to coat chicken. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate, allowing excess marinade to drip back into bag. Reserve marinade.

3. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine saffron threads and hot water; set aside to steep.

4. Set the rice cooker for the Quick Cook or Regular cycle. When the bottom of the bowl gets hot, add 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil and swirl to coat. Cook chicken, in batches if necessary, for about 3 minutes per side or until browned on both sides, adding oil as needed between batches. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

5. Add chorizo to the rice cooker bowl and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic, onion and red pepper; sauté for about 3 minutes or until onion is softened and translucent.

6. Stir in reserved marinade, saffron-infused water, tomato, rice, bay leaf, paprika and broth. Close the lid and reset for the Regular cycle. When the mixture comes to a boil, arrange chicken on top of rice mixture. Sprinkle pimientos on top of chicken. Close the lid and continue cooking.

7. When the machine switches to the Keep Warm cycle, check to make sure juices run clear when chicken is pierced. If necessary, reset for the Regular cycle and check for doneness every 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.

Tip: To avoid tearing up when you’re chopping onions, try refrigerating the onions for 30 minutes first, and don’t cut the root off.

Share, por favor!

By Carrie on September 27, 2011 · Posted in food

31 Comments | Post Comment

Lisa Quinones-Fontanez says:

I am not a rice washer. My mother is (of course). But I use parboiled rice? Does that make a difference. I’m going to pot of rice today just to see if I can tell.

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Monica says:

I need to get myself a rice cooker. I am the failed rice maker in a long line of experts. You have convinced me that, yes, even I can make delicious rice meals…and other things. I just need the right tool. :)

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Eliana Tardio says:

Muy intersante, yo trabajo en una oficina supremamente multicultural, y si es cierto, estos temas se discuten at lunch time, jajaja la Dominicana le dice a la Cubana que su arroz no es bueno porque el arroz se hace en la olla y no en el rice coocker, la Cubana dice que la Dominicana pierde del tiempo si el resultado es el mismo, la Peruana lava el arroz, la Colombiana dice que queda pegajoso y se prende… yo como callada, jaja para mí lo más sencillo, lo mejor, al final una comida es sólo eso :) Me encanto tu post!

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Mercedes @BeChicMag says:

I definitely wash my rice and cook it in a pot too though I’ve never tried the rice cooker. I thought it was interesting that you prefer to cook it in a pot while your dad likes the cooker. It’s often the other way around. Thanks for sharing, Carrie!
Mercedes @BeChicMag´s last [fabulousness] ..Hanging With the Soap Stars!

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Yoly says:

I make Arroz con Salchicha in the rice cooker.

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Ericka says:

I’ve never used a rice cooker *gasp!* I think this is going on my wish list. Anything to make cooking life easier.

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Laurita says:

I had no idea the arrocero had so many uses! I was raised in a cazuela home, for sure. I have yet to develop my own cooking style, but now you’ve got me interested in arroceros!

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Nora says:

I never had any use for white rice until I met my Cuban husband. Before him it was always Mom’s arroz Mexicano or Uncle Ben’s on the go. My hubby was the one who taught me how to cook white rice in a rice cooker( and he was so hard core on using it LOL). He also taught me to rinse the rice ( we bumped heads on this for a while). But, hey, we all learn from each other. Now in days I have been using a dutch pot. I love it and works great!! Sorry Mom & hubby!

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Justice Jonesie says:

I cook in a cazuela. Never owned a rice cooker but now I may need one because this sounds so good!
I also never wash my rice but now I know which rice I’ll wash!

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Sujeiry, 1st Lady of Love says:

I had no idea washing rice removed some of the starch. I did it because it comes out fluffy! Glad it’s not all in my head lol.

Posted on September 27th, 2011

Presley's Pantry says:

I seriously need a rice cooker in my life…..

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

No mas parboiled…you will thank me!
Better to make a bunch and put it in the freezer. Nuke it with a tiny bit of water when you need it!

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

You must reclaim your heritage!
Get a ricer!

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

Eliana, this could be a scene in a movie!!!

Gracias por compartirlo!

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

It is funny because I mostly saw rice cookers growing up. The neighbor lady who was a great cook had a rice cazuela, but my Cubans had a ricer…

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

I bet it is muy bueno, too!

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

Easy and quick…I had no idea I would love it because I didn’t like the one I had before.

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

Get going! Aprender a cocinar!

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

I love the dutch pot a lot, too.
I bet the Cuban was hard core! Did his Mami use a ricer?

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

Wonder what your mami will say about getting a ricer?

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

Love that you figured it out on your own! Eres de madre!

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Carrie says:

Girl, I think you could rule the world with a rice cooker.

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Morena says:

Can u believe I haven’t even tried a rice cooker? Ever? I guess im just suspicious of techonology in general.

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Eva Smith says:

Thank you for clearing up the “Wash” vs “No Wash” questions. I’m so glad I’m a washer. I learned so much. We have rice cookers and slow cookers… maybe time to use that slow cooker a little less. Thanks for the wonderful tips.

Posted on September 28th, 2011

Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ says:

that conversation was indeed hilarious! i’m a washer of all rices except for aborio as well. and i never use a casuela or slow cooker. Rice cooker all day long! Well, wait, I do make my arroz con pollo in the pressure cooker or una olla muy grande.

Posted on September 30th, 2011

Chef Katie Chin says:

Thanks for the great post on the book. I would love to have you do a guest blog and bring some “Latin spice” to!

Posted on October 2nd, 2011

Carrie says:

Chef Chin, I haven’t stopped using my rice cooker since I got your book. There is wild rice in there right now.

Will gladly come on over to your site. Will reach out to your folks. Thank you for the invitation…

Posted on October 2nd, 2011

Carrie says:

One day, you will have to teach me to use a pressure cooker, but I think my husband will continue to ban one in our house…Too many crazy Cubans in my family have exploded them!

Posted on October 2nd, 2011

Carrie says:

Eva, I really think the rice cooker is going to be a great compliment to my slow cooker, which I do still love.

Posted on October 2nd, 2011

Tia Mirtha says:

I have done arroz amarillo con salchicha in my Hitachi… It came out real good. I can bring myself to call it “arrosera”.

Posted on October 3rd, 2011

KarmaFree Cooking says:

OLLA ARROCERA all the way!!!!!! can’t make rice in a pot for the life of me. I also make arroz integral, arroz guisado, arroz con salchichas vegetarianas, arroz con maiz, arroz con cebolla… you name it!!!!

Posted on October 3rd, 2011