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A nice gentle stir-fryer, but not the most economical way to cook rice.
on 24 October 2012
This `rice cooker' has a non-stick-lined inner aluminium pot sitting on a hotplate. In the centre of the hot plate is a sprung-loaded thermostat pad. The whole is enclosed in a similarly shaped painted aluminium bowl standing on four small rubber feet. The mains supply is connected via a standard 10Amp plug-in IEC lead.
There is an instruction book with a few recipe examples based on American `cup' measurements. Alas, it is very poorly written and the recipes need to be interpreted into plain English with knowledge of how to cook with the pot and a proper understanding of how it works - which is not well explained in the book.
So then: How Does It Work?
The cooker has three heat functions:
1. rice cooking, when the paddle switch has been depressed (yellow light)
2. keep the rice warm, all the time when neither sautéing nor `rice cooking' (green light)
3. sauté, when the push button is depressed (red light).
Since one of these modes is always active, it is necessary to switch off the mains at the wall or unplug the lead when the cooker is not in use.
The automatic end of `rice cooking' depends on the temperature of the bottom of the inner pot suddenly rising, typically as the last of the water is taken up by the rice, or if it boils dry - a useful safety feature. There is no timer for the `rice cooking' function; it just keeps on boiling at the full power until dry and is no longer being cooled by the boiling water.
The sauté function merely bypasses the thermostat, and applies the full power all the time until the sauté button is pressed again to release it. Beware, check the red indicator light beside the button; this is a simple push-on-push-off switch, and it remains in the last used position even when there is no mains, and the next time the cooker is used it might be already in the full-power unprotected sauté mode.
I measured the power levels on my sample, and they are:
Plugged in, 30 Watts,
Keep warm, 30 Watts,
Rice cooking, 595 Watts,
Sauté, 595 Watts.
I measured the power usage when cooking the same amount of rice (160gms of WR Basmati for two people - a `cup' and a quarter plus two `cups' of water) in the cooker and also in a saucepan on my induction hob, reducing the heat to a gentle simmer as required. The hob was quicker to the boil than the rice cooker, twenty seconds at 1780W vs five minutes at 595W; and then the hob was also more economical on the cooking, average 128W vs steady 595W for twelve minutes each; thus the costs at 13p a unit work out at about 0.5p vs 2p.
When cooking the rice, the full power boils the water faster than the vent in the glass lid can allow the steam to escape, so the rattling lid is telling us that the rice is being cooked, and when it stops there is no more steam, so the rice must be done. However, a lot of water also escapes around the edges and splatters across the worktop, so I park the lid at a slight angle to allow the steam to escape in a more civilised manner.
The inner pot gets boiling hot, as one might expect, and the exposed lip can scald fingers, so do not be tempted to try lifting it out. The metal rim of the lid is a loose fit to the glass, and more boiling hot water than one might expect is trapped in the grooved gap between them. The outer casing also gets hot, but not enough to damage skin, and the pair of handles enable it to be comfortably carried to the table to serve the rice.
I was disappointed by the rice cooking; it was no different in result to our usual way of cooking rice. And the instructions are very explicit in that it should not be used commercially; it is domestic only. I guess it only really comes in handy when you have lots of people round for dinner and the hob is full of everything else being cooked.
But as a very basic simple stir fry using the sauté function it works quite nicely, and the large volume encourages one-pot cooking for a quick dish. For example when I had the cold end of a very tasty roast leg of pork left over. I diced two onions, thin sliced four medium mushrooms, some garlic, softened all these in some olive oil in the pot. I cut the pork into bite-size bits and added them to the pot after the onions were beginning to brown. Then I stirred in some hot vegetable stock, and allowed it to mingle for a few minutes, meanwhile a half each of left-over sweet red and green peppers had been diced and softened in the microwave. These were added, and finally I stirred in enough rice for the two of us. Of course it needed stirring again a bit, and checking the water, but the rice thickened it nicely, and some seasoning and five spice at the end before serving produced a nice evening meal from left-overs in about half an hour. Using the hob would have taken a similar time, and only a little less power, but a saucepan doesn't look as good on the table.
I would have liked it to control the power better, but I don't really see how it could do this automatically. The recipe book is poor. This was a Vine offering, but I don't think I would ever bother to buy one. The stir-fry ability rescues it a star.
Perhaps having two cooking heat levels could have been a useful option, because half the power would have been perfectly adequate for cooking the rice once up to boiling temperature.