Hungry for Rice, But No Rice Cooker – Here is What You Can Do

Growing up in an Asian family, one can say that when it comes to food, rice is like the main staple. Rice is typically eaten with many types of side dishes from various stir-fried meats, eggs, vegetables, soups, sushi, you name it! The possibilities of side dishes are just endless!

When transitioning to the college apartment life, one of the cooking tools I would bring with me would be (you guessed it), a rice cooker! Over the years, my main meals that I cooked at the apartment included rice and a random side dish. Every once in a while per week, I would go out and grab some casual food like Mexican food or pizza.

An Interesting (Crisis?) Moment

There was this one year though where I decided to cut down on carbohydrates and I believe rice was one of the foods I put on hold. Coincidentally, my roommate wanted to eat rice with various side dishes as part of his healthy eating routine.

Unfortunately, he assumed that because I was Asian, I would carry a rice cooker and didn’t bother purchasing one. I only found out because he told me he looked for a rice cooker around the apartment (after buying a 10 lb. bag of rice) but could not find one. He felt a bit bad and thought about getting one for us.

Little did he know…he did not need to do that. My mom showed me an “ancient art” during her childhood days. It was how to cook rice in the case of an emergency if the rice cooker had somehow broken down. I showed my roommate how and I will show you too.

How to Cook Rice WITHOUT a Rice Cooker

Although it may sound complicated, it is actually easier than it sounds.

Here are all the things you will need:

  • Rice
  • Water
  • Stove top (electric or gas)
  • Saucepan, or any pot you have with a lid
  • Spoon
  • Measuring cup

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Instructions

Preparing the Rice
  • Your first step would be to scoop the amount of rice you want into the saucepan. I typically cook about 1.5 to 2 cups of rice.
  • I used to rinse the rice to remove the powder. At the time, I thought it was dust that gathered from the manufacturing company. I learned from one of my science classes that the powder was vitamin B powder. The manufacturer sprinkled this to give the rice more nutritional value.
  • BUT, if you are already used to washing your rice, feel free to continue doing so. You’ll probably still get more nutrition from the side dishes.
Adding water
  • Anyways, in terms of the amount of water needed to cook the rice, I just use my hand as a measuring tool (traditional hand method). With the hand method, you basically place your hand on the level of the rice in the saucepan (without digging your hand into it), and fill the saucepan with water until the water level goes up to your knuckle (about 0.75 to 1 inch of water, not the most accurate for some).
  • That is usually my starting point for the water measurement, if I cook less than 2 cups of rice, I would reduce the water level, if more rice, I would increase it. There is a bit of a trial and error.
  • If you would like an exact measurement of water, I would say for every 1 cup of rice, you’ll need about 1.5 to 1.75 cups of water. Same thing with the hand method here, there is a bit of a trial and error. If you want softer rice, use more water, and for firmer rice, less water. (Up until here, this should be similar to cooking rice with the rice cooker.)
Cooking the Rice
  • Next, you’ll want to bring that saucepan of rice and water to a boil on a stove top. By this point, you’ll need to cover the saucepan with a lid to create pressure system (acts like that lid cover with the rice cooker). Once the water begins to boil, bring the heat down to low/medium. Let’s say if the max heat is a 9….I would use a 2 or 3.
  • As you pressure cook the rice in this manner, water may start leaking out of the pot, but just open the lid for a little (it’s all from the pressure built up). From here, allow the rice to cook for 10 to 15 minutes. It’s actually a bit longer, but this is where you will need to be present during the final cooking process to taste test (with the spoon) and make sure the rice cooks well and not accidentally burn at the bottom.
Taste Test and Adjustment
  • When you taste it, if the rice is too firm, you can add more water. If too soft, it may be hard to adjust from here. But you can try opening the lid and let the water evaporate a little (it helps a little, or you always have the option to make it into congee/porridge). This is the great thing about this method of cooking rice, it’s very adjustable!

Summary of Directions

The directions above was kind of long so here it is again but summarized:

  • Scoop X amount cups of rice into a saucepan (i.e. 2 cups)
  • Fill saucepan with water up to 1.5 to 1.75 times the number of cups of rice (i.e. 3 cups) (or use hand method and aim for 1 inch)
  • Cover the saucepan with the lid
  • Put saucepan on stove top and bring solution to a boil
  • When it starts to boil, bring heat down to medium/low heat
  • Cook for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Come back around then to taste test, check if rice is right for you (add more water if needed, or remove lid)
  • Turn off heat, and remove saucepan from stove top
  • Enjoy your rice!

Optional Recommendation

Cooking rice in this manner is actually quite fun. To make it more fun (and tasty), what you can do is instead of water, you can add chicken or beef broth. This will change things around and make your rice much more flavorful You can do this too with the regular rice cooker. You can apply this concept with pasta as well!

I still have yet to experiment a little more but perhaps you can throw in other ingredients along the way too like various meats or veggies like tomatoes. To reduce starch/carbohydrate content, you can even add beans while reducing rice content to cook. I know Korean restaurants sometimes do that and provide that purple rice with beans.

Summary

There are many ways to go about things even with cooking rice. To some, cooking rice with the rice cooker has always been the way to go. But in the case of an emergency where the machine breaks down or is unavailable, there are other methods too and this saucepan method is one of them.

It’s very similar to preparing rice with the rice cooker, the only difference is that you will be controlling the cooking temperature and will need to taste test often towards the end of the cooking session. There are advantages to cooking in this manner which include more precision with the texture of the rice and even control of the flavor.

Of course, if you still prefer the usual rice cooker method since it saves you time and effort, here is a rice cooker from Amazon. If it is your first time cooking rice (with either method), there is a little trial and error period but do not be afraid to make mistakes. Know that you will get better with time and practice. Other than that, no matter which method you prefer, please enjoy your rice!

Did you enjoy this life hack on how to cook rice WITHOUT a rice cooker? Please leave a comment below!

18 thoughts on “Hungry for Rice, But No Rice Cooker – Here is What You Can Do”

  1. Thank you for enlightening me on how to cook rice without a rice cooker. My mum used to cook rice this way right up until she passed. She never used a rice cooker and would wash the rice in cold water to rinse off what she called starch. Thank you for writing this informative post, its great.

    Reply
    • Hi Yvonne, thank you for your comment. I am glad to hear that there are others practicing this method of rice cooking. I am sorry for your loss. I am happy to hear that she was able to pass on something to you.

      Reply
  2. Hey Mike .

    I found your article very interesting . I live in South Africa and I believe that very few people here use a rice cooker . Personally I have not used the rice cooker before, I have always cooked rice in a pot. I think it depends on the area and on the fact that rice is a staple or not. Maybe because our staple here is maize meal but we do eat rice now and then.

    Reply
    • Hi Bogadi! Oo that’s very interesting to know! You are right in that the method of cooking rice or even consuming it as a staple depends on one’s area. My mom was the one who showed me this style of cooking rice and back in her home country, owning a rice cooker was a luxury. With rice being the staple in the area, she had to cook it somehow and the pot/saucepan method was her main way of doing so.

      Reply
  3. By looking at the topic i. was suddenly attracted because I also in the Asian continent in the world and rice is a very common thing for me as well. So I curiously read through the article and got and share my experiences with the rice-cooking method and its varieties. So I really enjoyed the article.

    A very informative and enjoyable post for me as well.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for this article on how to cook rice without a rice cooker. Funny enough, I already know how to do this, and actually, this is the way I cook rice all the time. I was born and brought up in Africa, so this is the way I learnt how to cook rice. I am positive that this will be helpful to other readers who are new to this method.

    Reply
    • Hey Nelson, I am happy to hear that you already know about this method. I actually prefer this method over the rice cooker method. I have heard that this method of rice cooking produces better tasting rice. If you know anyone who can benefit from this, please feel free to share this article with them.

      Reply
  5. This is a great alternative to cooking rice with a rice cooker. I think this can be done when on camping or hiking trips. To me, rice doesn’t seem like something so hard to cook, so reading this is very interesting for me. I think I will try this out, not withstanding the fact that I have a rice cooker at home.

    Reply
    • Hi Alkelvin! I think trying out this method while camping or on a hiking trip would be a great and fun experience. Also, it can be a bit tempting to use the rice cooker when you know it’s available, at least I would be.

      Reply
  6. I am growing up in an Asian family as well and I do understand completely what you are saying. We have to have rice everyday period. Thanks for sharing the hack on how to cook rice, I used to use to cook it that way when I was in a scout back in Thailand but that has been many years and never have tried it again. I think it is good to know just in case the rice cooker broke down or we have a black out. Cheers! 

    Reply
    • Hello Nuttanee! Thanks for your comment! I agree with you that it is a skill that is good to know in case the rice cooker breaks down. It definitely has broken down on me once and that skill definitely came in handy.

      Reply
  7. Great article!! the amount of times when I have added too much water to my rice at home is too high. I think cooking techniques like these are really useful especially for me since I do a lot of hiking. Any experience or experience in the type of utensils used for hiking? The only pot I can take is a small one since a big one would be dead weight.

    Reply
    • Hello there, Hasan! I remember when I first cooked rice, I ended up using too much water also. This cooking technique is definitely great for outdoors, provided that you have access to a heat source (portable stove, campfire, etc.). The only things you will need are a saucepan or a pot with a lid and then the rice and water. A small pot works just fine, and if not enough food, you can always cook a second batch while eating the first.

      Reply
  8. So I’ve had your experience but in reverse.  I always used my stove-top to cook rice until someone (totally unprovoked) gave me a rice cooker.  I had no desire to have and didn’t think I would ever use it…until I did.  I have never looked back.  There’s no stirring, no timing, no miscalculations.

    Back to the stove-top cooking, your instructions are spot on!  I’m sure many people will find this handy if their rice cooker stops working or if they don’t have one where they’re cooking.   I often add broth or bouillon to the water, sometimes I’ll add some chopped up veggies and ground meat to make it a one-pot meal!  This works on the stove-top or rice cooker.  

    Reply
    • Hello Cynthia! That’s really cool that your rice cooking experiences has been reversed. I can definitely see that using the rice cooker is definitely more convenient because you do not have to constantly stir and time things. But the good thing you grew up with that experience is that you have the skills to still cook rice even without a rice cooker. I think you are very well prepared for any rice cooking emergencies.

      Reply
  9. Great article you have here and quite an informative one. Truth is I never knew that vitamin B was normally sprinkled on rice by the manufacturer. I always rinsed it, with a thought of removing the dirty. And honestly that’s something new am learning here. The method of cooking rice without a rice cooker is simplified and a great way of doing so during times when a rice cooker isn’t available. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Hello there, Volkert! I felt the same way too when my professor taught that information. I kept thinking “oh wow, I’ve been rinsing my rice too thoroughly this whole time…”. But now we know. Hopefully you have successful experiences with cooking rice without a rice cooker!

      Reply

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