Not all rice cookers have a steam feature, but many do and this handy function allows you to use this convenient appliance for more than cooking rice. It also enhances the rice being cooked, when vegetables are steamed at the same time. If your rice cooker has a steam feature, it will have a steaming tray or basket and a preset steam setting.
Use a Rice Cooker's Basket to Steam More Than Rice
While the size of the rice cooker can certainly dictate the maximum size of steamed foods, this is still a handy feature to have.
And you can steam more than vegetables. Try meats or make a steamed dessert. It's a great way to tenderize meat for pulled beef or pork.
How to Prep and Place Food in a Rice Cooker Basket
To use the steam function, cleaned and cut vegetables should simply be placed in the basket, and I generally place those with stiff peeling, such as squash or pumpkin, turned flesh down. Use foil in the steaming basket or tray for meats or fish and cover with foil to keep flavors in during the steaming process. This foil wrap also keeps your added seasonings in with the meat.
Cooking white rice in a rice cooker usually takes around 35 minutes, but vegetables will steam-cook in a much shorter time -- roughly from 5 to 15 minutes depending on the vegetables. For this reason, add the filled steam tray only part-way through the white rice's cooking cycle.
Using a rice cooker to steam vegetables will alleviate congestion on your cooktop and produce very tender, flavorful sides.
It's also handy for steam-cooking pumpkin sections before peeling. Allow the steamed pieces to cool and spoon the vegetable pulp off the peel for pumpkin pie filling.
Rice Cooker Steaming Times
Follow your product guide for hints regarding steaming times, but keep in mind that even these will vary depending on toughness of vegetables and other conditions such as altitude and humidity levels.
Larger vegetables such as squash or pumpkin will need to be done in more than one batch, with sections cut to size to fit properly in the basket. But steaming cycles are fast with a rice cooker, so even multiple cycles will steam quickly.
Experiment steaming meats and vegetables and ensure meats reach their safe cooking temperature, which you can monitor with a meat thermometer. Always clean your rice cooker properly according to the manufacturer's cleaning guide.
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