Using a Rice Cooker for Steaming Food

Making the Most of Your Rice Cooker's Steam Feature

rice cooker on table
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A home cook's dream is to find multiple uses for kitchen items. This fact has led to the invention of multi-cookers like the Instant Pot, which is an all-in-one rice cooker, steamer, slow-cooker, and more. But, if you are one of those people who already has a rice cooker with a steam basket and you want to get multiple uses out of this appliance, then learn how to get steaming with your rice cooker.

Steaming in Your Rice Cooker

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. Using a rice cooker to steam vegetables will alleviate congestion on your countertops and produce very tender, flavorful sides. What's even better is you can cook rice and steam vegetables at the same time. The steam basket or tray neatly nests above the rice pot. When cooked together, it can enhance the rice being cooked with nutrients and hints of flavor from the sweat of the vegetables.

If you are not sure if your rice cooker can double as a steamer, you would know it if your rice cooker came with a steaming tray or basket, and there would be preset steam setting on your cooker.

The larger the cooker, the more you can cooker. It stands to reason that the size of the rice cooker dictates the amount of food you can steam.

Foods That You Can Steam

To use the steam function, cleaned and cut vegetables should simply be placed in the basket. Vegetables with stiff skin, such as squash or pumpkin, should be turned flesh down.

Keep in mind that you can steam more than just vegetables. Try making meats or a steamed dessert. This steamer function is another handy way to tenderize meat for pulled beef or pork.

Use foil in the steaming basket or tray for meats or fish. If you want to keep flavors in the meat during the steaming process, you will want to wrap or cover the meat with foil.

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 rice cooking cycle.

A rice cooker is handy for steam-cooking pumpkin sections before peeling. Allow the steamed pieces to cool and spoon the vegetable pulp off of the peel to make 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 the 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 with the cooking time required for steaming meats—some meats require a hotter temperature than others. Ensure the meats you cook reach a safe cooking temperature, which you can monitor with a meat thermometer. Chicken and other poultry should at least reach 165 F, while beef and pork must be cooked to at least 145 F.