Multi-use cookers such as the Instant Pot are great ways to cook rice, steam, and slow cook using only one appliance. However, if you already own a rice cooker with a steam basket you can still get multiple uses out of this appliance without an additional item taking up space.
All About the Steam Basket
If your rice cooker has a steam basket, this handy function allows you to use this convenient appliance for more than cooking rice. With this feature, you can steam tender and flavorful vegetables at the same time as your rice to save time and counter space. In addition, steaming vegetables in a tray just above your rice can enhance the nutrients and flavor of your rice.
If you are not sure if your rice cooker can double as a steamer, double check its instruction manual and if your appliance came with a separate steam tray or basket and if it has a preset steam setting. The larger the cooker, the more you can cook; the size of the rice cooker will always dictate the amount of food you can steam.
Foods That You Can Steam
To use the steam function, vegetables should be cleaned and cut before they're placed in the basket. However, 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-the steamer function can be a great way to tenderize meat for pulled beef or pork. If you're cooking meat or fish in your steamer you should always use foil to keep the flavors of the meat from seeping into the rice during the steaming process.
Steaming in Your Rice Cooker
Follow your product guide for hints regarding steaming times specific to your rice cooker, but keep in mind that even these will vary depending on the toughness of vegetables and meats.
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. To perfectly time both of your meal's sides, add your vegetables part-way through the rice cooking cycle.
Larger vegetables such as squash or pumpkin will need to be steamed in more than one batch, with sections cut to fit properly in the basket. However, steaming cycles are faster with a rice cooker so even multiple cycles will steam large vegetables quickly and efficiently.
You should experiment with the cooking time required for steaming meats as some meats require a hotter temperature than others. While steaming, it's important that you monitor your meat's temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure the meats you cook reach a safe cooking temperature. Chicken and other poultry should at least reach 165 F, while beef and pork must be cooked to at least 145 F.