Oatmeal isn’t the hardest thing in the world to make, but, some mornings, those few extra minutes of stirring and attention that it requires are the difference between having a warm breakfast or not. So we’re letting you in on a little secret: Your rice cooker can double as an exceptional tool for making oatmeal and porridge. That means a power-packed breakfast is within reach, no matter how busy your day.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
A rice cooker is handy because it automates everything for you — simply combine the water or milk, grains and any additions into the nonstick bowl, place it in the rice cooker and push the button. The rice cooker will rapidly warm the liquid to a boil, then a sensor inside is triggered that immediately shuts off the heat and allows the contents of the cooker to continue steaming and resting. Fancier models even have a sensor that will let you know when all of the liquid has been absorbed for a specific kind of grain, and will adjust the cooking times for you. Voilà! A satisfying meal!
WHY USE A RICE COOKER INSTEAD OF A SLOW COOKER?
While a rice cooker doesn’t necessarily speed up the process of cooking oats or porridge, it does offer a foolproof way for you to cook your grains — just push the button and walk away. The rice cooker will cook your oats or porridge and keep them warm for you until you return to open the lid and enjoy. With a rice cooker, you can cook smaller quantities of grains (whereas most slow cookers have very large capacities and don’t intuit moisture as sensitively, sometimes resulting in burned grains at the bottom of your cooker.)
But you’re not limited to oats. A rice cooker can make multi-grain meals a snap. Whole grains such as quinoa, farro, barley, amaranth and millet all require different ratios of water to grain. But cooking them with ample amounts of water in a rice cooker guarantees that steam is an agent in the cooking process. If the rice cooker has a porridge or whole-grain function, it will let you know when all of the water has been absorbed, and you’ll never find yourself with some grains swimming in water, while others are still solidly al dente.
HOW DO I MAKE OATMEAL OR MULTI-GAIN PORRIDGE IN MY RICE COOKER?
Every rice cooker will be a little bit different, so making oatmeal or porridge in your machine may take a little trial and error. The following formula is a great place to start:
For oatmeal: Combine 1 cup of whole oats or old-fashioned oats with 3/4 cups of water or milk, or 1 cup of steel-cut oats with 2 1/2 cups of water or milk. Add a pinch of salt. Close the lid, and hit the start button. Walk away. When the cooker beeps, the oatmeal is done!
For multi-grain porridge: Combine 1 cup of grains (a combination of oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, barley, etc.) with 2 1/2 cups of water. Add a pinch of salt, give the mixture a stir, close the lid and hit the start button. Walk away, and, when the cooker beeps, the porridge is done!
Optional: Adorn your bowl of oats or porridge with crunchy nuts, fruits and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and you’ve got a great, comforting start to a busy day.