Rice cookers are versatile cooking appliances that can be used to make a variety of different meals for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Anything that can be cooked by either simmering or steaming can be cooked in a rice cooker. It is also possible to use these appliances to fry or sauté certain foods. Most rice cooker meals contain rice, but other grains, such as quinoa, oats or wheat, or legumes such as beans or lentils, can easily be made in a rice cooker. If the rice cooker has a steaming basket built in, vegetables and meats can be cooked at the same time as the grain, making it easy to cook a simple and complete meal.
Most people use rice cookers to make rice-based dishes. Though plain rice is eaten as a side dish in many parts of the world, adding a few ingredients can turn a rice dish into a complete meal. Instead of using water to cook the rice, broth, crushed tomatoes, or even cream can be added to the rice cooker to give the rice more flavor. A rice-based meal such as risotto or biryani can be made in a rice cooker simply by placing all the necessary ingredients in the machine and turning it on. It is also possible to sauté rice, as risotto requires, by pouring some cooking oil into the bottom of the rice cooker and then stirring in the rice, garlic, and onions.
Legumes can also be made in a rice cooker. In order to cook things like beans and lentils, it may be necessary to stir the contents of the rice maker frequently as it cooks. Seasonings, vegetables, meats, and grains can also be added to a legume dish to make rice cooker meals such as stew, chili, or soup.
Any vegetables, meats, or dumplings can also be cooked in a rice cooker. These types of foods can be cooked in broth or oil in the rice cooker itself or they can be steamed above a pot of rice or beans as it cooks below. Steaming baskets are a common feature of rice cookers and make it easy to make complete rice cooker meals that include a starch, vegetable, and protein.
Breakfast meals can also be made in a rice cooker. Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat®, or any other type of hot cereal can be prepared in a rice cooker rather than being cooked on the stove. When making breakfast cereals as rice cooker meals, it is important not to use instant varieties as these may not cook correctly.