Few types of equipment are as easy to operate as the rice steamer. Add water, rice, and seasonings, turn the unit on and walk away. In about 30 to 45 minutes, you'll have perfect rice. You can also keep cooked rice warm for a couple of hours, thanks to moisture collectors and moisture controls that are available on some models. Easy-to-clean stainless steel containers and lids are options you may want to consider when making your choice.
The capacity in cups of a commercial warmer can range from as few as 20 to as many as 110. If your establishment is only putting out rice as the occasional side dish, a smaller unit may be better. If you are serving rice with virtually every meal, for instance in sushi, Korean barbeque, or Asian fusion restaurants, one or more larger cookers may be desirable. Most of these units will come with a rice cup measure. It is important to know that rice cup measurements are not the same as traditional U.S. cups, so make sure to check your recipes and review the equipment manual before using the steamer. The rice industry standard cup holds 6 ounces, while the U.S. standard cup measures 8 ounces.
The diameter of these cookers varies up to 24 inches, with 2-inch diameter intervals. The greater the cup capacity, the larger the diameter will typically be. Pay attention to this size if you plan on using a rice steamer on a countertop to ensure you have enough space.
Gas and electric warmers are available. While gas models tend to be more energy efficient, they typically need to be used under a hood. Electric models, on the other hand, can go just about anywhere there's a power supply and space. Electric models are going to be your best choice for use on a buffet.
One touch manual controls provide the ease of set-it-and-forget-it operation. Digital controls add to the convenience of these rice warmers with the ability to use your cooker in a variety of ways. Many rice steamers come with a setting that, when used with a basket, will allow you to use steam to prepare vegetables and sticky rice.
- Automatic warming is available on some models. Once the rice is cooked, the unit will switch into a warming mode and keep the rice at just the right temperature until it is ready to be served.
- The simple operation of a trigger lift lid provides for hands-free operation when plating dishes or rolling sushi. The trigger lift lid could also be helpful on buffet lines, when your customers may have their hands filled with plates and space to set a lid may not be readily available.
- Units with a moisture collector add even more convenience. These collectors move condensation away from the rice, keeping it fluffy. The containers can be non-stick and are removable for easy cleaning.
- Moisture control can help to ensure your rice is never soggy or mushy, which can render the texture inedible. Sticky rice and rice balls cannot be shaped and eaten by hand in the traditional way if the rice is too mushy. The ability to control the moisture within the unit can also help to prevent your rice and other dishes from drying out or scorching.
So Much More Than Rice
Given the sheer output of commercial rice cookers, you'd think that would be enough to justify spending the money one costs. These units, however, surpass expectations and value in that they can meet many other demands in today's kitchen. A rice steamer can be used to warm tortillas for wraps or to steam husks for tamales, and steam vegetables and dumplings. These cookers will allow you to create breakfast polenta or frittatas without heating up the entire kitchen. Creole favorites like jambalaya and crawfish dishes are a breeze in a rice cooker. Even desserts like flan and carrot cake can be prepared without the worry of over-cooking.