A microwave rice cooker is a type of cookware specifically designed to steam rice in a microwave oven. The cooker generally looks like a deep bowl with a lid, sometimes including an insert to hold the rice or other foods away from the bottom of the bowl. When rice and water are placed in the microwave rice cooker and then heated in a microwave, the water evaporates into steam and cooks the rice. The lid of the cooker keeps the steam near the rice while also usually allowing excess steam to escape. The same method that cooks the rice can, in most cases, also be used to steam other types of food, although some care has to be taken to ensure that the microwave does not cook the food independently of the steam in the container.
Many microwave rice cooker designs are intentionally lightweight and easy to use, because microwave cooking often is considered a matter of convenience. The bowl is frequently made from plastic and occasionally from microwave-safe glass. The design of the lid includes some type of vent to allow steam and pressure to escape, sometimes with a mechanism to adjust the size of the opening. Inside the bowl, some models include a mesh-like inner basket intended to make the rice easier to remove, or to serve as a steamer basket for vegetables. Some microwave rice cooker kits contain an additional measuring cup and serving spoon for consistent measurements of rice and water or for use when not in a kitchen.
Cooking rice in a microwave rice cooker is fairly simple and can be faster than making rice on a stovetop. The rice is measured and poured into the bowl, along with some water. The amount of water can be less than the amount used in stovetop cooking, because it does not boil as aggressively, although individual rice cooker instructions vary. The lid is secured on top of the bowl and the entire dish is placed in the microwave. Some models can cook the rice in as few as 10 minutes, while others can take from 15 to 20 minutes.
When cooked according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adjusting the time for the power of the microwave, rice that is cooked in a microwave rice cooker can come out nearly identical to rice made on a stovetop. The risk of the rice burning in the cooker still exists, as does the risk of overcooking the rice so it becomes mushy. Regardless of the size of the microwave rice cooker, there usually is a limit to the amount of rice that can be successfully cooked in the bowl, because too much can prevent the rice from cooking evenly.