There are many types of electric rice cookers available, with varying volumes and features, but one feature they share is the standard rice cooker cup, a plastic container included as one of the essential components in a commercially-purchased electric rice cooker. From the perspective of accurate measurement, though, it is not the 8 fluid ounce (oz) (240 milliliter) cup accepted as standard by American cooks, nor the 250 milliliter (ml) (8.45 fluid oz) metric cup used in many British Commonwealth countries. The rice cooker cup is 180 ml (6.09 fluid oz), which most closely approximates the traditional Japanese cup, called a go, which is used to measure rice and other ingredients when cooking. Since rice is a staple dish in Japan and many electric rice cookers are manufactured in Japan, it is reasonable to assume that the go would be used as the standard measure for the rice cooker cup.
A rice cooker cup is used to measure the desired amount of dry, uncooked rice into a bowl, where it is rinsed very thoroughly with cold water. Many cooks then allow the rice to sit in cold water for about 30 minutes, after which it is drained as completely as possible and placed in the rice cooker’s inner pot, which itself is placed into the rice cooker. Water or broth is then poured over the rice until it reaches the mark on the inner pot corresponding with the number of cups of rice that were used. The pot is covered with its own tight-fitting lid, turned on, and left to cook for a variable period of time, between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the rice cooker. When the cooking process ends, most rice cookers switch to a “warm” mode.
Electric rice cookers were developed as a labor- and space-saving device. Rice takes 30 to 60 minutes to cook — a long time to occupy a burner when stovetop space is at a premium. In addition to freeing up cooking space, the rice cooker also eliminated the need for careful timing when preparing rice, which easily can be overcooked. The standardization imposed by the rice cooker cup also made measuring of ingredients easier for the average cook.
Rice cookers were developed for the most commonly prepared types of rice, such as long-grain and short-grain white rice. Basmati and jasmine rice, which are intended to be a little dryer when served, require less water, while parboiled white rice typically requires a little more water. The greatest difference is with brown rice, which requires a great deal more water than any variety of white rice. While some advanced rice cookers have different cooking settings for different types of rice, cooks who have basic rice cookers, with just a single cooking setting, must experiment with different amounts of water per rice cooker cup of dry brown rice to achieve perfect results.