The rice cooker, despite its small size and humble appearance, is a mighty appliance. While most people know it for its ability to make perfect, fluffy rice with the push of a button, it actually has many other uses. Did you know that your trusty rice cooker is capable of much more than just cooking rice?
One of the most surprising yet useful functions of a rice cooker is its ability to cook chicken. That’s right – you can use a rice cooker to cook everything from whole chickens to juicy boneless chicken breasts, wings, drumsticks, and more.
Cooking chicken in a rice cooker offers major convenience, letting you cook an entire meal in one pot without dirtying multiple pans. The moist, steamy environment ensures the chicken turns out tender and delicious.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making chicken in the rice cooker. You’ll learn the benefits, step-by-step instructions, recipe ideas, tips for using chicken broth, cleaning advice, and more. Let’s get started!
What is a Rice Cooker and How Does It Work?
Before we dive into the specific details of cooking chicken in a rice cooker, let’s do a quick overview of what exactly these handy devices are and how they work their magic.
Rice cookers first became popular in Japan in the mid-20th century and eventually made their way into kitchens around the world. They consist of an inner cooking pot made of aluminium or nonstick material, a heating element, a thermostat, a control panel, and an outer housing. Here are the keys to how rice cookers cook food:
- The user adds ingredients like rice and liquid to the inner pot, usually in a specified ratio.
- When turned on, the heating element brings the liquid to a boiling point.
- As the rice absorbs the liquid and cooks, the temperature rises to the point of evaporation.
- The thermostat then detects the temperature change and automatically switches the cooker from “cook” to “warm” mode, preventing the food from overcooking.
This automatic switch from cooking to warming is what makes rice cookers so foolproof and ideal for cooking rice as well as other foods like chicken. The even heating and steam environment produces perfectly cooked food every time.
Modern rice cookers offer many features that make them even more versatile, such as:
- Various cooking settings and menus for different foods
- Delayed start timers
- Keep warm functions
- Nonstick coating for easy cleanup
- Programmable digital controls
- Sauté or brown functions for searing meat before cooking
Higher-end models may even have specialized sensors to automatically adjust temperature and cooking time as needed.
The bottom line is that the rice cooker’s set-it-and-forget-it operation, along with its steamy environment and precise temperature controls, make it uniquely suited not only for flawless rice but also tender and juicy chicken and meats.
Benefits of Cooking Chicken in a Rice Cooker
Using a rice cooker to cook chicken offers quite a few benefits:
Rice cookers allow you to cook an entire meal in one pot. No need to use multiple pans on the stove or oven. Just throw in the chicken and any herbs, vegetables, rice, or broth, and let the rice cooker work its magic.
Perfectly cooked chicken
The rice cooker’s precise temperature controls and steamy, enclosed environment produce exceptionally moist, tender chicken that is cooked through safely with no dry spots.
Simply add the ingredients, turn on the cooker, and it handles the rest unattended. Especially helpful for busy nights when you don’t have time to watch a stove.
The moist heat of a rice cooker locks in flavor and juices for delicious, succulent chicken.
Rice cookers can accommodate whole chickens, bone-in cuts, boneless chicken breast, wings – you name it. Shred the meat for tacos or keep it in juicy pieces.
Makes excellent leftovers
The cooked chicken stays moist when reheated from the rice cooker. Use leftovers in soups, salads, sandwiches, and more.
Easy Clean up
Rice cookers simplify cooking and cleaning with their one-pot meals and nonstick surfaces.
As you can see, using a rice cooker to cook chicken offers a quick, hassle-free way to get flavorful, juicy meat with little effort.
Step-by-Step Guide to Cooking Chicken in a Rice Cooker
Cooking chicken in a rice cooker couldn’t be easier. Just follow these simple steps:
1. Prepare the chicken
Trim off any excess fat from the chicken and cut it into smaller, uniform pieces if desired so it cooks evenly. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, spices, herbs, etc.
2. Add oil or broth
Lightly coat the bottom of the rice cooker’s inner pot with oil, butter, or chicken broth to prevent the chicken from sticking.
3. Arrange the chicken
Place the chicken pieces in the pot in a single layer on the bottom. You can cook bone-in pieces or boneless meat.
4. Include any other ingredients
Add any vegetables like onions, carrots, or potatoes. You can also include rice, broth, coconut milk, or seasonings.
5. Close the lid and turn on
Close the lid and turn on your rice cooker, selecting the appropriate setting if your model has different modes. Most will switch to “warm” automatically.
6. Cook time
Cook for the manufacturer’s recommended time, usually around 15-20 minutes for boneless chicken breasts and 20-30 minutes for bone-in thighs or legs.
7. Rest and serve
When finished, let the chicken rest in the pot for 5 minutes before removing to serve. It helps lock in the juices.
8. Clean rice cooker
Remove chicken and any inserts to wash. Wipe down the cooker’s body.
That’s all there is to it! Now that you know how easy it is to make chicken in the rice cooker, let’s look at some pro tips and recipe ideas.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking Chicken in a Rice Cooker
Follow these tips for the most delicious, juicy chicken cooked in your rice cooker:
- Use bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks for the most flavor and moisture. Boneless chicken breasts can dry out.
- Cut chicken into uniform bite-sized pieces so it cooks evenly.
- Use chicken broth or coconut milk for extra moisture and flavor infusion.
- Sear or brown the chicken first using the “sauté” function on higher-end rice cookers to get a crispy skin or crust.
- Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving so juices redistribute.
- Cook chicken on a bed of vegetables like onions, carrots, potatoes, or peppers.
- Use the right amount of liquid – around 1 3/4 cups liquid to 1 cup rice is ideal.
- Cook rice underneath or alongside the chicken to soak up delicious flavor.
- Shred cooked chicken with forks to use in tacos, salads, soups, and more.
- Use spices and sauces like soy sauce, lemon, garlic, paprika, curry powder, etc. to add flavor.
Now let’s look at some specific delicious rice cooker chicken recipe ideas you can try!
Best Chicken Recipes to Make in a Rice Cooker
One of the best parts of using your rice cooker to cook chicken is just how many options you have. You can cook chicken whole, shred it for tacos, make it into soups or stews, and more. Here are some great rice cooker chicken recipe ideas:
Whole Roast Chicken
For special occasions, a whole roast chicken cooked in the rice cooker is both convenient and impressive. Season simply with salt, pepper, and herbs, or get creative with spice rubs. Cook surrounded by lemon slices, potatoes, onions, or other vegetables. The steaming environment keeps it moist.
Simple Chicken and Rice
The classic chicken and rice pairing is comfort food at its best. Cook bone-in chicken thighs nestled over rice, broth, and veggies for a simple, one-pot meal. The rice soaks up all the delicious flavours.
Transform your rice cooker into an easy soup maker! Cook chicken pieces and vegetables in broth for a nourishing soup ready when you are. The rice cooker extracts maximum flavour.
Coconut Curry Chicken
For a Thai-inspired meal, cook chicken thighs or drumsticks in coconut milk with curry paste, ginger, garlic, and peppers, and serve over jasmine rice. Amazing flavors.
Cook boneless chicken breasts or thighs, shred or chop, then pile onto tortillas and top with all your favorite taco fixings like cheese, lettuce, salsa, and more. Quick and easy.
Sauté onions and bell peppers then add chicken and fajita seasoning and cook in the rice cooker. Serve sizzling hot with warm tortillas.
Chicken cooked in a sweet and salty teriyaki sauce is a dinner favorite. Cook boneless chicken thighs or breasts in teriyaki sauce in the rice cooker for an easy version.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Recreate this Indian restaurant staple by cooking chicken in a creamy, mildly spiced tomato sauce in your rice cooker with basmati rice.
As you can see, the rice cooker chicken recipe possibilities are truly endless! Use your imagination to whip up simple or gourmet chicken entrees.
Can You Use Chicken Broth in a Rice Cooker?
Speaking of making delicious chicken rice cooker meals, one of the best ways to infuse extra savory flavor into the rice or dishes made is to cook with chicken broth.
Chicken broth adds incredible aroma and taste to anything made in the rice cooker. The broth also contributes moisture as it cooks, resulting in tender grains of rice or a flavorful sauce or stew.
Some key benefits of using chicken broth in a rice cooker:
- Adds savory chicken flavor
- Makes rice tender and moist
- Opportunity to use up leftover broth
- More nutrients than cooking with plain water
- Provides liquid for cooking meats, beans, grains
- Boosts flavor in recipes like risotto, pilaf, soup
When cooking rice, use a general ratio of 1 3/4 cups chicken broth to 1 cup rice. You may need to tweak amounts based on the recipe. Grains like quinoa, farro or barley also work well cooked in broth.
For soups or stews, simply replace all or some of the water called for with chicken broth for deeper flavor. Get creative with adding unique broths like turkey, mushroom, or vegetable to make the flavors pop.
Chicken broth is an easy way to take ordinary rice cooker meals to the next level. Now let’s look at keeping your rice cooker clean after cooking all this chicken!
Cleaning and Maintaining a Rice Cooker After Cooking Chicken
Like any kitchen appliance, proper care and cleaning of your rice cooker will help it last many years. Be sure to:
- Remove insert bowl immediately after cooking chicken to prevent sticking on the nonstick surface.
- Let the cooker cool completely before wiping down the outside to prevent damage to the heating element.
- Wash the lid, insert bowl, spoon, and other accessories in hot soapy water. They are typically dishwasher safe as well.
- Rinse thoroughly to remove any grease or residue. Dry all parts fully before storing.
- Use a soft cloth to gently wipe down the exterior of the cooker base if needed.
- Verify the inner pot is dry before returning to the cooker. Moisture causes odors.
- Check manufacturer directions for deep cleaning or descaling recommendations to keep it in top working order.
With proper care after each use, your rice cooker will be as good as new every time. Be diligent about cleaning it right after cooking chicken to prevent any lingering odors or mess.
What Other Foods Can You Cook in a Rice Cooker?
While rice cookers excel at cooking flawless rice, moist chicken, and chewy grains like quinoa or oats, their capabilities don’t stop there. You’d be amazed at the range of foods you can cook in a rice cooker using just the power of steam. Here are some ideas:
- Beef roasts or stew meat
- Pork chops, roast or tenderloin
- Turkey breast
- Fish fillets or shrimp
- Steamed broccoli, green beans, asparagus
- Mashed potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Beets, turnips, rutabaga
- Butternut squash
- Steamed artichokes
- All types of dried beans
- Chile Verde with pork and green chiles
- Farro, barley, quinoa, couscous
- Oats and oatmeal
- Congee or jook (Chinese/Korean rice porridge)
- Cooking with broth, wine, coconut milk
- Poached fruit
- Food dye colored rice for kids
- Hard boiled eggs
- Corn on the cob
- Steamed dumplings or tamales
- Custard or flan
As you can see, don’t limit yourself when it comes to your rice cooker. Capitalize on its moist heat to cook a wide array of foods beyond rice and chicken.
I hope this comprehensive guide gave you plenty of insight into cooking moist, flavorful chicken in a rice cooker. From whole roast chicken to shredded meat for tacos, the options are endless! With the right prep, recipes, and cooking tips, you can make delicious chicken dishes in your rice cooker using the foolproof power of steam heat.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Rice cookers can cook chicken safely with no monitoring needed. Just add the ingredients and turn it on!
- Chicken thighs, drumsticks, and bone-in cuts work especially well to prevent drying out.
- Flavor the chicken with broth, spices, herbs, and other ingredients added to the pot.
- Cook chicken over rice or vegetables to create easy one-pot meals.
- Let the chicken rest before serving and clean the rice cooker after for best results.
- Chicken broth adds great flavor – use 3/4 cup per 1 cup raw rice.
I encourage you to get creative with the many rice cooker chicken recipes you can whip up! From soup to tacos to roast chicken, the possibilities are endless for making tasty chicken dinners with ease. Your rice cooker can cook far more than just rice.