Is your rice cooker making mushy, dry, or sticky rice? You’re probably using the wrong amount of water. Here’s why.

Cooking the perfect rice is an art. It might sound very simple, especially when using a rice cooker, but you’d be surprised at how many obstacles you can encounter along the way.

From using too much water, to using too little, the smallest changes in how you prepare your recipe can dramatically affect how your rice turns out. Who would have though such a simple ingredient would require this much precision?

In theory, rice cookers are designed to reduce the grade of difficulty when preparing it, and for the most part, they pass the test with flying colors, but make no mistake, cooked rice, and good rice, are not the same thing.

If your rice cooker is making mushy, dry or sticky rice, there’s a very good chance that you’re overlooking a very important step in the process.

Below, I’ve prepared a list of the possible causes behind this unfortunate culinary issue to help you identify the culprit and implement the best solution. I want to help you get your rice right, every time.

Ready? Let’s get to it!

Your Rice Cooker Might Be Making Mushy, Dry, or Sticky Rice Due To…

  • Not using enough water
  • Not washing the rice adequately
  • Using too much water

Being a devoted rice lover myself, I can sympathize with your situation and understand the frustration that a bland, clumpy rice can cause, but rest assured, that correcting the mistakes from the list above will make a night and day difference.

#1 You’re Not Using Enough Water

Measure your water properly

This might surprise you, but sometimes the 2:1 water-rice ratio is not ideal. As a matter of fact, depending on the type of rice you’re using, you might need to bump that up to 3:1.

Some rice variants, such as brown rice, need much more water than short grain white rice, for example. Knowing how much water the grain you’re using needs, is the first thing you must learn to become a rice master.

Failing to do so will most certainly result in dry, or even burned rice!

Solution:  Do some research prior to cooking. Sometimes the indications on rice packages are not for rice cookers, but regular pots. It’s always a good idea to double-check and experiment. 

Rice stucked due to lack of water
Depending on the type of rice, the rice to water ratio will inevitably change. This level of variation can range from a ratio of 1:1 to potentially even 3:1 in favour of water to rice.

#2 You’re Not Washing the Rice Properly

Excess starch causes sticky rice

If you’ve ever prepared gravy using starch, you know how good it is at thickening things up. Unless you’re preparing a very specific kind of dish, you don’t want that in your rice.

Along with potatoes, corn, and many other carbohydrates, rice is rich in starch, which is why you should always wash it before preparing it. If your rice is constantly turning out sticky and clumpy, this polysaccharide is to blame.

Solution: Give your rice a good rinsing.

With the help of a colander, put it under running water and wash it vigorously for a couple of minutes. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you see a transparent-white liquid falling to the sink under the colander, that’s the starch.

Repeat this process until the water runs clear, and you’re good to go! 

#3 You’re Using Too Much Water

Excessive amounts of water will ruin your rice

Ok, so now your rice is starch-free and properly hydrated, but it’s still turning out mushy. Why?

The answer lies in the water. As I said before, rice is very complicated to get right. Just like too little water can dry it, too much can make it mushy and clumpy, especially if you didn’t rinse the starch off adequately.

There’s no winning with rice, is there?

I hate to break it to you, but even after following the tips in this list, there’s still a chance that you’ll have to experiment with your rice cooker before achieving rice perfection.

Every appliance is different, and while these general rules will definitely improve the quality of your rice, they won’t make it flawless immediately.

Solution: Experiment.

Try adding water gradually in every batch until you’re happy with the result. As I said before, a good starting point is 2 cups of water for every cup of rice, but this is not set in stone.

soggy rice
If you add too much water, the rice will be soggy, mushy, and overcooked. So experiment with your rice cooker and adjust your water-to-rice ratio accordingly for the next time.

Tips for Better Rice

If you followed the previous steps to a tee, your rice is already turning out much better, but in case you want to improve it even further, here are some additional tips that can prove useful.

Tip #1: Use Brown Rice

This is obviously not mandatory, but it can help with the tedious starch-removal process. This rice variant contains less starch, which means that rinsing whatever’s in it won’t be so complicated. In fact, you can prepare brown rice in your rice cooker without rinsing, and it will turn out much better than starchy white rice. 

Tip #2: Turn the Heat Down

The perfect rice is not just about water or starch, but also temperature.

Even if it doesn’t burn, cooking your rice at high temperatures will make it turn out much drier than if you take your time and let it simmer lightly. It will take a bit longer to cook, but it’s totally worth it.

Tip #3: Be Mindful About Your Complements

Mixing your vegetables in with your rice sounds like a good idea, and it will definitely save you time, but is it the best way to go? It depends.

Adding peas, corn, diced carrots and other vegetables will give your rice an additional layer of texture, flavor and color, but doing so carelessly and without modifying the amount of water you use, could ruin the entire dish.

The same goes for chicken, meat, or any other complement you want to mix in with your rice. If you’re not sure as to how these will affect the cooking process, it’s best to prepare them separately and incorporate them later.

Conclusion

Rice is not a quick dish to prepare. Even when done in rice cookers, which require little to no supervision, having to patiently wait only to find that it turned out mushy, dry or sticky, is frustrating.

While all rice cookers are created differently, it’s rare to find an abysmal difference between one brand and another, which means that the way your rice is turning out is probably more related to the ingredients you’re using and the temperature you’re setting your rice cooker to, than the features on the appliance itself.

Even the smallest changes in your rice-cooking routine can affect the way the dish turns out dramatically. Remember to always double-check the amount of water each rice variant needs, and rely on both the package instructions, and online resources to find the sweet spot.

Like many things in life, rice is a continuous trial and error process that can take some time to master, do not give up.

Thank you very much for reading, if you found this article helpful, there’s many more waiting for you below, why not check them out?

Bon Appétit!