The Black & Decker rice cooker family includes several popular models, and the RC400 is a 16-cup workhorse that's simple to operate yet delivers great results. Cooking rice on the stove top is done in a couple of ways: the cook-and-drain method or the water-absorption method. The latter is best because flavor isn't poured down the drain. It's the method used by rice cookers but without having to worry about watching the stove.
Before You Start
Freshness will affect rice, as will the style of grain, such as whether it's short or long and white or brown. All of these factors will determine how much water is needed and how long it will take to cook. For something like basmati rice, it's best to presoak the rice before cooking it and to rinse it until the starches are gone and the water runs clear, but this affects water levels in cooking.
All this is to say that using your rice cooker will be a work in progress. You may not attain perfection the first time, but you'll learn how to tweak the cooking to get the rice you prefer. For softer, fluffier rice, you'll need to add some water. For crunchy, al dente rice, less water is the answer. For instant rice or wild rice, these rice cookers are not the answer. Stick to the stove for those.
When there's water in the recipe, you can get a little wild and crazy and try substituting it with some good-quality veggie or chicken stock, or you can even replace some water with coconut milk for a southeast Asian curry meal. Both of these approaches add a ton of flavor. First, though, master the basics.
Black & Decker Rice Cooker Basics
The rice cooker comes with a marked internal pot and a scoop. For each scoop of rice, the corresponding mark on the internal bowl is where you'll fill the water. So, three scoops means filling to the three with water. The difference is no matter how much brown rice you use, always add ¾ cup of extra water. When making rice, always add a bit of salt for some flavor.
The RC400 is a large-volume rice cooker, and as a result, it's not intended for making anything less than 5 to 6 cups of rice. So, three scoops and level three of water is the least you should make. The RC400 manual is easy to find online and carries the exact quantities of varying rice and the corresponding water levels.
Rice cookers are a "set it and forget it" appliance, so don't worry about watching the time as long as you've put the lid on properly. For white rice, you can expect it to take 22 minutes for three scoops (5 to 6 cups) and up to 40 minutes for seven scoops (14 to 16 cups). For brown rice, it takes longer — don't forget the extra water — and it will be 46 minutes to cook three scoops (6 cups) and up to 62 minutes for 7 scoops (15 cups).
When the Rice Is Done
The RC400 and most other rice cookers come with a warming mode that it flicks to after cooking to keep your rice warm. This can stay on for hours, but unlike Japanese models, it will likely form a crust on the bottom. Some folks love the crust, though.
To reheat rice the next day, simply add a half cup of water or so, cover it and turn it on. It will switch to warm mode as soon as the water evaporates.
Dig into the web and you can find rice cooker plus directions — things like making porridge, steaming vegetables and more. You'll soon discover that this is a great appliance to add to any kitchen.