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Why Does Rice Burn in the Rice Cooker?

If your rice cooker keeps burning the rice, check the guide below and see if you’re making one of these common mistakes!

Rice cookers are supposed to make cooking rice easy by letting you do other things around the house instead of leaning over the stove and stirring.

They’re also supposed to take the guesswork out of the process. Fill with rice, add water, and turn the cooker on, it says in the owner’s manual, the rice cooker will beep repeatedly when it’s ready.

So it’s not surprising that you’d feel frustrated when your rice cooker doesn’t live up to its promises and keeps burning the rice in the pot instead. But before getting the warranty out of the drawer and calling the manufacturer’s support line, check the guide below. The problem might as well be in the way you’re using it.

Why Rice Burns in the Cooker

New rice cooker users think their rice can’t burn, but they’re wrong. Like other cooking methods, the rice can burn if you don’t set up the rice cooker properly. Let’s go over the most common mistakes to avoid.

The water/rice ratio is off:

This is so obvious that most rice cooker users ignore it. Your rice cooker is made to cook a certain amount of rice with a certain amount of water for a certain amount of time.

The rice cooker decides the time, so there’s no need to talk about that. But how much rice and water you add is up to you. Refer to the owner’s manual and make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your make and model.

This usually means:

  • You’re adding too little water. The grains absorb most of the water, the rest evaporates, and the rice burns.
  • You’re cooking too little rice. Hey, maybe the rice cooker isn’t designed for a single serving, so it does everything as programed and nevertheless ends up burning it.

The rice variety is too starchy:

Maybe you’re trying to cook rice that’s too starchy. Rice, you see, is mostly carbohydrates—and most of the carbohydrates in rice are starches. The starches soak up the moisture and thicken the rice water, so the grains burn.

Sushi rice is the starchiest kind of rice. Some rice cookers may have a hard time preparing it. Second to sushi rice in starch content are Arborio (risotto) and Bomba (paella) rice. The least starchy varieties—and the ones you want to use—are American long-grain rice, Basmati rice, and Jasmine rice.

Consider rinsing or even soaking the rice. It’s usually a solution for when your rice cooker keeps boiling over, but it may help here, too.

You’re keeping the cooker on “Warm” for too long:

Most rice cookers have a function that keeps the rice warm. Many of them automatically switch to “Warm” when they’re done cooking. But you shouldn’t use this function for too long, or the grains on the bottom of the pot may burn.

If you cook rice for a family get-together early in the day, you can keep it warm until everybody arrives by stirring the rice occasionally with a wooden spoon and adding a bit of water every few hours.

If the Cooker Keeps Burning the Rice

If your cooker is still burning rice after following this guide, then maybe the appliance is the culprit.

If you bought a cheap cooker, the problem may be in its programming. In such a case, you can only do two things. One is to give the rice a stir as it cooks in the pot every now and then. The second—and you’re not going to like reading this—is to get a better cooker.

What if the rice cooker cost a pretty penny and came from a reputable brand? Call their support line and mention the problem. They may have further instructions for you, or it may actually need to be repaired.

In Summary

Yes, your rice cooker might be burning the rice because it’s defective. But before you try to have it repaired, check that you’re using it correctly. As much as we don’t like to admit this, when this happens, the problem is more often than not in the user than in the device.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.