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Rice Cooker Keeps Boiling Over?

It’s one of those problems the owner’s manual doesn’t address. Here’s why it happens, and what you can do about it.

A rice cooker promises you one thing, and one thing only: rice cooked to perfection, with minimum work for you, the cook.

All you have to do is measure out the rice, pour it into the pot, fill the pot with water, and turn the rice cooker on. And then, you can go about your day—the rice cooker will beep repeatedly to let you know when the rice is finished.

At least that’s how it goes in the ad. In practice, the rice cooker keeps boiling over, and you’re struggling to understand why. So once you were done with the cleaning and cursing, you grabbed your phone, googled the matter, and landed here.

Say no more. We’ve got your back. Read on below for the likely culprits, the solutions, and the answers to the questions you didn’t know you had to ask.

Why Your Rice Cooker Keeps Boiling Over

Okay, let’s cut to the chase: Why on earth does your rice cooker keep boiling over?

The most probable culprit is its starch content. Rice is made up mostly of carbohydrates (according to Medical News Today, carbs make up as much as 80% of rice’s dry weight), and the predominant carbohydrate in rice is starch.

A considerable amount of the surface starches seep into the rice water during cooking. Those starches soak up moisture, thickening the rice water and making it bubble, foam, and—the reason you’re here reading this—boil over. So the solution is to reduce the amount of starch.

Which leads us to the next part of this post, and that’s…

How to Keep Your Rice Cooker From Boiling Over

In a word, you need:

  1. The right kind of rice;
  2. Thorough, and I mean thorough, rinsing;
  3. Optionally, a soak before cooking.

I’ve explained each of these in more detail below.

Cook less starchy rice. You might be surprised to learn that the first step in keeping your rice cooker from boiling over has less to do with what you do in the kitchen and more to do with the kind of rice you put in your grocery cart.

There are three types of rice—short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain rice—despite the best efforts of every brand to convince you that their rice is special. Rice with a shorter grain tends to be starchier. Rice with a longer grain is less starchy.

If your rice cooker keeps boiling over, you might be trying to cook a variety of rice that’s too starchy. Sushi rice has a short grain, arborio (risotto) and bomba (paella) rice a medium grain, and American long-grain, basmati, and jasmine rice have a long grain. Avoid the former and use the latter.

Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking. Remember when I said the surface starches seep into the rice water? By rinsing some of them off before cooking, you reduce the amount that goes in. With fewer starches in it, the water will bubble up and foam less, which *should* keep it from boiling over.

Pour the rice into a colander or fine-mesh sieve, then hold it under lukewarm running water for one minute while agitating it to remove as much of the surface starch as possible. Then load it in the rice cooker and proceed as usual.

Soak out the starch from the rice. This step is optional, and you hopefully shouldn’t need to do it. But if you tried the two techniques above and they didn’t stop the rice from boiling over, you can try soaking the grains in a serving bowl for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking them.

I want to give you the disclaimer that this will make the rice mushier. However, it should also soak out the excess starch from the grains, and solve the problem.

In Summary

You’re probably trying to cook an overly starchy rice variety if your rice cooker keeps spilling over. You should be good if you use American long-grain, jasmine, or basmati rice. Rinsing the rice, or even soaking it for 15-30 minutes, should also help.

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.