Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a series about all the ways we rely on our slow cookers, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfort food means comfort cooking.
For many Koreans and Korean-Americans, rice (a word which also happens to mean “meal” and “food” in Korean) is not just a means by which to sustain life—it's life itself. Which is why being tasked with the job of cooking it is a huge badge of honor in a Korean household. In my house, growing up, before I could even start making the rice, my mother had to first educate me on how it was grown (in water-logged rice patties), how to wash it (until the water runs clear), and why we soak it overnight and whisper sweet nothings into its ear (to reduce starch and to bring out any unwanted impurities).
Making perfect rice is an art, in short—but there's some science to it as well.
Fast forward to a couple decades later, I stopped cooking rice on an open fire like I did when I was 8 years old. Instead, I made fluffy white rice for my own family from a fancy $300 rice cooker that my mom gave me as a birthday gift one year. (Owning this $300 rice cooker is a Korean rite of passage.) Unfortunately, when my two children were diagnosed with a slew of allergies and sensitivities, it meant that all grains, legumes, soy, dairy, and processed foods were off the table. Except rice.
Ironically, that’s when my trusty, 20-year-old, $300 rice cooker broke. I took it as a sign from the gods. I also took the rice cooker breaking as a sign that I should change to a Teflon-free rice cooker. Which is when I came across the Instant Pot: an electric pressure cooker with six other functions, including a pre-programmed "Rice" button. I was relieved to find a cooker that not only cooked rice perfectly, but also had a stainless-steel pot (note: zero Teflon).
Even after all these years (much to my mother’s dismay), I've ditched rice cookers completely and have never replaced them. I’ve since cooked many varieties of rice and a bazillion recipes in my Instant Pot. Now I have three on my kitchen counter and have gifted countless others to every friend and family member I know. In fact, I use my Instant Pot so often that I’ve published two Instant Pot cookbooks since that fateful day when my rice cooker broke.
The bottom line is: The Instant Pot cooks white rice beautifully. And if you won’t take my word for it, then see for yourself:
My mom taught me always to soak rice overnight and then wash it until the water runs clear. Her mother did it, and so did many others before her. They probably didn't realize the scientific reasons for doing it, but my mom, at least, thought soaked rice cooked faster and resulted in a better and softer grain. Even now, the FDA recommends washing rice thoroughly, soaking it, and discarding the water before adding fresh water to cook. That's why I suggest soaking the rice for at least 30 minutes, if not longer, and washing it thoroughly before cooking.
You'll find the water level for my method to be different than others since this method is for soaked rice, which absorbs water, so you don't need as much compared to un-soaked rice.
You can place the rice and water directly in the inner pot to cook two to ten cups. Press the “RICE” button for cooking white medium-grain rice. Timing for ten cups of rice is the same as two cups of rice since the “RICE” button automatically adjusts the time according to how much you’re cooking. The “RICE” button is set at LOW pressure to minimize the foam from cooking starchy rice. Always use Natural Pressure Release (NPR) or depressurize manually 10 minutes after timing ends. Turn the lid to open and quickly move the lid away from the pot so the condensed water on the inside the lid does not drip into the pot. Fluff the rice with a fork or the rice paddle, and serve immediately.
Refrigerate any leftover rice and reheat on “STEAM” when needed. Cold rice has resistant starch and reheating it reduces the carbs.
For this method, you'll need at least one cup of water for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. So, in theory, you should be able to make one cup of white rice with one cup of water since 1:1 rice to water ratio is what the Instant Pot company themselves recommend. But water gets absorbed by the rice, and there's a chance that there will be less than one cup of water left in the pot for it to come to pressure. This is why I always use the Pot-in-Pot (PIP) method if I have to cook just one cup of rice.
To do so, place the rice in an oven-safe container with the proper amount of water (see below). Place the container on top of the trivet with one cup of water in the inner pot and cook according to the times recommended in my charts. This PIP method never fails to cook a small quantity of rice. Lastly, the thicker the container, the longer it'll take, so use a stainless-steel vessel if you can for a faster cook time.
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