The Rice-Cooker Oatmeal Fiasco


Since I don’t have access to my slow cooker, I’ve been trying off and on for several months to develop a recipe for rice-cooker oatmeal. The first recipe I tried, Closet Cooking’s “Slow Cooker Apple Pie Steel Cut Oatmeal,” worked remarkably well in the rice cooker. I reduced the recipe by half to serve two, assembled the recipe before bed, and set the timer to finish cooking it by our normal breakfast time.

Wow, it's a picture of oatmeal. Fascinating.
This recipe is good, but photos of oatmeal can only aspire to be so much.

The recipe actually made about 3 servings for us, so I wanted to adapt it to be 1. smaller and 2. more flexible. That is, I figured that I could adapt the recipe to use water instead of juice and to incorporate different seasonal fruits. A perfectly reasonably assumption, correct?

Experiment 1

Ratio: 1:1:1 (oats:milk:water) ratio
Volume: 1 US cup/240 “mL” each
Setting: “cook rice” (suihan, 炊飯)

Turns out very well, but still too much oatmeal.

Experiment 2
Ratio: 1:1:1
Volume: 240 mL/1 cup
Setting: “porridge” (okayu, おかゆ)
Add-ins: Banana (1)

Unsurprisingly produces an oat porridge, with the oats very much broken down. Actually rather nice, but not what I was going for. (Would make again, however.)

Experiment 3
Ratio: 1:1:1
Volume: reduced to 200 mL/~.75 cup each
Setting: rice setting
Add-ins: banana (1) and walnuts (handful), ginger powder (1/2 tsp), little brown sugar (1 tsp)

Gummy mess. Flavor: excellent; texture: atrocious. Somewhat edible with additional milk before serving, though, but just barely.

Experiment 4
Ratio: 1:1:1 ratio
Volume: 200 mL/~.75 cup each
Setting: rice setting
Add-ins: none (control group)

Better, but still gummy. Aggravated. There is no particular reason this should not work with the reduced volume, as the rice cooker senses for doneness, rather than using a timer.

Experiment 5
Ratio: 1:1.25:1.25 (more liquids)
Volume: 200 “mL” oats; 240 mL each of liquids
Setting: rice setting
Add-ins: chopped prunes and walnuts

Better, but still gummy. Suspect dried fruit is sucking out moisture. Should have done a better control. Wonder if apples, which are very juicy, are contributing to the original recipe’s success. Decide to attempt a control group for this sans fruit. Also wonder if tendency to leave oatmeal in rice cooker on “warm” for 10-20 minutes after the cooking finishes is messing up the texture.

Experiment 6 
Ratio: 1:1.25:1.25 ratio
Volume: 200 “mL” oats and 240 mL each of milk and water
Setting: rice setting
Additions: none (planned to mix in after cooking because science)
Time: opened immediately after finishing

Convinced I had finally achieved the scientific method, I jumped on the rice cooker immediately after it beeped.

I regrettably do not have a picture of this, but allow me to attempt to do this justice with words.

When I opened the lid, a flood of milky, starchy liquid rushed out from the lid and spread across the counter. (Mercifully, it did not run down the counter.) While the oatmeal was okay–cooked through, somewhat improved in texture–there was starchy liquid everywhere. Leaking out of the cooker. Gummed up in the hinge on the front and the back. All over the counter.

It was sort of like this.

“This,” I exclaimed, gesticulating wildly to my husband, “this must be what having a small child must be like!”*

We ate the oatmeal (approaching a decent texture) and I wiped down the cooker and counter as best as I could before we dashed off to work, with the horrifying knowledge that since I get home first (earlier hours/shorter commute), I would be the one to deal with the mess.

After I got home, I inspected the damage. From what I can gather, the following happened:

1. As the liquid cooks in the rice cooker, bubbles tend to form, sometimes escaping from the steam vent on the top of the apparatus.

2. At some point in the process, about three cooked oats, which I discovered in the initial sweep, had been carried up on one such bubble and become lodged in the tube that connects to the steam vent, thus preventing steam from escaping.

3. The steam that could not escape gathered as liquid between the removable metal disk that seals the cooking pot shut and the plastic lid of the cooker.

4. When I opened the cooker, all of the trapped liquid rushed out, pooling in the hinges, coating the rim of the cooker, and overflowing onto the counter.

The disk and tube to the vent.
The disk and tube to the vent.

Total time spent cleaning the rice cooker with a wet cloth, toothpicks, judicious use of water (so as not to ruin the electronics), and bits of paper towel for the particularly nasty parts: 60 minutes.

Lesson learned: if at first you don’t succeed, look up a damn recipe.

you tried


* Or so the Internet informs me. I’m not willing to test this theory.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Leslie B. says:

    Hi! I know this was written quite a while ago, but I came across it as I was searching for some new rice cooker oatmeal recipes. I feel your pain. I live at high altitude and the whole rice cooker thing has been an adventure. I make wonderful steel cut oats in it, but I still cannot make a decent pot of rice! One thing I thought I would mention if you have not thought of this since your wrote the post, I cannot put milk in my oatmeal to cook in the rice cooker. Maybe the high altitude messes with me, but milk bubbles up and tries to overflow. I just cook the oats in water and then add the milk after it is done.

    1. Leah says:

      Thanks for the tip! I haven’t tried it since then, and since I’ve moved, I have a crockpot and no rice cooker. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

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