(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

The rice cooker has always been one of my favorite appliances. We eat steamed rice at least once a week and usually make enough to have leftovers for fried rice. I'm perfectly capable of cooking rice on the stove, but my rice cooker has an easy-to-clean nonstick lining and can keep the rice warm for hours, making it something I can turn on right before I leave the house in the morning.

But to be honest, this appliance takes up a lot of space. So how can I justify the amount of cabinet space it takes up? Because in addition to making great rice, the rice cooker makes great oatmeal too!

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

How Does a Rice Cooker Work?

If you think about it, the processes of cooking rice and cooking oatmeal aren't that different: Simmer in your liquid of choice until absorbed and tender. Even the most basic rice cooker automates the whole process for you; it rapidly brings everything up to a boil, then a sensor is triggered that immediately shuts the heat off to the let the contents inside continue steaming and resting. Fancier rice cookers have sensors that can tell when the liquid is absorbed and adjusts cooking times accordingly.

Why Make Oatmeal in a Rice Cooker?

While a rice cooker doesn't necessarily speed up the process of cooking rice or oatmeal, it does make it much more foolproof since you can just turn it on and walk away. My other easy oatmeal recipe used to be steel-cut oats in a slow cooker, but I found that since my slow cooker is large, I had to make a lot of oatmeal in it to make sure it cooked properly. I also didn't love the crust of dried-out oatmeal that would form on the bottom.

The rice cooker, however, works well for smaller amounts, especially since you want to leave enough room in there for it to bubble up without spilling over as it comes to a boil. This is perfect when I just want enough oatmeal for 1 to 2 meals for my small family.

Also, with an active toddler underfoot every morning, not having to keep a watchful eye on a pot of hot oatmeal, especially long-cooking steel-cut oats, is a lifesaver. Plus, those who choose to sleep in still have a hot breakfast waiting for them since the rice cooker keeps the oatmeal warm for hours!

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

How Do You Make Oatmeal in a Rice Cooker?

Making oatmeal in a rice cooker is easy, but does take some trial-and-error, depending on the type of oatmeal and how thin or thick you like your oatmeal. You might have to play around with the amount of liquid before you get the oatmeal consistency you like.

Here's how I do it: I start with 1 cup of regular old-fashioned oats or 1 cup of steel-cut oats (no soaking needed!). Next, I add 1 3/4 cups of liquid for the regular oats or 2 1/2 cups of liquid for steel-cut oats (my favorite ratio is equal parts water and milk). Finally, I add a big pinch of salt.

I close the rice cooker; turn it on to the porridge setting, which cooks it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time than the regular rice setting (although I'm sure this would work in a rice cooker without a porridge setting); and walk away! When the machine beeps, the oatmeal is ready — give it a good stir and it's ready to be served with whatever your heart desires. In my case, a generous drizzle of good maple syrup is all I need. Comfort food at its easiest.