Open up your rice cooker, and in addition to your new appliance you'll find a plastic paddle. Your first instinct may be to think you already have plenty of wooden spoons, spatulas, and cooking utensils, so the last thing you need is a flimsy plastic one taking up space. You may even be quick to toss it, deeming it useless. But not so fast — this paddle actually has an important purpose.
There's a reason this tool was included with your purchase, and it's more useful than you may have realized.
It's Plastic for a Good Reason
Most rice cookers include a thin plastic paddle (although some higher-end models opt for bamboo). While it might not feel like the sturdiest tool in the kitchen, this paddle is actually pretty durable — and it's plastic for a reason.
Take a peek at the inside of your rice cooker, and you'll notice that it's lined with a nonstick coating. So, just as with nonstick cookware, only certain types of tools should be used with this appliance. Metal utensils will scrape and scratch the nonstick coating, which can eventually cause the coating to flake or peel. So it's important to use only plastic or wooden tools with a rice cooker.
The Best Feature of Your Rice Paddle
Yes, the paddle tackles scooping and serving rice more efficiently and easily than a spoon, but unlike a spoon or spatula, the best feature of the rice paddle is that it allows you to mix the rice without mashing the grains.
When using a rice cooker, it's important to mix the rice once it's finished cooking. This step helps to release any excess moisture, keeping the texture of all the grains consistent. The paddle cuts through the grains of rice as you mix, instead of smashing the grains together.