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I have bought a (roughly five litre volume) electric rice cooker that looks like this:

Notice the small hole at the top lid, that I suppose is for letting out steam.

During cooking, is it ever needed to put a dry cloth to cover the hole? And, if I do put a dry cloth while it's in cooking mode (or warming mode), are there any risks? (for example, my food will be burnt)

I am mostly using this electric rice cooker to cook rice, oats, boiled vegetable, pulses, etc. The idea to put a dry cloth covering the hole comes from my mom who has been using old pressure cookers for years (like this one).

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    Do you mean while cooking or just after turning it off for taking advantage of residual heat? The former is a clear safety hazard, the former might have a benefit. Sep 29, 2022 at 17:47
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    Pretend I'm 5 years old and explain to me the how putting a dry cloth on top of a hot appliance is a good idea.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 30, 2022 at 12:35

2 Answers 2

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Very simple: don't cover it at all, ever.

There is a reason for the hole being there. It is there to let stuff out! Usually clean steam, but if you loaded the cooker wrong, a bit of mess can come out. Then you should be happy that 1) it is coming out and not interfering with the cooking process inside, and 2) drawing your attention to the fact that you have loaded it wrong, so you know better next time. Just clean the mess.

In a pressure cooker, it is doubly important to not cover it! It is there as a safety mechanism, to prevent an explosion. Yes, I mean a real explosion, which will damage not just the pressure cooker, but also a good part of your kitchen! While pressure cookers made for home use are very safe, this depends on them being used as intended, and especially on not obstructing their safety valve in any way.

If you want a cleaner kitchen, simply position the rice cooker in a place where its steam hits something wipable, like a tiled wall. You can also put some kind of easy-washable foil on the underside of your upper cabinets above the cooker, or attach some multi-layer paper (an old magazine will do) which you then exchange regularly. But you have to live with the fact that you will have steam (with slightly dirty aerosol) coming out of that hole, that's what it is for.

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    I've seen advice to cover the steam hole of a saucepan lid (not a pressure cooker) but it's always been about keeping more of the moisture inside the pan, not about protecting anything from getting the steam on it. That last paragraph felt very out-of-the-blue to me, a response to something no-one had said. But of course you are correct about pressure cookers and their safety mechanisms.
    – dbmag9
    Sep 29, 2022 at 10:06
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    @dbmag9 I've heard this somewhere before, with the "keeps it clean" reasoning, that's why I directly assumed that it's also the OP's mother's reasoning. Maybe I was overeager there. With a superficial search, I found an article that also discusses this advice specifically for pressure cookers. It seems to implicitly assume that it is also about dealing with the steam coming out, but it doesn't explicitly say that it is about the mess it can make, so maybe it is not universal. hippressurecooking.com/cover-pressure-cooker-vent-valve.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 29, 2022 at 11:30
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    @Anonymous1234 The rice cooker is designed to operate without an extra cover; if you follow the directed quantity of rice and water it should produce good rice, and switch to the warming setting when it detects that the rice is ready.
    – dbmag9
    Sep 29, 2022 at 12:46
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    @dbmag9: With analog rice cookers, the rice is not ready until 10-15 minutes after it switches to the warm setting. Digital rice cookers trigger a timer at that stage.
    – Brian
    Sep 29, 2022 at 16:47
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica It seems that you are describing a modern electronic pressure cooker with rice-cooking functions. Classic analog pressure cookers have different valves, and the one which has the weight continually issues steam during the cooking process, that's how it controls the exact pressure. A non-pressurized rice coker also has to continuously issue steam, else it would build up pressure.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 30, 2022 at 12:34
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Answer from personal experience an conjecture:

The idea to put a dry cloth covering the hole comes from my mom who has been using old pressure cookers

The problem with pressure cookers is that these, in my experience, do not start by emitting "clean" steam, but they start to "sputter" in the warm-up phase, before the valve/mechanisms fully locks.

On an electric (not gas!) stove top, laying a dry cotton cloth loosely on the valve during this phase, is no risk at all IMHO, and may prevent some mess on the stove.

Since I'm sure a rice cooker won't sputter, since no pressure is built, I'd also say: Do not cover.

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    I have had a rice cooker sputter in the past, though my current one doesn’t at all. And yes, the sputtering one was a bog-standard unpressurized analog rice cooker. One thing I think helps these days could be the fact that I wash my rice while growing up we didn’t, so the reduced starches means that less bubbles form and get spat out at the hole Sep 30, 2022 at 20:46

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