I always have an eye on my own kitchen practices to discern what it is that I think will qualify for the most basic and important tools, habits, ingredients, etc . . . Both to improve on my own inefficiencies and to share what I’ve developed for myself over the years. This is tricky because the true habits and staples of my kitchen are hidden from me. They involve mechanical behavior that happens all the time, and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it . . . . like breathing.
Something jumped out to me this morning over breakfast, my rice cooker. I get a lot of questions from people who can’t seem to get their rice right. While there are plenty of techniques I can lay down to help, I suggest nipping the problem in the bud and treating yourself to a rice cooker. You press the button and when it pops up it’s done.
Mine sees so much action I’m surprised it still works. I use it almost daily, and often twice a day . . . . but I don’t eat much rice. A rice cooker can be used for anything that calls for the “rice method”: a grain/water ratio, where you bring it to a boil and then lower the heat. So pretty much any grain; polenta, quinoa, bulgur wheat, even oatmeal will work.
The way it works is that there is a thermostat that senses when the temperature rises above 212 degrees F. (100 C) Which it can only do once the water present has dissipated (absorbed into the grain and/or evaporated). So as long as you get the grain to water ratio right, it’s pretty much fool proof.
One more thing, if you're cooking for one it's the ideal vessel. You can cut up a little chicken and put it in the rice cooker with say . . . curry powder, coconut milk and some shredded kale and you have a one pot meal for one. Mine has a stream basket so you can cook up some extra veggies too.