How Long Does It Take To Cook Brown Rice In A Rice Cooker?

Brown rice seems to have a bad reputation of either being too hard and chewy or too soft and mushy. Oh, and taking ages to cook. It’s true that brown rice often takes close to an hour to cook in a rice cooker. But, since it’s almost entirely hands-off, that’s an hour where you can be doing anything else you’d like.

So while an hour may sound like a long time for rice, it’s the rice cooker doing all the work for us, and I rarely hear them complaining about it.

We can get a better understanding of brown rice cooking times by exploring the anatomy of brown rice as well as how rice cookers work.  And maybe we’ll even learn a trick to help speed up the process along the way.

How A Rice Cooker Works

how does a rice cooker work

Rice cookers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be simple, single-button machines or models packed with technology and an array of cooking functions. Here are a few of our favorites.

No matter how simple or complex, all of these machines cook rice in a very similar manner.

Inside most rice cookers is a removable inner pot where the rice and water are placed to cook. There will be a tight-fitting lid that goes on top and you’ll have at least one switch or button to turn the cooker on.

Once turned on, a heating element will bring the water up to a simmer to cook the rice. Once all of the water has been absorbed or evaporated the machine will shut off or switch to a warm setting.

It’s a very straightforward process and is very similar to what takes place if you cook rice in a pot on the stove. Only with less work and less mess.

Types Of Brown Rice

Different types of rice

Just like with white rice, there are many different types of brown rice to choose from. After all, white rice all starts out as brown rice. More on that later.

Each type can have a unique flavor, texture, and even cooking time. So, while we generally say that brown rice takes between 45 minutes to an hour to cook, it can be different for different types of rice.

The basic categories for brown rice are the same as for white. Some of the most common brown rice names that you’ll see are short, medium, and long-grain, as well as basmati and jasmine.

A good rule of thumb when deciding what type of brown rice you want to cook is that the shorter the grain the higher the starch content. So, a short grain brown rice will be more creamy and sticky, while long-grain brown rice will have more firm and separate grains once they are cooked.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

brown and white rice background

Like I said earlier, all white rice starts out as brown rice. But even though they all come from the same plant, the end result is quite different.

Brown rice is transformed into white rice by a polishing process that removes the outer layers of the rice grain. Those layers that are removed (the bran and germ) are what gives brown rice its color, flavor, chewy texture, and dense nutritional value.

It’s also those outer layers that play a big role in how long the rice takes to cook. With those additional layers intact, brown rice takes significantly longer to break down so that it’s soft and edible.

Again, there are a range of cooking times depending on the type of rice you’re dealing with as well your particular rice cooker. But, most white rice will take between 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time in a rice cooker, while brown rice is usually in the 45 to 60 minutes range.

If you have a rice cooker that has a brown rice setting, definitely take advantage of it. White rice is usually cooked by bringing the water up to boil and then immediately dropping the temperature to a very gentle simmer.

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With a brown rice setting, the machine will usually maintain a higher temperature for a longer period of time before reducing to a gentle simmer. And it’s that extra time at a higher temp that really helps to break down the tough outer layer of brown rice.

Soaking Your Rice

Soaking Brown Rice in Water

Soaking your brown rice before you cook it is not necessarily a requirement. But, it can make a big difference in how evenly your rice is cooked and also how long it takes to get there. It may add a little more time up front, but it takes zero additional effort.

Once you’ve added the appropriate amount of water to your brown rice, simply cover it and let it soak before you start your rice cooker. I try to aim for at least 30 minutes of soak time, but you can even do this several hours in advance. 

Then, simply run your rice cooker as you normally would.

Final Thoughts

Because brown rice still has the outer bran and germ intact, it can take a good deal of time to break down and cook in a rice cooker. Plan on giving yourself anywhere from 45 minutes to a full hour for the cooking process. And consider adding some soaking time beforehand to help speed up the process and also make for more evenly cooked rice grains.

If your old rice cooker just isn’t producing the results you’d like, consider checking out our top 3 Japanese rice cookers. They’re high-tech, high-quality machines that are sure to make some of the best brown rice you’ve ever had.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does Brown Rice Take Longer To Cook Than White Rice?

Brown rice still has the outer bran and germ intact and those take a long time to break down and become tender. White rice on the other hand has been polished to remove those tough outer layers so cooking time is much faster.

Will My Rice Cooker Work If It Doesn’t Have A Brown Rice Setting?

Yes, even the most basic rice cookers can cook brown rice, although the results may not be as good as machines that do have a brown rice setting. If you don’t have one, consider soaking your brown rice for at least 30 minutes before cooking for better results.

Should I Soak Brown Rice Before Cooking It?

Soaking brown rice before cooking will help soften the tough outer layers and will also give a head start on water absorption. Both of these things can help the rice cook faster and more evenly.

About the author

William is a classically trained chef, who spent years cooking in top NYC restaurants before bringing his talents home to Colorado. Now a stay-at-home dad, William has brought his passion for professional cooking home, where he continues to cook and bake for his wife and daughter.