A simple, step-by-step tutorial on How to Cook Rice in a Donabe, a Japanese earthenware pot, on the stove. Perfect rice every time!
I’ve been making steamed rice in my reliable rice cooker for over 20 years. Not as fancy as the rice cookers currently available in Japan, but my rice cooker makes good decent rice.
Several years ago when I visited Japan, I had several occasions to eat rice cooked in the donabe at ryokans and rice specialty restaurants, which utterly blew my mind. The rice was unbelievably tender and fluffy – so tasty that I cannot stop thinking about it.
I had eaten rice made in donabe countless times growing up, but this time it made me wanted to get a donabe that’s specific for cooking rice.
What is Donabe?
Made of special clay, donabe is a century-old cooking utensil in Japan. In the modern days, these unique clay pots are most commonly used for hot pot dishes such as Shabu Shabu, but they are essentially a highly versatile tool for everyday cooking. Donabe is excellent for making soups, stews, and braised dishes, but you can also use it for steaming, roasting, or cooking the most amazing rice you’ve ever had.
Donabe holds heat exceptionally, which makes it an ideal vessel for cooking dishes that require liquid and long cooking. It is essentially the ultimate one-pot wonder and I think it also has the best capability in cooking rice.
Why We Should Cook Rice in Donabe?
The taste and texture is everything, but here are other things to consider.
- The same rice just tastes better when cooked in a donabe. It’s a fact!
- The pot is designed specifically to retain heat and moisture, so your rice is fluffy and evenly cooked every time.
- There is a beauty to its rustic character, which makes donabe simple yet gorgeous tableware to serve your rice in.
- Easy to use and maintain.
What Type of Donabe We Should Buy?
There are regular donabe that we use for hot pot dishes and soups, or sometimes main dishes. You can use them for cooking rice, but in Japan, there are donabe specifically designed just for cooking rice. This type of donabe often has double lids, and that’s what you want to get if you wish to cook the dreamiest, fluffiest rice.
The one I have is called Kamado-san. Handcrafted by skilled artisans, Kamado-san donabe is made from special clay sourced from the Iga region of Japan.
The beauty of Kamado-san is the double lid that works like a pressure cooker, so it delivers heat evenly and retains the temperature extremely well. Even once you turned off the heat, your rice will keep warm for a long time. It also has a special glaze that helps the heat penetrate into the core of each rice grain.
I have two of them; one for 2-go (2 rice cooker cups) and one for 3-go (3 rice cooker cups). I originally bought a 2-go donabe as that was enough for my family of 4. Now that my teenage boy’s appetite keeps increasing, I realized I needed a bigger pot when I make dishes such as Takikomi Gohan (Japanese mixed rice). So I got myself a 3-go donabe so I can cook mixed rice, which requires the extra room for other ingredients.
Where to Buy Kamado-san
How to Season Donabe Before the First Use
I’ve shared a detailed step-by-step guide on how to care for your donabe. It’s incredibly useful to read through, so your precious earthenware pot can last you for a lifetime.
How to Cook Rice in Donabe
The cooking process is the same just as how you would cook rice in a pot over the stovetop.
- First, rinse the rice thoroughly until the water runs clear, drain well, then transfer the rice to the donabe.
- Add water into the pot and soak the rice for 20-30 minutes. Soaking the rice helps to revive the rice kernels and allow each grain to absorb enough moisture.
- Set the donabe on the gas stovetop and cook the rice over medium-high heat for 13-15 minutes.
- When the rice is done cooking, let it stand with the lid on for 20 minutes before serving.
4 Important Tips on Cooking Rice in Donabe
- Always soak rice before cooking.
- Dry the bottom of the donabe with a towel.
- Never use high heat. Use medium-high (or medium heat for the commercial-grade stove).
- Let it stand for 20 minutes after cooking.
To me, cooking rice with a handmade donabe also brings a deeper and sacred experience. There’s life to its function, and it is you who owns the donabe that continues to breathe life to the earthenware pot.
A high-quality donabe is not cheap, but it’s the best rice cooker your money can buy! The donabe cooks your rice so perfect and keeps your food so warm that you know it’s going to be your life-long companion in the kitchen.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
How to Cook Rice in Donabe
- 2 rice cooker cups uncooked Japanese short-grain rice (180 ml cup x 2 = 360 ml)
- 400 ml water (Using 1:1.1 rice to water ratio, 360 ml x 1.1 = 396 ml)
To Rinse Rice
- First, add water just enough till it submerges all the rice in the bowl. Then discard the water immediately. Repeat this process 2-3 times. Tip: Rice absorbs water very quickly when you start rinsing, so don't let the rice absorb the first few rounds of water.
- Use your fingers to gently wash the rice in a circular motion for 10-15 seconds. Add water and discard the water. Repeat this process 2 times.
- Now use your fingers to gently wash the rice in a circular motion for 5 seconds. Add water and discard it. Repeat this process 2 more times.
- When the water is almost clear, drain well. Use a fine-mesh sieve to drain and shake off excess water.
To Add Water
- Transfer rinsed rice to the donabe and add 400 ml of water. Gently shake the pot to flatten the rice and distribute the rice evenly in the pot.
[White Rice Water Amount]
- 1 Rice Cooker Cup: 200 ml, 2 Cups: 400 ml, 3 Cups: 600, 4 Cups: 800 ml, 5 cups: 1000 ml.
[Brown Rice Water Amount]
- 1 Rice Cooker Cup: 300-320 ml, 2 Cups: 570-600 ml, 3 Cups: 900 ml, 4 Cups: 1200 ml.
To Soak Rice
- Place the lid (or both lids of Kamado-san) and soak the rice in the donabe for 20-30 minutes. If you're cooking brown rice, it requires 12 hours of soaking time. You can also add a pinch of salt to help reduce bitterness of rice (optional).
To Cook Rice
- Set the donabe on the gas stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high (or medium for the professional stove). Cook for 14 minutes (or see the following cooking time for your rice cups) or turn off the heat 2 minutes after the steam starts puffing from the lid's hole for white rice.
[White Rice Cooking Time]
- 1 Cup: 11-12 minutes (medium heat), 2 Cups: 12-14 minutes (medium-high heat), 3 Cups: 13-15 minutes (medium-high heat), 4 Cups: 14-16 minutes (medium-high heat), 5 cups: 15-17 minutes (medium-high heat).
[Brown Rice Cooking Time]
- 1 Cup: 22 minutes (medium heat; turn off the heat 10 minutes after the steam starts puffing), 2 Cups: 28-30 minutes (medium-high heat; turn off the heat 13-15 minutes after the steam starts puffing), 3 Cups: 35-38 minutes (medium-high heat; turn off the heat 15-18 minutes after the steam starts puffing), 4 Cups: 41-43 minutes (medium-high heat; turn off the heat 17-19 minutes after the steam starts puffing).
To Let Rice Rest
- Remove from the stove and let it stand with the lid on (both lids for Kamado-san) for 20 minutes, and 40 minutes for brown rice.
- Fluff the rice, and it's ready to serve.
More Recipes Using Donabe
- Sesame Miso Hot Pot
- Mizutaki (Chicken Hot Pot)
- Bamboo Rice
- Shabu Shabu
- Sansai Gohan (Rice with Mountain Vegetables)