I mentioned in a long winded article about the benefits of using a rice cooker that the biggest problem you will have cooking rice that way is that you will have foam and some water dripping out from beneath the lid. That problem may not be as obvious with some of the more expensive rice cookers on the market but, since I do not want to go into that debate here, I will just encourage you to go read that article by clicking here, and I will focus on the actual benefits of using a sieve here.
To put it simply, during transport rice grains tend to rub one on the other and, as a result, they will form just a little bit of rice flower in the bag. If you were to start cooking the rice without washing away all that flour, it would form a relatively thick foam that would rise to the top, make its way from under the lid, and spill all over your nice kitchen counter. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to wash away all that flour, or it can take an absolute age to do so using a simple bowl. Further complicating the problem is that you are always going to have grains of rice running out of the bowl with the water and clogging up you sink, not to mention messing up the math you need to do in order to determine just how much water you need to cook the rice.
Japan, possibly even more than China, has a rice rich diet, so it is only natural that they would come with a simple and elegant solution. They use sieves, like the ones we use to strain tea or powder sugar, only theirs are a lot bigger. A regular pasta sieve obviously would not do because its holes are a lot larger and the rice would just slide through. You need not worry about the fact that it seems here like I am encouraging you to buy a sieve for the single purpose of washing rice every once in a while. You will be surprised to find out that the sieve will come in handy for several different tasks. I like to use it when I need to wash herbs like parsley or basil because that way I do not risk losing any of the leaves. It is also great for washing bigger leaves greens like spinach and salads. A large sieve is particularly useful when washing spinach because it allows me to drench it in water and it is virtually the only way I have found to wash away all the sand that you normally find in organic, directly from the farmer spinach.
What to Look for When Choosing a Sieve
The most important thing to remember when choosing a large sieve for washing rice or vegetables is that it is going to get pretty heavy, particularly when all that water is running through it. That means you need to make sure that it has a strong, comfortable handle, so you can hold it comfortably. You also need to make sure that the sieve itself is a lot more durable than a regular tea sieve.
Trying to address these 2 requirements, manufacturers have come up with 2 designs. One is a double handle sieve with long slits running down the sides of the sieve. The advantage with this type of model is that you simply put the sieve down in the sink and let the water run through it at will. In my experience though, the slits on the sides tend to warp somewhat and you will always have some grains of rice getting stuck in there. They are too few to cause any problems when you are trying to work out how much water you should add to cook the rice, but they will be somewhat difficult to clean away from the cracks before you put the sieve away.
My favorite model is actually the exact same concept as in a tea sieve, but it is much larger. Consequently the handle is going to be larger, and easier to grip. You do need that larger handle because you cannot set this sieve down and you need to hold it up as you wash the rice. However I feel that is an advantage in itself because it allows me to change the position of the sieve with ease and thus thoroughly wash every part of the rice or of the leaves. The most important think to note here is that this model of sieve almost always has a fine metal mesh and that mesh needs to be very strong in order for it not to warp because of the weight of the rice. So I would encourage you to look for a sieve with a double mesh system. The inner layer should be extra fine so that no grain of rice or half of grain of rice can run through it. The outer layer needs to be less fine so that the water will run easily through it, and it will use thicker strands of metal to offer support.
My personal opinion on the matter is that the second type of sieve is the better one, and that is the one I am using. In fact you can find a link to the Amazon page where I bought the one I am currently using. In the interest of full disclosure I need to point out that if you decide to buy it using the link below I am going to get a small kick back from Amazon for referring you to them, but that will in no way increase your cost. Also it is one of the cheaper models because, as I have mentioned in my talk about rice cookers, I personally do not believe in buying expensive products when cheaper ones will do the job just as well.