I remember the first time I used a rice cooker. It was after moving into a house with a bunch of buddies in college; one buddy was from Korea. He showed up with a rice cooker; I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make rice with it. Before then, I did the old boil in a pot method which took forever and created a nightmare of a pot to clean.
Ever since then I’ve had a high-quality rice cooker in the house. I love rice and use it very regularly.
But, not all rice cookers are the same. Below I set out the many different types of rice cookers based features, size (capacity) and finish.
Table of Contents
- Rice Cooker FAQ
- Can rice cookers be recycled?
- Are Rice Cookers Energy-Efficient?
- Are Rice Cookers Faster Than Not Using a Rice Cooker for Cooking Rice?
- Are Rice Cookers Dishwasher Safe?
- Are Rice Cookers Supposed to Bubble?
- Are Rice Cookers Easy to Clean?
- Can Rice Cookers Cook Quinoa?
- Can Rice Cookers Cook Brown Rice?
- Can Rice Cookers Cook Pasta?
- Can Rice Cookers Cook Vegetables?
Related: Rice Cooker Brands
The main distinguishing aspect of rice cookers boils down to various features you can get with your rice cooker. There are simple models vs. those with many bells and whistles. Below we set out the various rice cooker features to consider when looking to buy this type of appliance.
While rice cookers make it very easy to easily cook up a batch of rice for yourself or for a giant party, there is one part of making rice that is really frustrating and that’s cleaning the cooker. Instead of trying to wash out a cooker while trying not to get any of the electrical components wet, simply buying one that comes with a removable interior will make cleanup a lot easier. Being able to take out the inside container where the rice cooks doesn’t just make washing it easy but it also allows you to easily serve from the bowl and even to cover it and store the whole container in the refrigerator without having to dirty another dish.
It’s easy to overcook rice by accident or to leave the cooked rice in the cooker for so long that it starts to stick to the sides. Instead of having to wash the cooker as soon as you take the rice out, possibly delaying meals and allowing the rice to get cold, you can rely on a non-stick interior to make cleaning the cooker a breeze. This also allows you to use a “warm” setting on the cooker without worrying about rice getting cooked to the inside and being difficult to get off. Gone are the days of soaking the cooker to make it easier to clean. Non-stick interiors are easy to use and the leftover rice will wipe out quickly without any problems.
It can be very difficult to time a meal perfectly so that all of the components are ready at the same time but there are few things that will ruin a meal faster than cold rice will. Instead of trying to hold the cooked rice at the perfectly temperature in the oven or by using the microwave – both will quickly dry out the rice and make it gummy – when you opt for a cooker that has a “warm” setting, you won’t have to worry about how the rice will taste if it is finished before the rest of the meal. This is also ideal for families who can’t always eat at the same time as everyone will be able to enjoy warm rice without having to heat it back up.
It is so easy to accidentally leave appliances in the kitchen plugged in and turned on but this can create a fire hazard. No matter how well you think that you’ll remember to turn off the rice cooker when you are finished using it, chances are good that you will forget at some time. Not only will you be coming home later to crispy, dried-out rice that is almost impossible to clean out of the cooker but you put your home and family at risk each time you leave an appliance unattended for the majority of the day. A rice cooker with an auto shutoff will give you peace of mind that you don’t ever have to worry about the cooker running all day long. If you do forget to turn off the appliance, the only problem you’ll have is old cooked rice that needs to be thrown away.
Cooking multiple meals a day can get exhausting and it’s always nice to have a little extra help. If you are picky about your rice and want it to soak for a while before it cooks or know that you’ll be cutting it close coming home from work or errands and may not have time to get the cooker set up before a meal, then one that is programmable is a great choice. Rice cookers that come with multiple program settings will allow you to create the perfect rice each and every time you use them, no matter what your ideal rice might be. Adjusting the temperature as well as the cook and soak times allows even the pickiest rice fan to enjoy every meal.
Many people find it a lot easier to make the perfect rice when they use a digital rice cooker as it gives them a lot of control over the cooking process. Being able to choose the exact amount of time that your rice will be cooking makes it easy for even novices to make great rice for every meal. Not only that, but many digital rice cookers come with options such as steaming the rice, choosing between white and brown rice cooking settings, and an obvious on/off button. This button makes it easy to ensure that your cooker is turned off and will lower the chance that you accidentally leave the rice cooker on all day long when you are gone.
A lot of busy cooks don’t have time to wash their rice cookers each time they use them. This is especially true for families who eat later at night or who enjoy having rice with their breakfast. Instead of leaving the cooker to soak all day or night and then having to deal with it later, buying one that can be put in the dishwasher makes cleaning it really easy. While not all rice cookers are dishwasher-safe, the ones that are can easily be thrown in with the rest of the meal’s dishes so that you don’t have to worry about washing them by hand.
One new advancement with rice cookers is induction heating cookers that allow the rice and water to heat up with a radio frequency electricity that passes through conductive material. This kind of heating technology is very advanced and safe and ensures that the food in the pot is all heated and cooked evenly. The whole inner pot is used to heat instead of having a single heating element at the bottom of the pot. This type of cooking is very responsive to temperature changes and allows users to make precise changes during the cooking process. The rice cooks a lot more quickly than rice in a traditional cooker and turns out much fluffier.
Perfect for the user who doesn’t want to buy an expensive solely dedicated to cooking rice, a microwave-safe rice cooker takes up very little storage space, is incredibly easy to use, and doesn’t require an extra outlet. Made from strong plastic that can stand up to years of use, these rice cookers use a tight-fitting lid that traps all of the steam to ensure that the rice is perfectly cooked and there aren’t any hard grains. These cookers are generally safe to go in the dishwasher as well, making them perfect for a busy family who doesn’t want to labor over washing up the rice cooker. While smaller than some electric rice cookers, they generally hold enough rice to be able to feed a family with some leftovers.
If you like to travel and want to make sure that you can have the perfect rice no matter where you are, then you will want to make sure that the rice cooker you buy is portable. Because they are lighter than their counterparts, they are easy to bring along on road trips and can even be packed for flights. It’s easy to find portable rice cookers in all sizes, which means that smaller ones can be taken most places. These rice cookers come with many options just as their counterparts do and can quickly cook up perfect servings of rice for any meal.
Rice cookers operate with a lot of high heat and steam so opening them prematurely can result in burns if you are not careful. This is especially concerning for families who have children who like to help out in the kitchen as they may try to open the rice cooker and burn themselves. Locking lids allow parents to walk away from the rice cooker without worrying about anyone getting injured on accident and ensure that the rice will be cooked perfectly. Opening the lid doesn’t just risk burns: it will also let out some of the steam and this can result in hard rice. Locking lids keep families safe and ensure delicious rice time after time.
As great as rice cookers are, sometimes it’s nice to be able to use the appliance for more than one thing. Single-purpose appliances are frustrating to a lot of people, especially those who have smaller kitchens or don’t have a lot of storage space to hide their appliances from view. When you choose a rice cooker that also comes with a steaming basket, you instantly increase the number of times that you will use this appliance. Being able to cook rice as well as steam vegetables or fish helps you to create healthy, delicious meals time after time without having to have two separate appliances. The steaming baskets are generally dishwasher safe, making it very easy to clean up after a meal. Additionally, since most of them are non-stick, you won’t have to worry about your food sticking to the cooker or steamer.
If you want to be able to serve your rice directly from the cooker without having to transfer it to another bowl or like bringing rice with you to potlucks and other events, then look for a cooker that has handles. This ensures that you won’t accidentally burn yourself when moving the cooker as even ones that are supposed to stay cool to the touch tend to get too warm to handle easily and without fear of being burned. This is especially important if you are buying a large rice cooker as you don’t want to have to worry about the weight of the rice and the cooker causing it to all slip out of your hands while you are carrying it.
While two handles make it easy to lift and move the rice cooker no matter if it is full or empty, some come with one handle that makes it even easier to move this appliance. Instead of having to devote both hands to lifting and moving the rice cooker, when you buy one that has only one handle, you can easily carry it and still have a free hand either for opening a door or carrying something else at the same time. The handle ensures that you don’t accidentally burn yourself and makes it very easy to take these rice cookers with you for a meal on the go or to a potluck event.
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Some rice cookers are able to do more than just cook rice and steam vegetables with the help of a steamer basket. If you are looking for even more functionality in your rice cooker because you don’t want to have to buy a number of different appliances or don’t have the storage space to keep them all, then it’s time to consider a multi-use rice cooker. The functions on these appliances vary but generally include rice cooker, food steamer, and a slow cooker. Some units come with programmable functions that allow the user to simmer soups, perfectly cook oatmeal, and even make a cake. Once the cooking is finished, these units will automatically switch to a warming function to ensure that the food stays at a safe temperature before you are able to sit down for your meal.
A lot of people love being able to see how their rice is cooking and this is especially true if you have children in your home who want to help with the meal. Instead of lifting the lid and letting out a lot of the necessary steam, clear lids make it easy and fun to peek into the rice cooker and see how the rice is cooking. This allows users to make adjustments to the amount of liquid or rice that they use as well as the temperature or length of time that they let their rice cook, easily perfecting their meal.
Sometimes you only need a little rice to go along with a meal or you live alone and cooking a small amount of rice in a larger cooker can result in rice that is unevenly cooked. Smaller rice cookers work perfectly on individual servings of rice or when you only need a little bit to go with a meal. They do a great job cooking around two to four cups of rice. They are also small enough that you can easily store the rice cooker in a cupboard. Additionally, because of their size, they are great in an office or in a dorm room where they won’t take up a lot of space or get in the way of other people.
Ideal for regular family meals, medium rice cookers can generally cook around five to seven cups of rice at once. While not as large as other options, they are powerful and often are the best choice for a smaller family or one that doesn’t eat a lot of rice at meals. It’s very unlikely that you will have a lot of leftover rice when you buy a medium rice cooker.
There are some times when you need a little more rice than a medium-size rice cooker can easily make for you but still need the amount to be manageable. When this happens, you will want a large-size cooker. These will vary but will cook about eight to 14 cups of rice, enough for a large dinner party but not so much that you will be stuck with a lot of leftover rice to store and to eat. These larger rice cookers tend to be a little heavy so they will often come with handles that makes it easier to move them around while they are hot without an increased risk of burning yourself.
While a lot of people don’t need their rice cookers to make vast quantities of rice, if you regularly throw parties or have a huge family where everyone enjoys rice with his or her meal, then you will want a rice cooker large enough to make many servings and to keep them warm. Restaurants can also benefit from larger rice cookers as they ensure that you always have enough rice on hand for your customers and won’t ever be delayed in getting meals out on the table. Some extra-large cookers can easily cook up to 35 cups at once, eliminating the need for multiple appliances and ensuring that everyone has a hot meal at the same time. Large-capacity rice cookers will come with multiple heating elements so that you don’t have to worry about the rice being cooked unevenly or still being hard when it comes time for the meal.
Stainless steel rice cookers look great in a modern, updated kitchen. If you don’t have a lot of space in your cupboards to store your rice cooker when it isn’t in use, then you will want to make sure that you choose one that looks great and will match the rest of the appliances in your kitchen. While stainless steel used to be notorious for having fingerprint marks on it, this surface is now easy to clean and will stand up to a lot of use without looking dingy or dirty. Additionally, these rice cookers look great when taken to a buffet and won’t show splatters from the kitchen or bits of food that may get stuck to the outside of the cooker.
If your kitchen is clean, open, and mostly white, then you will want a rice cooker that fits with the color scheme. White rice cookers will tend to blend in and as long as they are wiped down from time to time, they will continue to look great. Any food that splashes onto these cookers may stain them so it’s important to wash the surface when it gets dirty. If you have white appliances in your kitchen or a white countertop and want the rice cooker to blend in, then white is a great choice.
Black rice cookers are the absolute best at hiding any splashes, stains, or cooked-on-food that may be stuck to the outside of the cooker. Instead of always feeling as if you need to clean your cooker to keep it looking its best, when you opt for a black rice cooker, you can rely on the color’s ability to hide stains and other issues. Fingerprints won’t show up and the color black will allow the rice cooker to blend into the rest of your kitchen instead of standing out. This makes them a great choice if you have a smaller kitchen and don’t want the countertop to appear cluttered and messy.
Sometimes your kitchen needs a pop of color, and red is the most obvious choice for this purpose. Red appliances add just enough visual interest to the kitchen without overwhelming the space and competing with any art that you may have hung to decorate with. Red rice cookers also do a great job at hiding any stains or cooked-on food that may be on the outside of the appliance, making them perfect in a busy kitchen or when the owner just doesn’t have enough time to devote to keeping them perfectly clean.
Rice Cooker FAQ
Can rice cookers be recycled?
Some people who own old or broken down rice cookers don’t want such items to end up in landfill, but they know that just placing it on the curb with standard recycling often will not work. A rice cooker is considered a unique item when it comes to recycling. The good news is that there are electronic recycle centers or e-waste recycling centers that will take rice cookers. Most don’t just accept TVs or laptops, for example. They will take items that run on batteries or, in the case of a rice cooker, have a cord. All you have to do is find your nearest center and bring the item in.
Are Rice Cookers Energy-Efficient?
The mixture of water and rice put into a rice cooker is said to make perfect rice without burning it or causing it to be overcooked or undercooked. But despite how well they cook rice, are these devices energy efficient? Yes. In fact, as reported in the Journal of Food Engineering, a study was conducted using both unsoaked rice and presoaked rice in a rice cooker. Compared to other cooking appliances, the rice cooker was found to be the most energy-efficient using 23 to 57 percent less energy.
Are Rice Cookers Faster Than Not Using a Rice Cooker for Cooking Rice?
Rice cookers are known for benefitting rice in a variety of ways. They can improve not the only texture of the rice, ensuring that it’s not mushy, for example, but it can also enhance the flavor. They make cook rice easier and help to ensure that you’re not burning rice and leaving burnt rice at the bottom of a pot. However, cooking rice in a rice cooker is not necessarily faster than not using a rice cooker. For example, it may take you 20 minutes total to prepare rice with a rice cooker which can be the same amount of time with a traditional stovetop method.
Are Rice Cookers Dishwasher Safe?
Are rice cookers safe to use in the dishwasher? It depends. Rice cookers often are sold with more than just the unit. You’ll typically find a nonstick removable pot, a steam basket, and utensils to help you cook the rice, such as a ladle or a spoon. The rice cooker itself will not be dishwasher safe, but the nonstick removable pot, the steam basket, and the cooking utensil or utensils will be. To clean the actual machine, you would simply wipe off any debris.
Are Rice Cookers Supposed to Bubble?
When you cook rice in a traditional stovetop method, for example, the water will come to a boil. The same is true for a rice cooker. The water in the machine will come to a boil and will bubble as a result. To reduce the amount of bubble, one trick is to rinse the rice until the water becomes clear before placing the rice in the cooker. Additional ways to reduce the bubbling is to add a small amount of butter or olive oil to the water in the rice cooker.
Are Rice Cookers Easy to Clean?
To keep cooking appliances in good working order, they need to be cleaned. It’s a good practice to clean appliances such as rice cookers the same day after you use them. However, today’s rice cookers are not difficult to clean. These units have removable nonstick coated interior bowls that can be placed inside the dishwasher or be hand washed. Additional parts such as a steam basket, spoon, cup, lid inserts can also be hand washed or placed in a dishwasher. The rice cooker machine itself would just need to be wiped down with a soft damp cloth and dried. It does not go inside a dishwasher.
Can Rice Cookers Cook Quinoa?
Quinoa, which is a gluten-free seed and a substitute for rice, can be cooked in many ways, and one of them is in a rice cooker. To cook quinoa in a rice cooker, one easy way is to add two parts water to one part quinoa into the interior bowl. Turn on the rice cooker and wait for the quinoa to cook. The entire process for this method is usually 15 minutes and then allowing the quinoa to rest for five minutes.
Can Rice Cookers Cook Brown Rice?
Brown rice is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. However, some people find it challenging to cook brown rice. For some, it never seems to come out right. The good news is that brown rice can be cooked in a rice cooker. Generally, the rice vs. water ratio for brown rice is different than for white rice. So, for example, instead of two parts water and one part rice, you’d use three parts water and two parts rice. Also, instead of a 20 minute total cooking time, for example, you’ probably need 45 to 50 minutes total cooking time for brown rice.
Can Rice Cookers Cook Pasta?
One of the nice things about rice cookers is that they cook more than just rice. One of the foods you can cook in a rice cooker is pasta. Generally, place dried pasta in the unit, making sure that you’ve determined how much cooked pasta the cooker can hold. Then cover with water. Add some olive oil if you’d like to cut down on bubble and foaming. Close the lid and cook, opening the lid a few times to stir. No draining is needed.
Can Rice Cookers Cook Vegetables?
Another thing rice cookers can do is cook vegetables. Today’s rice cookers include steaming trays that you can also use to cook your vegetables. For example, you can place two cups of water in the inner pot of the rice cooker. Then take the steaming tray and place the vegetables inside. Place the tray in the cooker, close the lid, and turn on the unit focusing on the “steam” feature.
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