Best Rice Cookers of 2019
Rice is a popular side dish, but many people are intimidated by the process of preparing it on the stove. A rice cooker can make rice preparation a breeze. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best rice cooker for your cooking needs.
Rice is Nice. A Rice Cooker Is Even Nicer.
Rice is a popular side dish for good reason. It's an extremely versatile grain that works with a variety of cuisines, from Asian to Indian to American. In fact, if you just add a little butter and salt, you can pair rice with nearly any entrée.
If healthy eating is your goal, brown rice is an ideal option because it still contains its germ and bran layers. That makes it a whole grain and a good source of antioxidants and fiber.
But many people are intimidated by the process of preparing rice on the stove. You must keep a close eye on it, and if you don't, you could end up with undercooked, crunchy rice or overcooked mush. Fortunately, an easy solution exists for those who would rather not take rice prep into their own hands: the rice cooker.
A rice cooker makes rice preparation extremely easy. You just throw the rice and some water in the pot, and the cooker does the rest. Your primary job is to show up at the end to eat it.
But choosing a rice cooker isn't easy. How large should your rice cooker be? What modes and programs are essential to your success? What other functions should your rice cooker perform? These questions are important to answer before you buy a rice cooker so you don't inadvertently purchase an appliance you can't use.
At BestReviews, we provide honest, unbiased product recommendations based on our expert research. We know the top rice cookers on the market inside and out, and we want to help you find the rice cooker that makes the most sense for you. So, if you're ready to shop for a rice cooker, please continue reading this guide to find out exactly what to look for.
Why Buy a Rice Cooker?
The most obvious reason to buy a rice cooker is to ensure that you'll end up with perfectly cooked rice every time you make it. The machine consistently prepares your rice the right way, so it's never overcooked or undercooked.
A rice cooker simplifies the rice-making process, too. The machine tells you how much rice and water to add, and most have an automatic shutoff option that will turn the appliance off once the rice has finished cooking. Some rice cookers also have a keep-warm setting that continues to gently heat the rice after it's done cooking so you can enjoy warm food when it's time for dinner.
Best of all, a rice cooker isn't just for making rice. Many models also allow for steaming veggies and making hot cereals. Some also double as slow cookers so you can make soups, stews, and other dishes in them as well.
Important Rice Cooker Features
Before you decide which rice cooker to buy, be sure to review its most important features, including its capacity and functions.
Rice cookers come in a variety of sizes that can accommodate every household, from small families of two to large groups of six or more. Choose the size of your rice cooker based on how many people you usually cook for.
● A three-cup rice cooker is usually the smallest model you can find. It can be used to prepare rice for up to three people.
● A six-cup rice cooker is a midsize model that can prepare rice for up to six people.
● A ten-cup rice cooker is typically the largest available model. It can prepare rice for up to ten people.
The insert in which the rice cooks is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum.
● Some, but not all, rice cooker inserts are dishwasher-safe.
● Some rice cooker inserts are covered with a nonstick coating for easy cleanup.
Pay attention to the exterior of the rice cooker too. It should stay cool when the appliance is turned on so you don't burn yourself.
Entry-level rice cookers typically have one button that turns the machine on and off. High-end rice cookers may feature a digital touchpad that gives the user even greater control over the cooking process.
Midrange and high-end rice cookers are usually equipped with specific modes that allow you to easily prepare different types of rice. For example, some rice cookers offer modes for preparing brown rice or sushi rice. Some have settings that will "scorch" the rice to a crispy texture. You select the mode you want by pushing a button, and the machine determines how long the rice must cook so it comes out perfectly.
Notably, rice cookers with more modes tend to cost more money. If you only eat white rice, you probably don't want to pay for extra rice cooker modes that you'll never use.
A rice cooker with digital controls is likely to include a digital timer as well. The timer lets you program the rice cooker to turn on at a specific time. For example, you might add rice to the machine in the morning and program it to turn on at five o'clock so that when you arrive home, your rice will be fresh and hot.
Automatic Keep-Warm Setting
With an automatic keep-warm setting, the rice cooker switches from cooking mode to keep-warm mode when the rice is done. The length of time that a rice cooker will keep its contents warm depends on the model, but some do it for up to 12 hours.
Some rice cookers do more than simply cook rice. Many basic rice cookers also work as steamers, so you can steam vegetables in addition to making rice. Others also have functions for slow cooking, pressure cooking, sautéing, and yogurt making.
You'll usually pay more for a rice cooker with multiple functions, but if you have a small kitchen with limited space, a multifunctional rice cooker could be the right choice for you.
Many rice cookers come with accessories that make using the machine a little easier, such as a measuring cup for adding rice to the pot or a spatula for mixing the rice. A rice cooker with a steaming function may also include a steaming tray or basket, which allows you to steam veggies while you're cooking rice.
How Much Does a Good Rice Cooker Cost?
Rice cookers are available at a variety of price points. Price depends on several factors, including how large the rice cooker is and what features it offers. You could pay anywhere from $30 to $400 for a quality rice cooker.
● For a basic rice cooker that makes enough rice for small households, expect to pay between $30 and $50.
● For a midrange rice cooker that offers additional functions, such as slow cooking and steaming, expect to pay between $75 and $150.
● For a high-end rice cooker that provides multiple cooking, steaming, and soaking settings as well as other specialty features, expect to pay between $165 and $400.
Tips and Tricks
● For most rice cookers, the rice-to-water ratio is 1:1. If you're cooking for a larger group, simply scale that ratio up.
● Always rinse your rice with cold water before putting it in the rice cooker. Rinsing the rice helps wash away excess starch that could make the rice sticky when cooked.
● For more flavorful rice, substitute chicken, beef, or vegetable stock for the water.
● Don't use metal utensils to remove the rice from your rice cooker if it has a nonstick interior. The metal could scratch or otherwise damage the nonstick coating.
● To clean your rice cooker, remove all the rice and leave the lid open to help dry out the inside. Brush away any remaining grains of rice and wipe the interior down with a damp sponge or towel.
Rice Cooker FAQ
Q. How big should my rice cooker be?
A. It depends on how many people you plan to feed. You'll usually need one cup of cooked rice per person, so a three-cup model works well for couples and small families. For larger families, you'll likely want a rice cooker that holds between five and 10 cups of rice.
Q. How long does it take for rice to cook in a rice cooker?
A. Cooking time depends on the model you're using and what type of rice you're preparing. In general, white rice takes about 10 minutes per cup to cook. Brown rice requires about 20 minutes of cooking time per cup.
Q. What extra features are essential for a rice cooker?
A. Many home cooks agree that a rice cooker with a timer is ideal, because it allows you to add the rice and water in the morning and come home to fresh, delicious rice in the evening. A keep-warm feature is also key because it maintains the rice's temperature after it has finished cooking.