What Makes a Rice Cooker Better? (Ultimate Buyer’s Guide)

Cooking rice and making it into your meal has been part of many cultures and households for a long time. But if you’re used to cooking rice on a stovetop, you’ve probably wondered what makes a rice cooker better?

Electric rice cookers automatically shut off based on the temperature of the rice, so they are foolproof, eliminating burned or soggy rice. And since rice cookers are typically non-stick, cleanup is simple. Those reasons alone make rice cookers vastly superior to cooking rice on the stovetop.

Even though rice cookers are easier, there is still a lot to learn about these convenient machines.

So, in this article, we’ll talk about both the advantages and disadvantages of a rice cooker, other foods you can cook in it, top features to look for in a rice cooker, and the best brands to look out for.

What is a rice cooker and how does it work?

Before we dive into the magic of a rice cooker, you have to understand the basics.

A rice cooker uses a 2:1 ratio of water: rice. As it heats up, there is a thermostat under the aluminum bowl, which controls the heat by monitoring the temperature.

As it heats up, the water begins to boil, and the rice starts to absorb the water, thus cooking the rice.

I have a recent article that goes into more detail about how rice cookers work and when they know the rice is done. Knowing how your rice cooker works is important for picking out the right one for you.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is a rice cooker worth it?

A rice cooker is a great idea to invest in if you cook rice frequently. How much rice you cook will decide the size of your rice cooker.

Rice cookers, in general, are relatively cheap, depending on what features you want your rice cooker to have for features and settings.

However, most rice cookers have the same features and mechanics to them.

All rice cookers are a quick, easy setup and leave it. You don’t have to worry about the same dangers as you would if you were cooking on a stovetop and walking away from it.

They also take most of the guesswork out of cooking rice. Most rice cookers come with measuring cups for the rice and measurements on the bowl for water.

Rice cookers are great for warming up already cooked rice and keeping it warm for long sittings, typically 4–5 hours.

This comes in handy if you made dinner for the family, and someone is late. It also comes in handy if you eat slowly and come back for more food later.

Most rice cookers are also non-stick, which means your rice won’t stick to the bottom. That means less cleanup time and no more burnt rice.

However, this also means that you have to take better care and pay attention to what is going into your rice cooker.

Rice cookers cook your rice in the perfect amount of time based on the temperature of the rice. This also ensures that the texture of your rice comes out perfectly almost every time as well.

A decent amount of rice cookers also come with the feature to steam your rice. Meaning you can boil or steam your rice. Rice isn’t the only thing you can cook in your rice cooker.

We’ll look at some delicious recipes later in this article. Right now, though, I bet you’re wondering what the catch is. Rice cookers can’t be so amazing that they have no flaws.

Well, you would be right about that. So let’s talk about the small number of disadvantages to a rice cooker.

What is the disadvantage of rice cookers?

Truth be told, a lot of the disadvantages are due to human error. Things like:

  • Boils over
  • Rice can dry out
  • Space and storage
  • Cleaning something with non-stick

Now I have a recent article about rice cookers boiling over on my site. It talks about how boil-overs are generally due to your rice having too much starch and adding too much water into the rice cooker. But, I also cover 1 key tip which can eliminate boil-overs.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Your rice drying out is due to leaving your rice out to warm for too long or because you didn’t add enough water.

These are mainly human error and oversight. However, the rice cooker does have a few disadvantages to it that are not due to human error.

Depending on the size you get, you might be worried about counter space. This largely depends on how much rice you make daily. The majority of rice cookers are a decent size that can fit in most places.

Clean up after using your rice cooker is easy. You just have to take special care when both cooking and cleaning because your rice cooker is non-stick.

So remember to not put any oils, salts, or metal utensils in your rice cooker while cooking.

Don’t use harsh abrasive materials as this will wear on the non-stick surface of your rice cooker. If you have any food left in the rice cooker, make sure you soak both the lid and the inner pot overnight.

What else can I make in a rice cooker?

I had mentioned earlier that you could cook and steam more than just rice in your rice cooker!

I think you’ll be shocked by the full range of foods you can make.

Let’s start with a nice warm breakfast! You can make oatmeal in your rice cooker, which might not be as shocking as the fact that you can make pancakes.

Yes. I said it. You can make pancakes in your rice cooker. They’ll come out fluffy with a little thickness to them. Much like a souffle cake, and don’t forget to add in some blueberries or chocolate chips.

What else would go perfectly with pancakes than steamed eggs! Steaming eggs in your rice cooker makes for a great grab and go snack or a simple additive to your breakfast.

Let us move away from breakfast and show you just how much you can make with this magical tool.

Do you like steamed veggies and meat? All meat from land, sea, or air can be steamed and cooked in your rice cooker. Just remember to add your seasoning afterward.

Not to mention that you can also make soup. I’m talking tomato soup, chicken soup, chili, you name it, and I’m sure your rice cooker can step up to the plate.

Yogurt is another unique food you can make with your rice cooker. Yes, I said make not just steam or cook. You can make homemade yogurt with the stable heating temperature of your rice cooker.

These ideas and so many more are at your fingertips with these easy to use appliances. Not only does it make cooking rice a breeze, but it helps to take out the hassle from other foods as well.

So now that you know the advantages, disadvantages, and just a few of the many options of food you can cook, let’s talk about how to choose a rice cooker that fits your needs.

How do I choose a rice cooker?

As I’ve mentioned quite a few times in this article already. Your rice cooker is based on how much rice you use.

  • 1–2 cups a few times a week – Get a 3 cup rice cooker.
  • 2–5 cups a few times a week – Get a 5 cup rice cooker.
  • More than 5 cups a few times a week – Get a 10 cup rice cooker.

Always buy based off of how much you make daily. On a normal day, how much rice would you make? Knowing this can extend the life of your rice cooker.

If you get a size too big then you risk shortening the life of your rice cooker by only using a small portion of it.

The next big question is, what type of rice do you usually cook?

There are different types of rice cookers with various features that suit specific types of rice.

There are four different basic types of rice cookers.

  1. Traditional Rice Cookers
  2. Jar-O-Mat
  3. Micro-computerized Rice Cookers
  4. Microwave Rice Cookers

Both the traditional and jar-o-mat are used only for plain white rice. They are user friendly, and the heating element tends to come from the bottom.

As to where Micro-computerized rice cookers are more modern with newer settings and programs, it can even make some cooking decisions for you with the help of AI.

These can also sometimes cook more than one food item at a time and tend to work well with brown rice.

A microwave rice cooker is useful if you have limited space. Most are entirely dishwasher safe and make around four servings on average. They work well with a wide variety of rice.

You should also choose a rice cooker with a good timer on it. This will help with knowing when your rice is done. Make sure you get one that you are comfortable reading and using.

When it comes to heating your rice with a rice cooker, you need to make sure they are non-stick and durable. Lastly, an essential part of deciding on a rice cooker is the brand name around it.

What is the best brand for a rice cooker?

As I mentioned before, some of the best rice cookers come from Japanese brands. It’s not always about the price of a rice cooker that decides whether it’s a perfect fit for your household.

Most of the time, the price revolves around the technology in the rice cooker. Sometimes your needs don’t always match with needing a lot of settings.

If you just need a one push rice cooker, it’s going to be cheaper than a modern fuzzy logic rice cooker.

Here are the best rice cookers, by category and price range. All links and images link to Amazon, so just click one to see the current price and availability.

Overall BestAroma

  • Cooks both white and brown rice
  • Steam tray above rice for multi cooking
  • Comes with measuring cups and a spatula
  • Delayed timer

Small portions lover: Zojirushi 3-Cup

  • Single switch controls
  • Holds 3 cups
  • See-through glass lid
  • Non-stick spatula and measuring cups included
  • It does not have a timer. The switch and light turn off when rice is done

Large Portion lover: Zojirushi 10-Cup

  • Holds 10 cups
  • Platinum infused non-stick inner pan
  • Three different pressure levels
  • Variety of settings
  • Easy to read timer
  • AI that learns from past cooking

Best Multiuse: Instant-Pot Duo

  • Advanced safety features
  • Fingerprint resistance
  • Stainless steel inner pot
  • Digital timer
  • Variety of settings
  • Can be used for soup, yogurt, ribs, rice, and more

Best microwave rice cooker: Progressive International Microwave Rice Cooker, 5 Piece Set

  • Suitable for rice and pasta
  • Locking lid
  • BPA-Free
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Includes pasta drainer, steaming insert, pasta measurer, measuring cups/spoons, and a spatula

Budget-Friendly: Hamilton Beach

  • Spatula and measuring cup included
  • Two in one steam/rinse basket
  • Easy to clean
  • Digital timer

Final Thoughts

In this article, we took a look at the world of rice cookers, sometimes called rice steamers.

We went over some of the advantages and disadvantages of having one. Then we went through how to choose the best rice cooker for you.

Finally, we went over which brand would the best based on your needs. Lastly, we even brought up some great cooking ideas to do with your rice cooker.

But ultimately, we answered the question of what makes rice cookers better.

The answer to that is rice cookers make your life easy. They provided delicious and perfect rice while being versatile enough to cook other things. Making a rice cooker an excellent and essential addition to your kitchen.

What it all boils down to is if you cook rice, in general, you should have a rice cooker.

Photos which require attribution:

Gusseisen-Kessel mit dem orientalischen Reisgericht Pilau, auf einem rustikalen Holztisch by Marco Verch is licensed under CC2.0

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Jeff Campbell

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