What is a Rice Cooker?
A rice cooker, also referred to as a rice steamer, is an automated appliance that boils or steams rice. The basic parts of a rice cooker are the cooking bowl, thermostat and heat source.
The purpose of the thermostat is to measure the temperature of the bowl and control the heat. More advanced rice cookers usually have more sensors and parts, and are often multipurpose.
How Does a Rice Cooker Work?
The user puts rice and water into the cooking bowl and then heats it to full power. The water in the bowl reaches and remains at 100ºC boiling point.
When the water has been completely absorbed by the rice, the temperature can go above 100ºC, thus tripping the thermostat. Some rice cookers change to low-power mode, maintaining the rice at a safe temperature of about 65ºC while simpler models usually switch off.
Advantages & Applications
The best rice cooker removes the guess work out of heating rice in a pan of water on the kitchen stove.
Below are some of the advantages of using the best rice cookers:
- They cook rice consistently and perfectly, keeping the rice grains separate without overcooking or undercooking.
- The best appliances often come with a cup for measuring the rice and lines on the cooking bowl showing the amount of water that should be added.
- A user-friendly, programmable setting on some of the best models allows users to cook all kinds of grains- white rice, brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal etc.
- The best models also feature settings for steaming veggies or fish, or even making soups and stews.
- A keep-warm setting allows the user to keep the cooked rice warm for at twenty minutes to twelve hours depending on the rice cooker model.
- They are available in different sizes; 3-cup, 5-cup, 5 ½-cup etc.
What Types of Rice Cookers Are There?
Rice cookers can be distinguished in very many ways. In this buying guide, we have distinguished rice cookers according to the various features they offer:
The best rice cookers make it easy for users to cook up a small amount of rice for themselves or for a huge party. However, cleaning the cooker may be a very frustrating job.
Rather than trying to clean out the appliance while trying as much as possible not to get water on the electrical parts, simply purchasing one that has a removable interior can make the cleaning process much easier.
Having the ability to remove the inside bowl where the rice sits not only makes cleaning easier, but it also allows the user to easily serve the rice from the bowl, or put a lid on it and store the entire container in the fridge without needing to use another dish.
Many people make the mistake of overcooking rice or leaving it in the cooker for too long that it begins to stick to the bowl. Rather than having to clean the rice cooker as soon as the rice is taken out, users can depend on the best non-stick interior surface to make washing the rice cooker an easy job.
Rather than trying to maintain cooked rice at the best temperature in an oven or microwave – both appliances will dry out the rice quickly making it mushy – with a rice cooker that features a “warm setting” there’s no need to fret about how the rice will appear and taste if it is done before the other dishes.
This type of rice cooker is perfect for families who cannot always eat meals at the same time; those who come later will be able to have some warm rice and will not have to re-heat it.
Accidentally leaving kitchen appliances plugged in and switched on may lead to a fire hazard. Moreover, forgetting to switch-off a rice cooker will result in crispy, dried out cooked rice that is difficult to remove, and also put the home and the occupants at risk. Buying the best appliance with an automatic shutoff feature will give the user peace of mind as they do not have to fret about the appliance running all day long.
Cooking very many meals a day can be tiring and it is always better to have some extra help. The best rice cookers that feature multiple program setting allow users to cook perfect rice every time they use them. Adjusting the preferred temperature, the cook time and the soak time allows every rice fan to enjoy each and every meal, even if they are very picky.
A lot of people find it easier to cook rice well when they use the best digital rice cooker. This is because the cooker offers them plenty of control over the rice cooking process. Being in a position to select the precise amount of time required by the rice to cook makes it a breeze for even beginners to cook perfect rice for every meal.
Many busy people do not have the time to clean their cookers after every use. This is mostly the case for families who have their meals later at night or prefer to have rice with their breakfast. Rather than leaving the appliance to soak the whole day or overnight, getting one that can be placed in the dishwasher eases the cleaning process.
The best microwave-safe cooker is ideal for users who do not want to purchase a costly appliance that is solely dedicated to making rice. Microwave-safe cookers use up minimal storage space, are really easy to use, and do not need any additional outlet.
Often made form really strong plastic that can withstand many years of years, these cookers also have tight-fitting lids that trap all the steam to ensure the rice is cooked properly.
These rice cookers are generally dishwasher-safe, making them the best for a busy family that does not want to use up too much time washing the rice cooker.
Induction heating rice cookers heat the rice and water using radio frequency power that moves through conductive material. This form of heating technology is really advanced, but safe. It ensures that the rice in the pot is cooked evenly. The entire inner bowl heats the food rather than having just one heating part at the base of the pot
For those who love to travel and would like to ensure that they can cook the best rice no matter where they go, then they will want to think of buying the best portable rice cooker. Since they are lighter than other cookers, they are very easy to carry and can even be taken on road trips or flights.
Portable rice cookers come in different sizes, meaning that the smaller sizes can be carried to most places. The rice cookers come with multiple options like other types of rice cookers do and they can cook up perfect rice very fast.
Due to the fact that rice cookers work with high heat and steam, opening them prematurely may result in burns if proper care is not maintained.
This is especially a big concern for families who have small kids who love to help out in cooking as they might attempt to open the cooker and get burned.
As much as rice cookers are awesome, at times it is convenient to be in a position to use the cooker for more than just rice. Single-purpose appliances can be frustrating especially for people with smaller kitchen spaces or do not have sufficient storage space. When a person picks the best rice cooker that also features a steaming basket, they instantly increase the amount of times they’ll use the device.
Some rice cookers can do more than simply cook rice or steam vegetables and fish, with the assistance of a steam basket.
People who are seeking more functionality in their rice cooker because they do not want to have to purchase several separate appliances or do not have sufficient storage space for them all, then it is worth considering the best multi-purpose rice cooker.
The settings on these cookers vary, but most include a rice cooker, steamer and slow cooker. Some units also have programmable functions that let the user simmer soups, cook oatmeal, or even a cake.
A cooker with handles allows users to serve their rice straight from the appliance to the plates. The handle ensure the users will not accidentally burn themselves while moving the cooker because even ones that are meant to stay cool to touch usually get too hot to handle easily.
Although 2 handles make it easy for the user to lift and transfer the appliance no matter if it’s empty or filled with food, some have just one handle making it even less difficult for the user to move the appliance from one point to the other.
Rather than having to devote 2 hands to lifting and transferring the cooker, when a person gets one with just one handle, they can easily carry it with one hand and leave the other hand free for opening the door, carrying something else etc.
Many people like to be able to observe the cooking food, and this is particularly true for those who have children at home who love to help with the cooking. Rather than lifting the lid and allowing important steam to escape, clear lids make it much easier and fun for people to peek into the cooking rice.
This is beneficial as users can make the necessary additions to the amount of water or rice they use and the temperature or amount of time they leave the rice to cook, easily perfecting their cooking techniques.
- Small – At times, a person may only need a small portion rice to accompany a meal or they live alone and making small quantities of rice in a bigger rice cooker can result in improperly cooked rice. Small cookers do an excellent job of cooking about 2-4 cups of rice. The small size also allows for easy storage in a cupboard. Furthermore, due to their size they are best suited for an office or a dormitory where they will not use up much space or distract others.
- Medium – The best for regular family meals as they can generally make about 5-7 cups of rice. Though they are not as big as other cooker options, they’re powerful and are usually the best for smaller families or families who do not consume much rice at meals.
- Large – There are times when more rice is needed than a medium-sized cooker can accommodate, but the amount still needs to be easy to manage. When this occurs, a large-size appliance may be the best. Large-sized rice cookers vary in size, but they will cook about 8-14 cups or rice, sufficient for a big dinner party. Larger rice cookers are heavy; therefore they have handles that make it easier to carry them while they are packed with hot rice without the risk of getting injured.
- Extra-Large – While many people do not require their rice cookers to cook huge quantities or rice, those who regularly host parties or have a large family where everybody eats rice with his/her meal, may want to consider a large enough rice cooker that can make large servings of food. Restaurants usually use extra-large rice cookers. These cookers can accommodate up to 35 cups of rice.
- Stainless Steel – The best stainless steel appliances always complement the design of a modern, up-to-date kitchen. People who do not have sufficient space in their cupboards to store the rice cooker when they aren’t using it, then they will want to ensure that they select one that has a great appearance and matches the rest of their kitchen appliances. The best stainless steel surfaces are easy to clean and are able withstand a lot of use without appearing dirty and dingy.
- White – A white rice cooker is perfect for those who have a clean, open kitchen that has a white colour scheme. White rice cookers blend in really well and so long as they are cleaned regularly, they’ll continue to appear great. Any food that accidentally splashes onto a white cooker can stain it, so it is very important to wipe down the surface when it is dirtied.
- Black – These are the absolute best when it comes to concealing splashes, stains or stuck-on food particles. Instead of always getting the feeling that the cooker needs to be cleaned to look its best, when a person chooses the best black rice cooker, they can depend on the colour’s ability to conceal stains and other problems. Fingerprints will not be visible and the colour black will let the appliance blend in with the rest of the kitchen.
- Red – At times, a kitchen requires a pop of colour, and red is a very obvious choice. Red rice cookers add enough visual interest in a kitchen without being too overwhelming. They also do a fabulous job of concealing food stains, making them ideal for a busy kitchen.
Testing Rice Cookers
It is important for consumers to test rice cookers before or immediately after a purchase to find the best product for them personally. Below we have detailed how a sample company called CHOICE conducts practical tests on rice cookers to determine the best product.
CHOICE puts rice cookers through different paces in their test kitchen to find out which ones will create perfect rice, but will not be too hard to clean after use.
There are very many rice cookers out there and it isn’t possible to test them all at once.
As a result, CHOICE aims to test the most popular rice cookers in accordance with consumer reviews and those that are most likely to be found in stores, though they also cover innovative models where possible.
Those who review survey manufacturers to know about their range of products, they check market sales details and they also look through member requests to test particular models. From this they compile a final list for their buyers. They go to retailers and buy every product, just like an ordinary consumer would. This ensures the appliances are the same as any other consumer would purchase and not altered in any way.
How They Test
The primary purpose of rice cookers is to cook rice properly, and that is what CHOICE tests. They cook both white and brown rice in the sample cookers following the instructions of the manufacturer.
- White rice should be evenly cooked with the grains being separate. There shouldn’t be any excess moisture left after the cooking process and there should be minimal or no browning at the bottom. CHOICE uses jasmine rice as their white rice.
- Brown rice should also be evenly cooked and the grains separate but a bit firmer than for white rice. There should also be minimal or no browning at the base.
- If the rice cooker has special functions like risotto or multigrain, CHOICE might look at these but they will not be scored.
Ease of Use
Those who review at CHOICE also check if the rice cookers are easy to assemble, use and wash. They also look at the external temperature of the rice cooker’s surface, handles, and the controls when it is running. They break down ease of use into several categories- ease of assembly and storage, ease of using controls, ease of cleaning, and ease of taking out the rice for serving.
The overall score for CHOICE is composed of cooking performance (60%) and ease of use (40%).
There are very many brands out there that make rice cookers. Below we have listed some of the most popular brands as seen in online product reviews.
- Yum Asia
- Russell Hobbs
- Joseph Joseph
Yum Asia was founded in 2006 and it has built a solid reputation for making high quality products and customer service. In accordance with online consumer reviews, the company sells excellent zojirushi rice cookers and responds quickly and politely to complaints from customers.
A sample product from this company is the Zojirushi NS-TSQ10, which has received numerous positive reviews from UK consumers. This rice cooker has a steaming function, looks really modern and comes with a warranty. The medium-size makes it great for a small kitchen. Bambo rice cooker and Sakura Yum-En15 are also some of Yum Asia’s best rice cookers as seen in online product reviews.
Russell Hobbs is a reputable manufacturer of household appliances from Britain. Founded in 1952 by William Russell and Peter Hobbs, the company is headquartered in Failsworth, United Kingdom. During the 1960s this company became the primary kettle manufacturer in the UK marketplace.
One of Russell Hobbs’ best rice cookers is the Russell Hobbs 19750 Rice Cooker and Steamer. This positively reviewed cooker has a brushed stainless steel casing that makes it stylish and durable. It has a capacity of 10 cups of rice and has an automatic warming function. It also has an extra tray for steaming vegetables and fish.
Tefal is a French manufacturer of cookware and small appliances. The company was founded by Marc Gregoire and is now owned by Groupe SEB. Tefal is popular for making non-stick cookware and for frying products like French fries more healthily. The company has its headquarters in Rumily, Haute-Savoie.
Tefal Cool Touch Rice Cooker is one of Tefal’s best rice cookers. This product has been reviewed well because of its smart appearance and user-friendliness. The lid handle is considered easy to hold and stays cool in operation. After the rice is cooked, the appliance automatically switches to the warmer setting. However, some reviews show that the pot and the lid are not dishwasher-safe.
Lloytron is a public limited company in the UK that was founded in 1973. The company is based in Laltex House Leigh Commerce Park, Green Fold and its primary line of business is wholesale production of radio, television gods, and electrical household appliances.
On of Lloytron’s best rice cookers is the Lloytron E3302 Automatic Non-Stick Rice Cooker. This machine has gotten positive reviews from consumers because it has a transparent toughened glass lid, and it is very portable. This cooker has just one setting and cooks perfect rice for 1-2 people in minutes. The only drawback in accordance with some reviews is the fact that the bowl is black, making markings hard to read.
Founded in 1980, Lekue started with the manufacture of rubber ice trays and later on started to create other silicon-based kitchen items. In 2005, the company went from making goods for other brands to becoming a leading brand in its own right. Lekue has manufactured more than 197 innovative products since 2005, which have greatly revolutionized kitchen appliances across the world.
The Lekue Silicone Rice Cooker is one of the company’s best rice cookers in accordance with online consumer reviews. This versatile appliance is made from flexible silicone and plastic, and is designed to prevent overflow of water in the microwave. It is safe to use in the oven, dishwasher, microwave, fridge and freezer.
Founded in 1956 in Windermere, Lakeland is a private chain of kitchenware stores in the UK. In 1956 Alan Rayner set up a mail order business to provide agricultural plastics and household freezing products to farmers, and when he retired, his sons Martin, Sam and Julian took over in 1974, and this marked the start of Lakeland Plastics. The product range expanded to include ceramic, glass, wooden and stainless steel kitchen products, and a variety of speciality foods.
One of Lakeland’s best reviewed rice cookers is the Lakeland Mini Multicooker. Online product reviews show that this neat small machine is perfect for people who are seeking the function of a multi-purpose rice cooker, but in a smaller package. It is an excellent kitchen addition for small families, but its little size means it is not suitable for making party-size amounts of rice or cooking for bigger families.
Established in 2003, Joseph Joseph is a houseware manufacturer from the UK that has gotten positive reviews from buyers because of its design-led goods. The company was founded by Richard and Antony Joseph, who are twins. The brothers started the company after their father asked them to help him out at his glass making company.
Joseph Joseph makes kitchen utensils, tableware, storage products, and household cleaning items amongst others. One of their best reviewed rice cookers is the Joseph Joseph M-Cuisine Microwave rice cooker. This device looks great and can cook as much rice as an electric rice cooker. On the downside, some of those who reviewe are of the opinion that the instructions do not provide much information on which foods the cooker can make.
Elgento kitchen appliances provide style and function. This company claims that its number one priority is to offer practical, great quality appliances that are reliable, affordable and user-friendly. Elgento offers a wide range of products such as kettles, slow cookers, toasters, choppers, blenders, fryers, irons, sandwich makers, steamers etc.
One of the best rice cookers is the Elgento E19013 Rice Cooker and Steamer. This appliance has gotten good reviews from users because it cooks rice well and other meals, has a transparent lid, and automatically switches to warm setting after the rice is cooked. The only drawback according to some reviews is the fact that the instructions are not very clear.
Breville is an Australian producer and seller of small household appliances. The company was established in 1932 in Sydney and is the one behind the creation of the original sandwich toaster. The toaster was a very big success after its first launch in 1974 in Australia with many buyers reviewing it positively. Thereafter, the Breville sandwich toaster was launched in New Zealand and the UK.
Breville manufactures a host of rice cookers. One of their best rice cookers is the Breville ITP181 Rice Cooker and Steamer. It has gotten good consumer reviews because it has a removable bowl and a steamer that can be used to prepare vegetables and fish.
Sistema plastics is a New Zealand food storage container manufacturing company. Brendan Lindsey established this company in 1987 in New Zealand and he derived the name “Sistema” from the Italian term for systems. Newell Brands purchased it in 2017. The company is dedicated to offering Phthalate and BPA free goods.
One of their best offerings is the Sistema Microwave Rice Cooker. This appliance has received good reviews from consumers because it is easy to assemble, comes with a spoon for stirring, easy to clean and is compact for storage. On the downside, some of those who review say that more effort is required than for an electric rice cooker.
History of the Rice Cooker
Development of electric rice cookers started during the Taisho era (1912 to 1926). In 1955, the first automated rice cooker for home use was released on the Japanese market. Toshiba had spent 5 years developing this rice cooker.
Safety Tips for Handling a Rice Cooker
Rice Cooker Maintenance Tips
To keep the rice cooker looking its best and functioning properly, use the following tips:
Alternatives to a Rice Cooker
An alternative to a rice cooker is cooking rice in a saucepan on a stovetop. However, this alternative method easily results in soggy, sticky, crunchy, or burnt at the bottom rice, but it is not impossible to make perfect rice on a stovetop.
How much should I spend on a rice cooker?
A basic microwave rice cooker that has a rice paddle can cost as low as £8, but cheaper models are not usually appealing. Price of electric rice cookers can start from £20, but for those looking for something that cooks more than just rice, prices can go up to £300.
Will a rice cooker speed up the cooking process?
Not really. Microwave rice cookers and some other basic models will deliver perfectly-cooked rice in about the same time as cooking with a pan on a stove. Some advanced models may even take more time because they have different stages to cook the rice at the best texture. The beauty of these appliances is not necessarily the cooking speed, but rather on the fact they do the job perfectly.
How does one ensure that they do not cook too much or too little rice in a rice cooker?
The best rice cookers come with a rice measuring scoop. There are also measuring notches on the interior of the bowl marked with the amount of rice scoops. The amount of water required to cook different types of rice will be detailed in the cooker’s instruction manual, and reading genuine reviews from other consumers can also help.
Can all rice cookers cook any kind of rice?
Many cheap rice cookers will only cook long-grain rice such as basmati. Fancier rice cookers can cook other types of rice such as short-grain rice and more exotic rice.
Which is the best feature on dedicated rice cookers?
One feature that almost all rice cookers have is the “Keep Warm” feature. When the rice is cooked, the cooker will keep it warm for the user, so they can serve the meal later.
What are some of the best rice cookers in the UK?
Sage by Heston Blumenthal Risotto Plus, Tefal RK302E15 8-in-1 Multi Cooker, Zojirushi NS-TSQ10, Zojirushi NS-YSQ10 and Russell Hobbs Rice Cooker and Steamer 19750 are among the best rice cookers in the UK in accordance with online product reviews.
Are rice cookers messy to use?
Some product reviews mention that some rice cookers spit water while in use, but there is a solution to this issue. Users should always rinse their rice prior to cooking it in the rice cooker and monitor it. If it begins to spit, give it a stir to adjust the rice.
What can you cook in a rice cooker?
Rice, oatmeal and other hot cereals, steam vegetables and fish, slow-cook soups and stews, and poach fruit. Reading product reviews can also help one to know the sort of things they can cook in their rice cooker.
Which features should I look for in a rice cooker?
In accordance with online reviews, the most important features to look for are- a timer, ease of use, non-stick inner, audible beeper, buttons, keep-warm feature and sophisticated electronics.
Do in require a rice cooker at all?
In the olden days people did not use fancy automated cookers, so it is obviously possible to make rice perfectly without a rice cooker. However, the best rice cookers remove the guess work from using a saucepan.
Links and Sources
- How to Cook Perfectly Fluffy Rice Every Time
- How To Cook Brown Rice
- 7 Easy Rice Recipes (Stove Top & Rice Cooker)
- Extra Vegetable Fried Rice
- 148 Rice Recipes