Home cooks typically fall into two camps. There are those who love self-contained, single-specialty kitchen appliances, like rice cookers, for the precision the appliances bring to cooking; and there are those who give away their large salad spinners and rice cookers for the sake of simplicity. Cooks in either camp have things to love and to hate about rice cookers.
If you’ve ever cooked rice in the microwave and had the water overflow, or cooked rice on the stovetop and had it burn onto the bottom of the pot, you appreciate even more the foolproof cooking a rice cooker provides. Its benefits are clear:
Rice cookers consistently cook rice perfectly, keeping the grain separate, neither undercooking nor overcooking.
Many cookers come with a measuring cup for the rice and lines on the bowl indicating how much water you need to add.
An easy-to-use, programmable setting on some models allows you to cook all sorts of grains, from white rice to brown rice, wild rice, polenta and oatmeal.
Some models have settings for steaming vegetables or fish, or cooking soups and stews.
A keep-warm option allows you to keep the rice warm for 20 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the model.
Rice cookers comes in different sizes, from 3-cup to 5- or 5 1/2-cup versions.
Microwave rice cookers are a breed apart, taking less counter space than traditional rice cookers, but duplicating the cooking method for any large, glass bowl in your kitchen. These cookers require some experimentation to find the right setting and wattage in a particular microwave oven, the same kind of experimentation you would need to do with a glass bowl.
Like any kitchen appliance, rice cookers come with some disadvantages. If you al
Brown rice doesn’t cook evenly in all models. With some cookers, the bottom layer of rice develops a crust, and in other models, it turns gluey instead of remaining fluffy.
A 5 1/2-cup rice cooker measures about 27 inches wide, 33 inches deep and 23 inches high, a size that might not work in a kitchen with limited cabinet space.
Determining what size cooker to buy poses problems. Large cookers cook single servings of rice less well than they do large batches according to Karen Hammonds, a writer at the Saveur website.
At some settings, the steam venting from the top of the cooker condenses around the steaming vent and spills over onto the kitchen counter.
Cleanup is more involved than simply washing a bowl. In addition to the bowl itself, you’ll need to wash the inner lid and steaming vent and the outer surface of the cooker if steam has condensed anywhere.
Traditionally, people cook rice by boiling it in water on the stove or over a fire. Rice cookers are electrical appliances that are meant to take the guesswork out of cooking rice and therefore make the cooking process easier. Compared to the traditional cooking method, rice cookers offer both advantages and disadvantages. Any consumer considering purchasing one of these appliances should compare the pros and cons before deciding to buy one.
When you cook rice on the stove, there really is no good way to keep it warm for serving. The only option is to add a touch of water and reheat the rice, which works but which can result in overdone rice. Most rice cookers have a warming feature that keeps the rice heated without adding more water. More advanced models can keep the rice warm for hours at a time, which greatly improves flexibility in terms of how you prepare your rice meal.
Even though rice cookers keep the rice warm, they sometimes dry out the rice, especially if the warm feature is kept on for a long period. This makes the rice less appealing and can change the consistency of a rice dish. This is less of an issue for some dishes, such as soup, because such dishes will rehydrate the rice.
Most rice cookers have sensors that detect the weight and moisture content of the rice. These sensors are connected to circuits within the rice cookers and turn the cookers off or to the warm setting when the rice is finished. This means you can turn the cooker on and practically forget about it.
Rice cookers, although they are cooking appliances, also are sophisticated pieces of technology that can have many different features. Unlike a simple cooking pot, a rice cooker can have a manual that is difficult understand and get all the functions to work as desired. These types of rice cookers can require a good deal of time to learn to use properly.
Except for the simplest and cheapest models, rice cookers come with trays or bowls designed for steaming. Thus, you may not have to buy separate cookware to prepare things like steamed vegetables.
Rice cookers are designed to plug into electrical sockets in the kitchen. Therefore, they take up counter space. Depending on your viewpoint, this can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. The rice cooker leaves a stove burner open for other pots and pans, but you won’t have as much room to prepare your food.