Rice is a staple grain in many dishes and culinary traditions, one that functions equally well as part of the main entree or as a side dish. It keeps well in the refrigerator and will complement just about any meat, fish, and vegetables you care to cook and eat. But if you find cooking rice on your stovetop too time-consuming or involved a process, consider buying a rice cooker as an alternative. These rice cookers will help you get perfectly cooked rice, whatever dish you choose to make.
Why buy a rice cooker?
Rice cookers offer a few distinct advantages over the traditional method of boiling water in a pot on your stovetop and simmering your rice that way. A rice cooker is a very simple appliance to use. All you have to do is pour in the amount of rice you want to cook, the proper amount of water, hit the button, and it does the cooking for you. Or, in the case of microwave rice cookers, simply set the time. Unlike a pot on a hot stove, you don’t have to watch the rice cooker every second. You can leave it on the kitchen counter while taking care of other chores or meal prepping, with no need to worry about it boiling over. And, depending on the type of rice cooker and its capabilities, a rice cooker may even cook rice faster than regular stovetop cooking.
What should you look for in a rice cooker?
- Capacity: How much rice a rice cooker will make is the starting place before a purchase. If you’re cooking just for yourself or you and your significant other, you won’t need a huge capacity rice cooker that makes 20 cups or more in one sitting. But if you cook for a whole family or like to meal prep for the week, a larger capacity rice cooker might be just the ticket. And make sure to check whether the capacity listed is for cooked or uncooked rice. Remember that “one cup” of uncooked rice is actually 3/4 of a cup in rice cookers.
- Design: A rice cooker’s design should address common problems like water overflow during cooking and rice sticking to the cooking surface. Others are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Also be on the lookout for typical cooking times, though cooking times naturally vary by type of rice and quantity, and some cookers take longer to produce results than others. Microwave rice cookers or mini rice cookers, for instance, tend to cook faster than other types.
- Accessories: If you want some extra bang for your buck, keep an eye out for rice cookers that come with some useful accessories besides the cooker itself. Additional cooking tools like measuring cups are very useful for preparation. Many models come with a complimentary spoon for mixing and serving the rice once it’s finished cooking. Steamer baskets or trays can make a rice cooker more multifunctional than those without. And a few may even include a rice bowl for a serving or eating.
Can rice cookers make anything besides rice?
Some can, yes. There are some models designed to be food steamers as well as rice cookers. These are great for steaming vegetables and, in some cases, meats and fish. Others are designed to cook your rice while simultaneously steaming vegetables and/or meat. There are even rice cookers designed for cooking other types of food, usually soups and stew-like dishes such as chili or oatmeal. These rice cookers are especially worthwhile since they’re essentially multipurpose slow cookers that can prepare a full meal or multiple side dishes at once. Don’t assume that a rice cooker comes with any of these capabilities, though. Be sure to read and double-check a product’s listing and see if it’s listed as such before you buy if it’s important to you.
Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker and Food Steamer, Stainless, Silver, 4-Cup (Uncooked) / 8-Cup (Cooked)
This rice cooker makes up to four cups of rice while steaming your meat and vegetables for a complete dinner in no time.
Pros: This rice cooker can double as a sort of quasi-slow cooker since it can steam both meat and vegetables while it makes your rice, thanks to the aluminum compartment that sits over the bowl. You can make a complete dinner in a snap. Besides that compartment, you receive a measuring cup and stirring spoon with your purchase. The bowl itself is also nonstick for easier, more convenient cleaning. The stainless steel build ensures a durable, long-lasting appliance. If the 4-cup capacity is too small for your family’s needs, never fear; this rice cooker comes in 8- and 10-cup sizes as well.
Cons: You pay more money for its quality, durability, and convenience, but it is more expensive than many similar models. And this rice cooker is missing one particular convenience; unlike some other countertop rice cookers, it doesn’t have any digital preset buttons. Your only options are the cook/warm button.
Bottom Line: This brushed stainless steel rice cooker and steamer is designed for strength and durability, while its nonstick bowl makes cleanup a breeze. When finished cooking, it automatically switches to the warming setting for your safety and convenience. This long-lasting, classic rice cooker should suit just about any lifestyle and kitchen but is especially nice for smaller families.
Dash Mini Rice Cooker Steamer
This compact, portable rice cooker will make 2 cups of rice in less time than most.
Pros: You won’t have to worry about this rice cooker taking up tons of room on your kitchen countertop; its smaller serving size translates to a compact appliance as well. It’s easy to match to your kitchen’s decor thanks to the six color options. Even though it’s small, this rice cooker is multipurpose. You can use it to make pretty much any other grain, like oatmeal, steamed vegetables, and even soups and stews.
Cons: You don’t have the option to steam proteins and vegetables while your rice is cooking; there simply isn’t room for it in this device. It also doesn’t have any preset options, and the metal and plastic model is less durable than a rice cooker made of metal alone.
Bottom Line: This sleek mini rice cooker will make 2 to 3 cups of rice in minutes—perfect portions for one to two people. Compact and perfectly sized for travel, this rice cooker also works for other foods like oatmeal, soup, pasta, and other grains. Throw in the included rice measuring cup and paddle and the “keep warm” function, and you’ve got the perfect rice cooker for individuals, smaller households, and those trying to watch their portion sizes.
Sistema Microwave Collection Rice Cooker
This rice cooker set is designed to make fast yet perfect rice in your microwave.
Pros: You can make plenty of rice in this rice cooker, thanks to its large 10-cup capacity. Nor are you limited to just rice, as it’ll work well with other grains like couscous and can steam vegetables, too. No matter what food you choose to make in this rice cooker, it’ll be a quick and almost effortless process; you’ll be able to whip up high-quality rice in only 10-15 minutes. The steam release vent prevents hot water from splattering all over your microwave during cooking, while the lid’s tabs won’t get hot in order to protect your fingers from getting burned. As a bonus, this rice cooker is safe for both the dishwasher (top rack only) and fridge; you can store leftover rice right in the cooker, no need to transfer it to Tupperware. It’s also freezer-safe if you ever want to make and save rice for long-term meal prepping.
Cons: If you enjoy oil or butter on your rice or grains, you’ll have to wait until after the rice is cooked to add them; including them as part of the microwave cooking process is potentially dangerous. You can’t use it to steam meat while the rice is cooking. If your microwave is on the smaller side, you might need to look for a smaller cooker. Keep in mind that it’s made out of plastic and is thus much less durable than metal countertop models.
Bottom Line: Make great rice in no time with this microwave rice cooker. Tabs on the vented lid remain cool for safe lifting, and an interior chamber plate allows any overflow while cooking to be collected and drained back into the base chamber. Made with BPA- and phthalate-free plastic, it’s safe in the dishwasher and freezer. This is the perfect rice cooker for someone with a busy schedule on those nights when they find themselves rushing to throw a meal together.
Aroma Housewares Pot Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer
This rice cooker gives you great rice at a great price while allowing you to steam meat and vegetables at the same time.
Pros: There’s a lot to love about this rice cooker—its price first and foremost. It’s highly functional and multipurpose yet costs less than many similar rice cookers. Not only is it a good budget-friendly option, but it’s also capable of preparing a full meal; the included aluminum steam tray allows you to place meat and vegetables over the rice, steaming them while the rice cooks. You can also make soups, stews, and chilis in the cooker itself. And when you’re finished cooking, put the inner pot in the dishwasher for easy cleanup. Besides the steam tray, this cooker comes with a measuring cup and serving spatula and is available in three possible colors.
Cons: This rice cooker doesn’t offer much control over the cooking process. While the one-touch operation makes it simple to use, the flip side is that you can’t alter the temperature or operation time to suit other foods besides rice. There’s no off button; you have to unplug the machine to turn it off or else it will warm your food indefinitely, which can run up your energy bill and be potentially dangerous if you ever forget to unplug it. Steam and water could get on your countertops and possibly your cabinets, so be careful about where you place it during cooking.
Bottom Line: This rice cooker makes 2 to 6 cups of worry-free, restaurant-quality rice or other grains like polenta and couscous, all at a budget-friendly price. With just one press of a button, you make perfect fluffy rice and steam meats and vegetables for convenient one-pot meals. This cooker comes with a nonstick inner pot, a full-view tempered glass lid, a rice measuring cup, a steam tray, and a serving spatula.
Black+Decker Rice Cooker and Food Steamer
You can feed a crowd with this rice cooker thanks to its impressive 16-cup capacity.
Pros: This rice cooker makes up to 16 cups of cooked rice, great for large meals or long-term meal prepping. The rice cooker has a nonstick cooking bowl with measurement markings on the inside. A steaming basket for protein and vegetables and a serving spoon come included with your purchase. Bowl and lid alike are dishwasher safe for convenience. It’s also available in a 28-cup size if you need an even larger cooker, as well 3-, 6-, and 14-cup models if you need something a bit less substantial.
Cons: It is a bit on the bulky side and may be too large for your countertop or smaller kitchens. It can’t make a single serving of rice; three servings is the absolute smallest portion size you can whip up in the rice cooker. And while it’s not as messy as some other models, the lid isn’t completely anti-splatter, so there is a risk of water spilling out as your rice cooks.
Bottom Line: Sometimes a rice cooker that only makes a few servings at a time just won’t cut it. Whether you have a large family, like to meal prep for several weeks at a time, or find yourself often cooking in bulk for any other reason, this rice cooker has you covered. You don’t have to cook to max capacity every time, so if you’re only cooking for a smaller group, you won’t have to make too much rice and worry about it going to waste; just be aware that you won’t be able to make a single serving.
Whether you’re cooking for a whole family or just yourself, a rice cooker is a valuable addition to almost any kitchen. With one of these appliances, you can make large and smaller quantities of rice in a simple, effective, and sometimes quicker method than using the stove.