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Rice cooker/steamers provide options

If you want to get the best bang for your buck, try a rice cooker that also serves as a steamer and slow cooker. Some cooks like to put a steam basket with vegetables or meat above the rice as it cooks to make a one-pot meal. Others like to use it solely as a steamer. Cooks also have the option of slow cooking in the rice cooker. Reviewers say this appliance is a good choice for college dorms and tiny kitchens.

The Aroma 20-Cup Digital Cool-Touch Rice Cooker ARC-150SB (Est. $35) is our top choice for the rice cooker/steamer combo. This wildly popular appliance cooks white and brown rice well. Its multiple settings include white rice, brown rice, slow cook, steam and keep-warm, and it has a programmable 15-hour delay timer. When cooking is finished, the cooker switches to the keep-warm function.

Using this cooker/steamer is easy, reviewers say, and they especially like the set-it-and-go delay timer that enables them to set the cook time when they leave home so the food is ready when they return. Cleanup is easy, too, but some customers say they wish the rice cooker's lid would detach for easier cleaning.

The Tiger Electronics JAH-T18U Microcomputer Controlled Rice Cooker (Est. $180) , our runner-up, also cooks white and brown rice well and serves as a steamer and slow cooker. Though it does not have induction heating, the Tiger JAH-T18U heats up quickly and evenly through its spherical cooking system.

The Tiger's settings include plain rice, quick, germinated brown rice, mixed rice, sweet rice, porridge and brown rice. It also has a scorch mode. The Tiger JAH-T18U switches to warm mode, except for porridge, when cooking is done. Tiger also has a smaller version of this model -- the JAH-T10U.

The Aroma 20-Cup Digital Cool-Touch Rice Cooker ARC-150SB is a very affordable option just as a rice cooker. Getting three machines -- rice cooker, steamer and slow cooker -- rolled into one is a bonus buy.

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