What the best rice cooker has
- Easy-to-use controls. Basic rice cookers often offer one-touch operation. Pricier models will
have digital controls, but they should still be intuitive enough to require
only a few brief glances at the manual.
- A digital timer. Models with digital controls should have a timer that can tell your rice
cooker to switch on at a specified time and let you know how much time is left
until your meal is ready.
- An easy-to-clean bowl. A rice cooker at any price point should have a nonstick insert that is
easy to clean with a sponge, soap, and water. Some inserts are also
dishwasher-safe, while plastic microwaveable rice cookers can be cleaned on the
top rack of the dishwasher. Some models may feature stainless-steel inserts
that are a bit more durable, but these are usually harder to clean.
- A stay-cool exterior. The outside of your rice cooker shouldn't burn your fingers when the
appliance is on. If you plan to serve rice directly from the rice cooker, make
sure any handles stay cool to the touch.
- An automatic keep-warm setting. Many rice cookers will automatically keep your rice warm after it's done
cooking. It's a nice feature to have if you don't want to eat right away.
- A quick-cook setting. If you're opting for a more advanced, fully featured rice cooker, make
sure it has a quick-cook setting you can use when you're pressed for time.
- Specific modes for different kinds of
rice. If you rarely eat anything other than white
rice, this might not be necessary. However, if you're a real rice lover, you'll
want a rice cooker that takes the guesswork out of cooking different kinds of
- An included measuring cup and rice
spatula. At a minimum, your rice cooker should come with
a rice measuring cup and rice spatula. A spatula holder on the side of the rice
cooker is a nice bonus.
- A compatible steamer basket. A steamer basket or tray is nice to have, though not necessary if you
don't want to cook meat or vegetables at the same time your rice is cooking.
- A removable or retractable power
cord. This convenient feature makes your rice cooker
easier to store. It also lets you turn your rice cooker into a portable server
without dragging a long power cord behind.
Know before you go
How often will
you cook rice? With the
wide price range and selection of rice cookers, you need to determine just how
serious a rice cook you are. If you only eat white rice occasionally, a simple
cooker probably will meet your needs. However, if you consider yourself an
aficionado who eats rice daily, you likely will want to consider rice cookers
with induction heating or a microprocessor, as well as a variety of rice
Do you want a
model that does more than cook rice? Rice cookers don't take up a lot of room. If you have an especially
small kitchen, though, you might want to consider a multi-purpose cooker that
also serves as a steamer and slow cooker. Pressurized rice cookers don't
release steam, so they can be used in almost any room of the house.
people will be eating rice? Figure about a cup of uncooked rice
per person. You won't need a rice cooker with a 10-cup capacity if you're only
feeding two people; a 3-cup model (the smallest available) would probably be
just fine. Consider stepping up to a 5- to 6-cup rice cooker for a family of 4
to 6, and an 8- to 10-cup cooker for a bigger crowd. Remember: Rice measuring
cups are not the same size as standard U.S. cups -- they are about three-fourths