Choosing a Rice Cooker
With the wide price range and selection of rice cookers, you'll need to determine just how serious a rice cook you are before shopping. If you only eat white rice occasionally, a cheap rice 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 settings.
The other crucial question is how many 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 the size. For that reason, most manufacturers advise using only the measurement tools provided with the product -- some come with measuring cups, while others have measurement marks printed on the rice bowl.
Here are some other rice cooker buying tips:
- Some models do 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.
- Controls should be easy to use. 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.
- Decide what features are musts. 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. 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.
- Automatic keep-warm settings are convenient. One of the primary benefits of rice cookers is that they don't require your constant attention like cooking rice in a standard pan does. An automatic keep-warm feature ensures that your rice stays warm without becoming over-cooked when you're busy preparing the rest of your meal or if you simply aren't ready to eat right away.
- Rice cookers should stay cool to the touch. 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 enough to grip.
- Look for 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.
- Look for a detachable inner lid. Most rice cookers have a lid that's hinged on one side, which is convenient for one-handed use but can be awkward to clean. Look for a rice cooker with a detachable, washable inner lid for easy cleanup.
- Rice bowls should be easy to clean. A rice cooker at any price point should have a nonstick insert that is simple to wash 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.