Rice Cooker Comparison
Instant Pot DUO60
Instant Pot LUX60
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Rice Cooker Buying Guide
Rice cookers are fast becoming a popular way to cook rice due to the speed and ease in which it cooks. Long gone are the days when you had to stand at the stove, constantly watching over it and stirring to make sure it didn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Even with the constant monitoring, it was hard to tell when it was done correctly to come out just right and not crunchy or all mashed together. Now you don’t have to go through all that just to have a great rice dish.
Rice cookers have been around in some form or another for many centuries. In fact there is a ceramic rice steamer in the British Museum that dates back to 1260 B.C. The first commercially available rice cooker did not make an appearance until 1956 and was produced by Toshiba. It was designed with a double-chamber and used IH (induction heating) and was able to turn off automatically when the rice was done cooking.
The rice cooker was a hit and Toshiba produced over 200,000 units per month. It fast became a common kitchen appliance in Japanese homes much like the toaster is in American homes. It’s not limited to Japan anymore though, and all over the world people are enjoying the ease of use and perfect rice that they can produce for a fraction of the effort and work.
What is a Rice Cooker?
A rice cooker is a useful kitchen appliance that is used to cook rice in a much more manageable and successful way than traditional pot cooking. Rice cookers have an inner pot/pan that is typically nonstick for easy cleaning, and that inner pot goes into the external pot. At the bottom of the external pot is a heating plate. Rice cookers are electric and have a power cord that needs to be plugged in for the rice cooker to work.
How do Rice Cookers Work?
Making rice in a rice cooker is amazingly simple. Measure the amount of rice you want to make and put it in the inner pan along with the water to the marked line. Put the tight fitting lid on and then your part is over! The rice cooker starts cooking the rice by heating the water that is in the inner pan to boiling. The rice is cooked by the steam that circulates inside the pan.
Once the temperature of the internal part reaches a certain point the rice cooker switches to the “keep warm” mode automatically. Most of the time the cycle to cook the rice from beginning to end is about 30 minutes to an hour. That will vary according to the amount of rice you’re cooking, the kind of rice cooker you have and also the kind of heating technology the rice cooker uses.
Types of Heating Technology
There are many styles of rice cookers available on the market today from conventional ones to high tech, high pressure cookers. The difference between them is largely due to the type of technology that is used to heat them. We have outlined many different types of rice cookers below.
Conventional Rice Cookers – This is the most basic of the rice cookers and is really just a unit that is used to cook rice in. You add the rice and water and push start. Its main capabilities are to heat up, cook the rice and shut off the heat. It’s perfect for cooking white rice and with a few adjustments can be used to cook brown rice and sushi as well.
Micom Rice Cookers – “micom” stands for micro computerized rice cooker. These rice cookers have a computer chip that can adjust cooking times and temperatures with a thermo sensor calculation. This type of rice cooker is great for cooking all types of rice and does so perfectly.
Induction Heating Micom Rice Cookers – Induction heating capability is used in these types of rice cookers to heat up the whole inner pan. There are much fine temperature adjustments possible with this type of cooker and you can almost always guarantee that your rice will be perfect and consistent every single time. These units are also micro computerized and cost a bit more than conventional cookers.
Pressurized Induction Heating Micom Rice Cookers – Sound confusing? It’s not really. These types of rice cookers utilize all the best heating technologies into one rice cooker. The cooking temps are raised through a pressurized heating system. By using pressurized heating, the structures of the starch in the grains of rice are modified. What this means is that the rice cooks faster, is softer and fluffier, digests easier and keeps longer. All pluses for anyone who loves to eat a lot of rice.
When it’s time to start shopping for your rice cooker there are a few things that it is important for you to consider. It will determine the type of rice cooker that will fit your needs the best. These points are outlined below for you.
How Are You Going to Use Your Rice Cooker? – What you will be doing with your rice cooker is an important question to ask yourself because it is this answer that will steer you in a particular direction when it comes to choosing a rice cooker. Do you eat a LOT of rice? What kind of rice will you be cooking? How often will you be cooking rice? Do you want to steam veggies, meats and rice too? Do you want to cook other dishes such as soups, stews and chili in your rice cooker? Knowing what you plan on doing with your rice cooker is probably the most important question to answer before your search begins.
How Big is Your Family? – There are many, many different capacities among rice cookers. Some are measured in cups of uncooked and some give the capacity in cooked. Be sure you know which one it is stating so you get the right size for what you need. In general, rice cooker capacities can range anywhere from 1 cups to 10 cups (uncooked rice) for non commercial varieties and on upwards to 46 cups for commercial styles.
A common rule of thumb is to account for about 1 cup of uncooked rice for each person in your family for a meal. So if you have a family of 4, a rice cooker with a capacity of at least 4 cups of uncooked rice. Since cooked rice will keep for at least a week with no problems, it is always better to go a little bigger than you need than to not have enough rice for all members of your family.
The size of the rice cooker you get will also depend on the kind of eaters you have. If you have average eaters, you can figure on the one cup per person rule of thumb but if your family consists of several growing young kids who ALWAYS seem to be hungry, you may want to account for that by getting a larger capacity unit.
What Features Are Important to You? – There are a lot of features available in rice cookers, so knowing what you’re looking for can help simplify your search. If you cool a lot of different varieties of rice you will want a rice cooker that cooks ALL kinds of rice perfectly and not just white rice. Do you want to cook the rice as fast as possible? Do you want to cook other things in it besides rice? All of these questions pertain to a type of feature that the rice cooker may have. If you’re just looking for a simple rice cooker that gets the job done, having one with a bunch of bells and whistles could end up being wasted not to mention frustrating you.
Do You Like Simple and Easy? – Most rice cookers, even those with a lot of features, are usually not that complicated to use. The menu setting can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but if you read the user manual before you cook with it, chances are, you’ll discover just how easy it is to create some simple, fast, and delicious rice dishes.
Easy to Clean Is Important – No one wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning up, so having a rice cooker that is easy to clean is a must. Typically rice cookers have nonstick inner pans that are super easy to clean and many can even be put in the dishwasher. The measuring cup and lids are usually able to be put in the dishwasher as well, but it is an easy check to see if your model of rice cooker can do this or not.
How Much do You Want to Spend? – Rice cookers can be as inexpensive as $20 and as expensive as $350 or more. If you just cook rice once in awhile as a side dish, spending $350 on a rice cooker doesn’t make much sense. For many people though, rice is a major staple in their home and they have a lot of rice based dishes that are cooked regularly.
In this case, choosing a higher quality, more expensive model will be your best bet so it’s not wearing out after a few months. Buy the rice cooker that matches your needs, wants and usage and you will be happy for a long time to come.
There are really only a few different types of rice cookers out there. They may have different finishes, sizes, features, capabilities and heating technologies, but when it comes down to it, there are only a few major differences.
Simple On/Off Style Rice Cookers – These rice cookers cook your rice and turn off when they are done. This type of rice cooker is the least expensive of all the models and definitely is the very basic of styles. Most don’t come with nonstick pots or steamers and there is usually no indicator light to let you know when the rice is done, the unit simply shuts off. If you’re just looking for a simple way to cook basic white rice, this is your go to rice cooker and you can probably get one like this for less than $30.
Cooks then Keeps Rice Warm – These are a little more “fancy” and after the rice cooks, the unit maintains the warmth so the rice doesn’t become cold. The way these units are shut off is to unplug them. They are pretty flexible rice cookers and some even include nonstick pans, steamer baskets and more. You can expect this type of rice cooker to range in the $35 to $70 range.
Electronic Controls Rice Cooker – These are a little more expensive and one of the great features about them is that once the rice is cooked, the unit will keep it warm for up to 12 hours. It’s a great style to get for families that eat A LOT of rice on a regular basis. What can you expect to pay for this type of rice cooker? They can typically start at $100 and go up from there depending on the kinds of features you get.
Fuzzy Logic Styles – Now you’re getting into the more high tech designs of rice cookers. You’ll find many more options go along with the higher price tag and for anyone who cooks rice on a regular weekly and even daily basis; this is a unit that you may really enjoy having. With the fuzzy logic rice cookers, you will have features like soup, brown rice, rice texture choices, and even a sushi rice setting. The variety of rice and dishes you can cook with this type of rice cooker will really make you happy. While not for the rice cooker buyer who is looking to spend as little as possible, if you’re looking for great quality and LOTS of features, you can expect to pay around $150 or more for a model like this.
Induction Heating Rice Cookers – This is the newest and more sophisticated style of rice cooker on the market today. One of the great things about induction heating rice cookers is that they can compensate for less experienced and accurate cooks and still deliver properly cooked rice even if the measurements of rice and water are off. They are the best style to get when you cook brown rice and a lot of other varieties. You can expect to see prices starting at around $200 for these super rice cookers but they are well worth it.
- Inner Pan – Make sure you opt for a nonstick inner pan, although most rice cookers are including them since they are so popular and easy to clean. The nonstick surface keeps rice from sticking to the bottom and cleanup is done in minutes.
- Rice Cooker Lid – Some lids are just plain and made of metal but the best ones come with tempered glass lids or heavy duty plastic. These are the best lids to get so you can see how the rice is coming along without lifting the lid and letting out important steam.
- Steamer Trays or Baskets – If you get a rice cooker that has steaming capabilities you’re going to love what you can do with it. Steaming can be done when the rice finishes or even as a standalone for vegetables. Some units have more than one steaming tray and other styles have a tray with holes in it that sit above the rice while it cooks so you can steam veggies and/or meats while the rice is cooking.
- Fuzzy Logic Technology – A varied cooking menu will be present on units that have this. You can choose from a multitude of cooking settings such as cooking brown rice, steaming, etc.
- Hot Cereal Setting – Your steamer is surprisingly great for cooking hot breakfast in. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc. all does well. Press this setting and have a great hot breakfast in minutes.
- Reheat Feature – This is a handy feature if you have leftover rice that you want to have heated up. The reheat cycle warms the rice back up in about 10 minutes and keeps it warm.
- Quick Cook – This feature allows you to start cooking the rice right away rather than having to soak it first. If you do a lot of cooking “on the fly” you may find this particular feature very handy.
- Texture Setting – Some rice cookers give users the option of having their rice at a specific texture. If this is something important to you, you will definitely want to look for this feature.
- Auto Cord Reel – this is an important safety feature that many rice cookers have. It keeps the cord out of the way so a pet or excited child doesn’t come along and get tangled in the cord, causing a potentially messy and even dangerous accident.
As an easy recap for you, we’ve created a list of what you need to remember when it comes to shopping for a rice cooker. The things listed in the first section below are things that you will definitely want to have in your kindle. This is like a recap list for you to refer back to.
Important features to have in your cooker
- Auto Keep Warm (or Optional Keep Warm) after the rice or meal is cooked
- Brown Rice setting
- White rice setting
- The right size for your needs
- Good, reliable cooking every time.
Fancy Extras that make Cooking Even More Fun
The list below contains features that are exceptional but are not absolutely necessary. They are considered more of a luxury. Any of the items on the list below make cooking with the rice cooker even more fun and easy.
- Steam function
- Steaming Basket or Tray
- Sauté or Simmer Setting
- Slow cook setting
- Whole grain Setting
- Quick cook rice function
- Delay timer
- Programmable settings
- Stainless steel exterior
- Stay Cool glass lid
- Stay cool exterior
- Additional utensils
- Condensation collector to keep water off food
All of these features above make the rice cooker even more of as asset to anyone who cooks rice often. While they are not necessary to cook rice well, they make the rice cooker even more efficient, easy to use and helpful to anyone who cooks rice on a regular basis.
A Few Things to Remember
It is always best not to try and cut corners by trying to cook brown rice in a white rice only cooker. There really is a difference in how the two types of rice are cooked. If you cook a lot of brown rice, you will definitely need a brown rice setting.
If you have a nonstick pot, be sure to have plastic or wooden utensils and not metal, as the metal can scratch the nonstick surface and cause the rice to start sticking once it has been scratched enough. There are stainless steel inner pots, so if you don’t mind a bit more elbow grease in cleaning, you can get a stainless inner pot and not worry about what utensils you use.
When you start shopping for your rice cooker, be sure to remember the information we have provided for you here, so you can get the right rice cooker for your needs. With prices and styles ranging from inexpensive to expensive, you will want to get the best for your money that you can and still have it meet your cooking needs.
You will never look at cooking rice the same again once you have used a rice cooker, especially if you opt to get one that has a lot of features on it that give you additional options for cooking. You may find that you start cooking rice a lot more often since it’s so easy and fun.
- Aroma 8 cup – http://www.aroma-housewares.com/
- Aroma – http://www.aroma-housewares.com/kitchen/appliances/products/Rice%20Cookers.html
- Oster- http://www.oster.com/cooking/rice-cookers/