Rice is a very simple dish to cook. However, this simplicity comes with a cost- you have to get everything right the first time; there are no second chances. Gone are the days when people used to cook rice the old fashioned way with a pot over the cooker.
Nowadays, we have a wide range of electric rice cookers that cook this healthy delicacy to perfection. The tricky part is getting the right one that will adequately meet your needs. The good news is that this guide will give you all the information you need about rice cookers and what to look for when shopping for one.
Are rice cookers made specifically for different types of rice?
The answer is a big NO! All rice cookers can actually cook all types of rice, with the exception of the old conventional rice cookers which were designed initially to cook white rice.
However, modern conventional cookers have special features that allow them to cook various types of rice. Cooking rice has little to do with the type of cooker and more to do with the number of variations you use for different types of rice. It goes without saying therefore that you can use the best cooker in the world and still end up cooking one of the worst rice dishes ever simply because you used the wrong variations for a given type of rice. The most obvious variation is the water-to-rice ratio. Different rice types require different water to grain ratio- this is the real trick to cooking the perfect rice.
For the short grain brown rice, the ratio is 1 ½ cups of water per 1 cup of rice, while for the long grain brown rice the ratio is 2 ¼ cups of water per 1 cup of grain.
White long grain rice requires 1 ¾ water cups, white medium grain requires 1 ½ cups of water, while the short white grain requires 1 ¼ cups of water for every cup of rice.This website is supported by readers. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
For Basmati rice, the drier the rice, the better. Therefore, less water is ideal. If the rice is washed right before cooking, then the water-grain ratio should be equal 1:1. If the rice is dry, however, then you can use 1 ½ cups of water for every cup of Basmati rice.
Wild rice has a thicker outer layer than other rice grains and therefore takes longer to cook. It uses more water, about 2 to 3 cups of water per cup of rice.
To reduce the cooking time of wild rice, you can soak it for thirty minutes to several hours. This makes the grains soft and fluffy.
Sticky rice is a bit complicated when it comes to preparing it because most people assume that it needs a lot of water to overcook it to stickiness. Another problem is that it is easily confused with sushi rice, which means that it can be easily prepared with the wrong variations.
However, sticky rice utilizes the least amount of water of all rice types. For a cup of sticky rice, you will require only 1 ¼ cups of water. You will also need to soak it up for some time before cooking. Another thing to note is that sticky rice has the least cook time of about 15 to 20 minutes, while long grain wild rice has the longest cook time of up to 80 minutes. Other types of rice require around 30 minutes of cook time.
Luckily, most brands of rice come with all the needed instructions of all variations to prepare the perfect rice dish.
Types of Rice Cookers
There are many types of rice cookers, ranging from improvised plastic versions to sophisticated models that feature pressure and induction cooking technology. Here are the types of rice cookers available in the market today.
Conventional/Standard Rice Cookers
Standard rice cookers have been in existence since 1955 when Toshiba Company distributed them for sale in Japan. Since then the current crop of standard rice cookers have not changed much and still have the same cooking technology and architecture of the first model.
The basic components of conventional rice cookers include a cooking pot, a heating plate, an external pot and sometimes a steam tray. Some modern additions include automatic shutoff, keep warm functions and cook delay features.
With a simple and straightforward design, these cookers are very easy to use as they only require a timer and the hot plate to cook the rice. You only need to add the proper rice and water ratio to the cooking pot, press a button and let it cook the rice for you. Most of them turn off when the rice is cooked or when the set time expires, and so you do not have to be present when the rice cooks.
Conventional rice cookers are designed to cook white rice. However, with a few extra settings you can also cook sushi and brown rice with these appliances. They are very cheap, some costing as low as $10. Sophisticated models are relatively expensive to compensate for the added features.
Micom Rice Cookers
Micom is an acronym for micro-computerized. Micom or Micro-Computerized rice cookers are therefore conventional rice cookers fitted with a microchip, which monitors and regulates the internal temperature of the cooker.
Utilizing thermosensors, the microchip is able to know the current temperatures, which allows it to alter the estimated cooking time to prepare the rice properly. Although Micom cookers work like conventional rice cookers, they have more built-in functions and safety features and are therefore more expensive. Micom rice cookers can cook all types of rice.
Micom Rice Cookers with Induction Heating
Unlike the aforementioned cookers above, induction heated cookers do not use a heating plate at the bottom of the pot. They utilize magnetic fields around the cooker that heat up the pot from all angles. This heating is consistent throughout the whole pot, and as a result, all the rice cooks at the same time.
They also have a microcomputer chip that monitors and maintains optimal temperatures for proper rice preparation. Since the entire cooking plate is heated evenly, temperature readings are far much accurate than in conventional micom cookers.
Also, fine temperature adjustments are realized throughout the cooking plate at the same time, unlike in other cookers where changes are first realized at the bottom where heating is taking place. Induction heated cookers are therefore among the fastest and most effective rice cookers. They can also be used to prepare all types of rice. They are therefore the most popular cookers, despite being very expensive. The main drawback of these cookers is that they use a lot of energy.
Micro-Computerized Cookers with Pressurized Induction Heating
These are improved versions of Micom cookers with induction heating. They utilize a combination of induction heating with pressure cooker technology, and as a result, they are the fastest rice cookers in the market today.
The high pressure in the cooker leads to high-temperature levels throughout the cooking plate, which results in unique rice consistency that is softer and fluffier than rice from other cookers. Micom rice cookers with pressurized induction cookers are classified as high-end rice cookers, and the best models may cost up to $400. These cookers can also prepare all types of rice.
Microwave Rice Cookers
This is an improvised method of cooking rice using the microwave. The microwave rice cooker is basically made up of a special plastic container with a lid. The process is quite simple; you place the proper rice-water ratio into the container and secure the lid.
Put the container into the microwave, set the time and press start. They are the cheapest type of rice cookers, and surprisingly, they are also the fastest method of cooking rice beating most of the high-end cookers by half the time. The plastic containers are dishwasher safe and are therefore very easy to clean and maintain. The lids ought to be perforated to prevent excessive pressure and steam build up that could result in accidents. Also, the plastic containers should be microwave safe.
Best Rice Cooker Buying Guide
Rice cookers come in various shapes, sizes, colors and with different functionalities. Therefore, selecting one is not as easy as just walking to an appliance store and picking one that captures your eye. There are many factors you need to keep in mind when selecting the right rice cooker. One of the most important factors is your rice-eating habits. You will need a rice cooker that adequately meets your rice serving quota at a time. Here are factors you need to consider when selecting the best rice cooker for all types of rice.
Rice cookers come in a wide range of sizes for different family needs. Therefore, the size of your family should determine the size of the cooker you buy. How do you determine the size of the cooker? Simple, the capacity of a rice cooker is measured by the amount of uncooked rice it can hold. The smallest cookers can cook only one cup of rice and are suitable for single persons. However, if your family comprises several members, then consider a cooker with the same capacity as the number of people in your house.
On average, a single adult can consume up to a cup of rice. Therefore, if you have a family of five members, then purchase a cooker with a 6-cup capacity. It is advisable to always cook extra rice just in case a person is not fully satisfied. Most family oriented cookers have a capacity of one to ten cups, any capacity larger than that is considered to be a commercial cooker.
Contrary to what most people believe, rice cookers can be used to cook various dishes. For instance, the modern rice cooker can double as a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. You can use a rice cooker to steam vegetables, cook porridge, and prepare various types of stews, grains and a series of other rice-based foods. You should consider a cooker with multiple uses, as this will save you the cost of purchasing other kitchen appliances and also on kitchen space.
Some high-end models come with a recipe book to help you prepare various dishes. So, if you want a cooker to prepare rice only, then any model will work out fine for you. However, if you want to make use of every dollar you spend on a cooker, then go for the versatile types.
Keep Warm Feature
When it comes to cooking it is impossible to plan everything to be ready at the same time. Some foods take longer than others to cook. When you are preparing rice with some other delicacy, there is a high chance that the rice will get ready quickly. This means that the rice will most likely get cold, as you wait for the other dish to get ready. Unfortunately, cold rice loses its taste and texture. You will need a cooker with a keep warm function to keep the rice at the right temperature, not too high to overcook it and not too low to let it go cold.
Warming cold rice or keeping it the oven to regulate the temperature heats away from the moisture in the rice making it dry and tacky. With a keep warming function, everyone in your family will be able to enjoy perfectly cooked rice, without the need to warm it even if they are not present. Some have a reheat cycle feature that heats the rice back to the right temperatures in about 10 minutes and then maintains the temperatures.
A very important consideration if you are a lover of steamed food. Some high-end models come with a steaming basket or metal trays that are kept either at the top or bottom of the cooking pot. This added feature will allow you to prepare two dishes at the same time. You will be steaming vegetables or fish as the rice cooks. This will save you energy costs and the cost of purchasing an extra appliance. It will also preserve precious kitchen space for other appliances.
Removable Interior Pot
For purposes of easy cleaning, we would advise you to look for a cooker with a detachable inner pot. This will allow you to carry it to the sink, without exposing the electrical components to water. A removable pot also takes away the inconvenience of having to transfer the cooked rice to a serving bowl by just carrying it directly to the dining table. Also, you can cover the inner pot with a lid or paper and store it directly in the refrigerator.
Imagine being able to program a cooker to start preparing rice so that it gets ready just in time for dinner. Or delaying the cooking process to allow the rice grains to soak. Those are just a few features that you will enjoy from a programmable rice cooker. Most high-end cookers come with an LCD control panel with various cooking settings, such as white/mixed rice, brown rice, porridge, sushi rice, and quick rice cooking.
As already mentioned above, cookers with induction heating are considered the best. They use radio frequency electricity on a highly conductive field to cook food quickly. Unlike convention cookers that have a heating element at the bottom of the cooking pot, induction cookers heat the cooking pot from all angles and areas, which ensures all rice is cooked evenly. You may also opt for one of the pressurized induction heated cookers, as they combine induction cooking and pressure cooking technology.
If travelling is something that frequently occurs in your life, then you will want to purchase a rice cooker that is lightweight and easy to carry around. This will enable you to enjoy a plate of perfectly cooked rice while on the road.
Generally, cookers with the least capacity are the lightest and can come in handy when you travel alone. If you have a large family that you regularly go on trips with, then you will have to go for a larger cooker. Also, make sure it comes with a handle for easy handling. This is especially important when you serve the rice directly from the cooker.
With a handle, you will not be worried about getting burned or the weight of the rice weighing you down, especially if you are dealing with a large cooker.
Ensure the handles are heat-insulated or made from non-conducting metals to prevent accidents and injury. Most rice cookers come with either one or two handles. A single handle allows one free hand to do other jobs like carrying other things or opening the door. For the two handles, the weight of the cooker is evenly distributed to both hands, which improves stability and makes it easier to carry large and heavy cookers.
Custom Measuring Cup
Some models come with a customized measuring cup to help you get the right water to rice ratio. It is worth noting however that some cups come with foreign measurements, which may lead to disastrous outcomes if you are not familiar with how the measurements work. For instance, Japanese models come with 200ml cups, while most American brands have 240ml cups. You should maintain the cup that the cooker comes with to avoid any measurement errors. You can switch to another cup only if you are completely certain that the two cups match perfectly.
The first safety feature you should look out for is the airtight lid lock. There is a lot of steam and high heat involved when cooking rice. Opening it during cooking could result in burns and injuries. Also, the steam and heat released could affect how the rice is cooked. You need the cooker to be closed tightly until the rice is cooked. Extra precaution should be taken if you have children in the family, as their curious nature may lead them to open up the lid when in operation. With an airtight lid lock, you will be able to do other activities without worrying that something wrong may occur.
You should also consider a transparent lid made up of either glass or plastic, as it will allow you to monitor the rice without having to open the lid.
The second safety feature you should consider is an auto shutoff function. In case you forget to turn it off, the cooker will automatically turn off to avoid fire hazards. You will also need a unit with light indicators or any form of alert, such as beeping sound that will alert you when the device is in operation, when the rice is cooked and when it is on keep warm mode.
Easy to Clean
Rice cookers require very little input when it comes to maintenance. You are only required to clean the inner pan after a cooking session, and that’s it. However, scrubbing burnt or stuck rice from the pan is not an easy task. It is due to this reason that we recommend cookers with a non-stick pan, which will only require you to soak it in water and the stuck rice will be easy to wipe off. The non-stick pan does not affect the overall price of the cooker, and you will still be able to get affordable units with non-stick inner pans. Alternatively, you may go for cookers with dishwasher safe inner pans. This will take away all the cleaning work from your hands.
The type of rice cooker you choose will basically depend on the amount of money you have set aside for one. If you have a large budget, then we would recommend going for the high-end induction heated cookers. They are very fast and have many great functionalities. If however, you have few dollars to spare, then modern conventional rice cookers. They are still very effective, and some cost less than $20. Good luck.