A friend of mine I'm getting an apartment with next year said that we should invest in a rice cooker. I'm fairly adept in the kitchen and don't come from a family that uses a rice cooker so I would default to cooking rice in a pot. He seemed to think that he would buy a rice cooker only for the convenience of cooking rice without worrying about it. Is convenience the only reason? Is it worth it to buy one for the other things (not rice) you can cook in it?

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    I bought a rice cooker years ago to make black garlic. Except for a question that came up here not long ago, I've never used it for rice. One thing they do extremely well (better, I think, than any other method) is keeping rice warm and ready to eat for hours. – Jolenealaska Mar 1 '15 at 3:29
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    @Jolenealaska Not shooting the messenger but I've never understood why one would want to keep rice warm and ready to eat for hours when one has a machine that reduces the process of cooking rice to the press of a button. "Oh, I know. I'll press the button two hours earlier than I need to. That'll save me a whole lot of effort later on!" – David Richerby Mar 1 '15 at 16:32
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    @DavidRicherby - It depends on who you're cooking for. Suppose I'm making rice to serve with dinner on a Tuesday night. (Incidentally, on Tuesdays, my son has soccer practice and my daughter has play practice.) They both generally get home around 6:30 – but anywhere up to an hour or so late is not uncommon. Suddenly, the "keeps rice warm for a long time" advantage is very appealing. – J.R. Mar 1 '15 at 18:52
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    @DavidRicherby Sometimes you also just have a spread out meal, grabbing more rice periodically, and it's awesome to have it hot the whole time. – Cascabel Mar 1 '15 at 21:27
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    The answer to "Why would I buy [appliance x]?" is always "When you find yourself with too much counter and storage space..." – Adam Davis Mar 2 '15 at 15:07

14 Answers 14

up vote 46 down vote accepted

I come from a culture where rice is our staple and I have a rice cooker. Here are some of the advantages from my perspective:

  1. Rice is perfect everytime – not stuck to the bottom, not watery, not mushy and stuck together, etc.
  2. If you make rice in a pot, and the heat is too high, it will boil and spill over creating a mess.
  3. You can switch the rice cooker on and go do other things, whereas it is dangerous to walk away from a stove.
  4. The rice cooker can be used for other things such as cooking lentils and steaming vegetables.
  5. Rice cookers are cheap.
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    There's potentially one other good reason, too – though it's more relational than culinary. According to the question, the O.P.'s roommate-to-be said, "We should invest in a rice cooker." (The O.P. also said, "I'm fairly adept in the kitchen.") Well, perhaps one roommate doesn't want to depend on the other for rice… :^) – J.R. Mar 1 '15 at 18:41
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    One more advantage of the rice cooker: Most have a timer feature so you can load up the rice and water in the morning before work and have it ready just in time for dinner. This is especially convenient for brown rice when it can take almost 2 hours for the rice cooker to cook it. – Johnny Mar 2 '15 at 3:50
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    Please note that the rice does not automatically become perfect. If you add too much water or not enough, undesirable result will occur. – Huangism Mar 2 '15 at 17:50
  • @Huangism - true, but it's as fool proof as it can be, since rice cookers typically have a measuring cup for rice (mine uses a 180ml "Japanese cup" size measuring cup), and markings inside the bowl to show how much water to add for various types and amounts of rice. – Johnny Mar 2 '15 at 18:54
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    @Johnny it is very hard to screw up making rice in the cooker but in case someone read that literally, I put the note there so no one just blindly adds rice and water and hope for the best – Huangism Mar 2 '15 at 18:57

Is it worth it for things besides rice? Really depends on what you cook. It definitely can be worth it for the steaming. If you're inclined to cook rice with a bit of steamed something frequently, it's much easier than cooking rice in a pot and separately steaming things.

As for rice, I don't think it's just convenience for rice. While you can certainly make good rice in a pot, I think it takes a bit of care to get it as good as a rice cooker will, especially short/medium-grain rice, to the point that often it'll be a bit off - a bit stuck on the bottom, or not quite the right moisture level left. And as Jolenealaska mentioned, it can keep the rice warm for you; good luck with that on the stove.

In the end I think it really comes down to what kind of food you cook, and how often. If you're eating every meal with rice, the convenience alone is worth it. (Of course, if you eat every meal with rice, there's a good chance you already have a rice cooker and have never known any other way to cook rice.) If you just cook rice occasionally, you're not too excited about steamed vegetables, and your kitchen space is limited, maybe not.

We have recently bought one. I would not buy one again, even if they are cheap.

  • They take up room, especially in a small kitchen.
  • They cannot do anything a normal pot of water and some heat can't.
  • Rice is easy to cook, it might be easier to cook in a rice-cooker, but not that much that you really need an entire machine dedicated to it.
  • This is my wife's argument against it. The space it takes. – Almo Mar 2 '15 at 16:40
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    It's certainly fair to say it's not worth the space to you, but I think your other arguments are a bit misleading. As mentioned in other answers, cooking rice perfectly is not easy, at least not for most people. At the very least, even if you have the technique down, the rice cooker changes it from something requiring attention to something requiring basically no effort. Also, good luck simultaneously cooking perfect rice and steaming something in a single pot. – Cascabel Mar 2 '15 at 17:48
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    "Cannot do anything[...]" -- storing rice warm for an extended period of time without risking burning what's on the bottom or getting an uneven texture is something a normal pot of water cannot do. – Charles Duffy Mar 2 '15 at 20:49
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    I agree with Jefromi's comment, too much space is a valid concern in a small kitchen, especially if you rarely or never use it. However your other points I disagree with. Including the other comments, rice cookers can often be used to steam things (yes you can do with a hanging basket and a pot and water), but the auto-shutoff is quite nice when it runs out of water. It can also be used to make stews and soups. I have even seen people make mac&cheese in a rice cooker pretty well. Congee (rice porridge) is great too. I have done pulled pork similar to a slowcooker. Many more uses :). – Steven Kohus Mar 3 '15 at 18:53
  • If it's space/room for a rice cooker, one does not have to have it in the kitchen, it can go nearly anywhere where it is needed. I actually have mine in the dining room on the dining table, not in the kitchen. I don't have a lot of counter space either, but we do eat rice nearly 5 times a week. The convenience of freshly cooked and warmed rice nearly anytime, and in this case, anywhere is really a bonus. One does the prep of washing, rinsing, measuring and then drying off the rice cooking pot and just placing it in the rice cooker. With a touch of a button the rice is perfect every time. – JG sd Jan 28 '17 at 14:47

Years ago, one of my roommates had a rice cooker.

Even if you only use it for rice and not as a multi-tasker, it's very convenient. If you regularly cook rice (once a week or more), a low-end rice-cooker is a good investment. If you're cooking rice almost every night, then a high-end one may be a good investment.

If you have difficulty cooking rice (it's too gummy, always stays hard, occassionally burns to the bottom of the pot), then a low-end one may still be a good investment, as it makes cooking rice near idiot proof. (it was a good buy for Billy, because he was half blind, so he could just dump things in and forget about it)

All that being said, I don't own one ... but I've thought about it. I'm really waiting 'til someone makes the smart crock-pot that has a rice / steamer insert. (you can't use the crock as it retains too much heat so the 'smart' logic wouldn't work ... but the rice cooker smarts might help reduce the odds of a slow cooker boiling dry)

Although I don't have one anymore and I am quite proficient in making rice on the stove, a rice cooker just can't be beat for the convenience of set and forget.

I'll eventually get another one, but I have higher priorities for my next tool so it'll be a little longer.

I view a rice cooker as a sort of high powered crock pot, though not as powerful as a pressure cooker. If you don't mind spending a little more money and want to cook more things easily, I would recommend a pressure cooker over a rice cooker. That said, you can still cook MANY things in a rice cooker with little effort (including pasta) by following pre-existing recipes (available online or in specialized cook books) or simply with a little ingenuity/creativity. People have tried just about anything, even cakes and cobblers made in a rice cooker, and some of the best chilis and casseroles I have ever had was actually made very quickly in a rice cooker. If you have room for one, and $20-$40, I would highly recommend getting a rice cooker for easy cooking of almost anything that you wouldn't want to dry out during cooking.

See also: http://www.buzzfeed.com/arielknutson/surprising-things-you-can-make-in-a-rice-cooker

To add to what has already been said by other posters, an advantage to using a rice cooker for cooking rice is that during the warm cycle the appliance also keeps the moisture level of the rice balanced.

If you have ever tried keeping rice warm on a stove before when guests were running late for dinner, and within about 15 minutes, it started to dry out - you may also know that adding water to a pan cooked rice and stirring it also risks making it mushy.

However, a rice cooker will keep it warm AND evenly hydrated for a long period, though you will usually want to open the rice cooker about every half hour after it is down cooking to gently stir the rice (use a wide flat plastic spatula - many cookers come with one designed for this) - the stirring prevents the rice from burning on the bottom. This not just less effort to maintain cooked rice before it is eaten, but also is more effective.

My girlfriend is of chinese descent and she brought a rice cooker to the mix when we moved in. At the time it would never cross my mind that i needed yet another one-use cooking contraption but I have to say now that i'd probably by one if we spit up! It makes perfect no hassle rice each time and I can go off jogging while it does it's thing and it doesn't matter if I'm a bit later than planned. I can put double the amount in to make enough for lunch and it makes perfect sushi rice. You can certainly do without it, and in reality you are unlikely to cook much beside rice in it but if you make rice once a week or more then i'd say you might find it useful. If you do get one, don't clean the bowl with detergent or abrasive - just warm water will do. This will keep the non-stick coating going for years.

Some people will find a rice cooker to be essential, others won't.

  1. If you get one, get a programmable one. This feature allows you to set the rice to cook at a later time. The cheaper ones cook the rice and then keep warm. The more expensive ones wait to start cooking until you tell it to, and then keep the rice warm.

  2. If you arrive home shortly before dinner, it allows you to have rice ready and waiting (to pair with something in the slow cooker or with something that cooks quickly). Or if you are home with young kids, you can "cook dinner" during their afternoon naps and you won't have to juggle 20 things right before dinner.

  3. If you have very young children, it gives you reliability without babysitting the stove. For example, if your potty training child suddenly has to go and then spends 17 minutes of your time in the bathroom, you won't have to leave the pot or have burned rice.

  4. You can try setting the pot at night and eating rice with furikake for breakfast, making extra rice for a lunchtime bento box or onigiri.

  5. Or you can make rice overnight to take in your bento lunchbox, and eat whatever for breakfast. Bulk rice is cheap, and bringing a lunch is often cheaper than buying. Cold cuts now are known to up cancer rates.

  6. If you have a small stove or a big party, it frees up a burner.

  7. It allows you to leave the kitchen to jog, do yard work, play with kids, help with homework, do your own homework, etc.

  8. It increases your chances of getting good results if you make 2-3 times more rice as usual.

  9. If you need your rice to have a particular consistency (sticky for sushi) your chances are higher.

I find that when using a rice cooker, it can also be used to steam vegetables, to be eaten as complements to the meal. For example, we would steam some carrots on a small, plastic-type "pan" of sorts that goes on top of the rice.

You may also find that eating rice can broaden up your food palate. It acts as a more easily "digestible" form of bread (controversial, I know, but somewhat true - rice doesn't feel as heavy in your stomach), and allows for the consumption of more "dishes", rather than set "meals" or frozen dinners, so to speak.

Perhaps a slightly unusual usage, but as well as rice, lentils and other veg you can also make rice cooker pancakes!

I've never actually done this but apparently they turn out quite well and are super easy to make.

We lived in Japan and bought a rice cooker. Used it weekly in the US and it lasted 25 years of use. Fast forward to today and WOW have rice cookers changed. I bought the Zojirushi NS-WAC10-WD on eBay for $50 including shipping, and love the timer feature to have rice ready when you want it. Although I've only used it for rice, there are plenty of cookbooks out there to use your cooker for other things. They come with handles to take with you. Happy to have it!

  • This doesn't answer the question. "Why would I buy a rice cooker? [...] Is convenience the only reason? Is it worth it to buy one for the other things (not rice) you can cook in it?" – David Richerby Aug 29 '15 at 23:11
  • I think this is enough of an answer to keep. It's not the most comprehensive, but it points to the main good things about it: you'll use it all the time (so convenience is a meaningful reason), nice ones have timers (an additional reason), and there are whole cookbooks for other dishes (so if you want to you'll get other use out of it). – Cascabel Aug 29 '15 at 23:55
  • I had the same timer Zoj rice cooker. It was awesome. I set it before going to work in the AM, when you got home from work, the rice was ready to go. No wait. It was also nice to come home to the odor of a nice basmati perfume in the house. This IS a reason to have a rice cooker, and a good reply to OP. – Paulb Jul 24 '16 at 18:34

My wife is a stay-at-home mom. She uses the rice cooker to cook rice as well as other grains such as barley, quinoa, wheat berries, and amaranth. It is nice for her because she can add the grain and water, then push the button and go play with the kids. Once it's done cooking, it keeps it warm until lunch time, without burning it.

I cook rice every day using the pot-in-pot method in my pressure cooker. It turns out fluffy perfect rice every time. Because my pressure cooker is small (I should have purchased a larger one), I can only do relatively small batches - say, two cups of uncooked rice in a pot that fits inside the pressure cooker. If I were only ever to make rice in that quantity or less, I would get a pressure cooker instead and use that to cook rice. The pressure cooker can be used for a ton of other things, like cooking up tough, cheap meat fast.

I also have a rice cooker that I bought because I sometimes have to cook much larger quantities of rice. Not all rice cookers are the same. Mine is programmable for cooking up rice, congee/porridge, soup, cake, steaming vegetables, and a bunch of other things. You can make cake in it, steam bread, make stews or curries, basically use it like a slow-cooker. I use it a lot for making soup - toss the ingredients in and walk away for 45 minutes to an hour - it requires absolutely no attention from me at all. It also has a ceramic-coated pot, so it cleans up very nicely.

I would suggest evaluating what you need. It might be that a pressure cooker would work far better.

I agree with many of the other answers given here. There's a lot of good reasons to get a rice cooker. Here's one more: If you add a temperature controller to an old style (not digital) rice cooker, you have a great way to get started with sous vide cooking! If you search the Internet for "sous vide rice cooker," you'll find a lot of information on how to buy or build the temperature controller.

If you go this route, try to get one of the larger rice cookers. I've been using mine for sous vide for close to three years now, and it's working great! Plus, it still makes excellent rice.

protected by Community Jul 24 '16 at 16:05

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