How Rice Cookers Work


How to Choose the Right Rice Cooker for You
A group of official rice taste testers dip their chopsticks into five varieties of rice, prepared in the electronic rice cookers sitting in front of them.
A group of official rice taste testers dip their chopsticks into five varieties of rice, prepared in the electronic rice cookers sitting in front of them.
Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

A rice cooker can be a great product for people with a variety of needs. Rice cookers benefit students who need compact appliances for their dorm rooms, parents who need to program a ready-and-prepared dinner, or rice-challenged cooks who need extra help in the kitchen. So which rice cooker do you need?

Do I want a lot of features or just a cheap, get-it-done model?

More high-end models come with a bevy of advanced features and programs, which may figure into your decision on which one to buy. Bonus features include programs to keep rice warm and ready to eat, to speed up the cooking time, to reheat rice or to decide when the rice cooker will begin cooking.

Keep in mind that all those extra abilities will come with a few extra dollars tacked onto the price.

What size do I need?

When choosing a rice cooker, consider how much rice you want to prepare. If you plan to prepare rice just for yourself, buying a large-capacity rice cooker might create a poor-tasting final product. Rice cookers work best when used for their intended serving sizes so make sure you consider how much rice you'll cook on average. Along those lines, do you also want to prepare other foods in your rice cooker? If that's the case, purchase a rice cooker with a steaming tray. Insert the steaming tray, loaded with vegetables, above the water level. As the water boils off and evaporates while cooking the rice, released steam will also cook the vegetables.

What material d­o I want my food to be cooked in?

Something else to consider when looking for the right rice cooker is what kind of inner cooking pan you would prefer. Many people prefer models made of aluminum or stainless steel, with a nonstick coating for easy cleanup. Others may prefer more natural pans made from charcoal or clay, which are naturally nonstick without the artificial coating.

What other features should I look for?

Features like a see-through lid can help you monitor your meal's progress, and a steam vent in the lid helps prevent any bubbling over. Measuring lines on the inside of the cooking pan can also be a selling point for people who don't want to use a measuring cup.

To learn more about rice cookers and other handy kitchen gadgetry, explore the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

­­More Great Links

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