Rice Cooker Buying Guide

rice-cooker-buying-guide

rice-cooker-buying-guide

Growing up in China, I’ve eaten rice all my life, sometimes several times a day. I know it’s hard to imagine by the Western world that rice can be consumed so frequently. I take it for granted that everyone knows how to cook a pot of tasty rice.

Truth be told that it’s not an easy task if you don’t have the right rice cooker. Yes, you can muddle through with a saute pan on the stove-top. More often than not, the rice is either undercooked (with crunchiness in the middle) or overcooked (burnt, dried up, and tasteless). Half the rice is stuck on the bottom of the pan. In either case, you won’t be enjoying your own culinary creation.

Why a Rice Cooker Buying Guide?

So you’ve made up your mind to buy a decent rice cooker to save you time, hassle and to cook a perfect pot of rice. With thousands of rice cookers on the market with varying features and price points, I can see you scratch your head wondering where to start.

I am hoping that I can provide some tips to help you through the many choices of rice cookers and what features to look for when considering buying one.

Table of Contents (click a title to jump ahead)

A Buying Guide? | Rice Cooker | Top Brands | Major Types | 5 Things to Consider |

What Is a Rice Cooker?

The first question is what a rice cooker is. A rice cooker is a small electric appliance that has an inner pan, typically of non-stick in material and an external vessel or pot to hold the inner pot. The heating plate sits in the bottom of the external vessel. There is an electric cord to be plugged into a wall socket to heat up the rice cooker.

Measured rice is filled in the inner pan and water is added per the marked line. The rice cooker is covered with a tightly fit lid. Then the cooking starts. The water in the inner pan is heated to a boiling point and the rice cooked via the circulating steam inside of the pan. Once the internal temperature reaches to a certain point, the unit shuts off automatically and switches to the “keep warm” cycle. A typical cooking cycle is between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the rice cooker, types of rice, quantity of rice and the heating technology.

What Are the Top Rice Cooker Brands on the Market?

There are literally thousands of rice cookers available. Here is a short list of a few popular brands:

What Are the Major Types of Rice Cookers?

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Like all household appliances, rice cookers run the gamut from a conventional/traditional to the most advanced high pressure rice cooker. What differentiates one from another lies mostly in the heating technology. Let’s take a look at the hierarchy in the heating technology from low to high.

Conventional/Traditional Rice Cookers

A conventional rice cooker is nothing more than a vessel to cook rice in. All you need to do is to add rice, water and push a button. It’s designed to simply heat and turn off the heat. It’s ideal to cook white rice. It would be alright to cook brown and sushi rice with some adjustments.

Micom Rice Cookers

Next comes the Micom (abbreviation of micro computerized) rice cooker. This type of rice cookers is equipped with computer chip that adjusts cooking time and temperature per a thermo sensor calculation. It cooks all types of rice perfectly.

IH + Micom Rice Cookers

The Induction Heating (IH) technology was applied in the rice cookers. Different from the traditional heating plate on the bottom of the inner pan, the IH heating system heats up the entire inner pan with induction heating principles. The benefit of this technology is that finer temperature adjustments are made to cook the rice flawlessly. By the way, this type of rice cookers is also micro computerized.

Pressure + IH + Micom Rice Cookers

Who says too many good things are not always good? In this case, it’s superb to combine all the heating technologies into one rice cooker. A pressurized heating system raises the cooking temperature to a higher level. By doing so, it modifies the structure of starch in each grain of rice. As a result, the rice is cooked faster, texture softer, fluffier, easier to digest and kept longer.

5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Rice Cooker?

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What Do You Use the Rice Cooker for?

The first question you should ponder is how you are going to use the rice cooker. For example, what types of rice do you cook most of the time? How often on a weekly basis? Do you use the rice cooker as a steamer? Do you plan on cooking other dishes in the rice cooker such as soups, dessert, etc.?

Defining the use for the rice cooker will help you in your search. If you cook white rice once a month, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend more money buying a Zojirushi pressurized rice cooker.

How Many People Are You Feeding?

Rice cookers come in with different capacities measured in cups of uncooked rice. Generally speaking, the ratio between uncooked and cooked rice is 1 to 2. As a rule of thumb, you may want to cook one cup (uncooked) rice for each person. It’s always better to have some extra than not having enough according to Chinese culture. Cooked rice will keep for a week or so without any problem.

Rice cookers range from 1 to 10 cups in capacity. Beyond that, it will be used mostly for commercial purpose.

For singles to a small family (2-3 people), a 3-cup rice cooker would be a good size. For a mid-sized family (4 to 6 people), a 5-cup rice cooker would be appropriate assuming you have average eaters in your family. If there are more than 6 people in your family, a 10-cup should be considered.

What Features Do You Really Need?

As I mentioned earlier in the heating technology section, there are so many features in a rice cooker. Who would have thought that a computer chip will be built into a cooking utensil?

It boils down to ask yourself questions again. Do you cook varieties of rice? Do you use pre-washed rice or just plain old white rice with rinse? Does the “minute” difference in the rice texture mean anything to you? Or can you even discern the nuances of texture in the first place? Is cooking faster a critical factor for you?

We all have the tendency to think that the more is better. It’s not necessarily true sometimes. Maybe a simple conventional rice cooker is just what all you need. Having all the bells and whistles might drive you nuts.

Is It Easy to Use and Clean?

Overall, a rice cooker is not that complicated. The most challenging part would be to figure out the Menu setting. All of the manufacturers provide you with a User Manual, or better yet, some with videos to demonstrate how to use and take care of the rice cooker.

Cleaning a rice cooker is a breeze comparing to cleaning a pot with rice stuck in the bottom. With the non-stick inner pan, all you need to do is to soak the pan with some water and use a kitchen brush to wipe out the rice.

What’s Your Budget?

The price for rice cookers varies from $20 all the way to $400. If rice is an integral part of your everyday life like it’s in mine, then investing in a quality rice cooker makes perfect sense. This is an appliance that you will use over and over again for many years to come. One customer on Amazon put the higher price into such a great perspective. He calculated that after 8 years of use with his $150 purchase, the amortization expense per year is $20. (By the way, I didn’t validate his calculation). You get the point, right?

So what’s your value-to-price equation? I know I have one for many things. For example, I think a plain old T-shirt shouldn’t cost more than $20. Then again, some people take great pride in having the top of the line and the best in whatever they are buying. If that’s the case, knock yourself out and buy a fancy rice cooker whether you need it or not. If nothing else, you can always earn yourself a bragging right.

By now, I hope I’ve given you a crash course on how to choose a rice cooker for your needs and for your money.

Please feel free to peruse our site. Check out our detailed rice cooker reviews, comparisons between brands and models, best rice cookers for all the top-rated rice cooker we’ve reviewed and buying tips.

Please do not hesitate to leave a comment, suggestions and contact us via the Contact Form or email us at: ricequeen “AT” sacredrice “DOT” com.

If you want more details consider my newly published complete buyers guide:

Don't Buy a Rice Cooker Without Me
Don't Buy a Rice Cooker Without Me
A complete guide to buying a rice cooker with a wealth of information and tips on getting just the right rice cooker for your needs. Don't get lost in the jargon, focus on what's important and what to look for in a rice cooker.
Price: $7.97
Price: $4.99

 Or get the Rice Cookers Buyers Guide on Kindle: Don’t Buy a Rice Cooker Without Me

Happy cooking!

  1. Patricia Holm says:

    Hello, I’ve enjoyed your site. I’ve been dithering between two Zoji models of rice cookers, both the larger size. What is making it hard is the Umami is 870 Watts and the ZCC18 is 1000 Watts. I would prefer the Umami because of it’s extra settings but am concerned that the lower wattage may make a difference in performance and durability. Can you clarify please?
    Thank You
    PH

    • Brad_C says:

      Wattage numbers really refer to how much power is consumed at full load to the heating element. The construction of one manufacture unit to the other will sometimes dictate the power use. As with many appliances there is an initial power use and then a cycling of power to maintain the temperature. These units are close in power use and the differences will be minor as well as the manufacture design based on intent of use. Power use does not necessarily relate to durability unless the components are incorrectly sized for the power need. Zoji puts care to right size the components for the intended use and performance. I don’t think you can really go wrong with either choice.

    • Rice Queen says:

      Patricia,

      Thanks for your kind words about my site and sorry for my late reply due to traveling. I don’t think wattage will affect performance or durability. If I were you, I’d choose the Umami model. Hope this helps and good luck with your purchasing decision.

      Lei

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