Choosing Rice Cookers & Steamers: Buying Guide

Aroma 8-Cup-rice-cooker-3


Rice may be a staple food, but cooking it perfectly can be tough, even for those with plenty of experience in the kitchen. By choosing the right rice cooker or steamer, you make it a whole lot easier to add delicious, healthy rice to your diet. The newest rice cookers range from very simple models that don’t do much more than allow you to make rice without running the risk of a scorched pot to elaborate appliances with a variety of settings and the capacity to make exciting one-pot meals or even cook an entrée inside the steamer while the rice is cooking. If you enjoy eating rice with your meals and want to make healthy cooking more convenient, you’ll appreciate what a quality rice cooker can do for you.

We’ve written this buyer’s guide to choosing a rice cooker to provide you with the insight you need concerning the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular models so that you can approach the shopping process armed with the information you need to make a good decision.


Types of Rice Cookers and Steamers


There are three basic types of rice cookers available. Gas powered rice cookers are typically used in restaurant settings, as they are capable of cooking between 50 and 100 cups of rice at a time. Because of this, we don’t recommend this type of rice cooker for home use. If, however, you plan to open a restaurant or start a catering company, you might find that a gas powered rice cooker is ideal.

Microwave rice cookers and steamers are basically plastic bowls with lids. Though convenient, many of these cookers contain BPA, a plastic additive that is linked to cancer and other health issues. A microwave rice cooker is typically designed to cook enough rice for one or two people; while convenient, the rice that comes out is not the best. Because of these negative factors, we did not include any microwave rice cookers or steamers in this buying guide.

Last but certainly not least are electric rice cookers. These versatile appliances are popular with restaurateurs and home cooks alike. They are capable of cooking rice and other items to perfection, and many come with some extra features that make them real kitchen workhorses. There are three basic types of electric rice cookers. We’ll take a look at these next.


Basic Electric Rice Cooker / Steamer

Tiger Corporation JBV-A10U Rice Cooker-2

Typically configured with a cooking pot and a tight-fitting lid, basic electric rice cookers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from tiny 3-cup models to larger 10-cup models. Most modern rice cooker / steamer models come with nonstick inner cooking chambers, and many come with premium features such as extra steamer baskets for cooking vegetables and other foods along with your rice. Some offer additional convenience with features such as programmable timers and automatic keep warm settings.

The Pros:

Just about everyone loves a bargain, and some basic electric rice cookers / steamers are very inexpensive. In general, this type of rice cooker costs less than a comparably sized fuzzy logic rice cooker.

Basic electric rice cookers and steamers are convenient. A good one will turn out one tasty batch of rice after another, requiring minimal effort on your part. If you have time to focus on a little bit of prep work before meals and you don’t want to try different types of rice or use your rice cooker for much other than cooking rice, then a very basic model might be ideal for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for maximum convenience without the higher cost of a fuzzy logic rice cooker, look into a machine that offers a bit more versatility than a plain rice cooker. The Tiger Corporation JBV-A10U Rice Cooker comes in two sizes (5 and 10 cup), and is equipped with a Tacook Plate that allows you to make an entire meal instead of just rice. It’s ideal for making small, healthy meals and it offers a happy medium between basic appliance types and more technically advanced fuzzy logic or electric pressure cooker models.

The Cons:

While it is possible to get a good quality basic rice cooker that will last for years, some of the least expensive models just aren’t designed to last. When choosing a rice cooker, keep in mind that you get what you pay for!

If you happen to be very busy and want maximum convenience, a basic electric rice cooker might not be quite what you need. You may find that you are much happier with a steamer that allows you to “set and forget.”

The Takeaway:

If you’re on a tight budget, eat rice one or two times per week, and have time to prep meals close to the time they will be served, you will probably find that a basic electric rice cooker works well for you. You’ll enjoy far greater convenience than stovetop cooking affords, and you’ll only have to make a small investment to do so.


Fuzzy Logic Rice Cookers


Fuzzy logic rice cookers / steamers are highly sophisticated, easy to use, and are typically fantastic for things other than simply making rice. These appliances are equipped with computer chips that enable them to make exacting adjustments to cooking time and temperature so that your rice turns out perfectly each and every time, even if you’ve made a mistake like adding too much water. Most fuzzy logic rice cookers have multiple menu settings, plus they tend to be equipped with timers and other convenient features.

The Pros:

A fuzzy logic rice cooker is more versatile than a basic rice cooker. Some models are equipped with slow cooker features, steamer baskets, and extensive rice cooking menus, so they can take the place of other kitchen appliances while saving on time and storage space. The Zojirushi NS-LAC05XT Micom rice cooker is a good example of a small capacity fuzzy logic rice cooker that offers lots of menu options.

Fuzzy logic rice cookers are typically built with top of the line components, and they’re meant to last. If you are looking for a high-quality rice cooker, you will probably appreciate one of these appliances. The Panasonic SR-DE103 5-Cup Rice Cooker is a favorite with reviewers, as it is super-versatile. It even has a special setting for cake, plus it has a slow cooker setting, a 24-hour preset timer, and a 12-hour keep warm feature.

Last but not least, fuzzy logic rice cookers offer maximum convenience. Some models allow you the option of setting up your ingredients twelve  or more hours in advance, then set the timer to cook the rice so that it will be ready at the same time as you and your family are ready to eat dinner.

Take a look at the Aroma 8-Cup Rice Cooker if convenient operation is among the most important features to you. This particular appliance has loads of programmability, and it is equipped with a 15-hour delay timer. As an added bonus, this attractive rice cooker comes in two different colors so you can choose the one that best matches your kitchen’s existing décor.

If you are often too busy to cook and find yourself relying on fast food, a fuzzy logic rice cooker can be a great ally in the kitchen, saving you time and helping you to eat a whole lot better.

The Cons:

Expect to pay more for a fuzzy logic rice cooker than for a basic model. At the same time, recognize that the higher price does come with some great benefits!

The Takeaway:

While a fuzzy logic rice cooker / steamer typically costs more than a basic electric rice cooker, it offers even more convenience, greater versatility, and exceptional performance. If you love rice and want to eat it frequently, you are likely to enjoy owning one of these technologically advanced appliances.


Electric Pressure Cooker / Steamers


Electric pressure cooker / steamers are basically hybrid appliances that take the place of several other kitchen appliances. These units let you cook a wide variety of food with very little effort, and some of them offer an almost endless array of menu options so that you can steam, stew, roast, bake, and more. The Cuisinart CPC-600AMZ Rice Cooker looks a lot like some other appliances on the outside, but it does more than a basic rice cooker or fuzzy logic rice cooker.

The Pros:

If you’re short on space and want to add maximum convenience to your kitchen, an electric pressure cooker / rice cooker combo might be exactly the thing for you.

These machines work fast! It does take some time for pressure to build, after which the timer comes on and the actual pressure cooking cycle begins. Healthy cooking is very easy with an electric pressure cooker. The Breville BPR600XL Fast-Slow Cooker is a great option for anyone who wants to get great results fast. It steams foods in just minutes, plus it has a handy slow cooker setting that allows you to make lovely one-pot meals over the course of the day. Just add ingredients in the morning, go about your business, and come home to a perfectly cooked meal. This particular appliance truly is “set and forget.”

Because of the versatility and convenience an electric pressure cooker / steamer offers, you are likely to find yourself eating better while saving money. Buying healthy, wholesome ingredients such as fresh meat and vegetables puts you in complete control of your diet and prevents you from wasting your money and harming your health with fast foods.

The Cons:

Like fuzzy logic rice cookers, electric pressure cooker / rice cooker combination appliances are more expensive than basic electric rice cookers. Some models have menus that are difficult to decipher. The electric pressure cooker models we recommend are among the most consistently top-rated machines available. Some even feature dishwasher safe components!


Consider Your Reasons For Wanting a Rice Cooker or Steamer And Read Reviews

Before choosing a rice cooker or steamer, be sure that you spend a little time thinking about your reason or reasons for wanting one of these appliances in the first place. Your goals might have changed somewhat now that you know a bit more about the differences between various types of rice cookers. By making a quick checklist, you can easily compare your needs with the models available.

Once you have narrowed your choice down to a few favorite options, take a little time to read some rice cooker reviews. User reviews let you find out what others have to say about the appliances at the top of your list, be it good, bad, or indifferent. Making this minor investment in time will almost certainly pay off. Some tips for reading rice cooker / steamer reviews critically follow:

  • Look for reviews that talk about various features on the rice cookers or steamers you are considering, and don’t’ give too much weight to general reviews that simply say that an appliance is good or bad without providing details that explain why the reviewer feels as he or she does. You want to learn as much as you can about each of the different rice cookers you are considering.
  • Pick a few rice cooker / steamer models to compare, either in the same category or in different categories. Although this type of careful side by side comparison will add a little time to your decision making process, it will give you a much better feel for what is available. You may find that keeping a few notes will help make it easier to keep all the details straight.
  • Look for rice cooker reviews that break the machines’ features down and provide specific information about how they work. Are they easy to use? Easy to clean? Do they let you cook different things, or are they basically good for rice only? You’ll be surprised at the kinds of details you will find when you start reading juicer reviews.
  • Recognize that as with all appliances, manufacturing details are possible, and the same defects are likely to be repeated across the spectrum. Even the best-rated rice cooker or steamer will sometimes fail right out of the box due to a defect. Do not let a few bad reviews detract from the overall picture.


Where to Buy a Rice Cooker

While a few department stores and big box stores keep a good selection of kitchen appliances including rice cookers / steamers in stock, you are likely to find more to choose from by shopping online at sites that carry a wide variety of merchandise, i.e. Amazon. Remember to consider the unit’s cost, ease of use, features, and of course quality as you make your decision. After all, a good rice cooker is an important addition to your kitchen, and it’s something that can make a positive difference in your health. The best rice cooker or steamer is the one that will meet your budget, deliver fantastic finished products, and pay for itself by adding convenience to your cooking routine so you’re less tempted to fall for unhealthy fast food options during the months and years to come.

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