Most rice cookers take the once-hours-long process and reduce it to about an hour or so, and remove the mess associated with the traditional methods of preparation. The fact that rice cookers are really such a boon for home chefs has ensured that the market has flooded with products lately, so navigating the options can be a bit of a hassle.
Here, we’d like to look at the advantages and disadvantages to rice cookers, and a few ways to ensure that what you’re purchasing really is the best option on the market.
Advantages to Rice Cookers: A Look at the Pros
There are a number of basic advantages to rice cookers that we’ll take a look at here. To start, they’re extremely fast. They can prepare rice for you in a matter of 45 minutes to an hour, rather than requiring that you wait several hours to enjoy your rice, and have to sit by and tend it for those hours, as well.
They also have the advantage of ease of use. Using a rice cooker is as simple as measuring out how much rice you want, measuring out the corresponding quantity of water, pouring those into the rice cooker, and hitting the cook button. Different types of rice require different ratios of water to rice, but rice cookers can handle most such variations without any trouble, simply requiring that you pay enough mind as to measure out the different ratios of water to rice in the beginning. If you do, the machine will take care of the rest.
Finally, rice cookers are compact. They can fit on just about any counter in any kitchen, and are typically, at largest, the size of a microwave (and this is only for the largest of rice cookers). This means you can produce rice while you use the rest of your space to prepare whatever you need for the rest of your meal, allowing you to multitask and prepare an entree and rice all at the same time. Rice cookers eliminate the problem of timing when you prepare your rice, since they’re so quick and consistent.
Disadvantages to Rice Cookers
There really aren’t many disadvantages to rice cookers, but one thing to keep in mind is that they can only produce a limited quantity of rice at a time. Some smaller rice cookers can produce at most two cups of rice in one go, meaning that, if you plan to serve several people, you’ll need to prepare several batches. This requires you to store what you’ve already prepared, either keeping it warm as you do or reheating it later. Keeping rice warm is a little difficult, and reheating it doesn’t always turn out well, so you’ll have to keep this in mind when preparing rice with your rice cooker.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Rice Cooker
There are many things to keep in mind when you go and buy the best rice cooker, but these are the things we consider to be the most important. First, consider the volume that the rice cooker can handle. We just touched on this issue, so we won’t dwell on it, but do keep in mind that producing too little rice is an annoying problem to have to deal with.
On the other hand, consider the size of the machine. Obviously, larger machines can produce more rice, but . . . Well, they’re larger machines, which may or may not be a problem for you. If you don’t have much kitchen space, this could be a real problem for you, since the rice cooker will be taking up space on the counter that you could use for preparing everything else that goes with dinner. On the other hand, if you tend to just cook large amounts of rice all at once and store them for later, this probably isn’t going to be so much of an issue for you.
Also pay mind to what varieties of rice the machine can cook. Pretty much any rice cooker will produce white rice -- this is what they’re made for. But, if you like to eat brown rice or other ‘heartier’ rice varieties, you’ll need to make sure that the rice cooker is prepared to do that for you. Usually, even machines that only offer to produce white rice can do brown rice, as long as you add a little extra water (usually, the ratio is 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice), but this is not always the case.
You’ll also want to ensure that the bowl of the rice cooker is easy to clean. Now, this is obviously difficult to know prior to actually using the machine, so this is where reviews come in handy. Be sure to pay attention to what users of the machine have to say about pros and cons to get a sense as to what your chosen rice cooker does well and doesn’t do well. This issue of ease of cleaning is one we think is especially important, though, since cleaning a rice cooker with a bunch of white rice residue in the bowl is a hassle, and many do not have this issue. You owe it to yourself to get a rice cooker that doesn’t present this problem.
Finally, consider how quickly your chosen rice cooker works. Some newer models can finish cooking rice extremely fast, so it’s worth shopping around a little to get a sense as to which models in your budget can do this, and whether or not it’s worth it to spend a little extra money to pick up a rice cooker that cooks a little bit faster.