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Rice Steamer. Worth buying?

I have been looking at electric rice steamers.

I want to make rice more often but frequently I don't get home early enough to mess with cooking rice ahead of a meal. I make brown rice more than white rice, is there an issue with making this in a steamer? Can other things like lentils and yellow peas be cooked in these?

Some of the models I looked at had timers and hold settings. Do these produce a decent product?

The big question, if you have one do you use it all the time or did it become a doorstop?

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  1. Growing up in an Asian household, we've always had a rice cooker in our house and we used it everyday for different uses. In college, i would use a personal sized one to make soup and stew, instant ramen, even to steam things. The models these days (although admittedly somewhat pricey) can do both brown rice and white rice and can take the addition of lentils and peas. (we add beans to our rice from time to time)

    Shopping at an asian store might be your best bet, if you live near one, as they have a good variety. Look for one that has fuzzy logic. I set mine up in the morning and come home to a nice meal with rice in the evening.

    1. Alton Brown talks about not buying uni-taskers. A rice cooker can do more than one thing, but are you likely to do the other things?

      OTOH, I talk about frequency -- which, at a guess, is what Mr. Brown is really referencing. I don't keep mine on my counter, but it's readily accessable. It's *really* easy to use -- put the stuff in there, set it, and, uh, forget it. I don't use mine for brown rice because I prefer the texture of pressure cooked brown rice.

      Timers are great if you want it ready as soon as you get home. But you could measure the rice (rinse, drain, and put in the refrigerator) and water separately out before you leave the house, toss it in the cooker when you get home, and you'll have fresh rice in about 25 minutes or so.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Richard 16

        I saw a recipe in Fine Cooking for making brown rice like pasta - add rice to a pot full of boiling water, boil until tender and drain. It was faster than steaming and they said better. I put the rice on as soon as I get home and usually have to race to finish making the rest of the meal before it's done. 20 minutes is not that long.

      2. Here's a recent thread on rice cookers you might find helpful:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/409207

        And to directly answer your question, I use my rice cooker to cook all kinds of grains--wild rice, oatmeal, etc. I use it to steam frozen potstickers, fish, vegetables. They can be very flexible.

        ~TDQ

        2 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          What a great idea to steam to frozen potstickers! Do you set them on the little steamer plate? How much water do you use?

          1. re: Jane917

            Yes, it put them on the steamer tray. Oh golly, the quantity of water is hit or miss. Not so much water that it takes too long to reach temp, but not so much water that it boils forever. I don't know, maybe a cup? As a starting point, I would just use the same amount you would use if you were going to steam them stovetop and then you can experiment from there. You still have to time it the way you would stove top--you can't let the rice cooker time itself in this case.

            Another thing I steam in my rice cooker is banana cake.

            ~TDQ

        2. Here's another recent thread on a high end model.
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/416862

          1. I love my rice cooker. Now, I am asian, so it was a daily appliance in my household. I still use mine two or three times a week for both white and brown rice - sometimes even red rice or black rice cooked in coconut milk for a great dessert. If you use stock instead of water for the rice , add some frozen veggies and you have pilaf. My mom is actually able to steam certain chinese meat dishes and egg custard on top of the rice (on a rack of course) and time them so the rice and the meat is cooked at the ame time.

            If you're looking at one with a timer and hold settings, you can actually get your rice ready in the morning and by the time you come home you can just find protien and vegetables in the fridge and you're ready to go. As fudisgud mentioned, go to an asian grocery store and look for one with Fuzzy logic. I've seen some nice stainless steel ones that can do everything - even baking cakes!

            1. I have never tried doing brown rice in that pasta method, will have to try that. I frequently skip doing things like daal because then I have to time, watch and plan ahead to get that going when I get home. Having that part ready when I get home would be a big boon. Same goes for rice. That and I am not the best rice preparer.

              BTW, what is "fuzzy logic"? Are you just referring to one that is programmable or is that actually listed as a slang for a technical feature on some models like the ones that sense heat or moisture levels?

              1. Of all the kitcheny wedding presents I received 25 years ago only two have stood the test of time - my full sized Cuisinart with all the optional blades and the National brand electric rice cooker. I use both all the time and love both dearly.

                The rice cooker must be the smallest size made. It holds 2 cups of raw rice and the water to cook it in. I never need more rice than that for one meal and it takes up so little counter space that I recommend you get the smaller model too.

                My own rice cooker is super simple to operate - just an on/off switch. It cooks all kinds of rice perfectly: short grain - sushi type, arborio and my favorite brown rice - short grain Lundberg brand, and all long grains including basmati, brown or white generics - they all come out perfect.

                I love the ease of just measuring the rice and water, adding a dash of salt, covering it and flipping the switch. Then you walk away and fugedaboutit. When you hear the switch pop up about 20 minutes later it's done and you just lift out the inner metal bowl and cover and you can serve right from that or carry it across the room leaving the business part of the rice cooker on the counter. Super simple vlean up - just put the metal inner bown in the sink, fill with water, place the cover back on and soak for a while - you can put them in the DW, but you can just as easily rinse it out in the sink in about 2 seconds. Everything about this most simple of rice makers is fool-proof.

                In answer to your question, I DO use it all the time. A very standard easy meal I make several times a week, often for my own lunch and then to pack up what's left in a container for my husband's working lunch the next day is to set the rice cooking, and either saute' some ground turkey and whatever veg. you like and when the rice is done mix it together and sprinkle on some soy sauce, or for variety you could use tomato sauce. I also do this with no meat, substituting cubes of tofu - then I'd also add some grated cheddar or jack cheese at the very end after the rice is mixed in.

                The core reason for the simplest of rice cookers being the indipensible choice is the utter easyness of it. When I think about how many years ago every time I made rice on the stove it was a mental ordeal worrying whether it would come out OK this time or not AND you have to baby sit it. If you get one of the complicated "fuzzy logic" expensive Zojirushi robotic genius rice cookers you're looking at a serious learning curve before you ever, if you ever do, get comfortable with it, and Do you really want to be baking cakes with the thing? Plus, I bet the little "National" with the on/off switch probably costs about twenty bucks.

                If after at least 25 years now my rice cooker decided to finally quit (retire?) I'd immediately run out and buy another one just like it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: niki rothman

                  I have had a small National brand rice cooker for years, and I agree that it's great.

                  I use my rice cooker all the time, and love it. My husband and I started making brown rice exclusively a few years ago and I was worried about how it would handle brown rice. But the rice comes out great. We leave the cooker on our counter and use it several times a week. When we got the cooker as a gift, it was one of those things we wondered if we'd ever use. Now it's one of the few appliances that I wouldn't do without.

                2. I've been using a microwave rice cooker similar to the one at the link that I got at Walmart for around $10 . It works better than I expected. Generally, I use a bit less water than recipes call for for a particular type of rice and cook for 15 minutes at about 50% power. Pretty quick and hassle-free way to do small quantities(the most I've done is 2 cups of uncooked rice.) http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I...

                  1. Do you mean rice cooker? In most Asian households this is a standard kitchen appliance, because rice is cooked everyday. If that's not the case then I personally would not buy an item that only has limited uses. In fact with only two persons in our house I can cook rice just as well using a clay pot.