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Considering a rice cooker

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I follow instructions on rice but am frequently not as happy with my home results compared to the rice I get in a restaurant. So I'm curious to get your thoughts on these questions:

Do you use a rice cooker or your existing kitchen equipment to cook rice (i.e., pot in most cases, maybe microwave, steamer for sticky rice, etc.)?

If you bought a rice cooker, was your reaction after having it awhile (a) how did I ever live without this or (b) great, now I have another gadget to clutter up my kitchen?

Is there a limit to the type of rice a cooker will cook? Can it handle long grain? Short grain in a given. Basmati? Jasmine? Wild rice? Brown rice? You get this gist. I won't be making my risotto in there I know...

Do you need to go through extra steps compared to a saucepot, such as rinsing and soaking? Or can you throw it all together in the 1/2 hour that it takes to make rice with a pot and some boiling water?

Finally, if the consensus is positive, what is a good middle of the range brand?

Thanks!

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  1. I love my rice cooker, have had it about 2 years. Before this, I made rice on the stovetop, w/ a saucepan or corningware casserole, that's pretty easy, also, but the rice cooker is idiot-proof (not aimed at anyone). I have a Zojirushi, I just put the rice in the bowl & don't soak. I have cooked brown rice & I've purchased the Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger, but I haven't really branched out from basic rice. I cook rice about every other day & my rice cooker has a permanent spot on my countertop...

    1. Back in college (many years ago) I used a stovetop pot to make rice. Though it's easy, careless me often ended up with substandard rice, so I ended up buying a super-cheap rice cooker (hey, I was a poor college student) and since then, my kitchen counter would be incomplete without one. If you make rice at all regularly, I say it's a must-have since you just toss in the rice and water, plug it in, and forget about it -- it keeps the rice hot and perfect until you're ready to eat. I have a mid-range cooker (Tiger, one of their better models) and make long, medium, and short grain jasmine rice. I've also made basmati with good results. Some friends swear by Zojirushi but it seems overly expensive to me for just a rice cooker.

      1. I've had the same rice cooker, a basic model, since college - that's 18 years now! It handles jasmine rice, basmati rice, brown rice, purple rice, no problem. I'm not sure what it would do with 100% wild rice, but it would undoubtedly be fine with a wild rice/other rice blend. As you say, you won't be making risottos in it, and similarly it doesn't do Thai sticky rice. I think you would do fine with a National brand cooker.

        3 Replies
        1. re: maryv

          Could you share the brand?

          1. re: sasha1

            Could you share the brand?, she did, last sentence "a National brand cooker."

            I also have a National. Panasonic sold electronics in the United States under the National brand. Panasonic was concerned about acceptance of Japanese products in the US market, so they used the National brand, starting with transistor radios.

            My National is probably 30 years old, has an on/off switch, cooks all kinds of rice, including wild rice blend, haven't tried just wild rice.

            1. re: Alan408

              My bad - I didn't realize national was a brand, and thought it was a reference to some very common brand you could get anywhere in the country.

        2. I have a very cheap rice cooker and I really love having it. I would like to upgrade but this has worked fine for a number of years. The rice never gets burned. I make white & brown rice w/ no problem. I also through in vegetables (carrots, brocolli, peas) to make rice w/ vegetables and it works very well. I've never made oatmeal in it but guess that's another option. I recommend rice cookers to all my friends and family that don't have them. So, go for it!

          1. I have a basic rice cooker, no locking cover, made by Panasonic. I bought it at LNT. It came with a vegetable steamer. I've only used it with Jasmine long grain and medium grain so far, no short, and its worked great. I never could make rice over the stove top.

            1. Rice cookers are great for cooking quinoa, too.

              1. i have cooked rice in the pot umpteen times and then bought a rice cooker. as the other posts attest, once you have one, you wonder how you managed without. i have cooked all sorts of rice, pulaos, khichdi's, biriyani, mostly using basmati and jasmine. works great. i went to an asian store to buy mine. its tiger brand. have had it for 10 + yrs. looks pretty beaten now but works fine. check out asian stores since most asians are big time rice eaters, they told me the criteria was how long could you keep the rice warm ? the longer you can, the better the cooker is. hope this helps.

                1. I think if you cook rice > 2-3x a week, a rice cooker may be a good thing for you. Or if you cook a lot of brown rice, or want to keep white rice around and warm for multiple meals. Brown rice is one of the reasons I love having a rice cooker - you can put brown rice in the night before or in the morning, and come home to perfectly cooked brown rice without having to babysit it for 2 hours on the stove.

                  You do need to rinse the rice (you do it in the rice cooker pot; doesn't take very long... I usually do three rinses) and soaking is a good idea if you have time.

                  As far as types of rice - if you want to cook brown rice, try and get a cooker with a brown rice mode, or (even better) the Zojirushi model that does GABA brown rice (though at 10c, it's a little too big for a lot of people). You should expect to pay at least $70-100 US for a good one; asian markets are a good place to go.

                  I have a 3.5 c sanyo model (I think the ECJE35S), which has a brown rice mode, porridge mode, etc. No complaints. I think the Tiger / Zojirushi ones in the same price range are probably great too.

                  You can actually make a sort of "risotto" in the cooker. I haven't tried it myselfl; presumably it wouldn't be quite as good as a "real" risotto, but a lot less labor intensive.

                  Keep in mind that the "cups" used by rice cookers are Japanese cups - so if you're following the water markings on the side, make sure you use the included measuring cup or do the appropriate calculations.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: will47

                    i dont use the cups included in my rice cooker. i use my pyrex measuring cups as long as i use the same cup to measure rice and water it works.

                    1. re: foodwich

                      Yes, which is why I said "if you're following the water markings on the side....".

                  2. Me too. I LOVE my rice cooker. It has had a place on my counter since the late 80s and will continue to have for many years to come. Me too on the Beth Hernsberger rice cooker book. Good book for you to look at if you are thinking of donating counter space, as a rice cooker can be much more of a workhorse than many people think. It makes, for example, FABULOUS overnight oatmeal (steel-cut).
                    If you want middle of the road, I think you probably want an Asian make (millions of Japanese and Korean housewives can't be wrong, right?). I've bought Zojirushi and National for me and mine over the years, always happily, but have friends who swear by their Tigers. You want fuzzy logic if you can afford it. Induction is spiffy and new but probably too expensive to be, on the margin, worth it to someone who isn't a daily rice eater. Certainly, if you get the fuzzy logic kind you will also have timer options -- a wonderful thing, I think.

                    1. Based on everyone's glowing praise of the humble rice cooker, I went and got one today. It's a zojirushi, 3 cup, fairly basic. The store I went to - a large asian grocery called uwajimaya, also carried tiger and sanyo. I didn't see any national/panasonic. What surprised me was that the next more expensive after my $50 one was $129! Nothing in between. So I got a basic model - I hope it works! I'm excited and will probably be trying it out in the next couple of days.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sasha1

                        Congrats! I have an el cheapo Hitachi and it's worked just fine for 10+ years. Remember it's a bit of trial and error--you may like a bit more or less water than they recommend.

                        One thing I didn't do for a long time, but should have, was thoroughly rinse the rice before I cooked it. It makes a huge difference.

                        Also, a rice cooker isn't a unitasker--you can use it to steam veggies--I like it for artichokes, but be sure to use a lot of water. It frees up a burner at Thanksgiving too!

                      2. My wife is Chinese, and used a pot on the stovetop for rice in the old days, but we've been using a rice cooker for about a decade or so now, and it's even easier. We wash our rice in the aluminum inner pot before turning the thing on- I noticed a lot of folks here don't seem to initially wash their rice- and the results are always perfect, plus the thing goes into a "warm" mode after cooking, and can keep the stuff warm indefinitely, which is nice. We cook all types of rice in ours, includig wild rice. It has become indispensible. Still, it's nice to have the backup of knowing how to do it on the cooktop, and we occasionally do both, if we have 2 kinds of rice.

                        1. I have one with a timer feature and I really like that. Allows me to get the rice set up in the cooker and ready to go early in the day so I'm not fussing with that when trying to get everything else done at dinner time. It saves a small step at dinner time but does help.

                          1. Not only do I use mine for cooking rice, but also it is great for steaming veggies. I have to classify my rice cooker as one of the best appliances I own!

                            1. I used to have a rice cooker. I tried and tried to make rice with it--I was sure it was my fault that I couldn't get a decent pot of rice out of it. The rice on the bottom was always burnt, and the rice on the top was never cooked. About a third of every batch of rice was edible. And with all that rice stuck to the bottom of the cooker, it was impossible to clean. So I got rid of it, and have always made my rice on the stove since then. I've never had any problem cooking rice in a pan on the stove, white rice, brown rice, basmati, you name it. (I can't imagine trying to cook brown rice in that old rice cooker I had, and I cook a lot of brown rice.)

                              I know most folks are giving glowing recommendations about a rice cooker, but for myself I can't imagine spending money on something that will take up counter or cabinet space, to do a job I can do quite well with equipment I have already. I put rice in the pan with twice as much water, get it boiling, turn the fire down to low and set a timer. When it's done I turn the fire off under it and it sits there staying warm until I'm ready for it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: revsharkie

                                Some rice cookers come with a metal insert, and that metal insert may be shipped between two pieces of cardboard, often resembling additional packing material. Your rice cooker probably came with the insert and you probably discarded it. Or at least that was a neighbor's problem with her cooker.

                              2. I would say buy the biggest rice cooker you can find because you can freeze cooked rice in plastic sandwich bags and zap them when you need them. The rice that works best for this is converted aka parboiled aka golden rice, sold in ethnic stores.

                                1. I really do love my rice cooker(s), although they aren't perfect. I'm on my second Zorijushi. The first one -- no timer, no bells & whistles, thinner aluminum insert bowl -- was making the rice on the bottom just a *little* too crunchy and brown. I know this is a delicacy, but it doesn't work all that great in some dishes.

                                  I bought a second Zorijushi with digital timer and heavier metal bowl insert, and I've been happier with the results -- may also be because using the timer usually means the rice gets to soak for a while before cooking. The newer one also seems to take longer to cook, hence the reliance on the timer.

                                  I still keep the old one around because I sacrificed capacity size when I bought the new one, and for parties/sushi-making sometimes the smaller bowl doesn't cut it. So if you do buy a fancier one, get one with larger capacity, as others have said, and I would consider a heavier bowl insert vs. a thinner aluminum bowl.

                                  1. I love my rice cooker, i do eat rice twice a day everyday...

                                    I have a Zojirushi and love it. I have cooked all types of rice in there very nicely. Typically I put the rice in as I go out the door for work.. and I come home to hot yummy rice.

                                    As far as rinsing etc. It is the same if you cook stove top. It is dependent on the rice, not so much to cooker.

                                    1. if you plan on making a lot of rice dishes, spend a decent amount. I spent about $200 on a Zojirushi brand and it was money well spent.

                                      1. I had a Hitachi rice cooker that lasted us for 25 years, through raising 2 sons and cooking rice several times a week, sometimes for as many as 40 people. It recently bit the dust and since I cannot find another one that does NOT have a non-stick interior, I will again purchase Hitachi brand. It's nothing fancy, just makes awesome rice without any trouble. :)