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Mar 3, 2011 02:24 PM

what to look for in a rice cooker?

Hi everyone!

I live near Chinatown and figure that's the best place to look for a rice cooker. I'm looking for something that I can cook plain old white rice in AND bake in (should I look for a more crockpot-style rice cooker?). But I'm not sure if a bare-bones no-frills rice cooker will work if I want to bake? I have no interest in making sticky rice for sushi and don't necessarily care about steamer inserts..... wait.... could I make a chicken potpie in a rice cooker? Like I would in a crockpot? Then I guess I might want to steam vegetables?! Aaaah ok I guess I want a rice cooker-crockpot combo that I can bake in.

Are there any temperature features I should look for? Should it have certain settings? Any good brands to look for and bad ones to avoid? I would really like to find one under $20, but am willing to pay $25 max.

Very new and confused about the world of rice cookers. TIA!

edit: Upon further thinking, should I get a rice cooker OR a crockpot? Or one that can do both?
* I would love to have an "oven replacement" since my oven is broken and will not be fixed for some time :( *

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  1. The fancy rice cookers with separate settings for different rices and grains are way more expensive than your target range. A $20-25 rice cooker will have a lid and 2 settings :) , so there isn't much to look for. Most non-stick models are more expensive, too, but that might be an option. If you search for "rice cooker" on Amazon you'll get a general idea of what's available in the different price ranges. For that matter, there are whole cookbooks on things to do with rice cookers, if you want to take a look at those, while you're at it.

    On "cook", they get hot enough to actually boil water which is hotter than the high setting on most crockpots. I don't know what temperature the low setting is, it might be comparable to the low setting on a crockpot. They're not designed to stay on high for hours at a time but can stay on "warm" for extended periods. I'm not at all sure I'd trust even a name brand, low end rice cooker to cook unattended.

    The heating element in most crockpots is around the sides of the appliance, whereas low-end rice cookers have a small hotplate at the bottom, with no side heat. I don't know how you'd make a chicken pie in a crockpot to begin with, so I don't if the method could translate to a rice cooker. Rice cookers are very good at cooking rice, everything else is definitely secondary.

    It's not really clear what your ideal appliance is or how much you're willing to spend overall but other "temporary" electric appliances you might consider are hotplates and large toaster/countertop-ovens. If you have a working range already, you can use that for rice and a crockpot and toaster oven would cover most of what ovens do on a smaller scale.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MikeG

      I would ordinarily be content with a super-basic rice cooker for just my white rice but I'm not sure if I would need a fancy, fuzzy logic one for cake-baking. I like the look and price of this:

      But I don't know if it would be suitable for baking... I couldn't find any reviews on either the Target site or Amazon that mentioned that =/

      Do you think that would work? I wouldn't want to break it or something if I try! I currently make rice on the stovetop but was thinking a rice cooker might be easier since I don't have to watch it or anything... And if I spend money on something, I want to get as much use out it as possible! :


      Apparently you can make chicken potpie in a crockpot like so: So would I be able to modify the recipe to work in the rice cooker? If so, how? :



    2. Don't know if using it as an oven is a possibility; my most common alternative use is to make polenta or simmer a liquid.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Stephanie Wong

        Could you post your polenta method w/amts please?

      2. No dice on the bakin' rice cooker--they just don't do that. Get a basic 3-cup Panasonic/National/Zojirushi/Sanyo model.

        Here's what's what:

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha

          I'm looking to bake somehthing like this:

          But she mentions using the 'Quick Cook' menu and that she has a Panasonic microcomputer cooker. But it must be possible to modify the recipe to work in a super-basic cooker... right? Or do the basic models just not get hot enough as the fancier ones do?

          1. re: nycstudent

            Might fly with an old school cooker. Just remember that it's really a steamed cake with the browned bit resulting from contact with the bottom of the pot. If it flops, you've still got a working rice cooker. I cooked oatmeal in my wok during grad school penury, so this looks like an ad hoc improvement!

        2. I wouldnt expect the even heat needed for baking if you have a cheaper rice cooker.
          I would think the bottom would burn before the upper half baked.

          But I am sure it would be fun to experiment!

          You can steam things in the rice cooker, thats for sure.