Can a basic rice cooker do what a premium model can?
We tried cooking a range of different foods in the Anko 7-cup rice cooker to find out what it can cook aside from rice.
The rice cookers we’ve tested range from $20 to $179. The more expensive models often have specialist cooking functions for different types of rice and grains, as well as to slow cook or make porridge, soup, cake or bread.
But do you need one costing $179 or can a cheapy do most of what a fancy model can? We trialled the Anko 7-cup rice cooker ($20) from Kmart to find out. It’s only claimed to cook rice and steam food. It comes with a steamer tray, measuring cup and spoon.
How it works
The Anko 7-cup rice cooker has one switch with two settings – cook and warm. When set to cook, a basic rice cooker, such as the Anko, stays in cook mode until all the water has been absorbed into your rice. With little or no water left in the bowl, its temperature increases to a point that triggers the cooker to switch to warm.
Warm mode keeps the heating element running at a lower temperature, keeping your rice warm until you’re ready to eat – for up to 12 hours.
You can also steam food in the rice cooker. You add water to the cooking pot, then put in your steamer tray with your food inside. The steamer tray sits above the water. But you need to monitor progress to prevent overcooking.
- You can’t use the Anko 7-cup rice cooker to make cake or bread. You’d need a rice cooker with specialist functions for that.
- You can make soup and similar (stews, etc) in the Anko. But you need to monitor progress and manually switch it off, so you don’t overcook your food. A model with a soup or slow cook function would be better.
- You can “set and forget” the Anko 7-cup rice cooker to perfectly cook a range of grains – many more than just rice. And it’ll keep them warm until you’re ready to serve.
We had a go cooking a range of grains, plus soup, vegetable frittata, cake and bread in the Anko 7-cup rice cooker.
Grains and porridge
We used the Anko to cook green Puy lentils, red split lentils, quinoa, buckwheat and steel-cut oats for porridge. For each test, we added the recommended amount of water – usually 4 cups of water to 2 cups of grains. Then we set the rice cooker to cook.
The rice cooker switched from cook to warm once all the water was absorbed. The porridge took 9 minutes, the buckwheat took 18, and the lentils and quinoa took 25 to 35 minutes. All were cooked perfectly.
We successfully made a chunky vegetable soup in the Anko rice cooker. But, just like stovetop cooking, we had to monitor and manually switch the cooker off. We couldn’t just “set and forget” as with cooking grains.
We let the cooker run for a long 45 minutes – well beyond when the soup was cooked – to see if it’d switch itself off. But it didn’t. That’s because soup contains a lot of water, so the temperature didn’t get to the threshold that would switch the cooker from cook to warm.
We tried making a cake too. But the rice cooker flicked to warm after just 3 minutes. We attempted resetting it to cook, but the cooker immediately switched back to warm.
Online blogs told us that people bake cakes in basic rice cookers. But their machines would run for about 20 minutes before switching to warm mode. By that stage, the cake would be mostly cooked, with warm mode enough to finish it off. Others had machines that could be reset to cook for a second time.
Although the Anko cooker only cooked for 3 minutes before switching to warm, we left the cake mix in to see if it’d cook slowly. Aside from a slight crust forming on the bottom, the rest was still goo after 2.5 hours, so we called it quits.
It might seem a bit out of the box to attempt making a frittata in a rice cooker. But the online rice cooker community said it’s possible, so we gave it a go.
The frittata mix contained more moisture than the cake. So, we were hopeful the basic Anko rice cooker might do the job. But the cooker’s temperature spiked, switching it to warm after 5 minutes, and it couldn’t be reset to cook again.
After our attempts at making cake and frittata, we didn’t have much hope for our bread baking test. But bread is one of the more popular foods that people make in their rice cookers.
However, the rice cooker flicked to warm after only 3 minutes when loaded with bread dough and couldn’t be reset.
If you want “set and forget” cooking for anything other than grains, you’ll need a rice cooker with specialist functions. The models we’ve tested that have them cost $179.
Otherwise, you don’t need to spend more than $20. The Anko 7-cup rice cooker does a great job of cooking a range of grains. We expect other basic rice cookers to perform similarly.
We’ve tested models costing $70 and $97 that only have a basic rice-cooking function. Both of those models scored the same as the Anko – 71 overall. One of them has a sealed lid to provide better steam retention. But we don’t think it’s worth 5 times more than the Anko.
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