A set-and-forget rice cooker is a convenient way to cook rice. It’s also an easy fix if your rice often ends up a gluggy mess.
How a rice cooker works
The heating element gently brings water to a boil. Once the rice has absorbed the liquid, the cooker switches to a warming setting. This means the rice is ready whenever dinner is, not the other way around. It’s also great for families who eat at different times.
Top tip for cooking rice: Place uncooked rice in a sieve and rinse well under running water until the water runs clear. This removes most of the starch and prevents rice becoming gluggy.
Do you need one?
If you eat lots of rice, a rice cooker may be a worthwhile buy – it’s the easiest way to cook rice. However, a rice cooker isn’t essential – you can get good results in a pot or microwave. You can also cook rice in a slow or multi-cooker (some even have a dedicated rice setting).
Cooktop: Cooking rice by the absorption method can be tricky. You need an element or burner that can be turned down low and a pot with a tight-fitting lid. You’ll also need to keep an eye on your rice. Getting it wrong can result in a pot that’s difficult to clean and a cooktop covered in rice scum (which needs to be cleaned up before it gets burnt on). You can also cook rice on a cooktop by the “rapid boil” method. With this method, you’ll need to strain the rice.
Microwave: You can use any microwave-safe jug or bowl but microwave-safe rice cookers are also available (they have lids with steam vents). A taller container can help avoid rice boiling over.
Things to consider
Consider these features when you’re buying a rice cooker.
Capacity: Think about the size of your household and how much rice you’ll cook at one time. Larger models can cook up to 10 cups of uncooked rice, smaller cookers about 5 cups. Information on the minimum number of cups that can be cooked at once is rarely provided, but it’s usually about 2 cups. Larger cookers also take up more cupboard space.
Lid and bowl: How easy your rice cooker is to clean goes a long way towards how much you’ll enjoy it. A cooker with a non-stick bowl will be easier to clean. Some models have sealed lids, which stops liquid splattering out, but they can be fiddly to clean. There’s usually a removable inner lid, which can be taken off for cleaning, but the outer attached lid also needs cleaning, especially around the steam vent. Some models have a removable steam vent. A glass lid lets you check on your rice without interrupting cooking. But it can rattle and allow liquid to bubble over.
Removable cord: Useful for taking the cooker to the table for serving and makes it easier to store.
Automatic shut-off: Turns the cooker to a “warm” function. All our tested rice cookers have this feature.
Extra accessories: Most models come with a rice paddle/spoon, measuring cup and steamer tray. Measuring cups aren’t standard sizes, so use the supplied cups when following the rice cooker’s instructions.
Extra cooking functions: Some models have a sear or slow cook function, or can be used to make yoghurt or cake. This makes the cooker more versatile. Some models have specific settings for different rice types (such as sushi, brown, jasmine).