You just put the correct amount of rice and water or stock into the non-stick bowl, place the bowl on the heating element, close the lid, switch it on … and forget about it.
Inside the cooker the heating element gently brings the liquid to a boil. When the rice has absorbed most of the liquid the cooker switches to a warming function, where the rice has another 10 to 15 minutes before it’s ready. You can also keep the rice warm at a safe temperature – great for families who eat at different times.
Most models do more than just cook rice. With a couple of exceptions all the models in our test can steam vegetables, fish and meat.
As well, some can make risotto, desserts, porridge, soup, congee, crispy rice and sushi rice.
Such extra settings do come at a cost. If you just want plain old rice-cooking you’re better off getting a model that does the job quickly without the extra bells and whistles.
Do you need one?
You don’t need a rice cooker to cook perfect rice. You can use a saucepan or the microwave.
Cooking rice by the absorption method on the stove can be tricky. You need a hotplate or burner that can be turned down low. You also need a heavy-based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid – although you can use a layer of foil to seal the saucepan if the lid’s a loose fit. Then follow the instructions on the rice packet.
You can buy microwave-safe rice cookers which have lids with steam vents, but any microwave-safe bowl or jug will do the trick (just make sure you leave an opening for the steam to escape). Follow the instructions on the rice packet or in your microwave manual.
Tip: 1 cup of uncooked rice gives you 3 cups of cooked rice. You can cook rice in smaller quantities than the cooker’s maximum capacity.