Good Question: What's the Deal with Rice Cookers?

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Dear The Kitchen,

What's the deal with rice cookers? I realize I rarely make rice at home because it often burns or takes longer to cook than I expected.

I went searching on Amazon for rice cookers this morning and I see they come at a variety of prices. There's even one that doubles as a crock pot that might be good for my small kitchen.

I also saw cook books for cooking a whole dinner right in the rice cooker. Is that for real?

Best,
Chris

Dear Chris,

I'm sorry you're burning your rice. Are you following the directions on the package correctly? Usually if you stick to the instructions, including the part about covering the rice and not peeking, and keeping the flame very low, you should get fluffy, not-burned rice every time. My first advice is try again. It's always best to do things simply, without having to purchase another gadget.

It's true that a rice cooker is a versatile appliance and you can do more with it than cook rice. However, the same can be said for a good pot, such as this Le Creuset 2-quart Dutch Oven on sale for $49.98 at Broadway Panhandler.

If you do have that extra shelf and counter space in your kitchen (lucky you!) and you want to try out a rice cooker, here is a very handy guide to selecting a rice cooker from Gourmet Sleuth.

Sniffing around some of the major kitchen supply retailers, it seems the Zojirushi Neuro-Fuzzy Logic rice cookers are very popular. At a lower price-point, the Krups 10-cup Automatic rice cooker and the Cuisinart 4-cup rice cooker might be a more attractive (brushed stainless), and less complicated appliance for you.

Finally, for kicks check out Sally's Kitchen for an account of one woman's love-affair with her rice cooker. She cooked all of the following:
&bull Strawberry Pie Glaze
&bull Stir Fry
&bull Scrambled Eggs
&bull New Potatoes with Onions
&bull Spaghetti
&bull Mexican Beef for Tacos or Burritos
&bull Corn on the Cob
&bull Tuna Noodles
&bull Macaroni and Cheese
&bull Rice
&bull Oatmeal
&bull Hot Dogs
&bull Chicken Soup
&bull Stew
&bull Spare Ribs

Let us know what you end up doing! But promise you'll go easy on the Tuna Noodles and Strawberry Pie Glaze.

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.