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We’ve come a long, long way in terms of cooking rice. Back then, the Japanese would have to cook rice in a large stove called a kamado. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that the first rice cooker was invented and sold on the market, changing the way rice is cooked — and people’s lives — for good.
Rice in itself holds more significance than most of us realize. Beyond being a staple food in many homes, rice is a socioeconomic and cultural marker. It is the cornerstone of the economy of many Asian countries. For the farmer, it is the grain that provides a livelihood, gives a roof over their head, and feeds their families. In developing countries, rice is an affordable starch that makes people full and keeps many homes from starvation.
In both the ancient times and the modern world, the laborious process of planting and harvesting rice has fostered groups of people to form communities in rural areas. Now, rice is one food that brings homes together during breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, all with the help of one neat invention: the electronic rice cooker.
A rice cooker is pretty much a staple not just in every American household, but across the globe. So, what exactly are the great perks one gets with this kitchen appliance? Is it worth getting a rice cooker when one could easily cook rice on the stovetop? If these are questions you’ve been asking yourself, then you’ve come to the right place. Stay tuned to know the few advantages of rice cookers.
Rice in itself has plenty of wonderful health benefits, and it doesn’t matter whether you cook it on a gas stove or in a dedicated rice cooker: you’re still getting all the nutrients available in rice of different varieties.
So, to answer your question, a rice cooker is healthy — but mostly because of the already existing nutrients of rice. However, plenty of modern units are designed specifically to enhance nutrient retention during the cooking process.
Let’s get this myth out of the way once and for all and answer the question: cooking in a rice cooker does not pose a health risk, except in the rare cases that your rice cooker is built with some outdated, chemically laden material. There are some digital rice cookers that are specifically designed to retain nutrients more than others, often called healthy rice cookers, a testament to the evolution of these appliances.
Nowadays, having a rice cooker is pretty much the gold standard of preparing rice. Modern home chefs can rarely afford to spend hours in the kitchen due to their busy schedules, therefore making monitoring the cooking cycle from start to finish almost impossible.
That’s where rice cookers step in: even when you’re off running errands or in a Zoom call, the rice cooker will automatically switch to warm mode so your rice doesn’t become overcooked or brown at the bottom of the pot.
In short, it makes perfectly cooked rice without so much as five minutes of preparation and the press of a single button. How’s that for convenience? If you’re someone who’s still skeptical and want to continue cooking using a stovetop, we’re here to answer some of your burning questions regarding this kitchen wonder.
Rice cookers come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s bound to be something for everyone’s kitchen counter needs. These appliances range from high-end to budget-friendly, large-capacity (20 cups) to couple-sized, and so on! The benefits are countless, but we’re going to list a few of the most prominent ones just for you. Here are a few advantages of getting a rice cooker:
When you’re working with a gas stove, there’s one problem that is sure to plague you: overcooked rice. Often, even when the top of the pot seems to have perfect rice, there still sits a layer of overcooked rice just at the bottom, hidden in plain sight. And nothing ruins a good rice-based menu than burnt rice.
This is also why plenty of newbies seemingly find it a challenge to make perfect rice manually. With a good rice cooker, however, all of that hassle disappears. The even heat distribution ensures there is no layer of overcooked rice at the bottom once you open the lid, and every grain is ready to serve. Sounds perfect in our book.
Like we mentioned above, this is perhaps the most prominent benefit of getting a rice cooker. The convenience of just popping in your grains and water then pressing a button or two is unparalleled. You won’t have to worry about getting the water to grain ratio right because most rice cookers even come with their own measuring cup. Plenty of people have said this is the answer to many of their rice cooking problems!
Cooking using a rice cooker does away with all the necessary heat adjustments and monitoring that comes with cooking rice in a pot over a stovetop. This also speeds up time spent in the kitchen, as the time spent waiting for the rice to cook to prepare the rest of the meal. For example, if you’re creating our Coconut Cilantro Rice with Chicken recipe, you can start prepping the meat while you wait for the cooked rice.
One of the biggest advantages offered by a rice cooker is automatically keeping cooked rice warm. When you cook in a simple pot, the rice can only stay warm for so long as it needs to be immediately removed from the heat source.
A rice cooker is automatically designed to have two modes, cook mode and warm mode, the latter having a regulated transfer of heat to warm the rice without overcooking.
This option is great if you’re prone to having a lot of sudden changes in schedule that require your rice to wait just a little longer before being served. You can even use this feature to prepare meals in advance. Plenty of modern rice cookers offer a keep-warm setting that lasts as long as 12 hours.
The evolution of rice cookers has brought about plenty of wonderful settings that make cooking not just white rice, but almost any variety way easier. Apart from keeping the rice warm, most modern digital rice cookers are equipped with programmable functions specific to the kind of food you wish to cook.
The most common are one-button settings for brown rice, basmati rice grains, and even jasmine rice. By doing so, users can eliminate the trial and error process that often comes with preparing non-white rice grains, making the cooking experience simpler and quicker.
Rice itself is also a wonderfully versatile staple food. There are plenty of ways to prepare a rice-based menu because of its customizable nature. You can substitute water for broth, play around with spices, and experiment a bit.
Multi-cookers are the new normal. Indeed rice cooker technologies have become so advanced as to offer us multiple one-touch settings for creating the perfect soup, oatmeal, bread, and so much more. Now, a world of food is available in just a single device, eliminating clutter in the kitchen every time.
Certain models even allow you to use them as a slow cooker or a pressure cooker device, tripling the amount of benefits one would normally get in a standard cooker. An example of this is the Instant Pot, which also comes with a recipe app so you won’t need to prop open a book when trying to get meal ideas.
Ever heard of a “smart carb” rice cooker? Aroma has a few of those models lined up (we even review the ARC-1126SBL here) and they’re targeted at the health-conscious individual who still wants to enjoy a healthy serving of rice! If you find yourself being a lot more tempted to break your diet for rice, then this model is the ideal option for you. Aroma’s Smart Carb option utilizes the non-stick inner pot to reduce the carbohydrates found in rice grains by 30%.
Rice cookers come in all different shapes and sizes, from small rice cookers to large ones, and that’s one of the advantages of rice cookers over regular pots and pans. Each rice cooker is sized according to how many cups of rice it can hold, which is why you’ll see models labeled as 10-cups or 20-cups capacity like the Aroma Housewares ARC-150SB. This gives you a concrete basis of exactly how much you can get away with cooking in each model, without resulting in under or overcooked grains.
This allows rice cookers to cater to all sorts of households and different walks of life, so whether you’re a solo dweller or a large family of 10, there’s a rice cooker just for you: the choice is yours to make. It also effectively removes the hassle of trying to cook a small portion in a pan that’s too large or vice versa. Just make sure you do stick to the recommended serving size, because a lot of people overload grains in a small cooker and expect their rice to still come out perfectly.
You’ve heard of rice cookers that serve as a slow cooker and a pressure cooker, but wait ‘til you hear about those that have an added food steaming basket. This smart innovation uses the water steam from the inner bowl to heat or reheat fish, vegetables, meat, and more on a tray that sits on top of the cooker. All you need is to pop open a recipe book or get some ideas online, and you can pretty much experiment away. Who needs other kitchen appliances when you’ve got such a multifunctional one?
These are just some of the advantages of using a rice cooker. Why not start your journey with the best rice cookers on the market? Who knows, you might discover a few more hidden perks!
If the evolution of rice cooker technologies has left you with a few questions, worry not! We’re here to answer them as best as we could.
Now that we’ve given an answer to the question of what advantages a rice cooker has to offer, we can answer the opposite question: what are its disadvantages? Despite the rice cooker being a powerhouse of a kitchen appliance that simplifies the cooking process, it has a few setbacks, too.
One common disadvantage of cooking rice in a rice cooker is it can be a wildcard when it comes to brown rice. You’ll hear people report that no matter what the model, brown rice cooks unevenly in their device. However, we believe this is among the disadvantages that comes with choosing the wrong model.
Luckily we wrote a guide on the best rice cooker for brown rice that gives tips on cooking brown rice for the first time and answers all your questions about the nutritious yet evasive whole grain. Models reviewed include crowd favorites such as the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 and the Zojirushi NS-YAC10.
Another drawback is kitchen capacity. A large size rice cooker might not fit into smaller households or in a small counter, unlike pots and pans which can be hung to save space.
Next, these things can be pretty expensive! Some of the most advanced appliances from popular brands like Zojirushi and Cuckoo feature a whopping $600 price tag, although we’d argue that you are getting what you’re paying for in terms of high-quality components and long life. These are also usually the ones that can make rice almost perfectly thanks to fuzzy logic technology or induction heating, and sometimes even both.
Lastly, a more advanced rice cooker may not be the most easy to wash. Cleanup can be more challenging simply because an unconventional rice cooker usually has a separate steam vent that needs to be taken out and cleaned, an inner pot that is a lot more sensitive to water than standard cookers, and so on. However, on the flip side, a standard device only requires water and soap to clean.
But overall, we think that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Rice cookers have become too important in households that their disadvantages are forgivable.