Rice Cooker Reviews:
I grew up with Uncle Bens minute rice, never had steamed rice, and didn't know what a rice cooker was until I was about 25. I always thought rice was instant and didn't realize how much better it would taste coming from a rice steamer or rice cooker. I met my wife about 10 years ago and she was born in Korea and introduced me to "real" rice as she called it. One of the first items in our wedding registry was a rice cooker and 7 years later I can actually make great rice using the appliance. My wife will still steam rice on the stove for smaller amounts, but for larger parties we always turn to the rice cooker for guaranteed success. Although not advertised as such, a rice cooker is also capable of cooking hot cereal, desserts, soups, stews, or vegetables. Be sure to check with the manufacturer since not all rice cookers perform all those tasks. Rice cookers are defined by how many cups of rice they make. You can buy rice cookers that make any where from 4 to 18 cups worth. All rice cookers have automatic shut off features so you will know when the rice is done. Keeping the rice warm after it has cooked is something most can do with no problem, but there are some models that will keep the rice warm for up to 12 hours. If you enjoy rice throughout the day with other meals besides dinner, then get a model that has that function.
More expensive models have settings for soup, brown rice, porridge, rice texture, or even sushi rice. Many rice cookers come with steaming trays which allow you to steam vegetables while cooking rice. Look for a cooker with a non-stick pan since rice can be hard to pick off once it sticks to something. In our online research we found rice cookers to get great investments not only for families but for college age students that live in dorms. They are fairly portable and store easily. Buy a model with a clear glass or plastic lid and stay away from the metal lids on cheaper rice cookers. When cooking rice, remember that 1 cup of uncooked rice turns into about 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice. There are really only a few types of rice cookers - cook and turn off, cook and keep warm, electronic cook and keep warm. Cook and turn off models are the cheapest at around $20-$30 while the cook and warm style are $40-$70 and the electronic cook and keep warm ones are $100 and up. We researched rice cookers online at Amazon.com, Epinions.com, and Chowhound.com for customer reviews and feedback on the best rice cookers and those that rated high in most categories. The top brands are Panasonic, Aroma, Zojirushi, Sanyo, Salton, Black & Decker, Tiger, Oster, Hitachi, National, Rival and Cuisinart. You can view the list of best-selling rice cookers online here
Best Rice Cookers:
You can't go wrong with the Zojirushi brand of rice cookers, they consistently come out on top in terms of ratings and customer satisfaction levels. The top selling Zojirushi 5-1/2-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer
($180) is our pick as the best overall rice cooker. The 5 1/2 cup computerized rice cooker and warmer makes plenty of rice for any family size. There are a plethora of menu choices like automatic keep-warm, extended keep-warm, and reheat cycles. Comes with 2 measuring cups, nonstick rice spoon/scooper, rice spoon holder, and some recipes. The Neuro Fuzzy logic technology and a spherical pan and heating system create "perfect rice" every time. People say the warming function keeps rice "fluffy for hours" and cooking oatmeal is easy. The Neuro Fuzzy cooker is an excellent Japanese rice cooker that will do it all. Don't mess with timing out steamed rice on your stove ever again, go with this quality appliance. Some owners complained that the amount of rice produced was barely enough for a family of 4 (not sure how much they eat), but you can always buy the Zojirushi NH-VBC18 10-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer with Induction Heating System
($230) for the extra $50 and solve that one. The extra large color LCD display has a timer function, clock, and other menu features. This model from Zojirushi gets the same 5 star ratings from many reviewers. You can't lose with either selection.
Mid-Range Rice Cooker:
The Sanyo 5.5-Cup Micro-Computerized Rice Cooker/Steamer
($115) makes the perfect gift or investment for your own kitchen. With it (and its fuzzy-logic controls and temperature settings) you can make white rice, rinse-free rice, mixed rice, sweet rice, sprouted brown rice, quick-cooking rice, brown rice and porridge. The titanium coated, extra-thick, nonstick inner pot gives you maximum heat distribution. Users say they slow cook with it (beef/pork), it's easy to use, and turns out the best rice with the littlest fuss. Sanyo has a similar model that only has a 3.5 cup capacity but sells for less than $100 if the larger 5.5 cup model is too much. I own the Panasonic SR-TE18NVO 10-Cup Rice Cooker/Warmer with Moisture Cap
($95) and I must say we have never had any problems with it over the 7 years of ownership. Cooks rice perfect every time and holds plenty for larger gatherings of family members or friends.
Value/Budget Rice Cooker:
Ok, so you only need rice for 1 or a few people. Buying a larger more expensive model doesn't make sense, but don't feel like you will sacrifice on quality with a cheaper model that produces less rice. The Aroma ARC814 4 Cup Rice Cooker
($25) is an excellent choice and will steam fish, meat, poulty and vegetables. You can cook wild, brown, or white rice with no hassles, and the cool-touch body and glass lid make this seem like a much more expensive model. Owners say it's great for 2 people and they like how compact it is for smaller kitchens. The Hitachi RD4056PB Rice Cooker & Food Steamer
5.6 Cup ($35) cooks a bit more rice and is only $10 more. The automatic keep warm cycle is great for those that like to eat at all hours of the day and the magnetic thermostat is accurate and dependable. List of low-priced rice cookers here