Do you need a rice cooker?  Alright - here's a test.  Are you a rice-oholic?  Do you think rice is great for every meal and even better for a snack?  Did you consider attending Rice University just to be able to wear a sweatshirt embroidered with the name of your favorite grain?  If you said yes to all three counts (or maybe just two out of three), it sounds like a rice cooker is for you.  Back in the day, cooking rice would have required impeccable focus and nearly constant attention.  Now – with the help of technology, electricity, and just a tiny splash of magic – electric rice cookers have simplified preparing rice into a nearly effortless, push-button process.  That being said, though seemingly straightforward in both name and function, not all rice cookers are created equal.  Here are a few points worth pondering to help find the best rice cooker for you.

Features – It only take a few minutes of online shopping to realize a rice cooker may not always be as one-dimensional as you might expect.  In the 21st century, these little babies can come with all sorts of exciting features.  Simmering!  Slow-cooking!  Steaming!  Singing!  Well…maybe not singing, but you get the gist.  Before you start shopping, assess your lifestyle and consider the role you’d like the appliance to play in your kitchen.  Many models are priced based on their features.  Do not overpay for features you may not use.

SizeZojirushi - 2Credit: Amazon Trivia question:  You’ve just purchased a sweet 5-cup rice cooker.  At its maximum capacity, how many cups does your rice cooker hold?  If you said 5, you’re absolutely right…maybe.  It really depends on who is defining the term “cup”.  While a cup may be measured as 240 ml in America, in Japan it would only be measured at 200 ml.  When shopping, check to see if the appliance was manufactured in Japan.  If so, the capacity is most likely aligned with Japanese cups.  This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just important to know and understand when choosing a size.

Aroma Simple Stainless #3Credit: AmazonInner Cooking Pan - While it may not have been on your radar when you first started, the inner cooking pan is always on the mind of a discerning rice cooker enthusiast.  There are several options for the interior pan.  Modern folks go for stainless steel with a non-stick coating.  Purists may opt for a pan made of either charcoal or clay.  While the charcoal or clay options may require a tad bit more attention than the stainless steel, they are easier to clean after each use.  True aficionados battle back and forth on which material yields a better end product.  Our take:  At the end of the day, it really just comes down to preference.

The Brown Rice Setting – If you’re strictly a plain, white rice kind of guy, you can probably ignore this last section.  But if you’re the type of fellow who enjoys a dash of brown rice pizazz every once and a while, pay attention – this part’s for you.  Believe it or not, not all models are designed to cook both white and brown rice.  Check all prospective appliances for a brown rice setting.  If it doesn’t offer this option on the display, it is most likely meant for white rice only.

Aroma Digital Rice CookerCredit: AmazonAs late comedian Mitch Hedberg used to say, “Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.”  If you are constantly craving thousands of tiny grain-based treats, or even just enjoy serving fresh cooked rice once and a while with a meal, a rice cooker may be a worthwhile addition to your kitchen arsenal.  Enjoy your new appliance - we guarantee you'll be cooking rice with a rice cooker in no time!  P.S. - Don’t forget the chopsticks!