How To Buy The Best Rice Cooker
When deciding to buy a new rice cooker you should first ask yourself some basic questions to determine what type, size and quality of rice cooker you really need - then you will be able to buy the best rice cooker to suits your needs. How will you actually use your rice cooker? Many people have found that the rice cooker can do much more than simply make rice. It can make soups and stews, desserts, even make bread. If you are interested in multi-purposing your cooker then you will likely want to choose one which has some advanced features. If not, you can save some money by not buying a model which has all the bells and whistles. Definitely opt for a rice cooker with a steamer basket as they come standard with most models and greatly extend your cooking options. While there are great rice cookers available from Zojirushi and Cuckoo, you don't need to buy a Cuckoo rice cooker or a Zojirushi to get a good quality rice cooker, there are plenty of less expensive options out there.
Here are some ideas for different rice cooker uses.
A single portion of rice is approximately one cup. So, if you are a single person or a couple you don't need a huge cooker unless you are the social type who regularly has parties. Typically the smallest sizes of rice cookers available outside of Asia are 3 cup cookers. Personally I would recommend purchasing something slightly larger as you may wish to cook for friends on occasion or use your cooker for cooking other things, such as breads or cakes which would necessitate a larger cooker in most cases. Most rice cookers from good manufacturers like Zojirushi, Panasonic, Aroma, etc. do well cooking smaller amounts of rice in their larger-capacity rice cookers. Also you should give some consideration to countertop space issues.
How much should I plan to spend on a rice cooker?
If you intend on using your rice cooker regularly, it's definitely worth spending the money for a quality cooker. This holds true for most any kitchen appliance in my opinion. How often will you be cooking rice? If it's everyday or even once or twice a week then make sure you get a good one. You'll save money in the long run buying a quality cooker rather than buying a cheap one and then having to replace it in the near future. Of course this doesn't mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a top of the line model. You can get a very good rice cooker for well under $100. There are good models available for around $40 and up. It's easy to do research online, look at sites focused on cookers with rice cooker reviews .
Should I get a rice cooker that can cook other types of grain?
A typical rice cooker may do well cooking other types of grain such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc. even if it doesn't have a specific setting for it. Many people, particularly those that require a gluten free diet, use their cookers to cook grains other than rice. If you plan on cooking other types of grain on a regular basis you may wish to choose a fuzzy logic rice cooker which has a specific setting for this. If you don't get a rice cooker that has this feature you may just have do a little experimentation in the beginning to get the correct ratio of water to grain.
What rice cooker features should I look for?
♦ Ease of use! The operation of a good rice cooker should be fairly intuitive. You shouldn't need to spend an afternoon reading a manual before you are able to make rice.
♦ A durable, teflon or other non-stick coated inner pot - many people are now buying a stainless steel rice cooker due to health concerns over aluminum and teflon.
♦ A beeper, to tell you when the cooking cycle is complete.
♦ A steamer tray or basket which can be used at the same time you are cooking rice. This is very handy for cooking a variety of things, steamed vegetables, etc.
♦ Keep-warm feature
♦ Finally you may wish to give some consideration to the aesthetics of the rice cooker and how it will fit into your kitchen. Modern rice cookers come in a wide variety of styles and colors.
If you haven't owned a rice cooker before I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to use and their consistency in turning out perfectly cooked rice. Once you've become comfortable cooking rice in it, you should consider using it for some of your other cooking needs. Rice cookers are very adaptable and can cook a wide variety of foods other than simply rice. There are many free resources online that will help you multipurpose your rice cooker. One way to do this is to experiment with different recipes for rice cookers.