Rice is nice

By Mir
November 29, 2006

I hate it when people ask me questions about things I know nothing about, and I actually have to, you know, think. It makes my brain hurt. But I do it, because I love you all. Also because it irritates me when I realize I don’t know something. Anyway!

Heather writes:

Hey Mir —

Since you were so very helpful on my coffee-maker purchase (I got the Gevalia one and love it, by the way) … I have another small-appliance question for you. I’m considering getting a rice cooker (or at least requesting one from Santa). But I see they come in a huge price range, from like $15 to more than $150. I don’t need a super-giant one or anything, and I do kind of like the veggie steamer function that many offer.

So, oh wise one, what’s your advice? Do I even need a rice cooker or will it just clutter up my counter? Do I go for the cheapest one I can find or spend a bit more?

I do not own a rice cooker. I’ve never used a rice cooker. But—to be fair—we don’t eat very much rice. Let me assume the role of Rice Consumer and see what I can do for you, here.

Let’s start with the easiest part, first: Do you need a rice cooker?

Well, I’m guessing the sky will not fall and the world will not end if you don’t have one. But do you eat a lot of rice? Do you not even eat a lot of rice, but vastly prefer the taste of rice from a cooker? This isn’t really a need question. You want one. Whether that’s a sensible item for you to own depends on how often you’ll use it, how much you think it will add to the quality of your life (or, in this case, the quality of your food), and whether you have space for it.

Let’s assume you do the mental math and conclude that, YES! You really do want a rice cooker.

In my hunting around, the best article I came across was this one. It has lots of information all in one place, and I highly recommend reading it from top to bottom if you want a great overview on what to consider.

Some highlights:

Look for a cooker with a non-stick pan since rice can be hard to pick off once it sticks to something.

Buy a model with a clear glass or plastic lid and stay away from the metal lids on cheaper rice cookers.

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.

There’s also some excellent good-better-best discussion of specific models. The top-rated brand is Zojirushi, and if you want to go for the Cadillac of rice cookers, you’re looking at the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 ($179). Is it an awesome appliance? Absolutely. Do you need that? Probably not.

If you want to stay within the brand, I’m guessing the Zojirushi NHS-10 would probably meet your purposes quite well (and it’s just a tad more affordable at $49.95). Heh.

What the writer of the above-reference article points out, though, is that it’s really nice to get a rice cooker that has fuzzy logic; it’s more versatile and fool-proof. He recommends the Sanyo ECJ-D55S (about $155) as a mid-range option, if you’re not ready to go whole hog with the top-of-the-line Zojirushi.

(Remember: You can use coupon NOVSAVER on Kitchen purchases over $125 at Amazon to take $25 off your purchase.)

So. Read the article. Do your research. And then pick the one you like, which you can either afford or can con someone else into buying for you. And then? Enjoy your rice. The most important part of any Large Purchase is to do enough research beforehand that you can relax and appreciate it once you have it, rather than agonizing over whether or not you should’ve done it.


  1. I’ll speak up in favor of fuzzy logic rice cookers. The dang thing is smarter than I am, as it actually knows when the rice is done and turns itself to warm mode, whereas when I cook on the stove I have to guess and keep peeking. If I have to cook rice on the stove…forget it, we’ll have pasta. If you make a lot of brown rice, I highly recommend a cooker. I started out with a Black and Decker rice cooker/vegetable steamer and was very pleased with it, until it died. Also, you can make other stuff in rice cookers, like oatmeal, and they can also function as small crockpots. Yay for rice cookers!

  2. I will also speak up in favor of our Fuzzy Logic rice cooker. We bought a $20 one at Bed Bath and Beyond to see if we’d like it– well, we used it all the time. Had that for about a year, and then “upgraded” to the Fuzzy Logic one found at Williams Sonoma.

    My suggestion is to buy a cheapie one first to see if you use it. If so, then determine if it’s worth the upgrade later.

    (yay rice cookers!)

  3. Ooh! I love to make brown rice but the only good way I’ve found is in the oven — and it’s a pain. Maybe I need a fuzzy rice cooker!

  4. Okay guys, being from the South, where you eat rice with everything and sometimes just by itself. But oh it is so much better with gravy, and I digress. After trying several different rice cookers, we went back to cooking it on the stove. It’s perfect everytime and one less appliance to clutter up things.

    Of course that’s just my opinion and I’m all for them if you use them and they work for you.

  5. I cook rice (for 4) a couple of times a week, and I like the pot you can buy at WalMart for about $10 and use in the microwave. Cook 5 minutes on high, 15 minutes on 50%, and it’s done.

  6. I never used a rice cooker until my MIL moved in with us. Her’s is like 20 years old, and I’ve never had better rice. We use it fairly often, and I never cook rice on the stove any more.

  7. We have a rice cooker and use it all the time. (Of course I am the queen of the small appliances he he). But if you struggle with cooking it on the stove, as I do, the rice cooker is wonderful. Perfect rice everytime with no thought.

    I do concur about the nonstick pan though. Ours isn’t and after 10 years, I’m about ready to replace it just for the sheer amount of rice we waste because it sticks to the bottom of the pan.

    I have heard from several folks that the Black and Decker cooker/steamer mentioned above is really great. (We wanted that one but were given this one and dh used it before I could exchange. Doh!)

  8. We have this rice cooker and it is wonderful. It cooks rice in the bottom and steams vegetables in the top. We used a 20% off coupon that we received in the mail. We use it about 4 days out of the week. Perfect rice and veggies every single time.

  9. Y’all are missing the point with the rice cooker. Here’s the dealio: rice cookers are not ONLY for cooking rice, they simply cook rice perfectly. We use ours daily, and we don’t eat very much rice. What do we make? Anything one steams: potatos, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, asperagas, also fish like salmon, or dumplings, ham boa (chinese steamed pork buns), pyrogies, I could go on ad naseum (as if I hadn’t already!) but I believe this makes my case that it is an appliance that has earned my valueable counterspace. Get a cheap one, I paid less than $20 (on sale, natch) and it cooks and keeps things warm and even has a time delay so I can put veggies and water in there in the morning and come home to veggies already steaming.

  10. Oops! I guess it would help if I included the link…

  11. Well, it didn’t work. But it is the Cuisinart 8-cup rice cooker from Bed Bath & Beyond.

  12. Thank you once again, Mir, for your thoughtful response. I decided to go the cheap route first and see if I use it enough to buy an expensive model. So, I got a $15 Rival one from Target. It’s cute and red and seems to work great. It’s non-stick and has the veggie steamer thing (two things I was looking for). And, it makes really yummy rice with no mess. We’ll see how it holds up …

    Thanks, Mir!


  13. Report back, Heather? I’d love to know what you think about the cooker in a couple of weeks!

  14. My husband is from Iran, and I hated rice before I discovered long grain Basmati rice cooked the Iranian way.

    Soak the rice for 3-4 hours.
    Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.
    Drain and add rice.
    Cook until the rice just softens, then drain the water by pouring the rice into a colander.
    Put enough oil in the bottom of the pan to cover it, then add about 1/3 cup of water.
    Add the rice back to the pot and put it on the stove.
    Wrap the lid of the pot in a towel and place on the pot.
    Steam the rice on med-low until the whole pot is steaming when you take the lid off.

    It is delicious, and half as starchy as cooking rice the regular way. The best part is the crispy crust that forms on the bottom – yummy.

  15. I’ll do that … I’ll give a report after I’ve used it a bit more.


  16. We eat a lot of rice, and when I used to cook it on the stovetop, it required too much stirring and maintenance, and I kept having to add more water than the directions stated. Years ago, we got a basic, cheapie rice cooker from my FIL’s Thai wife, and I’ll never go back!

  17. I bought the Pampered Chef rice cooker. LOVE IT! It was about $20 and well worth it. It goes in the microwave. I don’t save any time with it but I don’t have boilovers anymore and don’t have rice stuck to the pans anymore. Rice has been cooked perfectly ever since I started using it.

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