You Need a Rice Cooker

Why Buy a Rice Cooker?

My basic rice cooker.

As a kid, I didn’t even know that rice cookers existed. Actually, I don’t think I’d ever even heard of them until I moved to California. (Cut me some slack; I lived a sheltered culinary existence in Campbell’s and Kraft-land.) But in California, everyone has a rice cooker. Everyone. I think they issue them at the agricultural checkpoint on I-80.

They come in all shapes, sizes and complexities. I don’t need to make rice for two dozen people, so I have a fairly basic model that has two features: delay start time, and cook.

So why do you need one? Easy: brown or wild rice.

Have you ever tried to cook non-white rice? That stuff takes forever. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be waiting around for upwards of an hour for my rice to cook when the rest of my meal can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. This is why the rice cooker is perfect.

What’s the recipe for foolproof brown rice?

  • 1 part rice (I prefer brown jasmine)
  • 2 parts water
  • Dollop of olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Set the cooker for your desired meal time and… ignore it. It’ll be ready when you get home from work.

You can follow the same system for cooking wild rice, although I tend to add a minimum of 1/2 cup more water for every two cups of cooking liquid. It seems to require that extra bit of liquid for softening the grains.

Are you a fan of stickier rice? Increase your water by 1/4 cup. Do you like your rice more al dente? Decrease by about 1/4 cup.

Just like with a slow cooker, the rice cooks all day and is ready when you come home.

Just like with a slow cooker, the rice cooks all day and is ready when you come home.


The Tiny Kitchen Assistant loves rice, and when prepared with the touch of oil, it seems like the brown rice is less… grainy? Whatever the reason, he never complains about the rice being something other than white, in spite of the fact that he turns up his nose at restaurant brown rice when we go out for Chinese or Thai.

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4 Responses

  1. Jim P says:

    I will stipulate to the fact that rice cookers are awesome.

    But “need” is a strong word. Especially when it comes to expensive, counter-hogging appliances that do just one job (albeit very well).

    A couple very good alternatives to rice cookers:

    1. A big-ass, heavy, enameled, cast iron pot, aka Dutch Oven, of the type sold by Le Creuset and others. Yes, the type of pot in which you cook your rice matters. A lot, as it happens. Now, this big-ass pot will not allow you to defy the laws of physics in your kitchen, and brown rice will still take an hour. But here’s the thing (drum roll, please): YOU CAN FREEZE COOKED BROWN RICE. Or any rice. Or any grain, or beans, etc., for that matter. Make a big batch. Portion it. Freeze it. I promise your family will not be able to tell the difference when you heat it in the microwave. And you can use your big-ass pot to braise a shoulder roast. Or make soup. Etc etc etc.

    2. An electric pressure cooker (preferably one with built-in slow cooker mode). Makes brown rice it about 12 minutes @15 psig. Of course the stovetop models will work, too, but electrics offer lots of nice features, especially the ability to use them outdoors. Why would you want to do that? Well, maybe you cook odoriferous foods, like lots of offal that you turn into dog food. Completely hypothetical, of course. You can also use the cooker for pressure canning of foods such as meats and fishes, including homemade soups. I have been through and currently own several electric pressure/slow cookers. My current favorite is the Breville, which costs about the same as a rice cooker. But unlike your rice cooker, it will can your tuna fish.

    Anyway, I love my Zojirushi rice cooker, but if I had an unequipped kitchen and only $100 (or was tight on space), I’d buy a used Dutch Oven on eBay. Once I had the Dutch Oven, and found another $100, I’d buy the electric pressure cooker. Then and only then would I consider the addition of a rice cooker.

  2. Alisa says:

    I know you well enough to trust you on the electric pressure cooker even though I’ve never owned one myself. But especially on nights where we’re really short on time (activity or sports nights where we have 1 hour between arriving home and the Assistant’s bedtime), or eating in shifts, there’s something to be said for having a fully cooked meal ready to be scooped out of the rice cooker and crock pot.

    For me, it’s more than a one trick pony. I use it for quinoa, other grains, and steel cut oats. The 3-4 times a week that I use it more than justifies its spot in the cabinet, and it’s more than paid back the $20 that I spent on it six years ago.

  3. Jim P says:

    For $20 I reconsider my answer. My rice cooker was closer to $200; I bought it BC (Before Children). Good to know that the inexpensive models do a good job, too.

    Here is the pressure/slow cooker that is currently the object of my affections:

    I owned the Deni before this and liked its features but not its reliability – I went through 3 of them in about 2 years. (I owned a Russell Hobbs before that, which I had to hack from EU to US voltage, which tells you that it wasn’t long ago that these appliances were not available in the USA – I bought the Hobbs in Europe about 20 years ago because I couldn’t find one state-side.)

    I also currently own and use this electric pressure cooker:

    I like it a lot because its capacity is large (I use it to make dog food), and it has many nice features. But, alas, it has no slow cook mode.

    I definitely recommend an electric pressure cooker for the well-equipped kitchen.

  4. Aroma is a very good brand. And brown’s a healthier rice variety. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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