A rice cooker may seem like an easy fix if you’re struggling to cook rice the way you like it, but our tests found that what looks like a simple gadget may require some mastery.
At first glance, all you have to do is put some rice and water in your rice cooker, press Go, and you are on your way to fluffy grains of perfection, right? not ?
Not always. We recently tested eight rice cookers to find out which ones you should buy, and while some give you perfect rice, others can be just as finicky as cooking it on the hob.
Here’s what our tests found you need to know before buying a rice cooker:
Or head straight to our roundup of best rice cookers to see which ones, under £ 50, we recommend.
1 & 2) You must absolutely follow the instructions
You are always told to read the instructions on new gadgets, and you never do. But if you don’t use a rice cooker, you will likely end up with waste rice. It’s because:
1. The rice / water ratio varies
The amount of water you need to cook perfect rice varies depending on who you ask, and rice cookers don’t solve this problem.
The most widely accepted ration is 1: 1 for white rice – one cup of rice for one cup (250 ml) of water. And 1: 2 for brown rice.
But our tests revealed big differences in the rice to water ratios required by different rice cookers.
For white rice, the ratio was mostly 1: 1, although we spotted a 1: 1.25 and some didn’t give a ratio at all.
The biggest differences were in the ratios for brown rice. We found 1: 1, 1: 1 + 0.5 cups of water, 1: 1.5 and 1: 2. And that was only one of the eight rice cookers we tested.
So, when you buy a rice cooker, be sure to read the instructions first to check the rice to water ratio. It may be different from what you are used to.
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2. Cooking times are also different
High-end rice cookers, like the one pictured above, often have digital timers that automatically update to tell you when your rice is ready.
But cheaper rice cookers under £ 50, like the ones we tested, rarely have timers, and our tests found that they can have very different cooking times as well.
One rice cooker cooked two cups of white basmati rice in a quick 12.5 minutes, and another took almost three times as long at 33 minutes.
All of the rice cookers we tested automatically switch between cook and keep warm mode when they’re done, but without a timer you still won’t know when to prepare your other ingredients.
On a rice cooker that does not come with a timer, you will be able to get an idea of how long it will take your rice to cook. You just need to know how long exactly by using it a few times and timing it yourself.
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3) A crispy bottom is common
You may have seen images like the one above on social media, or read complaints about rice cookers burning the rice in the bottom of the pot.
Rice is much more likely to burn if the rice / water ratio is uneven. If there is too much rice and not enough water for the rice to absorb, the rice will dry out and form a crust.
This is another reason why it is so important to check the rice to water ratios in your rice cooker instructions.
However, although we thoroughly rinsed the rice we cooked and followed the directions in our testing, we still found at least a thin layer of rice that was crusty at the bottom, although it was not as scorched as some. reports we read.
But keep in mind that because of this, you may find yourself throwing away some of your rice after each use of your rice cooker.
4) Rice cookers heat up
Rice cookers are generally no more dangerous than other devices that deal with steam and heat, like your kettle or oven, but some get very hot outside.
You should always be careful when handling a rice cooker. Avoid steam vents and wear oven mitts when handling the lid or pot.
Also, although some of the rice cookers we tested did not heat up on the outside, almost all had the rim of the pot exposed during cooking, which would get hot.
This is the case with the Argos Cookworks rice cooker pictured above. The lid rests on the pot itself and the rim of the pot rotates around the top of the rice cooker.
The pot is in direct contact with the heating element during cooking, so the lip becomes very hot.
You should keep this in mind if you have pets or curious children who might be tempted to touch the rice cooker when it is in use.
If you’re looking for an automatic cooker that you can leave unattended, compare our slow cooker review.
5) “Keep warm” can dry out the rice
All of the rice cookers we tested have a keep warm setting, and they switch from cook to keep warm automatically after the rice is cooked.
We checked the temperature and quality of the rice in each cooker after leaving them for an hour in keep warm mode.
Bacteria start to grow very quickly in rice that drops below 60 degrees C, and luckily none of the rice cookers we tested were in the danger zone.
However, we found at least a small drop in the quality of the rice after an hour on the keep warm setting.
There were also big differences in some cases. Some rices were almost as good as fresh, but others were so dry we couldn’t eat them.
Head to our full rice cooker test results to see which ones gave us perfect chewy rice in our tests.