Sarah is a trusted source on General Cooking.
I love rice cookers, and if I had a large kitchen I'd probably get one. But I don't and would prioritise other things for a limited space. You can cook rice just as well in a pot with a well-fitting lid (it's just a slightly messier clean up, a little more finicky for ratios and you have to learn which burner to use, and at what level to achieve the right result).
I know there are recipe books and such showing 101 ways to use your rice cooker, but for me I'd just make rice. (Maybe spiced or flavoured rice, but it's still rice.)
Natalie is a recipe tester for Food52.
I have a pretty small kitchen so I have a small rice cooker! Mine is a Sylvania brand 6-cup rice cooker. I like it since you don't have to check on the rice and it's perfectly cooked anytime. It fits easily in a cabinet and can stack w pots and pans.
Amanda is a developer at Food52.
I can't survive without my rice cooker, and the rest of my family would agree. My family eats rice at every meal and we totally get the importance of having a rice cooker that is consistent, sturdy, and lasts forever. When I went to college, the first dorm present I got was a small personal rice cooker (http://tiny.cc/nr6ukw). It lasted through college, and is still with me, working like a champ. My (biased) advice would be to stick with an asian-brand rice cooker, like Tiger, Sanyo or Zojirushi - you can find these at any asian grocery store. And since you mentioned that your kitchen is small, go for a 3 or 5.5.cup rice cooker. The 10 cup rice cookers are monstrous, but my 5.5 cup one fits just right. If you'd like to learn more about rice, feel free to check out our post "Rice: The Final Frontier": http://food52.com/blog...
If you eat rice daily, a rice cooker is totally worth it. I have an Aroma 10-cup which is big for just the two of us, but it is really not that monstrous and sits on the counter next to the sink with no problem. My kitchen is on the small side too. My rice cooker is about ~$35, cooks white rice in about 15 minutes.
You can make a complete meal in a rice cooker! I don't have one now but when I did I would put peas, corn, kielbasa, annatto, onions etc to the uncooked rice and cook as if plain white. Makes a great mid week meal!
Nowadays I make my rice in an All Clad sauce pan, 1 cup rice, 1 1/2 cups of water or broth. Drizzle olive oil, s & p. 20 minutes at medium.
People who have them, like them; on the hand, I have made very good rices for 45 years in a pot!
I'm totally with both Sarah R and bigpan -- I know people who have them and swear by them. My kitchen is actually rather large, but I still can't justify the space usage. I make a fair amount of rice (once a week; 52 times a year; too many years to reveal! -- and that's just straight rice -=- double that if you're also talking risotto) and have always used a pot and found it completely satisfactory. So, think about the space that it will take, the frequency that you will use it, and just how often you typically burn rice right now -- that should answer your question in a way that is right for you.
Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking
I bought a rice cooker after we'd spent some time in Japan, and found it especially useful in the years when I was shuttling kids to various after-school activities. However hectic things got, I knew that we'd at least have rice. Even now, I'd get a new one if I had to. It sits off in its little corner churning out perfect rice without needing any attention or distracting me from the rest of the meal.
I am a pretty decent cook, but somehow incapable of making rice! I have a zorjirushi cooker that does everything (and does it well) and I swear by it. When I had a small kitchen, I had a small rice cooker and that worked fine as well. Having said that, If you can make rice with what you have, and are willing to deal with the clean up and time (I can put my rice in in the morning and know it will be excellent to eat for dinner or start it with the prep - my cooker does make it that flexible) issues, don't get another gadget to just take up space. Up to your lifestyle needs.
I LOVE them. They are also rather inexpensive.
If you cook rice regularly you will find that you can do it successful and consistently in a plain old pot (I use black cast iron). It just isn't that hard and you can me smugly happy each time you do it that you are a cool, hip, old-school cook with real kitchen skills. Also for those who, like many of us, have removed non-stick and aluminum cookware from their lives, there are relatively few choices for automatic cookers. If you don't cook rice regularly, then it really seems a waste to purchase and store a cooker. Either way, I wouldn't bother.
My trusty Panasonic that got me through college died after 20 years of service. I replaced it with a Sanyo (fuzzy logic) model. It works just fine...but it's a bit larger and doesn't seem to do as well for two to four servings of rice. I've used that one for a few years--and now I'm back to using a small pot on the stove for small batches. Which is also fine for me.
Look for a models that sized to your needs and family. I prefer the one button ones and have given them as gifts with and finding out from feedback that the Salton doesn't work very well, while the Rival does work well. Panasonic (or National in Japan) is probably the best and more expensive of the one button styles---last time I priced them.
One advantage of the one button styles over the fuzzy logic is that most fuzzy logic have a hinged top that prevents using a steamer basket to do double duty, while the one button models have a steamer insert.
One thing with rice cookers is that if your rice is a bit dry or undercooked...just add a couple of tablespoons of water and hit the button again--same for rewarming rice; the interior pot is removable and stores in the 'fridge.
Makes life easier, does not harm in any way, simple and easy to use, easy to clean so i use them all the time! :)
In addition to white rice, a rice cooker makes PERFECT brown rice. I love my Zojirushi. I can also program it for the rice to be ready on those days when I get home late.
I love mine. My grandmother always used one as do my parents. It is so quick and simple I don't know how you can NOT own one. Unless you don't have space.
Wow - I guess I must be the only one around that doesn't really want a rice cooker! I've been making rice once or twice a week for many years, but never once uttered the words "I need a rice cooker." Maybe if I had one, I'd change my mind, but don't go sending me one, 'cause I really would rather use that space for something else!
For jasmine or basmati long grain white rice, I simply place the rice plus 1 1/4 cups of cold water and 1 teaspoon of butter per each cup of rice into a saucepan. I bring that to a boil (takes about 5 minutes at my altitude), place a lid on it and turn the fire down to the very minimum it will stay lit. (At sea level, just lid the pot and remove it from the heat.) 25 minutes later I take it off the heat and let it steep for 5 minutes, then fluff it with a fork and it's ready.
Now, I know there are lots of additional things you can do with a rice cooker, but nothing I can't do with a wok or pan. Anyway, My vote goes for cooking it in a pan and saving the space for something else!
I was the same way until I moved in with my old room mate. He pulled it out of the box and I scoffed at the idea. Then he made rice with it, and I was pretty impressed. They do make perfect rice. Now that I am married and live with my wife, we do not own one because, like you, I make great rice in a pot. Plus, my rice is usually made in the Pilaf method, so I'm usually sauteing onions, carrots and garlic in butter before mixing in the rice and then adding stock. With that method in mind, the pot works best for me.
One thing I will say about rice makers is that they work especially well for sushi rice.
We picked one up when we were going through a very long complete kitchen remodel. With the "kitchen" now consisting of an electric skillet in the living room, the rice cooker allowed us to make a side dish in addition to whatever the main protein was. Prior to this, I was a member of the "rice cooked on the stovetop" crowd. However, now that we have one, I love freeing up that burner while cooking dinner and find it remarkable just how often I continue to use it now that the remodel is done. It really is a great convenience. I still do all of the pilaf and add-in techniques, quickly sauteeing them and then tossing them into the cooker while the rice bubbles away.
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