Beginner’s guide to rice cookers: what is it and how does a rice cooker work?

Rice cooker
Updated on 29 May 2023

While a rice cooker has been a well-known phenomenon in Asia for years, it is only now beginning its rise in Western countries. You might have thought that a rice cooker only cooks rice, but the opposite turns out to be true: a rice cooker is more versatile than you think. Find out exactly what a rice cooker is and what you can do with it in our beginner’s guide.

What is a rice cooker?

A rice cooker is an electric kitchen appliance for cooking and steaming rice. It consists of a heating element, an inner pan and a thermostat to control the temperature.

Why a rice cooker?

Cooking rice to perfection is not for everyone. A rice cooker makes preparing (rice) meals a lot easier because it all happens automatically. So you don’t have to stand there happily.

The pros and cons

  • Convenience: no need to stand around
  • Rice cooked to perfection (provided you get the proportions right)
  • Never burnt rice again
  • Easy handling and cleaning

Keep in mind that a rice cooker takes up extra space.

How does a rice cooker work?

A rice cooker is incredibly easy to use. The controls only consist of a few buttons so you can leave the instruction booklet in the box, so to speak.

  • Put the plug in the socket
  • Fill the inner pan with ingredients
  • Add water
  • Press the start button

Once the rice cooker is ready, it automatically jumps to the keep-warm function. This way, you don’t have to heat up your meal first when you get home.

Functions of a rice cooker

A rice cooker is a fairly simple kitchen appliance. If you are looking for a kitchen appliance with multiple functions, a multicooker might suit you better.

  • warming function: after the rice is cooked to perfection, the rice cooker jumps to the warming function.
  • steam basket: this is a plastic basket that you place on top of the inner pan. This allows you to cook rice and steam meat or vegetables at the same time.

How many watts is a rice cooker?

On average, a rice cooker has an output of 600 watts. If you leave the rice cooker on for an hour, it uses about 0.6 kWh. According to the Consumers’ Association, a kWh including taxes etc. costs 0.15 cents per kWh. If you leave the rice cooker on for an hour, the cost is 0.6 kWh x 0.15 = 9 euro cents.

Cooking rice with a rice cooker takes about 30 minutes. If you use the rice cooker every day, then at the end of the year you will be using 0.3 kWh x 365 days = 109.5 kWh which amounts to 16.43 euros per year.

What can you do with a rice cooker?

You might think that you use a rice cooker only for rice. But fortunately, a rice cooker is more versatile than that. So you can use a rice cooker likewise for:

  • Rice, pasta, noodles (grains)
  • Steamed meals
  • Fish and poultry dishes
  • Oatmeal
  • Caramelised apple with cinnamon for an apple pie
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Baking: cake, desserts, banana cake
  • Stewed pears
  • Mac ‘n cheese

Which is the best rice cooker?

The Instant Pot Pro 6 litre was voted the best rice cooker of 2021 in our test. Actually, it is a multicooker with many features: rice cooking, pressure cooker, slow cooker, sous-vide, saute pan and a steamer. The Instant Pot Pro 6 litres is the perfect choice when you want a kitchen appliance that can do more than just cook rice.

Which is the best cooking rice cooker?

The Tefal Classic RK1038 is an excellent rice cooker at a good price. This is a simple rice cooker that does what it is supposed to do.

Conclusion: is a rice cooker for me?

If you think you will only use a rice cooker for preparing rice or other dishes you can prepare with a rice cooker (see above), then a rice cooker is a good choice. If you are in the kitchen a lot and like to apply different cooking techniques, then I would rather recommend a multicooker. This way, you avoid having several kitchen appliances in your house. Besides cooking rice, you can also use a multicooker for steaming, pressure cooking, searing and slow-cooking.

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Rice cooker