Whether you see rice as a regular part of your mealtimes or simply as a decorative prop, you do have an interest in seeing it come out well.
In the Far East, where rice is a staple, you might imagine that people would know the recipe involved in perfect steaming well enough to not need to turn to a rice cooker appliance for help. Every home has one, however, whether basic or top-of-the-line.
Getting your rice to come out perfectly isn’t an easy task for anyone. Even when you do know how, it can take plenty of time and attention to make sure that it doesn’t turn out too soft, too dry or that it doesn’t burn. What’s worse, it can take multiple trial-and-error runs to get used to the requirements of different kinds of grain.
Rice cooker prices and features
When you look at the offerings available in rice cookers, you’re likely to see a vast range with prices all over the spectrum. These machines mostly look the same, and it can be hard to know which one you should buy.
Does a $100 rice cooker make sense? Why go with something that costs anything from $75 to $300 when you can get one by a well-known brand for as little as $30?
You can’t make a reasonable buying decision unless you know what you’re getting for your money.
Basic rice cooker cost and features
Rice cookers are able to steam rice well through the use of a sensitive thermostat. The thermostat tracks the temperature of the bowl to make sure that it never gets too hot. As the water content of the container falls with boiling and evaporation, the thermostat drops the temperature, turning off completely when there is no water left.
A basic rice cooker, which would fall in our theoretical $30 range, would be able to do that, cook rice, but not much more.
Good, basic rice cookers come with two modes — Cook and Keep Warm. Once the rice is done, Keep Warm mode keeps up a low level of heat for three or more hours.
Not every model has the Keep Warm function, so it’s important to look for it.
Is a basic $30 rice cooker worth it?
If you’re looking in that $30 range, you’re shopping for something that will cook, and possibly also keep the cooked rice warm. So, are the worth it?
Starting out with a basic $30 rice cooker is a great way to see how well electric cooking works for you. And, if you’re not intending on using it a lot, this might be a good way to go. Check our round-up of the best small rice cookers, there are a few in the $30 range.
There is a reason to want to upgrade to a better model, however.
Advanced rice cookers
Rice is unpredictable. From brown rice to the white basmati, there are plenty of varieties and aging approaches, and it’s easy to get lost. While basic cookers do bring you good results, your rice will rarely be as fluffy or as fragrant as it should be.
The best Rice cookers have fuzzy logic
Rice cookers that cost $75 or more usually come with something called fuzzy logic or micom (microcomputer) technology. When you’re ready to care enough about rice to make sure that it’s perfectly cooked every time, it’s worth paying for fuzzy logic.
Equipped with this type of technology, a rice cooker is able to judge the different things that different varieties of rice do.
Here’s an example of how it works. Certain kinds of rice absorb heat quickly; others absorb water very quickly. Where a regular thermostat would only track temperature at any given point, fuzzy logic is able to sense when temperature changes happen “too” quickly or slowly.
There are great rice cookers that include fuzzy logic and other features that retail from under $100 to $300 or more. The cooking capacity, methods and features dictate their price.
Consider models from Aroma and Cuckoo are among our favorites. Also check out these Japanese rice cookers, too.
In others words, a rice cooker with fuzzy logic is able to sense it in a way akin to human judgment. It can track and correct temperature rises that don’t follow the right curve. This type of control makes for rice that cooks perfectly, no matter what kind it is, even when you mix rice varieties.
Fuzzy logic also offers a great deal of customization. No matter how you like your rice — extra fluffy or extra sticky — there is the setting for it that is able to deliver.
There are other technologies available
Some cookers that are even more expensive offer something called neuro-fuzzy logic. Not only do these cookers come with the ability to track and automate difficult cooking requirements the way fuzzy cookers can, they learn, as well. These cookers are able to make sense of your cooking patterns and decide how best to go about cooking your rice in the future.
Neuro-fuzzy cookers over $300 use a different heating technology – induction. While regular cookers place an element and thermostat at the bottom of the pan, cookers with induction technology evenly heat the entire pot. This can make for very sensitive and responsive heat adjustments.
This type of technology is worthwhile if you love rice enough to see yourself becoming a connoisseur one day. The idea to bring to your rice cooker shopping is simply this: you need to know what’s out there, and why. You’ll make far better shopping judgments then.