Rice forms a staple part of all our diets so it makes sense to have a rice cooker to prepare it flawlessly every time.
Rice dishes are extremely popular among us Brits. Case in point, the horror and inconvenience when there was a shortage of rice at the beginning of lockdown. This may be largely due to its versatility, it's a simple food item with which so much can be done.
Firstly, there’s different varieties: basmati, jasmine, long grain, risotto…the list goes on. Then there’s all the different dishes that can be created from this humble grain: as a side to curry, egg fried rice, paella, tahdig (the Persian crispy-topped rice dish) and so many more - but it's still hard to get right.
Enter the rice cooker. While some of us might like to stick to what we know and cook rice in a pan (resulting in it half burnt and the majority stuck to the base), if you’re looking to embellish your culinary prowess and excel at these grain-based dishes, you’ll need to invest in a rice cooker to get perfect, fluffy rice every time. You won't regret it.
What is a rice cooker?
A rice cooker is a kitchen appliance that, quite simply, will change your life - no exaggerations here. It brings the rice to the boil and knows at what points it needs to simmer and have the heat lowered. Essentially, it does everything for you. There’s a variety of models on the market, all varying in price, but the best rice cooker will produce faultless fluffy rice every time and keep it at the right temperature for your meal.
How do you use a rice cooker?
It’s very easy. You measure the amount of rice you want to cook and rinse it two to three times - just as you would normally - and then pour the rice into the rice cooker. Add water to the rice; the general ratio is 1:1 so one cup of water for every cup of rice. It’s advisable to read the instructions even if you are familiar with rice cookers as all brands can vary.
Now comes the easy part: close the lid, press the necessary buttons (revealed in that handy set of instructions we talked about earlier) and wait for the magic to happen. The rice cooker will gradually heat up the contents and automatically switch off when all the liquid has been fully absorbed. Rice is usually perfectly cooked in this type of appliance after 30 minutes - although some rice cookers have ‘fast modes’ which could take less time.
What else can you use a rice cooker for?
Once you’ve cooked rice a few times in your rice cooker, you’ll get more creative and start experimenting with different foods. Some rice cookers can also be used to boil eggs, steam vegetables and even cook stews. You can also make breakfast dishes such as porridge. You don’t have to stop there, try different grains like barley and quinoa, which can be also cooked in these multitasking devices.
Russell Hobbs Large Rice Cooker and Steamer
Cooking time: 24 minutes
Portions: up to 14 (at 200ml per portion)
This large rice cooker and steamer is able to make up to 14 servings so you can treat your guests to sizeable helpings of food, from curry with pilau rice to paella. Cooking your rice perfectly every time, it also comes with an automatic ‘keep-warm’ function to maintain the heat for second and third helpings. It includes the necessary accessories too; a measuring cup, spoon and steamer basket.
This appliance is very simple and easy to use, which ensured there was no chance of burning the rice. Opting for the standard white rice variety, the cooker dealt well with adding saffron to the mix and being able to steam asparagus to give you even more bang for your buck. The large capacity is great but, obviously, the more rice you cook, the longer it takes. Cleaning, however, was even easier than cooking (if possible) as it’s all dishwasher-safe.
Cookworks 1.5L Rice Cooker
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Portions: 7-8 (at 200ml per portion)
Cook coveted fluffy rice with every use - not half burnt and not too sticky. This rice cooker is minimalistic and does what is says on the tin, while becoming a stylish addition to your kitchen. The device is the perfect size for a small household with rice to last a few meals. Not only does it cook rice to a fluffy perfection, it also makes light work of potatoes and vegetables - all within 20 minutes. It features two settings, is easy to use and keeps it warm until you're ready to eat.
This rice cooker worked particularly well when adding other foods to the rice, for example peas or beans. At first, we worried that this would interfere but the appliance still delivered perfectly cooked rice and, again, everything is dishwasher-safe so it’s so easy to clean up after yourselves (something that’s a struggle with a regular pan). This cooker needed two portions of rice to cook but that wasn’t an issue here as day-old rice makes a perfect leftover, it's also a better consistency for cooking a lot of Asian rice dishes.
Tefal Cool Touch RK1568UK Rice Cooker
Cooking time: 25 minutes (longer for brown rice but then it started to spit)
Portions: It says up to 20 but up to 9 at 200ml per portion
Easy to use and quick off the mark, this cooker is what you need to feed your hungry family. It has two settings to boil your grains and keep the finished product warm afterwards. There's a non-stick base to ensure that your rice is as fluffy as possible with no burnt bits at the bottom of the pot. The device has a stylish design overall, although it is slightly bulkier compared to other cookers in this list.
Unfortunately this rice cooker is not dishwasher safe, so something to bear in mind when purchasing as clean up will take a little more time and care. There aren’t handles on the base of the appliance but this wasn’t an issue as long as you wait until it has cooled down to move.
Breville ITP18 11.8L Rice Cooker and Steamer
Cooking time: 18-20 minutes (longer for brown rice)
Portions: up to 9 at 200ml per portion
This cooker and steamer is packed with accessories such as a measuring cup and spoon to make the entire process easier than ever. It even includes recipes in case this is your first rice rodeo. As well as perfectly cooking your rice every time, there’s also a steaming tray to cook fish and vegetables. Quick and easy to use, this rice cooker is excellent at catering for large parties ready to feast due to its sizeable 11.8L capacity.
When cooking rice with lentils, we realised that more water was needed to balance the rice to liquid ratio in this appliance. However, this seems to be part of the learning curve rather than a true critique as it didn’t hinder the process. It had zero problems cooking brown or wholegrain rice - although it needs washing a couple more times than white rice to remove the starch. So if healthier grains are your preference, this rice cooker will work for you.
PARS Automatic Persian Rice Cooker
The underdog of the rice cookers market, this brand was essential in inclusion as in addition to cooking your rice perfectly every time, there’s also a setting to add crispy topped goodness to your rice. Known as tahdig, it’s a traditional element of rice dishes in Iran and completely delicious. Unlike your regular rice cooker which tends to offer two settings, these rice cookers have a dial worth of settings, depending on how brown and crispy you want the top of your rice.
Cooking time: 25 minutes (then had to add on another 5-10)
Portions: 6-7 (at 314-367ml per portion)
Boil with convenience thanks to this rice cooker which has capacity to cater for six to seven guests. With a non-stick bowl, it’s guaranteed to help you nail your dish, even if people are slow to the table as there’s a setting to keep the rice warm for 60 minutes after cooking. Experiment with the sauté function and use the rice cooker for more than just the classic grain; you’ll be making everything from paella to pasta next.
Cooking a turmeric and vegetable dish in this rice specialist proved to be no problem at all and was made to perfection with the spices and vegetables sautéed and sprinkled on top of the rice. The device did need a little more time than the instructions suggested but this added time didn’t affect the quality of the rice. It is also dishwasher-safe which makes the steps after eating a lot easier too.
MUJI Rice Cooker
Cooking time: 50-70 minutes
Aesthetics-wise, this may be the rice cooker for you if you're looking for something to fit seamlessly among your decor. The design is just that bit more stylish than the average appliance. This rice cooker is also easy to use and contains the necessary accessories such as a measuring cup and spatula. There’s nine cooking settings to cater to everyone’s rice needs in more depth. But while it's neat and compact, this also means that there’s a maximum of three cups of rice per cooking session. It also takes longer than the other rice cookers, from around 30 to 75 minutes.
This option is perfect for a smaller kitchens as it differs from most rice cookers which tend to be bulky and hard to store neatly. It also didn’t cook brown or basmati rice types as well so really is just recommended for those who enjoy white rice. It's on the higher end of the price point spectrum and is not dishwasher safe.
Klarstein Osaka Rice Cooker
Cooking time: 30-35 minutes
Portions: 5 portions
Non-stick and complete with the essential ‘keep warm’ function, this rice cooker cooks the grains quickly and gets you your perfect rice every time. It includes a measuring cup and spatula so you’re well-prepared. It also features an automatic shut-off - so don't worry if you’re feeling lazy after preparing your meal. Available in this striking red and black colour, it’s a statement piece for the kitchen - that’s for sure. Its non-stick bottom ensures no rice is left behind but it must be noted that this device cooks slower than most and also requires a hand-wash.
Lakeland 2 Portion Mini Electric Rice Cooker
Cooking time: 30 mins
A small but mighty machine. This is a scaled-down version of a standard rice cooker and can cook up to two portions of rice. Using an LED panel to control the cooking side of things, it’s easy to use and results in flawless rice with every use. You’re left with fluffy grains with no sticky or stodgy texture to it. What’s more, you can use it to cook porridge or oats-based meals in the morning.
This is a great beginners option if you’re trying out rice cookers for the first time. Plain white basmati rice was cooked perfectly and made a deliciously accompaniment to dinner but it did take longer than some of the other devices included in this list, which was surprising as it's a more compact vessel.
Russell Hobbs’ large rice cooker and steamer gets our vote as the best appliance to cook perfect rice every time, while also managing to cater for such a large party. With the added benefit of the steamer feature as well as the ‘keep warm’ setting, you really can't go wrong. Breville’s rice cooker and steamer would also make a good purchase for the more skilled rice connoisseurs among you.