Curious about how rice cookers work? Conduction rice cookers, fuzzy logic rice cookers, induction rice cookers---so many types of rice cookers and so many different brands. What do all these terms mean? Read this article to figure out if you really need that $200 rice cooker, or if your $20 rice cooker will do the same things.
Why You Should Trust My Opinion On Rice Cookers
- Cookbook Author: I've written 5 Instant Pot Cookbooks and 2 Air Fryer Cookbooks so I've spent more than my fair share of time in the kitchen.
- Efficient: That's the only way I know how to do things in the kitchen. Who has time to waste when you're trying to get food on the table? I'm known for my ruthless efficiency and use the pot in pot cooking method every chance I get.
- Gadget geek!: I'm a self-proclaimed food tech enthusiast and have been known to purchase (and review) just about any kitchen appliance I can get my hands on.
How Rice Cookers Work
If you've found yourself wondering how rice cookers work, here's a very simple explanation for you. Most rice cookers work on sensing temperature differences. Water boils at 212F. No matter how much heat you apply, the temperature of boiling water does not exceed 212F as the excess is lost via steam and evaporation.
When all of the water in the rice cooker is absorbed, the rice starts to get hotter. The rice cooker senses that increase in temperature, and turns itself off.
How Rice Cookers Work - What Are The Differences Between Expensive And Inexpensive Rice Cookers?
The two biggest differences in expensive and inexpensive rice cookers are:
- Fuzzy Logic Technology
The more expensive rice cookers will usually be multifunctional and offer several different preprogrammed cooking options. They will also use fuzzy logic technology to control the internal temperature of the rice cooker. The most expensive rice cookers will also use induction heat to cook rice in the most time-efficient way possible.
The less expensive rice cookers are usually just that, rice cookers. You can still get a quality serving of rice with one of the lower-end models, but you will likely need to watch it carefully so it doesn't overcook and time your cooking just right so that it is ready with the rest of your meal.
What Are The Different Types Of Rice Cookers?
There are mainly four different types of rice cookers that you can choose from on the market. These types of rice makers are:
- Standard Rice Cooker
- Multifunction Rice Cooker
- Induction Rice Cooker
- Fuzzy Logic Rice Cookers
1. Standard Rice Cooker
Standard rice cookers are going to be the basic model of rice maker that do not come with all of the bells and whistles of other styles of rice cookers.
Here are some of the most highly rated standard rice cookers on the market:
2. Multifunction Rice Cooker
Multifunctional rice cookers offer all of the functions of a standard rice cooker with even more exciting cooking options. Most of them do way more than just steam and offer preprograms that help you perfectly cook a variety of grains.
What I love about multifunctional rice cooker, is that many of them have a sauté function. This makes them a lot more versatile. you could for example, brown onions first, or brown some ground beef, and then add rice. I love this feature.
Here are some of the top rated (and my favorite) multifunctional rice cookers:
3. Induction Rice Cooker
Induction rice cookers are just cookers that cook with induction heat. The main difference between $20 rice cookers and a more expensive, the induction rice cooker is largely:
- The Source Of Heat
- The Consistency Of Heating
Source Of Heat
In the less expensive rice cookers, all of the heat is from the bottom of the pot where the heating element is housed.
In an induction rice cooker, heat is transmitted through magnetic coilsaround the device. This allows heat todisseminate from all over the pot, rather than just the bottom.
Slow cookers, although not billed in this fashion, can also have variable heat sources as we reviewed here.
This enveloping heat cooks more evenly on all sides of the pot, keeping you from getting burned spots at the bottom.
Consistency Of Heating
So think of why people use induction cooking in their day to day lives. We have detailed a lot of the advantages of induction cooking here, but a lot of it comes down to the ability for induction cookers to cycle the heat on and off and needed to maintain a consistent temperature.
Think of you when you cook a steak. You turn the heat up high to get the pan screaming hot to sear the steak. Once it sizzles and the outside is hot, you then turn down the heat for a slower cook. If you see it taking too long and you feel the meat is starting to steam rather than sear, you turn up the heat a lot.
Induction rice cookers make these adjustments automatically. What’s more, they do so in an instant.
In an electric cooktop that works on conduction heat, when you turn down the heat, the burner stays hot for a while as it cools down. In contrast, when you turn down the temperature on an induction cooktop, it immediately stops putting electric current through the metal coils and cools down near instantaneously.
If you’ve ever waited too long to turn down the heat on a pot and burned your food, you will know that theability to turn down heat while cooking instantaneously does lead to better cooked food.
Induction rice cookers make these adjustments intuitively and quickly.
With induction rice cookers what this means is perfectly cooked rice or grains, with zero interventions, and a lower likelihood of having burned rice at the bottom, especially during the keep warm cycle.
4. Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker
What Is Fuzzy Logic? Do I Need it? We’ve all heard a lot about fuzzy logic rice cookers but what is a fuzzy logic cooker and do you need it?
Fuzzy logic is a way of making computers think more like human beings. Humans are very good at forming stereotypes and categories. For example, even a toddler could look at a tiger and say “Cat”, not because the toddler knows anything about phylogeny, but because she is able to look at that tiger and appreciate instinctively know it resembles a cat.
In contrast, a computer may not classify the two together based on size, food consumed, domestication levels, etc. For a computer, a cat and a tiger may be more dissimilar than they are similar.
Fuzzy logic is just a way to make computers think more like humans. This is achieved by programming them to understand that things can belong in more than one category (A chair can be furniture and decoration) and that there is a variable level of probability of belonging (A chair is more like furniture and somewhat like decoration).
Adjustments are made based on equations derived from past experience, as well as set adjustments during critical “milestones” during the cooking.
What Does Fuzzy Logic Have To Do With Cooking Rice?
Think of an elevator that goes up at a consistent speed. When the elevator is full it is heavier and technically should move a lot slower. A lighter elevator should move a lot faster. But unless you’re in an antiquated elevator, both elevators get you there in roughly the same amount of time.
Now think of what you do when you make rice. You either measure or eyeball the water. You turn the heat up or down based on how vigorously the water is boiling. Then add a little more or a little less time depending on how “done” the rice feels. You add more water if you want stickier rice. You let it steam until it is done. If the rice is old, you soak a little longer because the grain feels drier.
These are all decision you make as you eyeball that rice.
Fuzzy logic cookers are trying to replicate the same type of human decision making. If you’re making 1 cup of rice vs. 5 cups of rice, it adds a little time. If you want drier rice it may cook it a little longer.
This is why they can usually make more than just rice. They can be adjusted for 20-minute cook times for white rice or 40-minute cooking times for brown rice. They can cook oatmeal even though there's water left in the final dish, unlike a drier finish to the rice.
Many of them can make mixed rice, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, sushi rice, and have a normal vs quick-cooking cycle.
My most favorite feature in my favorite Zojirushi is the reheat feature. Reheating rice with minimal water is not at all possible in a traditional rice cooker. But in this little marvel, you can add a few tablespoons of water, and it will reheat it perfectly.
What this means for you as a cook, is consistently perfectly cooked rice with no guesswork.
If you eat a lot of rice or grains, and you want perfectly cooked grains, a fuzzy logic rice cooker is worth every penny.
When you are making perfect rice, what you want is for all the water needed to stay inside the pot, any unnecessary water to escape the pot without making a sticky, carby mess on your countertop, and a good 10 minutes of steaming to finish cooking the rice.
A well-sealed rice cooker will have an easy way for steam to escape, but won’t allow water to overflow from the top.
In my experience, the worst offenders are the cheaper rice cookers that just have a hole on the top for steam and excess water to escape. Invariably, they spit water at you, they overflow and I hate cleaning up the mess (although the SKOY DISHCLOTHS work really well for hot messes like this (and I’m not just talking about me and my hot mess).
The best ones are the ones that have a tight seal such as the Instant Pot Zest Plus, the Zojirushi Micom or Aroma Rice cooker that keep all the water contained in the pot but have an outlet for steam at the top.
It is also very, very important to let cooked rice steam when it is almost finished. I always let my rice rest for 10minutes. This allows you to finish the last of the cooking with gentle, indirect, residual heat. Not only is this environmentally sound, but it also keeps your rice from burning or turning into a sticky mess as you stir it around to keep it from overcooking.
6. Keep Warm/Shut Off Function - How Do Rice Cookers Work?
The biggest reason a person decides to invest in a rice cooker is because they are tired of babysitting rice every time they cook it. If your rice cooker doesn't offer this function, you're forced to set a timer, wait for that timer to go off, and then eat your rice immediately so it doesn't dry out or get cold.
If your rice cooker has an automatic shut-off function that switches to keep warm after the cooking cycle is done, the rice cooker does all of the babysitting for you. No worrying about starting your rice at the perfect time to be done in time for dinner and no overcooked rice because the rice cooker didn't shut off when the rice was done cooking.
7. Which Types Of Grains Will It Cook?
Many rice cookers offer different preprogrammed cooking options for different types of grains. You will need to do a little bit of research to know which types of grains each one does since virtually all of them offer different programming. Here are some of the different types of grains your rice cooker may also cook:
- White Rice
- Brown Rice
- Mixed Grains
So if you choose the correct rice cooker, it can serve as way more than a simple rice cooker.
What Else Can You Make In A Rice Cooker?
A majority of rice cookers come with a steaming basket that fits perfectly inside. This is so that you can steam vegetables and meat at the same time as your rice.
In some of the more advanced multifunctional rice cookers, you will see that there are other functions that allow you to cook even more inside of your rice cooker. You may see soup, saute, and even cake functions on some multifunctional rice cookers.
As with every other factor involved in choosing a rice cooker, you will see a huge range of prices. So unless you're on a strict budget, I would use all of the other points to help you decide which rice cooker to choose and then find one that is within your budget and still fits all of the important criteria.
Is A Rice Cooker Worth It?
What is the right kitchen gadget for one person may not be the right kitchen gadget for the next person. Here are a few quick things to factor in when choosing a rice cooker:
Buy One If:
- You cook a lot of rice
- Are busy and can't babysit your rice while it's cooking
- Want a kitchen gadget that can be multifunctional
Pass On One If:
- You don't eat a lot of rice
- Already have a kitchen gadget that functions as a rice cooker
- You enjoy extra time in the kitchen
Other Kitchen Gadget Buying Guides
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- The Best Induction Cookware
- Best Pour Over Coffee Makers
- The Best Baking Pans Of 2020
- How To Choose A Kitchen Knife
- The Best Food Storage Containers
If you enjoyed learning how rice cookers work and how to choose the right one for you, make sure you share it with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest so they can choose the right one too.
Originally Published October3, 2020