Do I Really Need… A Rice Cooker?

August 8, 2013

Do I Really Need... A Rice Cooker?

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image from the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which works to eliminate micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.

There is little in this world I need like a rice cooker. Sunshine, barbecue, some sparkle, a good book… And a rice cooker. Preferably this little cheapie red one, because loyal little kitchen starlet that it is, I’ve been relying on it for going on twelve years. And I can’t imagine my kitchen without it.

It’s light. It’s long lasting. And lo, does it make magic happen.

Maybe because I was a lazy single woman who hated heating up a whole pot of water to make one poached egg for going on a decade, or maybe because I’m a very inventive small-apartment-kitchen genius* channeling the culinary ingenuity of Clementine and Laurie Colwin, for years I relied heavily on this little rice cooker for zillions of meals.

And it always got the job done.

Here is a short smattering of things we’ve made in our rice cooker in the past year: quinoa, oatmeal, pasta, grits, steamed pork buns, dumplings, ravioli, lentils, rice, mac and cheese, all manner of vegetables, chicken, and crab.

Yes. Crab.

Bill once notably caught a crab while stationed at Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach and, being far from our Manhattan home and armed only with a rice cooker, he proceeded to make boiled crab and pasta for dinner with a nice butter sauce.

All of this is to say, your rice cooker can get things done.

Maybe you aren’t the type of cook to throw freshly caught seafood at a twenty dollar appliance (I’m not either, but I’m allergic), but with a rice cooker you can be. And you should be.

If your kitchen were to have only five appliances, this should be one of them. And it should be at the top of the list.

These days, you don’t even have to settle for my little rice cooker that just does rice. You can get one that does double and triple duty: Fagor makes a 3-in-1 slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker combo machine that looks like heaven in a kitchen appliance (I’ll report back). Whatever you get, make sure it has a steam basket. You’ll find yourself turning to it gratefully when you’re famished, want something healthy (nice steamed veggies! And grains!), and need it in a snap.

Keep it at your office. On your kitchen counter. Send it to deployed Marines (my husband used his to feed himself for the last seven months in an Afghan outpost). Make sure every college student you know has one. When it comes to your rice cooker, the question isn’t even Do I Really Need One? It’s Who Do I Know Who Needs One, Too? Engage in a little kitchen evangelism. Rice cookers: Everyone needs at least one.

* A girl can dream.

P.S. — Find all the “Do I Really Need A…” posts here.

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August 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meryl August 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I have that exact rice cooker–love it! (But I’ve never tried it for crab…now you’ve inspired me!)


2 Jenni August 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Interesting! I’ll admit, I’ve never even considered getting a rice cooker before reading this! Maybe it’s worth looking into.


3 Yulia August 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm

In Moscow(Russia) they are a hit and called multi-cooker with 7 different programs from different manufacturers (brands). Can’t imagine my life without it. And my student son has one also!


4 Heidi August 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I love my rice cooker-because it always makes perfect rice. I will admit to never having made anything else in it. But-LAURIE COLWIN-dude- I loved her. I have all of her books. She was amazing, and died way too young.


5 Giulia August 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Have you seen Kimberly’s post on rice cookers in motel rooms?
I love our cheapy rice cooker as well and it avoids cleaning up a stove of sticky starches when the rice boils over…


6 The Prudent Homemaker August 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Thank you! I love this idea!


7 Lori August 8, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Yes! I thought I was the only weird one who did that! Rice cooker to the rescue.

I even make berry or stone fruit sauces for pancakes in mine! (Not in hotel rooms, as splatters can be colorful)


8 Zoe - SlowMama August 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Great to read about this since we need a new one. I’ve never used a rice cooker for anything but rice, though, which in itself has been a lifesaver because for whatever reason I cannot make a proper pot of rice on the stove top to save my life (and I can otherwise cook many things!).


9 Ana Maria August 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I have had a rice cooker (several) since I was married 38 years ago. I can’t imagine not having one! They are great for so many one-pot meals!


10 Shannon { A Mom's Year } August 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I’m torn between the desire to have perfect rice and my fear of collecting appliances! I’ll have to see which side wins out….

(I love that you mentioned Laurie Colwin!)


11 jen August 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

like all asians, i have one. i eat rice almost everyday. can’t imagine a kitchen without one.


12 liz August 8, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I had a cheap rice cooker in college and it was terrible. I always thought I’d never buy one again since I mastered cooking rice on the stove top. But, I’ve been looking at a new slow cooker to avoid turning the oven on so much in the summer. I’m thinking that Fagor 3 in 1 is in my future…


13 Melissa@Mama Never Sleeps August 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Yes, this is exactly my experience! I’m not a huge fan of our rice cooker, it often boils over and spurts out the hole in the lid getting sticky spots all over the counter. And it often burns the bottom of the rice. Maybe we just didn’t get a very good one, but I kind of hate the thing.


14 Dale Coykendall August 9, 2013 at 5:32 am

I also bought one to always have perfect rice and it can still overcook it.
I guess I bought the wrong one ! that Fagor does look interesting..
Not keen on another appliance in the kitchen though.
What I do find essential(not that anyone asked) is my microplaner (and it’s skinny and small and fits in a drawer) I can’t imagine grating cheese or zesting lemons without it.
I’ve been giving them as gifts since i discovered the joy of them a couple of years ago.


15 Patti August 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm

We got a Zojirushi rice cooker (with awesome flowers on the side) for a wedding present 18 years ago. We still use it once/week or so and have for that entire time. I can’t imagine not having one- it was a gift from my brother who lived in Japan, and he said it’s the best and I tend to agree. We don’t use it for any else, but we’ve more than gotten our use out of it. It cooks perfectly every time, and I can plop in the rice & water and walk away. It’s fantastic!


16 allyson August 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I’ve wanted a rice cooker for a long time but had read that a lot of these commercial cookers have harmful chemicals in their makeup that then get cooked into the rice…do you have any wisdom on which cooker is less harmful than others?


17 amyks August 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Loved my rice cooker, but I recently dropped the lid and broke it, so I need a replacement lid, not sue if they sell those, my have have to start looking now that I know I can make lots of other things in it! Thanks for the inspiration.


18 Willa August 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I totally know the photo is not the point of this post, but it really caught my eye since I literally just learned about Golden Rice, interesting stuff. Its a still-being-tested rice which has been genetically modified to provide Vitamin A, by adding three genes which will hopefully produce betacarotene in the grain which the body turns into Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiencies are a huge problem in areas of the world where poverty is rampant. Anyway, just came in to play devils advocate and point out that lots of folks take issue with their philosophy and don’t believe GMOs are a sustainable solution to the effects of poverty (like micronutrient deficiencies.)


19 Kim August 9, 2013 at 7:42 am

Yes, well said.


20 hyz August 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

We have a rice cooker and use it once or twice a week for rice. I was first introduced to them in college (before that all I ever knew was boil-in-a-bag rice), but my husband is Korean and of course grew up with one–now I wouldn’t imagine being without it. BUT, we do just generally use it for plain rice, or sometimes flavored rice with veggies, etc. in it. Can you suggest any place for recipes and/or guidelines for making all those other things in it? Thanks!


21 Andrea August 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I’m sorry, but this post gave me no idea whatsoever why I need a rice cooker. I kind of felt it would be the same if it said ” do I need a pot? “. ” oh, yes, pots are great, you can cook so many things in them!”
I was really looking to be convinced ( I love me a kitchen gadget) but after reading this I still have no idea what I would do with one….


22 Carole August 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Love my rice cooker! I cook large batches of brown rice and then freeze it.


23 i need a job September 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about i need a job. Regards


24 Krista January 17, 2014 at 8:05 am

Keep on writing, great job!

My personal weblog on technology: (Krista)


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