According to millions of Asians around the world: yes. It's more of a necessity to most Asian households than even a blender or toaster oven, saving significant time, labor, and babysitting over what for many families is a daily chore.
It also saves even more time with cleanup, since the nonstick interiors take scrubbing out of the equation, and scorching, too. And while its name might hint at uni-tasking, digital rice cookers take on many uses with aplomb. Even the most basic ones can boil and steam simultaneously. With the more advanced, you can cook yogurt, oatmeal, stew, baby food, and even cake.
Rice is extremely absorbent and therefore sensitive to even minuscule variation in water-to-grain proportions, plus sticky to boot, so making rice on a stovetop can be tricky and requires more hands-on work. A rice cooker fully automates the process, so you can just add rice and water, press the cook button, and come back whenever you like to perfectly cooked rice.
If it has a slow cooker function, absolutely! Just mind that because those models tend to be airtight; the lining might hold onto the flavor of what you're making, so be sure to clean and air it out thoroughly. We don't recommend attempting to slow cook in a rice cooker without a slow cooker function, however.
It's not recommended. Measuring cups that come with rice cookers are usually 2 ounces less than a standard one cup measure, and typically sized to match the markings on the inner pot of the rice cooker.
Incremental measurements can make a noticeable difference when it comes to cooking rice, and if you use a conventional cup measure, the ratios will be off and affect the success of your end result. Hold onto the one that comes with your cooker, and just store it in the inner pot with its accessories to keep it on hand. But if you do happen to misplace it, a standard ¾-cup measure should do the trick with comparable results.
Generally, rice is best consumed 15-45 minutes after cooking. However, that eating window may not work for everyone (or you might have extra you want to save and keep ready for the next meal). Most rice cookers — even the most elementary one-button ones — come equipped with a Keep Warm function that keeps your rice at a food safe temperature for hours after cooking.
Ideally, cooked rice should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher on the Keep Warm setting. Different models can maintain that temperature for different amounts of time. The best rule of thumb is to use a thermometer to confirm that the rice is, in fact, being held above 140 degrees.
However, keep in mind that the higher the temperature, the higher the risk of dry-out. Many hours spent on Keep Warm causes flavors to dissipate, too. Most manufacturers report 12 hours as the maximum rice should be kept in a rice cooker on the Keep Warm setting.
Allow it to cool and store in an airtight container, then consume it within six days; the extended shelf life if it's stored properly.
To buy more time, you can also freeze it, but make sure you cool, package, and freeze it within an hour after cooking to avoid bacterial growth. Bacteria can live through the freezing process, living in suspension only to multiply once you heat back up, picking up right where it left off.
When reheating, reconstitute the grains with a sprinkle of water, then cover and microwave. One serving in a bowl will take as little as 35 seconds this way.
For bigger batches, some advanced rice cookers have a "reheat" function (many of our top picks do). If not, you can also choose to steam the rice.
If your household eats rice regularly, it's worthwhile to invest in a dedicated rice cooker that will last you for years. However, rice cookers can be quite expensive and may not be the best option if you only cook or eat rice occasionally.
Multicookers like the Instant Pot can be a good alternative if you want a foolproof way to make rice once in a while. They provide excellent value and help maximize storage space by doing the job of more than one small appliance. Most usually have at least one setting for rice and can produce acceptable results.
Fuzzy Logic-equipped rice cookers are microcomputerized (micom, for short) rice cookers that have smart settings that allow them to make micro-adjustments dynamically to the temperature and humidity during the cooking process.
The most basic rice cookers rely on a one-button switch to cook and will automatically flip via spring mechanism to Keep Warm once the inner plate detects that all water has been absorbed into the rice grains. Fuzzy Logic, on the other hand, allows for more flexibility so that you can set preferences and programs for specific textures and functions. For example, jasmine rice cooks differently than medium-grain rice, which cooks differently than porridge. Fuzzy Logic allows for this variability.
These presets are not perfect for all types of rice and preferences (see our note on brown rice in our best budget recommendation), but they're ideally suited for folks who like to change up their grains.