Rice Cookers, Pressure Cookers and Slow Cookers all have their place in a well-equipped kitchen. Each of these pieces of cooking equipment can help you prepare delicious meals more efficiently. Read on to learn what each cooker is best used for, and how to choose one that fits your needs.
Rice CookersWhat they do: Rice cookers, as their name indicates, are an electric appliance that can make perfectly cooked rice of all varieties. They contain a heating element that heats the rice and water until the water boils, and the combination of boiling water and steam cooks the rice. Rice cookers aren't for only rice, though – some cookers allow you to cook grains, porridge (like oatmeal or polenta). You can even steam or slow-cook food in many rice cookers.
How to choose: Pick a rice cooker that will be an appropriate size for the number of people you typically cook for – a 5- or 6-cup cooker will be adequate for a family of four. You'll also want to decide on what features you'll need. A basic one has little more than an on-off button, but more advanced models have programmable timers, "keep warm" settings and settings to cook different types of foods. If it's in your budget, splurge for one with "fuzzy logic," which can automatically adjust the temperature and cooking time as the rice cooks in the pot.
What they do: Slow cookers, the best-known brand of which is the Crock Pot, are an electric countertop appliance that cooks food at a low temperature (generally around 170 to 280 degrees) enclosed in a lidded pot, typically made of ceramic. This cooking method is great for less expensive cuts of meat the require long cooking times to make them tender, as well as for stews, beans and other liquidy recipes.
How to choose: As with a rice cooker, you'll want a slow cooker that will accommodate the size of recipe you'll typically make. A 6 quart slow cooker is a good size for a family of four, and you'll probably end up with a nice amount of leftovers. High and low settings and a keep warm setting are useful, and many slow cookers also have programmable timers, after which the cooker will switch to a "keep warm" setting.
- Tips on Buying and Using a Slow Cooker
- Hamilton Beach 3 in One Slow Cooker
- Crock-Pot Slow Cooker with eLume Touchscreen
Recipes to try:
Pressure CookersWhat they do: A pressure cooker is a piece of cookware that has a sealed lid designed to allow pressure to build up on the liquid and food within the pot, so it heats food above the boiling point. The steam enclosed in the cooker is pushed through the food to heat it quickly and effectively, up to 1/4 to 1/3 the time of normal stovetop cooking.
How to choose: A pressure cooker with two settings ("high" and "low") will allow you to cook more recipes and types of foods. Also look for a pressure cooker with a quick-release valve, which will quickly release the steam pressure within. Most pressure cookers on the market today have lots of safety features to prevent the cookers from exploding, and to lock the lid in place until the pressure is sufficiently decreased. Some cookers come with multiple pot bases which allows you to cook different quantities of food.
Recipes to try: