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Think oatmeal, steamed veggies, boiled eggs, applesauce and even desserts.
Growing up in a Japanese American household, we had rice pretty much every night of the week, and it was my job to cook it. Which meant diligently watching the pot on the stove to make sure it cooked for exactly 13 minutes, valuable time for a teenager to spend watching rice when I could’ve been in my room doing just about anything else.
Rice cooking has come a long way since then. Now there are electric rice cookers that can be programmed to start and stop on their own. They can also keep your rice at just the right (aka safe) temperature for hours at a time, and also cook many, many things besides rice. If I’ve convinced you to take the plunge, you should definitely buy the gold-standard of rice cookers, the Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer. And luckily for us it’s currently 29% off on Amazon right now for $164.20, a savings of over $65—which is one of the best deals we've seen so far.
And in case no one told you, rice cookers are a multi-tool that saves so much time for busy parents. So what else can you make with a rice cooker besides perfectly cooked rice? For starters, most grains and legumes like quinoa, barley and lentils. You can also steam vegetables, boil eggs, and make applesauce. Stews and chilis cook up nicely and stay warm for hours. It makes surprisingly fluffy pancakes and cakes, and even the hot cocoa to go along with these delicious sweet treats. My favorite thing to make is oatmeal, that cooks up to just the right consistency overnight and stays warm for breakfast which is life-saving for those chaotic school mornings with kids.
Your kids will love making their own mac and cheese in the rice cooker (and you won’t have to worry about an open flame). Chances are your tweens and teens have already seen the tomato rice recipes that have gone viral on TikTok, where they can add a tomato, protein and vegetables for a complete meal. And for the baby, you can use your rice cooker to steam rice and veggies to make healthy, preservative-free baby food. No second appliance needed.
Another plus: A rice cooker takes up very little real estate on your counter. While my bulky Instant Pot gets stored in a cabinet, my compact rice cooker is small enough to stay out, wedged between my breadbox and my toaster oven and always ready for its next chore. My favorite tip: A tiny rice cooker makes a great travel accessory. I’ve brought one along on road trips to make the above-mentioned oatmeal as well as ramen, teriyaki chicken bowls and pasta—I even steamed some salmon once and served it over brown rice. It’s ideal for putting a quick meal in hungry tummies when plans fall through. (I’m talking to you, hotel restaurant that stops serving breakfast way too early—or not early enough.)
So parents, say hello to your new, time-saving, healthy-making best friend: the simple (and on sale right now) rice cooker.
Other rice cooker accessories I’m obsessed with: