Microwave Rice Cookers
The cookware industry is still trying to deliver on the early promise of microwaves as cooking (not simply reheating) appliances. The latest incarnation of this promise is the microwave rice cooker, which claims to produce perfect rice in a flash, without the time and mess of stovetop cooking or the counter space and expense required by electric rice cookers. These devices couldn’t be simpler—they resemble round plastic food-storage containers with vented snap-on lids. Rice and water are simply measured into the cooker, the lid is attached securely, and it’s all microwaved until the rice is done. Hoping the microwave might indeed offer a foolproof way to make rice, we tested five models ranging in price from $8.99 to $14.99 (all BPA-free), cooking one cup of long-grain white rice in each one.
But for a convenience product, it was anything but easy to get the rice cookers to work. Why? The wattage of home kitchen microwave ovens varies widely. Although the cookers come with instruction manuals, they’re intended only as guidelines. When we followed the manufacturers’ directions to cook in ovens ranging from 700 to 1200 watts, we got batch after batch of undercooked or unevenly cooked rice. It helped us to learn that microwaves penetrate only about 1 1/2 inches into food. In order to produce a fully cooked pot of rice, we needed to give heat time to transfer beyond the surface to the inner grains. Success lay in a “low and slow” approach—using a lower power setting and more cooking time—which let heat penetrate throughout the rice and allowed the starch granules to absorb water and soften to their core. After much trial and error, and many batches of wasted rice, we stumbled upon a cooking method that produced a pot of uniformly well-cooked rice, regardless of the model. Our winning formula was five minutes on full power, 15 minutes at 50 percent power, and then a five-minute rest.
Since all the cookers gave acceptable results once we’d honed our technique, our choice came down to design and quality. Many models had fussy, multiple-part lids; these were complicated to dismantle and clean—and starchy cooking liquid leaked into their crevices. Our favorite model also had a dual-layer lid (designed to trap and return condensation to the pot), but the two parts detached easily. Most of the models that we tested felt flimsy and cheap compared with our sturdier favorite. We went on to try short-grain white rice, basmati, and brown rice in the winner, as well as larger quantities (2 and 3 cups) of white long-grain rice, with consistently good results. In a side-by-side test, tasters showed an equal preference for microwaved rice and stovetop rice. We found that we could also successfully microwave rice using just a covered glass bowl and the same low-and-slow method, so a microwave rice cooker is definitely not a necessity, but it’s a fine product once you get it to work. Doing so will likely involve some experimentation, frustration, and wasted rice. But for those with limited counter space and a microwave (college students, for example), these cookers offer a convenient and affordable alternative to rice cookers and stovetop cooking.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
For complete access to the results,
start a 14-Day Free Trial.
Start Your 14-Day Free Trial Membership
Every Recipe. Every Rating. Every Video from
Every Magazine & Every Episode!
- 8 years of Cook’s Country Foolproof Recipes
- Complete Cook’s Country TV Video Library
- 2,900+ Equipment Ratings and Ingredient Taste Tests
- Step-by-Step Technique Photos
- Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists