Rice cooker or slow cooker? It’s a question that’s been bugging me, and many of my friends, for ages. So, lets put this question to bed right now – can you use a rice cooker as a slow cooker? Why would you even want to? Will it work? What could go wrong? Ok, so that’s like 3 or 4 questions but its something I need to know, so lets look at the facts.
Rice Cooker as a Multi-purpose Appliance
The battle between rice cookers and slow cookers has been raging for as long as they have been around. Is one better than the other? Some people even ask me if they are just the same but with different marketing behind them! However, after a lot of thought, and research into this topic, its safe to say that neither of these appliances emerges as a clear winner. They are different and are designed for different purposes – so lets just get over the whole which is better thing.
Lets get one thing straight, you can absolutely use a rice cooker as a slow cooker. Will it be as good? Will the results be the same? Well, here’s my take on this….
In the US its much more common to use a rice cooker solely for, well, cooking rice. In many other countries rice cookers take on other roles in the kitchen such as stew pot, soup cooker, steamer and so on. Maybe its because we have higher disposable incomes and so can afford more appliances, maybe our kitchens are bigger or maybe we are just not as switched on to the efficiencies of cooking using one device instead of 3 – who knows?
The good thing is that almost every dish you create in a slow cooker can be made equally as well in a rice cooker.
How to Use A Rice Cooker As A Slow Cooker
The biggest attraction of a rice cooker is its ability to work as a set-and-forget device. This is especially good for busy professionals or hassled moms. Just throw in the ingredients , hit the button and sit back and relax.
I have long been using my rice cooker as a slow cooker – and I love the results. It helps if you have a higher spec cooker – but really, its as easy as adding the food at the right time and letting the cooker do its thing.
The key to making your rice cooker work as a slow cooker is that it needs to have a keep warm mode. This is a setting which runs the cooker on reduced power and enables you to keep rice warm (hence the name) for hours after its been cooked. Most modern rice cookers, even the cheaper ones, have a keep warm mode.
To highlight how this works, lets take a look at a simple recipe for delicious slow cooked pork.
- 300 g of pork belly
- Some sliced ginger
- Fresh onions
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cup of water
- Dice the pork belly and braise them in the rice cooker until slightly brown
- Remove from pot
- Add the ginger, onion, pork, and water
- Let it cook for about an hour.
- Remove the onions and ginger and add your soy sauce and sugar, mix well and cover
- Cook for one more hour
So, after just a few minutes prep and 2 hours of slow cooking in the rice cooker which, lets face it takes no effort at all, you have a tasty dish. Of course, you can use a slow cooker but when the results are so good using a rice cooker why spend extra cash on 2 devices?
Rice Cooker vs. Slow Cooker
Ok, so hopefully I’ve convinced you that a rice cooker can be used as a slow cooker but we still haven’t defined what the main difference between the 2 devices is? Well, its actually quite simple – and its down to the kind of heat used.
As its name implies, a slow cooker uses low heat over a long period of time to cook food. This means that flavor gets locked in and meat becomes very tender. That’s why slow cooking is so popular. Rice cookers, by comparison, use high heat to quickly boil off the water from rice and then revert to a lower heat setting to keep the dish warm after the cooking process if complete.
That’s why many rice cookers, especially cheaper ones do not come with variable heat settings – unless you count the keep warm mode mentioned earlier. The tend to works in a single high heat mode bringing the water to a boil and then switching down into Keep warm mode.
Improvements on this, however, can be found in the emerging fuzzy-logic technologies, micro-chip technology , and induction heating that are starting to appear on a growing number of rice cookers today.
Which is Better and Why?
The simple answer is – it depends! Really, it all comes down to your requirements answer lies to your needs and demands. Being biased (and this is a blog about rice cookers) I would say that rice cookers are more versatile, easier to use and usually cheaper than slow cookers so, for me at least, they win this battle.
But, in reality, a slow cooker can cook rice and a rice cooker can slow cook food.
So, it turns out that using a rice cooker as a slow cooker is not only simple, but its very effective. You can do away with big, bulky slow cookers and, instead make use of a slick, modern rice cooker as your cooking vessel of choice. This opens up a huge number of new recipes that you can try out.
In this post, I showed how modern rice cookers can pretty much completely replace your slow cooker, and that they do the job better. Of course, ultimately, the choice is yours; if you already own a slow cooker then there’s no reason to ditch it but if you are in the market for one, and unsure what to buy, then you should, at very least consider buying a rice cooker instead.
Till next time..