Rice is one of the most well-loved side dishes in the world—a dish that can literally be paired with anything. However, one of the most frustrating aspects of products like boxed rice is that most manufacturers include enough rice to feed a whole family. This means individuals who prefer just a single serving of rice usually just end up throwing the uneaten portion away—a waste of food and money.
To help you avoid this wasteful fate, here we have reviewed several of the most popular and hottest selling small or mini rice cookers on the market today, and highlighted some of the pros and cons associated with each product. We have also included a Small Rice Cooker Buying Guide, in which we have outlined and explained some of the key factors you should consider when purchasing one of these mini kitchen appliances.
- Best Small Rice Cookers for the Money (2018)
- BLACK+DECKER 3-Cup Rice Cooker
- Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker
- Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker
- Small Rice Cooker Buying Guide
Best Small Rice Cookers for the Money (2018)
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BLACK+DECKER 3-Cup Rice Cooker
The BLACK+DECKER Rice Cooker yields up to 3 cups of cooked rice at a time, making it the perfect appliance for one, two or three people. With its intuitive sensor, the cooker can automatically detect when the finished product has stopped cooking and the rice is fully done, at which time it switches over to the “Keep Warm” setting to ensure that every serving—now and later—is hot and ready to eat.
The non-stick pot in the BLACK+DECKER Rice Cooker always resists clinging food. The pot is also completely removable and dishwasher safe—making cleanup a snap—and the included measuring cup and plastic spoon not only make it easy to measure out the ideal portion of rice to be cooked, their plastic design means they will never scratch the inner non-stick coating of the cooking pot.
- Extras Included. When you purchase the BLACK+DECKER 3-Cup Cooked/1.5-Cup Uncooked Rice Cooker you also get the plastic measuring cup and plastic spoon that will not scratch the non-stick pot.
- Dishwasher safe. The non-stick pot on this small rice cooker can easily be removed and placed into the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
- Different color indicator lights. The various colors of the indicator lights on the Black + Decker Rice Cooker allow users to see when the machine is in cooking or warm mode.
- Bulky. Some have complained that the BLACK+DECKER 3-Cup Cooked/1.5-Cup Uncooked Rice Cooker is a bit bulky as compared to other small rice cookers.
- Durability issues. There is evidence that the Black and Decker Rice Cooker is not as durable and long lasting as other machines in this category.
Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker
The ideal rice cooker for making single servings or just enough rice for 2-3 people, the Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker can also make and keep other dishes warm, making it a very versatile machine. Fully programmable, the appliance has a multitude of functions which allow it to serve as—and/or replace—six different appliances, including a rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, sauté machine, steamer, and warmer. Ideal for smaller families and single individuals, it is a great kitchen companion that is also highly portable, making it perfect for camping, hotel trips or when travelling by RV or boat.
The Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker features 10 smart built-in programs: soup/broth; steam; meat/stews; egg; rice; sauté; porridge; pressure cook; slow cook; and “keep warm”—a machine that can make preparing a countless number of your favorite dishes as easy as pressing a button. With its 24-hour delay start and 10-hour “keep warm” function, the rice cooker can make everything you need in your absence, allowing you to come home after a busy day’s work to a piping hot dish that is ready to eat. The cooker includes a number of great accessories, including a stainless steel steam rack without handles; a rice paddle; soup spoon; measuring cup; and a recipe book loaded with hundreds of well-written, easy-to-follow recipes involving some of your favorite foods.
- Fast. The Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker works faster and uses less energy than other small rice cookers.
- Multi-functional. This unit can serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker and so much more in addition to being a rice cooker.
- Sturdy. The Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker is one of the most sturdy and durable cookers in its class of products.
- Escaping Air. Some reviewers have complained that the silicon ring that is supposed to seal air from escaping out of the Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Qt Rice Cooker is often defective.
- Hard to learn. As this is also a pressure cooker, there can be a learning curve with those not familiar with pressure cooking
- Premium priced. For a mini rice cooker, this item is not very budget friendly when compared to similar products.
Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker
The extremely versatile Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker can rapidly make between 2-8 cups of cooked rice or whole grains and keep the entire batch warm for hours until you are ready to eat. The uniquely designed 2-1 basket of this rice cooker includes a convenient rice rinser and steam basket—a steam basket that can also be used to steam vegetables and other foods and keep them piping hot with the “warming” function. With two Pre-programmed settings—one to cook rice and one to steam other foods—the cooker is very easy to use, whether making rice or other gastronomic favorites such as whole grains, hot cereals, steamed veggies and countless other dishes.
The compact all-in-one design of the Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker, along with its bold black and chrome finish, makes it look great on any kitchen countertop without taking up too much space. It is also very easy to store, thanks to its common-sense construction and lightweight design.
- Versatile. The Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker is a great basic rice cooker that can also be used for steaming vegetables.
- Automatic Sensor. The automatic sensor on this rice cooker will independently switch the machine to warm mode once the rice has been fully cooked.
- Pre-programmed settings. The Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker allows you to cook rice or steam vegetables at just the touch of a button.
- Lacks timer. The lacking of a timer has caused some reviewers to give the Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker some poor marks.
- Only one color. There is only one color, black, available for this small rice cooker.
- Smaller steamer basket. Reviewers have said that the steamer basket is not large enough in comparison with the overall rice capacity.
Small Rice Cooker Buying Guide
A small rice cooker, particularly one that can cook, steam and warm other foods, can be an invaluable addition to any kitchen. However, before you purchase one of these useful and convenient products, there are several factors you should probably consider. Here are just a few of those factors.
When setting out to purchase a small rice cooker, it only stands to reason that capacity is an important concern. Do you want a rice cooker that makes just a single serving of rice? Or perhaps one that can quickly whip up 2-4 healthy servings? Remember to read the fine print, as some models merely list the amount of “uncooked” rice the machine can accommodate, rather than the “cooked” rice capacity that is also expressed in terms of cups.
One of the great things about owning a smaller rice cooker is its lightweight portability. If you plan to take your rice cooker to a friend’s or family member’s home; or if you plan to travel with your rice cooker; you should definitely pick out one that is lightweight and easy to manipulate, preferably one that includes some type of carrying tote.
Easy to Clean
Although the outer portion of your next rice cooker will not be able to go into the dishwasher (because of the cord and electrical components), you should still look for an outer shell that wipes easily. As for the inner pot, you may want to ensure it is treated with a non-stick coating of some kind for easy wiping—one that is also dishwasher safe.
Easy to Use
Rice cookers can have a number of functions: a steam function, a cook function and a “keep warm” function, among others. Some even double as pressure cookers, slow cookers and/or sauté machines. These multi-functional cookers can be difficult to use when the instruction manual is unclear, or when there are no indicator lights to show you the exact function the rice cooker is performing. Therefore, try to look for a machine that offers one-touch technology for the various functions, as well as indicator lights and a timer. This may force you to dig a bit deeper into your wallet or purse, but these features are well worth the extra moolah.
If space is an issue—counter space or storage space—be certain to look for a rice cooker with a very compact design. One of the benefits of selecting a small or mini rice cooker is the space you can save in the kitchen and cupboards, while still having access to a machine that can whip up rice—and other food favorites—in record time.
Some of today’s mini rice cookers are loaded with extra features if you are so inclined. Most rice cookers have both a cook and warm function, but some can even sauté, broil and slow cook among other kitchen tasks. And while performing these extra functions, indicator lights of various colors enable you to follow the cooking process, while timers enable you to “set it and forget it” as you perform other chores.
Features To Look For In Your Rice Cooker
Now that you know just much use you’ll get out of a rice cooker, you can start thinking about the features and which ones are most important. These models are all made differently and to suit some types of users more, so here are a few things you should consider when buying yours.
One of the best things about using a small rice cooker is their portability, so if it’s important to take yours along with you then this is a great feature. These cookers are small and compact which means you can take the cooked rice to picnics, work, or anywhere else you want food on the go.
The capacity of a rice cooker is usually measured in quarts or how many cups of cooked rice it can produce. Most small rice cookers go up to six cups of cooked rice capacity, but it is possible to get them even smaller than this to suit a single user.
Ease of Use
A good rice cooker should be easy to operate, with most of them relying on the sensors within the pot to do the hard work. They should show you exactly how much rice and water to put in and then cook the rice for you without any input required.
Easy To Clean
If you’ve tried to clean rice off the bottom of a pot before you’ll know how annoying it can be, and a rice cooker is a simple way to fix that. The pots in these cookers are made from durable ceramic or metal so you can simply put them in the dishwasher when they’re done. Because they turn off when cooked, there’s no need to worry about rice sticking or burning to the bottom.
Buying the best compact rice cooker is a smart investment for the kitchen without a lot of space because they’re so small they can stay on your countertop without ever needing to move.
If you want a little more from your rice cooker, you might want to consider one with other functions. Many mini cookers today not only cook rice but also sauté, steam, and broil, so if you want even more possibilities then this is an ideal feature.