There are many brands, styles, sizes and features available. Care should be taken to follow individual manufacturer's directions when preparing rice or meals.
Pot-Style Rice Cookers
Pot-style rice cookers are inexpensive, easy to operate and great for family dining. They range in size from 3 to 30 cups (uncooked rice). Rice cooks in a removable inner pot (usually aluminum or nonstick, but also available in stainless steel), which inserts into the rice cooker body and is covered with a vented lid. Most will come with a steam tray attachment that inserts over the rice for cooking vegetables, chicken or fish simultaneously. A single switch turns the cooker on, and cooking automatically stops when the rice is ready. Almost all rice cookers will switch to 'keep warm' mode when the rice is finished, which holds it at serving temperature until the cooker is turned off.
Cool-Touch Rice Cookers
Cool-touch rice cookers have hinged lids that better seal in steam and moisture. They range in size from 4 to 10 cups (uncooked rice). The basic cooking method is the same as in a pot-style unit, except the inner pot (and steam tray, if applicable) are sealed inside the cooker which remains cool to the touch throughout the cooking process. Though slightly more expensive, cool-touch rice cookers offer greater portability (they can be brought right to the table for serving) and improved moisture retention. Many cool-touch rice cookers feature digital controls and include features such as delay timers, specialized functions for brown rice or sushi rice, and even slow-cook functions.