A rice cooker makes cooking, well, rice a whole lot easier. All you have to do is wash the grains, pour everything you need into the cooker, and leave it to do its work while you take care of other things. Considering all those benefits, you may be worried about what you need to pay for running a rice cooker.
A rice cooker costs about 4.24 cents per hour to run. Rice cookers use between 300 and 1100 watts per hour, with most cookers using an average of 400 watts, which is 0.4kW/hr. Prices of electricity differ by state, but the average rate is 10.59 cents per kW-hour.
Keep reading for an in-depth explanation of the different types of rice cookers, their energy consumption rates, and recommendations for the best power-saving rice cookers.
How Does a Rice Cooker Work?
A rice cooker works by boiling water, trapping the pressure from its steam, and then soaking the dry rice grains in it. As the steam heats the cooker and the rice absorbs this water, the grains slowly become tender until they cook.
A typical rice cooker has a heating element and temperature sensor in its core. When you turn it on, electricity flows in, and the heating element converts the electricity to heat. The heat raises the temperature of the bowl in the cooker and the bowl, in turn, heats the water.
As the water reaches its boiling point, it releases steam. The cooker traps the steam, so instead of escaping, it heats the water and rice. The heat released from the trapped steam will make the dry rice absorb the water, so the temperature stays constant throughout instead of rising.
Once the rice absorbs all the water, the temperature starts to rise and the sensor kicks into action. This sensor automatically turns the heating element off and alerts you that your rice is done. At this point, you can choose to take out your rice to serve it or leave it on warm mode, where the heating element will stay high enough to keep it warm enough for eating (but not so high that your rice grains will get toasted to a crisp!).
Making rice in a cooker generally takes about 25 to 35 minutes, assuming you’re making a couple of servings. Also, the time it takes to cook your rice depends on the type of the cooker, the type of the rice, how tender you’d like the rice to be, and how much water you add to it.
If you have a rice cooker that allows you to control it manually, you can also use it as a slow cooker, though (unlike its automatic counterpart) you’ll have to watch it more closely. Automatic rice cookers, on the other hand, can also work as pasta and vegetable cookers. More adventurous people even use their rice cookers to make oatmeal or as a humidifier(!)
How Much Electricity Does a Rice Cooker Use?
Rice cookers can use up electricity as low as 0.3kW (300W) per hour or as high as 1.1kW (1,100W) per hour. The most common rice cookers have a wattage of about 0.4kW per hour in cook mode and about 0.04kWh in warm mode.
Types of Rice Cookers
Rice cookers come in various types based on material, amount of electricity consumed, and heating methods of their core heating element. Converting electricity to heat can be power-intensive, so the heating method is quite important.
Also, different materials have different heat capacities, meaning that some are easier to heat up than others. A rice cooker made of a material with a low heat capacity will require less electricity to heat up than one with a high heat capacity.
For the above reasons, there’s a wide variation in the rate of power consumption for rice cookers. To find out the power consumption of your rice cooker, check its manual or the label stamped at the back for its rating.
Now, you’ll usually find three types of rice cookers: standard, digital, and multipurpose.
Standard Rice Cookers
Standard rice cookers are the most commonly used at home because they get your meal done as quickly and as fuss-free as possible. The Toshiba TRCS01 Tastemaker Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker (available on Amazon.com), for example, promises perfect fluffy rice in a non-stick cooker in 30 minutes.
Digital Rice Cookers
Digital rice cookers, on the other hand, are programmable. One popular variety is the Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker (available on Amazon.com), which cooks an entire jambalaya and keeps it at a ready-to-eat temperature for up to 15 hours after.
Multipurpose Rice Cookers
As their name implies, multipurpose rice cookers do more than just cook rice. Take the COMFEE Asian Style All-in-One Multipurpose Cooker (available on Amazon.com). It has a 10-cup capacity that can also serve as a steamer, slow cooker, sauté, yogurt maker, and stewpot.
How Much Money Does It Cost To Use a Rice Cooker?
A rice cooker costs an average of 4.24 cents to use, assuming it consumes 0.4kWh. The actual cost depends on the power rating of the cooker and the electricity retail price in that jurisdiction. To get the specific cost for your cooker, multiply its energy usage by the retail price per kWh.
You can figure out the specific cost to run your rice cooker by getting its power rating. The power rating in watts is usually located at the bottom of the cooker. You can also find it on the user manual, pack, or label.
If the rating is only given in voltage and current, you can get the power by multiplying both values. In other words, power (in watts) equals the product of the current (in amperes) and voltage (in volts).
Energy in kWh is what you actually pay for, so to calculate the power consumption of your rice cooker, you need to figure out how much energy it uses. The energy usage depends on how much time you use the cooker for. Luckily, it’s a pretty simple calculation: Energy (in kilowatts per hour) equals the power (in kilowatts) multiplied by time (in hours).
Note that you’re charged for electricity in kWh, and the cost differs depending on where you live. If you’re not sure how much you’re charged for electricity in your state, you can find out from the US Energy Information Administration‘s Data on Electricity.
These calculations can be a lot of work (especially for the non-mathematically inclined!). So, I’ll give you this sweet shortcut: Rapid Tables has an automatic calculator to help you figure out how much electricity your rice cooker uses and how much money it costs.
All you need is the wattage of your cooker, the average number of hours you use per day, and the cost per unit in your region. You can simply punch all these values into the calculator, and voila! You have the electricity usage of your rice cooker per day plus its running cost per day and week.
How To Minimize Electricity Costs With Your Rice Cooker
Running a rice cooker is generally cheap. However, if you use your cooker daily without a care for your energy consumption, the costs can add up and translate to an eye-popping amount on your electricity bills.
Therefore, here are my tips to help you cut down on your rice cooker energy consumption costs:
1. Prepare Before Cooking
It might be tempting to turn on your rice cooker as soon as you’re ready to cook. However, you’ll be wasting electricity that way, and the heat will keep escaping as you leave the cooker open.
To save electricity and money, you should prepare everything you need before turning on the cooker. Here are the things you need to do before switching on your rice cooker:
- Measure out your rice and wash it to get the starch out.
- Measure out the water for your rice in a 2:1 ratio.
- If you have preheated water, you should cook with it to save time.
- Set out every other spice you’ll be adding to your rice (if any).
- If you plan to add anything cold to your rice, leave it out to defrost. Otherwise, the cooker will use up additional electricity to heat it.
2. Use the Right Amount of Rice
Note that your rice cooker has a maximum capacity as indicated on the cooker itself or its packaging. Therefore, you should only cook rice less than or equal to that amount. If the rice you put into the cooker exceeds the maximum capacity, the rice will overflow and open up the lid during cooking, costing you more money as you lose heat.
As a general rule of thumb, the uncooked rice should not go past the halfway mark indicated in your cooker. That way, you’ll minimize the likelihood of overflowing.
3. Leave the Lid On
As I’ve explained, the steam trapped from the boiling water in your rice cooker helps get the temperature high enough to cook fast. When you take the lid off, the steam escapes, and so does the heat. In that case, your cooker will have to work extra hard and use more electricity to get the temperature back up.