Rice Cooker vs. Pressure Cooker: What’s the Difference?

Although similar in appearance, rice cookers and pressure cookers tend to perform different functions. First-time users of these countertop appliances might be confused about their function and usage due to their compactness and fairly striking similarities. However, as you’ll soon come to learn after repeated usage, rice cookers and pressure cookers have several differences.

The main difference between rice cookers and pressure cookers is versatility, as pressure cookers are more versatile because they can be used to prepare several recipes. On the other hand, rice cookers are mainly designed to prepare rice or ingredients with similar cooking properties to rice.

In this article, we will discuss some of the main differences between rice cookers and pressure cookers. To help you understand the two cooking devices better, we’ll also provide a thorough explanation of their functions, advantages, and disadvantages. 

Rice Cookers: An Overview

Rice cookers are electric countertop appliances designed to automatically cook various types of rice to perfection.

They largely resemble slow cookers in that they have a cooking pot, a thermometer to modulate and monitor the internal temperature, sturdy handles, a snug lid, and a set of simplistic controls. 

Most rice cookers come packed with unique spoons for scooping rice from the pot without damaging the non-stick internal coating. 

How Does a Rice Cooker Work?

When cooking with a rice cooker, you’ll need to fill the inner bowl with water and rice in a 2:1 ratio. Turn the device on, which activates the heating elements and thermostat located under the bowl, which are mostly made from good heat conductors that allow the water to evaporate to steam and therefore cook the rice. 

Inside the cooker, the heat source performs the important function of heating the bowl, while the thermostat regulates the heat, measuring the bowl’s temperature. The bottom of the rice cooker bowl will continue to heat until it reaches 212° F (100℃), where the water starts turning to steam. 

The steam is then absorbed by the rice, which makes it soft and tender. The internal temperatures will be maintained until the rice is fully prepared. The rice cooker cannot heat foods above 212° F (100℃), which ensures that all rice prepared in a rice cooker cooks perfectly without getting burned or mushy. 

Advantages of a Rice Cooker

If you cook a lot of rice, you might want to look at some of the advantages of rice cookers. They might come in handy when you’re preparing an intricate meal.

Cooks Rice Automatically (and Perfectly)

Unlike cooking rice in a saucepan or other cooking vessels, rice cookers allow you to prepare rice hands-free without any fuss whatsoever. Measure the rice and liquid in the right ratio, replace the lid, and turn the electric appliance on. 

Once you’ve turned the device on, you won’t need to stir the rice or add water in between the cooking since the rice cooker does all the work for you. 

Shuts Off When the Cooking Cycle Is Complete

Almost all modern rice cookers come with an auto shut-off feature that prevents the rice from overcooking once it’s ready, which explains why rice cookers are often preferred when preparing perfect rice. 

When the rice absorbs all liquid inside the bowl, the temperature starts to rise gradually. The cooker, through its built-in sensors, detects the change and will either transition to a warming cycle or switch off automatically. 

Keeps the Rice Warm

It goes without saying that rice is tastiest when served hot, and a rice cooker allows you to do just that. Most rice cookers come with advanced features that, besides cooking perfect rice, allow you to keep the rice warm as you work on other meals. This unique feature gives rice cookers the edge since it doesn’t come in most cooking devices. 

Can Also Prepare Other Dishes

Most first-timers often think that rice cookers are limited to cooking rice only. While this might be true to some extent since they’re designed to cook rice perfectly, rice cookers can also be used to prepare other meals

The challenge with rice cookers, however, is that they can only prepare foods with similar cooking properties to rice, which are foods that don’t need temperatures higher than 212° F (100℃).  

Easy To Use

You don’t need to be an expert to whip up a delicious serving of rice using a rice cooker because these countertop devices are usually straightforward to use as they don’t come with a lot of settings or controls. 

To cook rice using rice cookers, all you’ll need to do is place water and rice in the right ratios, place the lid and turn on the device. The rice cooker will let you know when the rice is ready, a feature that helps eliminate a lot of guesswork when preparing rice. 

Disadvantages of a Rice Cooker

Rice cookers are great, but they do have some drawbacks that might turn off some people to using them. 

Not As Versatile as Most Cooking Appliances

Although rice cookers can be used to slow cook soups, they aren’t ideal for preparing ingredients that cook at temperatures above 212° F (100℃). This limits the usability of rice cookers as they can only cook rice and a handful of other foods that require moderate temperatures. 

The Rice Can Still Burn

Using a rice cooker does not guarantee that your rice will turn out as expected. Failure to mix water and rice in the recommended ratios can lead to burned rice, especially the rice at the bottom layer.

For your rice cooker to produce the much-desired perfect rice, you must carefully measure the rice and water. 

Non-Stick Interior Limits the Usage of Utensils

Most rice cooker bowls use non-stick technologies, which means users must use specific utensils to scoop out the rice to avoid damaging the coating.

Using metal utensils might end up damaging the bowl’s surface, thus taking away from the device’s overall cooking experience. 

Some Entry-Level Rice Cookers Come With Limited Features

Not all rice cookers can turn off automatically. While high-end rice cookers often come with a wide array of advanced features, entry-level cookers will need you to manually turn off the devices once the cooking is done, which means you’ll need to check on the features of rice cookers before settling for a particular product. 

Best Rice Cookers

Rice cookers are very handy to have in your kitchen, so let’s take a look at the best cookers.

Aroma Housewares ARC-954SBD Rice Cooker

This professional rice cooker by Aroma Housewares stands out due to its versatility, a feature that most rice cookers often lack. You can easily steam your vegetables and meat as rice cooks at the bottom compartment. 

Other selling points of this rice cooker are its keep warm feature, 15-hour delay timer, and quick rice functions. With a capacity of eight cups of rice, you can use this rice cooker to prepare brown, white, and wild rice while also steaming other ingredients like veggies. 

Hamilton Beach Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer

Capable of making up to 20 cups of cooked rice, the Hamilton Beach Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer is no doubt among the most convenient and energy-saving rice cookers around. It comes with a steam and rinse basket, a feature that adds to its overall versatility.

Despite coming with several digital buttons, the rice cooker is fairly easy to use and allows you to choose between whole grain, hot cereals, white rice, and quick rice settings. You can also steam cook fish, meats, and vegetables while cooking your rice. 

Pressure Cookers: An Overview

Pressure cookers are convenient kitchen appliances used to prepare food quickly by capitalizing on steam pressure. Steam is a great heat conductor compared to dry air. But with increased pressure, steam can gradually rise above its maximum temperature to allow for foods to cook faster. Due to this, steam pressure is faster and more efficient than steaming, boiling, and baking. 

How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?

To understand how pressure cookers work, you’ll need to understand the science behind water and its conversion to steam. 

Once the water reaches 212° F (100℃) and starts to boil, the temperature does not increase until the water is fully converted to steam, because steam and boiling water remain at this temperature regardless of the boiling duration, which limits the rate or speed at which foods can cook. 

By increasing surrounding pressure, pressure cookers manage to increase the overall temperature of boiling water when converting to steam, which is achieved by trapping the steam inside the enclosed space. Therefore, pressure cookers work by trapping steam in enclosed spaces through an airtight locking lid. 

Advantages of a Pressure Cooker

Why should you use a pressure cooker over a rice cooker, especially when cooking rice? Here are some of the reasons you should use a pressure cooker.

Prepares Meals Faster Than Most Methods

By utilizing steam and surrounding pressure to heat the internal environment, pressure cookers cook food faster than most methods because the pressure cooker’s airtight lid locks perfectly in place to entrap the heat.

The pressure and steam surround the food on all sides, ensuring your food cooks faster than it would when using other methods. 

Helps Retain Nutritional Value and Flavor

Pressure cookers are among the best cooking appliances when it comes to flavor preservation. They work by sealing in moisture, allowing the ingredients to retain their natural flavors.

When using a pressure cooker, you’ll rely less on seasonings since the device can lock in flavor, thus making the resulting foods healthier. 

Safe Than Most Cooking Methods

Compared to most cooking appliances, pressure cookers are safer, because their lids safely secure the contents.

This is unlike boiling pots or frying pans that, whether covered or uncovered, can splash or pour the contents if incorrectly handled, thereby causing serious burns. 

Helps Conserve Energy

The shortened cooking time associated with pressure cookers secures the device’s standing among the best cooking appliances when it comes to energy conservation.

Pressure cookers can whip up meals that normally require prolonged cooking times within minutes, making them energy-efficient cooking appliances.

In addition to conserving energy, they also help you to save on time as you won’t need to spend hours preparing meals like with other cooking methods. 

Ideal for Almost All Recipes

Pressure cookers are very versatile because they can cook simple recipes, including the tougher ingredients like brown rice, chickpeas, and meat in considerably shorter times. 

A pressure cooker is an extremely useful device for foods that require adequate tenderizing, like roasts and meats. You can cook a wide variety of recipes, from soft-boiled eggs to stews, vegetables, and almost all grains with a pressure cooker.

Disadvantages of a Pressure Cooker

While there are several advantages to owning and using a pressure cooker, they do have some disadvantages and cannot cook everything you need for a meal. Here, we outline several problems that pressure cookers have. 

Pressure Cookers Are Fairly Complex

You’ll need to take your time to learn how the pressure cooker works, especially when preparing different recipes. Since you don’t have as much evaporation in a pressure cooker as you would when using devices like rice cookers, more liquid remains inside the pot.

Due to this, when using pressure cookers, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the overall water quantity to avoid overcooking the food. 

Users Can’t Check on the Food

Pressure cookers work by locking the pressure inside the unit, which means that to open the lid safely, the pressure must first be released.

The risk of losing the built-up pressure means you can’t check or stir your food since you’ll have to start over. Therefore, unlike cooking using stovetops, pressure cookers don’t allow you to stir or season in between cooking.

Can Easily Overcook Ingredients

You’ll need to be extra careful when preparing foods using pressure cookers as these devices can easily overcook food within minutes, which is why first-timers are advised to use a pressure cooking cookbook until they get familiar with the device.

Temperatures inside the pressure cooker can get as high as 250° F (121.11°C), which increases the chances of overcooking meals that don’t require extreme temperatures.

You Can’t Leave Pressure Cookers Unattended

Unlike crock pots that are ideal for hands-off cooking, pressure cookers need regular monitoring as the food continues to cook, which is due to the risk of unintended steam release.

As a result, most pressure cooker manufacturers advise against leaving the house when pressure cookers are on, especially before the cooker has reached its maximum pressure. 

Altitude Differences Affect Meal Preparation Times

Pressure cookers are greatly affected by altitude since they depend on both pressure and boiling water. At sea level, the boiling point of water is usually 212° F (100℃). However, the dynamics tend to change as you get to 2000 feet above sea levels since water’s boiling point reduces to 208° F (98℃). 

Atmospheric pressure tends to reduce when above 2,500 feet (762 meters), which means cooking might take longer. The reduced pressure, coupled with the decreased boiling points at high altitudes, means you must be well prepared to adjust your cooking when using pressure cookers. 

Best Pressure Cookers

If you want to get a pressure cooker, we’ve found the best ones in terms of performance and value. Let’s take a look at them.

Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker

If you want a versatile countertop appliance to satisfy your cooking needs, then look no further than this 7-in-1 programmable pressure cooker by Instant Pot. The pressure cooker comes packed with several advanced settings that allow you to use it as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, food warmer, and even yogurt maker. 

The inner port uses high-quality food-grade stainless steel and features a tri-ply bottom design for even cooking. You’ll also love that this pressure cooker comes with a quality safe-locking lid and overheat protection.

Presto Aluminum Pressure Cooker

Keep things simple with this high-quality, extra-safe Presto Aluminum Pressure Cooker. As a USDA-recommended countertop appliance, this pressure cooker is ideal for canning meats, vegetables, seafood, and poultry. 

It features a deluxe pressure gauge that registers accurate pressures, which is especially useful in high altitude locations. The appliance does not compromise on safety as it comes with a quality cover lock/ air vent that allows pressure to gradually build only when the lid is properly closed. 

What’s the Difference Between a Rice Cooker and Pressure Cooker? 

Now that we know the advantages and disadvantages of a rice cooker and pressure cooker, let’s take a look at their differences. 

Pressure Cookers and Rice Cookers Prepare Meals Differently

Pressure cookers come with rubber lining lids that help trap steam once the seal is locked and sealed. The rubber lining and seal maintain the pressure levels inside the cooker, thus allowing for faster and more efficient cooking.

Through the pressure sensor, users can know the amount of pressure cooking food inside the pot. 

A rice cooker doesn’t use both steam and pressure to cook meals, but instead, they rely solely on steam to prepare rice and vegetables. Rice cookers consist of a cooking bowl, a thermostat, and an internal power system that functions by heating water to convert it to steam. 

As the liquid gradually evaporates to steam, the rice absorbs the liquid, making it soft. Once you open the rice cooker’s lid, all the liquid will be gone, leaving you with perfectly cooked rice. 

Rice Cookers Function Differently

If you want to prepare different recipes, think about getting a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker allows you to prepare different recipes, rice included, making it a more suitable device for users who want multi-functional devices.

You can cook grains, tenderize tough meats, cook rice, and almost all sorts of ingredients with a pressure cooker. 

Rice cookers, as the name suggests, are primarily suited to rice preparation, but this doesn’t mean that a rice cooker can only cook rice. The portable cooking device can also prepare foods with similar cooking requirements to rice. 

The challenge with rice cookers is they cannot be used to cook foods that need to cook at higher temperatures than rice cooks at. The rice cooker makes up for its reduced versatility by making perfect rice as it uses steam to soften and cook rice at the ideal temperature. 

Pressure Cookers Cook Meals Faster

Pressure cookers prepare meals faster due to the combination of both steam and pressure, which means that, with a pressure cooker, your average meal preparation time is greatly shortened compared to using other cooking appliances. 

While a rice cooker also has a reputation for cooking rice fast, its meal preparation speed cannot be compared to that of a pressure cooker. Generally, you’ll need to allow soup or veggies more time to prepare when using a rice cooker, unlike when cooking them in a pressure cooker. 

Both Rice Cooker and Pressure Cooker Cook at Different Temperatures

Pressure cookers use high temperatures to prepare food, which can help you quickly prepare and cook healthy, hygienic food. You can also use a pressure cooker to sterilize your kitchen accessories. 

Rice cookers use steam to cook rice and vegetables. However, the rice cooker has lower maximum cooking temperatures, meaning it isn’t the best device when looking to sterilize kitchen tools or warm frozen food. 

As a result, you should only use rice cookers to prepare food and not to warm since these devices cannot heat frozen food to the desired bacteria-killing temperature. 

Both Rice Cooker and Pressure Cooker Are Portable and Easy To Use

Although not hard to use, pressure cookers still need some getting used to. You’ll need to learn how parts like the pressure regulator, vent pipe, and cover lock work. 

As a rule of thumb, you should always check through the vent pipe to ensure it’s clear before closing the cover. Due to the risk of heat, steam, and high pressure, you’ll want to go through the owner’s manual before using a pressure cooker. 

Rice cookers don’t come with a lot of features since, after all, they’re primarily suited to cooking rice. The program menu is usually straightforward compared to that of a pressure cooker, which often comes with more buttons and settings. 

Some modern rice cookers come packed with advanced features and cooking modes to enhance usability. However, compared to pressure cookers, rice cookers are far easier to learn and use.

Wrapping Up

Rice cookers and pressure cookers are both compact countertop appliances that perform useful roles in meal preparation. Pressure cookers are ideal if your goal is to prepare as many recipes as possible since they can also function as slow cookers and rice cookers. 

On the other hand, despite being primarily meant for cooking rice, rice cookers can also steam vegetables and prepare meals like pasta. However, a rice cooker won’t give you as much flexibility as you would get when using a pressure cooker.