Instant Pot Zest Smart Ceramic Rice Cooker, 8-Cup
Last updated date: January 12, 2022
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We looked at the top Rice Cookers and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Rice Cooker you should buy.
Update as January 12, 2022:
Checkout The Best Rice Cooker for a detailed review of all the top rice cookers.
Home chefs will find that this cooker makes white rice, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal at the touch of a button. Thanks to the extra-thick inner pot, this rice cooker is able to provide even heat distribution. The unit is non-stick and all of the included accessories are removable and dishwasher safe for easy clean up.
In our analysis of 82 expert reviews, the Instant Pot Zest Smart Ceramic Rice Cooker, 8-Cup placed 6th when we looked at the top 16 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.
From The Manufacturer
From the makers of Instant Pot, the Instant Zest Rice and Grain Cooker with 8-cup capacity is the perfect combination of value, convenience and cooking ease. Smart cooking programs help you save time and ensure dishes turn out exactly as you want them to. Fine-tune and save cooking times and temperatures that suit your family’s tastes. In addition to the Smart Program presets for white and brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal, you can cook any type of rice and grain fast and perfectly — from millet, farro and freekeh, to polenta, barley, rice pudding and more. Even hearty grains like spelt and wheat berries, which typically require lots of cooking time. More than just a rice cooker, the Instant Zest Quickly steam veggies, fish, dumplings, tamales, cabbages, wontons and more with ease. Bright, bold display and status indicators let you know exactly where your food is in the cooking process. Delay Start and Keep Warm functions make sure your rice, grains and more are ready when you are.
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Our Expert Consultant
Julie Chernoff is a long-time member of Les Dames d’Escoffier (past president of the Chicago Chapter, and current co-chair of the LDEI Legacy Awards Committee), the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ) and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Chernoff is the dining editor of Better, a lifestyle website and print magazine. Her journalism started in the test kitchens of Weight Watchers Magazine. She holds a BA in English from Yale University and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. She has spent the last few decades styling, photographing, teaching, developing recipes, editing, thinking and writing about food.
Overall Product Rankings
An Overview On Rice Cookers
Rice is one of the largest crops in the world, and it’s one of the most commonly consumed grains. An estimated 3.5 billion people worldwide eat rice as a staple food, and it accounts for roughly 20% of their daily calories.
Rice, particularly brown rice, has a number of important health benefits. A single serving of brown rice contains plenty of manganese, an essential dietary element that helps your body convert calories into energy. It also aids in your body’s defense against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may increase your risk of cancer and other diseases.
Brown rice is rich in fiber, which helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time after you’re done eating. It’s also a good source of selenium, a mineral that’s vital to your body’s metabolic and immune systems.
With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why you’d want to add rice to your daily diet. However, cooking rice on a stovetop is trickier than it looks. It’s easy to burn rice when using this method. The cook time can vary between different types of rice, and you have to keep a careful eye on it as it simmers. Removing the lid on your saucepan to check on the rice allows steam to escape, which can increase the cooking time significantly.
You don’t have to go through multiple servings of burned or sticky rice to enjoy it as a nutritious carbohydrate. A rice cooker does the tough work for you — and you don’t even have to watch it as you cook.
Rice needs a lot of water and heat to transform from a small, stiff grain to a large, fluffy mouthful. A rice cooker takes care of the entire process in minutes.
Rice cookers are countertop appliances with a highly conductive metal bowl inside. A heating element and temperature sensor sit beneath the bowl. You’ll pour your rice and water into the bowl, then choose the correct setting for temperature and time.
After you turn on the rice cooker, it starts heating the bowl, which conducts heat into the water and rice. Once the water starts boiling, it’s eliminated in the form of steam and rises from the bowl. This steaming process helps the rice cooker maintain an even temperature. Without the steam, the water at the bottom of the bowl would get too hot for an even cook.
The rice in your cooker begins absorbing some of the water in the bowl at this point. This creates a fluffy texture that comes with a perfectly cooked batch of rice. Once all of the water has either disappeared as steam or been absorbed by the rice, the temperature of the bowl shoots up.
This sudden temperature increase triggers a mechanism inside the rice cooker to lower or turn off the cooker’s heat. Once the rice is done cooking, the cooker will either shut off or keep your rice warm until you’re ready to serve it.
When you’re deciding on a model of rice cooker to buy, consider first how often you cook rice and in what quantities.
“If you aren’t making rice frequently, this will be just another one-function gadget taking up space in your kitchen cabinet or lingering in storage,” explains our resident kitchen expert Julie Chernoff, a food journalist, dining editor of Better magazine and member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. “If your family does eat rice frequently, this can be one of the most-used gadgets in your kitchen arsenal.”
She suggests looking for features that make a rice cooker easy to use.
“You want a non-stick interior, an easy-to-clean exterior, a reasonably long electrical cord and a ‘keep warm’ function,” Chernoff says. “Bonus points if you can throw in water and rice in the morning, set the timer, and return to perfect rice when you return in the evening. Ease of use is something to consider, as is price.”
Do you already have an Instant Pot or another multi-function cooker? Remember that your rice cooker will take up extra space; there’s no need to double up if you already own something that cooks rice well.
The Rice Cooker Buying Guide
- Rice cookers are the most convenient way to make a delicious meal, but they can be tough to clean. Before you buy, look at what materials are used in the cooker. Bowls with a non-stick coating will wipe clean in a blink. Meanwhile, features like detachable lids make it easier to wash every nook and cranny.
- Make sure that your rice cooker is dishwasher-safe before you toss it in on that high-heat setting. Cookware with a nonstick coating should never be placed in the dishwasher, and the electric components of your cooker need to stay nice and dry. To be on the safe side, wipe down the outside of the cooker, the lid and the bowl inside the cooker with gentle dishwashing liquid. Rinse them clean, then allow them to air dry completely before using your rice cooker again.
- The classic rice cooker design uses a heating component under the bowl to boil your water. However, some cookers use more advanced heating technology. Rice cookers with induction heating will evenly warm the water from all sides, including the lid. Induction heating allows your rice cooker to make more precise heating adjustments for a perfect cook on your rice every time.
- There are dozens of different types of rice, and they all require different preparation times and different amounts of water. Long-grain white rice fluffs up pretty quickly, but you do have to spend a few minutes rinsing it through a strainer before you pop it in the rice cooker. You’ll use just under two cups of water to cook it. Fragrant jasmine rice only takes 20-25 minutes to cook, while medium and long-grain brown rice strains can take up to an hour to finish cooking. Double-check what kind of rice you have and research its cook time before you fire up your rice cooker.
- Cook times can also vary from model to model. If you don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen, compare the estimated cook times on each model and go for the fastest rice cooker you can find.
- Most rice cookers are fairly small, but cookers with extra features might take up a little more room on your counter. That won’t matter if you’ve got a large kitchen with plenty of storage space, but you’ll want to measure your available space carefully if you’ve got a smaller countertop. Space-saving traits like retractable power cords are also helpful.
- You’ll also want to figure out the exact spot on your counter where you’ll be using your cooker. If it’s not next to a power outlet, make sure that the cooker’s cord is long enough to reach one without using an extension cord.
- Traditional rice cookers use analog dials and buttons, but newer models often have digital displays and controls. You can make very precise temperature adjustments with digital controls, and digital displays are easier to read. Digital models tend to cost a bit more, but they’re worth it if those features are important to you.
- Using a rice cooker is generally safer than cooking rice on your stovetop, but it’s still an electrical appliance. Look for an auto-shutoff feature or timed warming cycles on your rice cooker — those will help prevent the unit from overheating and reduce the risk of fires.
- Your rice cooker won’t be very convenient if you have to keep loading it to cook the amount of rice you need. Check each rice cooker’s capacity before you buy to make sure it’s large enough for you and your family.
- Some rice cookers go well beyond their name. Examine each cooker’s product description to see if they come with accessories like steamer baskets. This adds to the value of your rice cooker, and it makes it really easy to whip up a healthy meal in minutes. Some models can even make soups, stews and desserts.
- Most rice cookers are relatively soundless, but some models are noisy during the steaming process or make loud “thump” sounds when the cook cycle is complete. Think about how much sound you’re willing to put up with before you pick your rice cooker.
- If looks are important to you, pay careful attention to each rice cooker’s color and style before you choose one for your kitchen. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, from futuristic stainless steel to cheery, colorful pot-style cookers.
- Rice cookers are handy, but they’ll still add to the amount of electricity you use on a daily basis. Look for energy-efficient models to cook a little greener.
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