Rice cookers enable you to get a jump-start on food prep. And they cook more than just rice. You can cook grains like millet, quinoa and kasha in a rice cooker. These grains are higher in protein than rice and have a very different texture. Experiment. Most rice cookers come with instructions for different grains because you’ll need different amounts of water to cook different grains.
You can also cook dried beans in a rice cooker. The rice cooker instructions will indicate cooking times and water levels for different types of beans.
When purchasing a rice cooker, buy a 3 cup or 4 cup model with a “warm” and “auto off” option. Although models with aluminum inserts are cheaper, they don’t last as long and may leach aluminum into your food. Look for titanium and metal inserts; they last longer. Prices for rice cookers range from $20 to $200.
Crock-pots or slow cookers are another timesaving appliance. Again, the smaller, the better. Look for 4- and 6-cup models to save counter space and time. Larger cookers can take longer to heat. Modern versions have “serve”, “low” and “cook” or “high” settings. Soups and stews are a natural choice for slow cookers but terrines and stratas can also be cooked in a slow cooker. Most slow cooker dishes take 2-8 hours to make, so you can leave the appliance on and eat later.
Pressure cookers cook food up to 10 times faster than other methods. Using steam and pressure, they heat and cook food evenly. Today’s models are a safe, convenient way to cook dried beans, grains and meats — especially the electric ones. Pressure cooker instructions will help you figure out liquid amounts and cooking times. Look for 4-quart or 6-quart models. They range in price from $40 to $200.