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Instant Pot vs. rice cooker: Which is better?

Instant Pot vs. rice cooker

Anyone who’s tired of looking at a shelf full of unused kitchen appliances has looked into an Instant Pot. It can take the place of a slow cooker, steamer, saute pan and even your rice cooker. But can it cook your food as well as the individual appliances? 

A rice cooker can make perfect rice every time without worrying about watching your stove. With the popularity of the Instant Pot, you’re not alone in pondering whether it can replace your trusty rice cooker. Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of each appliance and find out whether the multifaceted Instant Pot can knock your rice cooker off its shelf.

Rice cooker

A rice cooker uses steam to cook food. The heating element heats up whatever liquid you put in with your rice, causing it to evaporate and turn into steam. The rice absorbs the boiling liquid and cooks. This is why you’re usually able to use your rice cooker as a steamer.

What you’ll love about a rice cooker

  • Produces the best rice: Since cooking rice is its primary function, a rice cooker makes superior rice; the steam and boiling water create the perfect rice without being too soggy. However, it depends on personal preference — some people may prefer rice cooked in an Instant Pot. 
  • Easy to use and clean: It varies by model, but most rice cookers only have a few buttons and are relatively straightforward. Most have one pot that’s usually dishwasher-safe, which also makes cleanup a breeze.
  • Safety: Because a rice cooker only heats up to boiling temperature, it’s safer than an Instant Pot. However, it’s still vital to be careful when the unit is on.
  • Affordable: While you can find expensive rice cookers, the cheapest rice cookers are more affordable than the cheapest Instant Pots. 
  • Can cook different types of rice: A rice cooker often comes with several cooking programs, including white rice, brown rice, quick rice, mixed rice or sushi rice. If you’re cooking more than just white rice, a rice cooker is easier to manage.

What you should consider about a rice cooker

  • One primary function: While it may have a few other functions like cooking oatmeal, steaming veggies and making quinoa, its primary function is to make rice.
  • Takes longer to cook rice: A rice cooker takes longer to cook rice than an Instant Pot — about 30-40 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, an Instant Pot is the better bet.

Top rice cookers

Aroma Housewares Pot-Style Rice Cooker & Food Steamer

Not only is this rice cooker affordable, but it also comes with a convenient steamer basket, allowing you to cook rice and steam simultaneously. It even allows you to cook soup or chili. 

Sold by Amazon

Hamilton Beach Rice & Hot Cereal Cooker

This 10-cup capacity rice cooker can accommodate a large family or dinner party. The simple display screen is easy to use. 

Sold by Amazon

Instant Pot

An Instant Pot is primarily a pressure cooker. It heats the air inside the pot, which expands and turns the liquid into steam. The sealed environment means that no liquid can escape. This is why you need less water when cooking rice in an Instant Pot when compared to a rice cooker.

What you’ll love about an Instant Pot

  • Cooks quickly: An Instant Pot takes about 3-5 minutes to cook rice with an additional 10 minutes for natural release. This is quicker than most rice cookers by about 15-20 minutes.
  • Replaces several cooking appliances: The 7-in-1 Instant Pot takes the place of your pressure cooker, yogurt maker, slow cooker, steamer, saute pan, food warmer and rice cooker. The 11-in-1 Instant Pot can also air fry, bake, broil and dehydrate. If you’re looking for an appliance that can do more than just cook rice, the Instant Pot is the better choice.
  • Sterilize: One of the great things about an Instant Pot is that it’s able to kill off most of the bacteria responsible for causing food poisoning. The temperature gets much hotter than a rice cooker. 

What you should consider about an Instant Pot

  • More expensive: The cheapest Instant Pot costs over $60, and that’s only if you run across a sale. You can find a rice cooker for about $15. It makes sense since the Instant Pot has many more features, but it might not make sense financially if you’re only looking to cook rice.
  • Difficult to operate: There are a lot of buttons on an Instant Pot, and it’s not highly user-friendly. If they don’t have the right program for your food item, you have to research the amount of time it takes and manually enter it.
  • Safety concerns: Because an Instant Pot reaches a higher temperature and pressure, there are safety concerns. When manually releasing pressure, the scalding steam is quickly let out the top and could burn you.
  • Only has a cooking program for white rice: While the Instant Pot has a rice cooking program, it’s designed specifically for white rice. If you want to cook brown rice, wild rice or risotto, you have to enter your time manually.
  • Hard to clean: While the pot itself isn’t too difficult to clean, it has several parts, like the sealing ring, that require cleaning time. It’s also heavy to maneuver. The pressure release can create water drops on the appliance and the surrounding cabinets and countertops that will need to be cleaned.

Top instant pots

Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker

This model is the highest-selling Instant Pot. It’s affordable and ideal for mid-size households. 

Sold by Amazon

Instant Pot 8-Quart Duo Crisp + Air Fryer

If you want an appliance that can do it all, this is the model for you. It comes with an air fryer attachment, and the 8-quart capacity allows you to cook for larger parties.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a rice cooker or an Instant Pot?

If you mainly cook rice and are particular about texture, get a rice cooker. It has one main function, but focusing on one job allows it to cook the best rice possible.

If you want to cook a variety of meals and dishes in addition to rice and don’t mind paying a little more, get the Instant Pot — you’ll never run out of new ideas to cook.


Bre Richey is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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