Can You Use a Rice Cooker as a Slow Cooker? (Kind Of)

A rice cooker is a great appliance to have in your kitchen—but can you use a rice cooker as a slow cooker instead? In a way, yes, you can, but you have to first understand how a ricer cooker cooks food differently from a slow cooker.

Woman using rice cooker as a slow cooker
A rice cooker can cook more than just rice.

Is a Rice Cooker the Same Thing as a Slow Cooker?

A rice cooker and a slow cooker are similar but are made for two specific purposes. If you cook a lot of rice and want it to come out perfect every time, you need a rice cooker. Also called a rice steamer, it has a cooking bowl and a temperature gauge and always cooks your rice to perfection.

Slow cookers, on the other hand, cook various foods to a certain temperature, then keep them warm until you can get to them. They are perfect for busy people who want to come home to a home-cooked meal every day.

In the U.S., people often have both a slow cooker and a rice cooker, but that isn’t the case in many other countries. In some countries, a rice cooker is used to make soups, stews, and certain steamed foods. If you want to use your rice cooker as a slow cooker, it must have a “keep warm” mode. Fortunately, most of today’s rice cookers have this option. Unless your rice cooker is a hand-me-down and very old, this shouldn’t be a problem.

A slow cooker uses low heat to cook the foods slowly, which is why the meat always comes out tender. A rice cooker has a high setting to start the rice boiling, then after a certain amount of time, it switches to a lower heat mode that keeps the rice warm until you’re ready to eat it. Some of the newer cookers have microchip technology and induction heating, but the jury is still out on whether or not these are any better than the standard ones.

Slow cooker that works differently from a rice cooker
Slow cookers are great for making stews.

Differences Between a Rice Cooker and a Slow Cooker

Both rice cookers and slow-cooking devices cook foods slowly, but that doesn’t mean you can use them in exactly the same way. A slow cooker can cook rice and a rice cooker can slow-cook food, so they are able to do the same thing, but there are some differences. The main difference is that a rice cooker uses high heat to cook the rice, then switches to a lower heat to keep it warm. A slow cooker uses low, even heat the entire time it’s cooking your food.

This means that the type of heat, the amount of heat, and the way the heat is distributed is different with each of these appliances. In most cases, a slow cooker has three settings of heat: high, medium, and low. The low setting is usually around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, while the high setting is usually around 300 degrees. You’ll rarely find a cooker with a low setting that’s much less than 200 degrees because, at 140 degrees, bacteria can start to form.

A rice cooker, on the other hand, doesn’t have three settings because it simply doesn’t need them. A rice cooker cooks faster than a slow cooker does, but both of these devices allow you to keep your food on warm until it is ready to be served.

Slow cookers come in sizes that range from one to eight quarts, while a rice cooker is sold by the number of cups of rice it makes. It typically ranges from two to 10 cups, but there are commercial cookers that can cook up to 20 cups of rice!

Keep in mind that with a rice cooker, the number of cups mentioned on the package refers to the number of cups of raw rice you put in there, not the amount of cooked rice you get once the cooking process is complete.

In addition, a slow cooker can take 2–10 hours to cook, depending on the brand, what you’re cooking, and the setting you use. A rice cooker usually takes less than an hour, even if you’re cooking a lot of rice.

Cooking food in a slow cooker that works differently from a rice cooker
Cooking lamb in a slow cooker

What Foods Can Each Appliance Cook?

While you can essentially use a rice cooker as a slow cooker and vice versa, there are a few exceptions to keep in mind. First of all, you can cook a variety of foods in a slow cooker, including soups and stews, macaroni and cheese, pot roast, chili, potatoes, meatballs, and stuffing, to name a few. A rice cooker can cook rice, chicken, pork roast, couscous, quinoa, stews and soups, and grains such as oatmeal and others. In practical terms, this means that both appliances can be used to cook a number of dishes.

When choosing between the two devices, you’ll want to keep in mind that a slow cooker produces low, consistent heat, while a rice cooker will cook the food at a high temperature first and then switch to a warm setting to keep the food warm. This will factor into which recipes you choose for either your slow cooker or your rice cooker. But if you keep in mind exactly how these two appliances cook your dishes, it’s much easier to choose the right one for your next culinary masterpiece.

The bottom line is, both a slow cooker and a rice cooker can become invaluable tools in your kitchen. They both cook rice, meats, veggies, and grains, and they both can keep your food warm until you decide to serve and eat it. Many people prefer a rice cooker because they tend to be less expensive and easier to use than a slow cooker. That being said, others prefer a slow cooker over a rice cooker. The decision is yours.