I was in my 30's before I even knew rice cookers existed. It was a Korean friend who clued me in when she was teaching me some Korean cooking. Doubtless her dependence on her rice cooker was because her family ate rice at almost every meal. We eat rice 3 times a week or so, but I wasn't sure we needed one. But remembering the fact that at least once a week my rice pot boiled over, I decided to give it a try. It might be just the help this scatter-brained cook needed. Sure enough, it produced effortless, perfect rice, leaving me free to focus on other dishes.
All you do is add normal proportions of rice and water, turn it on, and walk away. When the rice is perfectly cooked, it switches to warm, keeping the rice ready and waiting for the rest of the meal to be complete. You can cook either white or brown rice. You can also cook lentils, quinoa, barley, grits, and other small grains. Most models have steamer baskets that allow you to steam fish or egg rolls right along with your rice.
But the real dealer-sealer for me is that you can use the rice cooker to cook your morning oatmeal. Dump oats and water into your rice cooker in a 1:2 ratio (1 cup of oats for every 2 cups of water), click the on button, and walk away. In 20 minutes you have perfect breakfast oatmeal. Add sugar, butter and vanilla. Stir and serve. Almost everyone has time for that little bit of fuss on busy mornings!
You might also like: a New York Times story touting the versatility of the rice cooker