Tried & Tested: Sticky decisions

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The Independent Culture
Now that oriental cookery is so popular and you can easily buy exotic strains of rice at the supermarket, a dedicated rice cooker may seem an appealing idea. The electric versions keep the rice well away your precious four-ring hob - where you may be quite busy enough stir-frying or concocting complicated side dishes. And they keep cooked rice warm, so there is no panic about exact timing. But beware: they're not all fool-proof, and if you only occasionally cook for large groups a rice cooker may turn out to be an expensive and cumbersome purchase. Testers Nick Allen, Tony Tai, Tomoko Smythson, Catherine Holder and Lesley Borden found some of the cheaper cookers preferable to the authentic but frustrating versions

. RICE COOKER RC310

Kenwood pounds 35

Catherine: `The rice came out sticky and burnt on the bottom. After fiddling with the water levels a few times I just gave up'

Lesley: `It looks cooler than the Tefal, and it has a vegetable steamer tray. But it just doesn't cook rice well, so what's the point?'

Tony: `It uses the same principle of boiling then steaming, set by timer, as the others; yet you only get lumpy rice. Why should you fiddle with the recipe when it's meant to be automatic?'

Stockists 01705 392333

....AUTOMATIC RICE COOKER 2000

Tefal pounds 29.99

Lesley: `Bog-standard electric rice cooker. If you measure the rice in the cup and pour the water in up to the right level, you can't go wrong. You can cook other things in it too - it comes with a recipe book'

Catherine: `It's a pity it's made of such tacky materials. I don't like the aluminium lid, but it certainly works'

Nick: `I can't imagine ever using the egg holder. But the whole thing is good value'

Stockists 01604 762726

..... RICE BALL

Le Vrai Gourmet pounds 10

Lesley: `I don't understand why it should improve your rice but it does. For once, the blurb is true: perfect rice every time, for a tenner'

Tony: `It looks like something you'd swing incense in. Or a giant tea ball. The rice is fluffy and separate'

Nick: `You need four pints of water and a very deep saucepan to cook a tiny bit of rice. And oven gloves to take it out. Still, it does work'

Debenhams 0171 408 4444

... RICE COOKER NDAQ-N10

Zojirushi pounds 109.95

Catherine: `The designer version. You can only use it for rice and the instruction booklet is a whole lecture. At the end, the rice is just OK'

Tony: `Bound to be the best - it's Japanese. The rice is slightly sticky and you can taste the authentic slight browning on the bottom'

Tomoko: `About three times as expensive as one I bought in Tokyo, but with the same features, such as a condensation collector. The casing is very smart though'

Jerry's Home Store 0171 581 0909

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