College life is tough. Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, your funds are limited, and typically so is your space. There are lots of lifehacks out there to help you maximize your budget and your room. For instance, using a skillet instead of a frying pan. Read my article on these items. However, if you don’t already have a rice cooker, you need one. Even if you don’t eat much rice, there are a million easy meals you can make inside this ingenious little device. I’ll walk you through some of the best and plenty of ways to use them.
More Than a Rice Cooker for College Students
Every college student needs a rice cooker.
Having an ice cream maker is another story, click to read my article on making sure that your ice cream is not grainy.
It’s not hard to tell that when things get busy at school, it’s tough to get enough good food. Not only do your funds run short, but you don’t have much time to spend on things like cooking, especially during finals. Fortunately, you don’t need much to turn a rice cooker into a super meal making machine.
The stress of classes and grades can seriously wear you out. Although you probably can’t get extra sleep, there’s one easy way to at least make sure you have lots of good food available. It may surprise you to learn that you can cook everything from eggs to meat inside a good rice cooker.
Luckily a rice cooker takes up so little space you have more room for books and other essentials. Moreover, you don’t need a lot of prep to make it work. You can quite literally toss in your ingredients and leave them to cook. Unlike a crockpot, most rice cookers won’t boil over and leave you a mess, and they rarely burn food. There’s no better solution for easy meals.
Another great item for college students is a hand blender to make smoothies, click to read my post on hand blenders.
Most college students don’t think of a rice cooker as a road to better nutrition. In fact, they don’t tend to focus much on food or diet at all, except for future-dieticians. However, paying better attention to your health while you’re in school could make a massive difference.
Everyone knows the brain needs vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Yet most fail to realize that a truly alarming ninety-five percent of college students aren’t eating right. Who’d have guessed that being on your own for the first time would lead to near-universal disregard for your health and wellbeing?
It’s past time to change the discussion on what it means to head off and begin your adult life. A balanced diet impacts every part of your life. From memory to your ability to cope with stress, the things you put in your body change everything. Eating right shouldn’t be your last priority. Instead, it should be a foregone conclusion.
Simple Healthy Solutions
Using a rice cooker can quickly become part of the workaround for busy college life and awful dietary habits. One of the things that stood out most in my mind was the fact that most college students aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables.
Fresh fruits and veggies aren’t quite as cheap as rice and ramen, but they’re less expensive than a pizza. Instead of choosing premade foods, getting a rice cooker can help. Especially if you select one with a steamer basket, it’s simple to make vegetables with every meal in moments.
Additionally, students can easily toss some fruit into a rice cooker to make cinnamon apples and other delectable desserts. Sure, the sugar in sweets isn’t great for you, but there are plenty of ways to get an excellent cooked down fruity treat without adding a lot of empty calories.
Rice Cooker Meals for College Students
College students with rice cookers can save a ton of money on meals. Plus, you don’t have to skip out on your favorite healthy foods. Whether it’s oatmeal for breakfast, boiled eggs to take with lunches, or baked chicken and steamed veggies for supper, it’s simple to make most foods.
Most recipes don’t require much adjustment to make them in a rice cooker. Just scale it down by cutting in half or quarters so it will fit. Alternatively, you could choose a larger rice cooker. Particularly if you have roommates who work together and share meals, a rice cooker is a superb way to handle your turn to cook. Better yet, it cuts down on dishes.
From oatmeal and rice to quinoa, you can toss whole grains into any rice cooker. Here’s a great pro tip- make more than you need, and freeze some for later. That way you’ll have a heat and eat meal on days when you’re too busy to think about cooking.
Most grains only require some water to plump up. However, you can substitute broth or even fruit juice to get a more flavorful meal. Add some spices when you start cooking, and more when you’re ready to eat for a flavor-packed, yet super simple snack.
Although I recommend getting a meat thermometer when cooking your favorite baked chicken or even a beef stew, making meat is simple in a rice cooker. Like your grains, add some water or broth. A bouillon cube or some spices will take it to the next level flavor-wise. Turn on your cooker, and let that protein simmer away while you turn in homework.
If you have time, brown the meat in a frying pan first. Add a dash of salt and spices. Doing this will give you more flavor, even if you don’t have time to fully pre-cook your proteins. Alternately, you can cube chunks of fatty meat like bacon tips to toss in as part of the flavor for a rice and veggie dish. However, you need to make sure meats reach the appropriate temperature for food safety before you eat them.
The steamer basket isn’t your only option for cooking veggies. You can toss cut up root vegetables right into your rice and let them cook down, adding flavor while you study. Boiled potatoes are easy too.
Try adding a handful of raw spinach for iron. Or you can add diced tomatoes, jalapeno, and onion for a Spanish rice-like dish. You can even toss in some green olives when you’re ready to eat so that it’s closer to the original. Sautee some onions and garlic when you have time, and save them in freezer bags. You can add this mix to so many dishes to make them tastier.
Poaching pears, or cooking down a quick cinnamon apple dish is nothing in your rice cooker. It’s merely adding liquid, spices, and fruit. Then you push a button. Plus, it’s simple to toss in some raisins or dried cranberries when making a whole grain dish.
There’s no reason on earth to deny your body what it needs when carrots and squash are dirt cheap. Raisins come in enormous containers for a few dollars, and they keep practically forever. Moreover, fruit juice or frozen berries come in handy. Grab a big spoon and use concentrate or portion out your fruit, then toss the rest back in the tiny freezer of a dormitory mini fridge until you need it.
Top Five Best Rice Cookers for College Students
In a sea of options, narrowing it down to the best rice cooker for college students wasn’t easy. However, I searched hundreds of listings, comparing features, capabilities, and reviews to compile this list. There are lots of great rice cookers, but not all of them are well suited to college-life.
To make simple rice cooker food while you study and go to class, you need specific features. All the machines on this list are easy to operate and simple to clean. The hand’s off ability to make food without having to keep an eye on pots and pans, or mess up multiple dishes is perfect for students.
I recommend choosing any one of these outstanding rice cookers. Not only will you be able to make rice, grains, veggies, meats, and cooked fruit, but you can set it and forget it. You’ll have no more need to worry about burning food, or messing around with hot electric burners.
1. Aroma Housewares MI Cool Touch Mini
Although I looked at many exceptional rice cookers for college students, this one was a shoo-in for the top slot on our list. The MI Cool Touch Mini is America’s number one rice cooker for good reasons. First comes the feature so useful they put it in the name. No one wants to forget they were making food and burn their fingers.
It might surprise you to learn that this cool cooker can make some of your favorites. Perfect small pancakes and even omelets are only a button press away. Add your favorite cheeses and meats, or go super healthy with egg whites and fresh veggies. Virtually the only thing this rice cooker won’t do is shop for you.
When you’re looking to celebrate after finals, you can even cook a cornish game hen. Or get fancy and do a two-step cooking project like boiling potatoes and turning them into cheesy baked au gratin. Top off your celebration by baking yourself a rice cooker cake while you eat your celebratory meal.
The only potential downside to this machine is that it has no overflow control. Make sure you don’t put more inside than the recipe calls for. You don’t want to try and make six cups in a three-cup rice cooker. It won’t work. However, as long as you stick to reasonable portions, you’ll be eating great food in no time.
To take home the top choice, click here.
2. DCIGNA 1.2L Mini Rice Cooker, Electric Lunch Box
Admittedly, the adorable hungry panda decal first caught my eye on this model. Still, I’m glad it did, or I might have missed out on a really excellent rice cooker. Full disclosure, I bought one and shipped it to my niece at school, and she loves it. The cute decal is just the cherry on top.
DCIGNA will be the first to tell you that this machine was made for multi-use cooking. You can use it to create outstanding noodle dishes and soups. Plus, the handle makes it super-portable. It really is a portable lunchbox if you need it to be. Like the Cool Touch that made the first slot on the list, it has excellent insulation.
Fast shipping time is one of the reasons this particular cooker made it to my top five. Don’t be put off by the lack of instructions. This rice cooker is so easy a child could use it. All you do is plug it in and flip the switch, so the green light goes on. When it changes to red, your rice is ready, and it’s staying warm. For more complex dishes you can heat again or leave it on the warm setting while you go to class.
You’ll find this cute and portable cooker when you click here.
3. AmazonBasics – Mini Rice Cooker
Weighing in at less than three pounds, and less than nine inches high, this mighty mini won’t cook for an army. However, it will keep you in healthy meals without taking up too much space. It comes with the steam tray, measuring cup and rice paddle you’d expect from a much larger machine. Yet it wouldn’t even take up your backpack.
When you need to eat better, but you don’t want to mess around, this is the ideal rice cooker. The never-burn feature keeps your food hot, but not overheated. Plus, it comes apart easily.
If you have a dishwasher, you can put most of the parts in to wash as well. Even the lid liner comes out for easy cleaning. Even handwashing won’t take long.
It’s hard to find a downside with such a reliable model. If there were any complaints, perhaps it’s that you can only cook for two at most. However, most college students don’t need to feed a family. Moreover, most small families could cook enough rice for a meal or a side dish inside.
Find out more about this fantastic AmazonBasics Rice Cooker right here.
4. Zojirushi NHS-06
Like the Electric Lunch Box, this small rice cooker is ideal for college meals. However, what sets it apart is the slightly larger size. The Zojirushi is a three cup cooker so that you can plan a somewhat more substantial meal, or pre-cook for a couple of days. Impress a couple of friends in your dorm room, or make half a week’s worth of lunches during your morning lectures.
I love the durable nonstick pan in this model because it’s super easy to clean. Moreover, it can take a little rough treatment if you’re not as graceful as you’d like to be. Plus, the measuring cup makes it easy to plan. One scoop will make two or three cups of rice, and two will fill it to capacity with six cups of fluffy, tender rice.
You can make white or brown rice, depending on your taste. Then again, when you’re feeling lazy, you can always simply pop a can of soup and toss it in to warm up while you write a paper or cram for finals.
Furthermore, once you graduate, this is a cooker you can pass down to a freshman friend, or keep for years to come. Zorojishis are known for their longevity and many last well over a decade. That’s long enough to go to med school and do your internship without ever buying a new cooker.
For college savings and out value, it doesn’t get much better. I’d have given this a higher spot on the list, except that it’s already on so many lists I felt a couple of other outstanding brands deserved a fair shake.
Get your reliable rice cooker from Zorojishi on Amazon, click here.
5. Aroma Housewares ARC-743-1NGR 6-Cup
A second Aroma Housewares rice cooker made the end of the list. There’s no denying that these cookers are number one for a good reason. They use high-quality parts, which is vital when you’re on a tight budget in college. Plus, this larger model still doesn’t take up much space.
Furthermore, the company backs their product with a one-year limited warranty from the provable date of sale. You won’t break this six-cup rice cooker, but if something happens, having a warranty to fall back on will certainly help.
At a mere 3.3 pounds, it’s easy to move from one dorm room to another or take home with you on holidays. You’ll love the color options like red and black to match your decor. Additionally, at this size, you can bake a small chicken inside or a ham. Simply make sure you use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature when you’re ready to eat.
It’s hard to find fault with Aroma Housewares. So long as you don’t overfill the cooker, you’ll get outstanding meals that are as easy to make as in a microwave. However, the longer cooking time will leave food moist and tender, keeping in the flavor. Better still, it heats more evenly and doesn’t leave meats with that funky microwave flavor. All you have to do is add ingredients in the morning and switch it on. It is as easy as using a coffee maker.
Check the reviews for yourself right here.
*Bonus Big Rice Cooker:
COMFEE’ Asian Style Programmable All-in-1 Multi-Cooker
For those who are living in a fraternity, sorority, or off-campus housing, a bigger rice cooker might fit your needs better. When you need enough sushi rice to feed a house full of hungry guys, or you want to make your sorority sisters a batch of poached pears, this model is perfect.
The COMFEE All-in-one Multi-Cooker from Amazon really can do it all. Unlike the smaller dorm-room models, this cooker has settings for sauteing and slow cooking. Whatever you want to eat, you can make it in this sizeable twenty cup rice cooker. Naturally, you can also opt to pre-cook meals for yourself weeks in advance. That’s a significant bonus around finals.
You could cook spaghetti for your whole study group without using multiple pots and pans. Or use one of the other sixteen cooking programs. Most surprising of all, this rice cooker can make yogurt. Save yourself a ton of cash and stops at the local froyo place by whipping up healthy, made to order yogurt for smoothies or frozen treats. Also, your COMFEE will even dry itself when it’s clean.
Choose a COMFEE Rice Cooker for a bigger kitchen by clicking here.
College students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from baked chicken and steamed veggies, and great mashed potatoes. However, I consider a rice cooker indispensable to college life and cooking. You need better options for food. It doesn’t get much better than adding ingredients, pushing a button, and walking away.
The right rice cooker will make your meals for every occasion. From oatmeal and eggs to regional and international dishes, you won’t find a simpler way to eat right on a college budget. Skip the freshman fifteen, and become the guru of gourmet dorm food instead.
Naturally, you can also make rice, which is a cheap, tasty staple of diets all over the world. Regardless of what you like, a rice cooker will do the job.