My Mother Used This Rice Cooker Every Day— and It’s Still My Favorite

This rice cooker, which is a staple in many Asian American households, makes perfect fluffy rice every time. It would make a wonderful gift that’ll keep on giving this Mother’s Day.

Tatung Rice Cooker
Serious Eats / Kevin Liang

A Tatung rice cooker was an essential kitchen item in many Taiwanese immigrant households. Originally produced in the 1960s (and sold for a mere $9 in Taiwan), it's a dependable, sturdy appliance that stands the test of time—many have used the same machine for decades. 

My mother used her Tatung daily, and I’d help her prepare the rice by pouring the grains into the metal bowl. With a simple press of a switch, the cooking process started. The steam enveloped the rice, “popping” each grain to produce the perfect batch (it sounds like a popcorn machine when on). I loved the smell; it was like inhaling a pillow of comfort. Our house was rich, even when I wore cheap polyester clothes from the Taiwanese street market to my rural American elementary school. 

For me and many other Taiwanese Americans, Tatung rice cookers are nostalgic reminders of childhood and the comforts of home. They're versatile, easy to use, and durable, and will always have a place in my kitchen. 

Why I Love the Tatung Rice Cooker

As an adult, I’ve outfitted my kitchen with Crock-Pots, Instant Pots, and snazzy singing Japanese rice cookers with tons of buttons and settings. Honestly, for me, the results can’t compare to the simplicity of the Tatung, which has a single button to start the cooking process. When it’s done, the button pops up decisively, and each grain of rice is steamed to dewy perfection—not mushy, not crunchy, but just right. While it's on the pricier side for a rice cooker, its longevity and consistency make it worth it.

rice in the tatung ricer cooker
Serious Eats / Helen Hwang

How It Works

The Tatung (like many other rice cookers) works like an electric steamer and double boiler, using the indirect heat from steam to slowly and gently cook the rice.

To make rice in the Tatung, measure it and add it to the metal bowl, covering it with water to one of the levels etched inside (my mother used her knuckles to measure how much water to add). Then, add water to the outer pot, which surrounds the inner pot holding the rice; this helps control the amount of steam (more water means more steam). For example, if I’m making rice to accompany a stir fry, I want it to be fluffy, so I don’t add much extra water. But if I’m making congee, I add more water to make the rice into a thick soup. But no matter which way I prepare the rice, the Tatung delivers fantastic results.

FAQs 

What can you make in a rice cooker besides rice?  

 A rice cooker kind of acts like an electric double boiler, which means you can slow-cook whole chicken or even braise beef. You can also make congee, tea eggs, stews, chicken soups, and steamed sweet golden cakes called “nian gao.”

How long does a rice cooker keep rice warm?  

A rice cooker can keep its contents warm for hours, but the U.S. Product Safety Commission doesn’t recommend keeping appliances plugged in and on for too long, since they can pose a fire hazard.

Why We're the Experts

  • Helen Hwang is a freelance writer and former mechanical engineer.
  • She's written for Eater San Diego, The New York Times, and Parents, among other publications.
  • She grew up using a Tatung rice cooker and still thinks it's one of the best offerings on the market.