Back in March, when working at an office wasn’t something we all took for granted, we marveled at Thanko’s bento box rice cooker that made a single serving of rice at a time. But, realizing that eating nothing but rice every day for lunch would get tiring, Thanko’s released an updated double-decker version of the cooker that lets you prep fish, veggies, and dumplings too.
A large multi-cup rice cooker is still the better way to go if you’re feeding a family all day long, but leftover rice, while crucial in dishes like fried rice, is not that great on its own when reheated the next day. Bringing leftovers for lunch at work can make your mornings easier, but those benefits are rendered moot when you’re trying to choke down dry, chewy rice at noon.
That’s why Thanko’s single-serve bento box rice cooker was such a revelation. For $65 it was small enough to bring to and from work every day, and in 14 minutes it could prepare a half portion of rice (or 20 minutes if you completely filled the included measuring scoop) without any chimes or dings that would annoy co-workers. The only drawback was that it could only be used to cook rice. You’d have to bring any sides in a separate container and heat them up another way.
While many of us have spent the pandemic learning new skills like how to binge-watch several Netflix series without shower interruptions, the folks at Thanko tackled the rice cooker’s biggest flaw and solved it with this new $77 version. It looks and works exactly like the original, but it’s now got an extra story on top where you can put ingredients like meats, vegetables, and even pre-prepped dishes like curries or dumplings to be heated alongside the rice.
Instead of adding more heating elements, the new rice cooker simply directs steam generated in the lower compartment into the upper to heat everything in there, which is probably why the double-decker version is just $12 more than the original. It’s a feature most larger rice cookers already include through a removable steamer tray, but here it gives this shoebox-sized appliance the ability to cook an entire single-serve meal all on its own, and with non-stick pans, it can be easily cleaned in a sink afterward. Even if there’s no indication you’ll be returning to an office setting any time soon, these seem like a smart alternative to a counter-hogging multi-cup rice cooker if you live alone.