Why waste time watching the pan of rice boil on the hob when you can just plug in a rice cooker and get on with more important things? Whatever your size of kitchen, or family, using a rice cooker is an easy way to automate some of your cooking.Many of today’s rice cookers are more than just rice cookers. Whether they steam, slow cook or pressure cook; as a countertop appliance they can be a truly versatile addition to your kitchen. This also means that your choice of rice cooker is much greater than it has ever been, so to assist you to find the best rice cooker for your kitchen, we give the lowdown on some of the different types currently available.
The Instant Pot Duo mini 7-in-1 multiuse cooker is our best pick for cooking rice and many other foods without emitting any steam or cooking smells.
The Aroma Housewares 20 cup (ARC-150SB) digital rice cooker and steamer is our budget pick as it is ideal for larger families and also has a quick rice option.
Quick Comparison: Top 12 Best Rice Cooker
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1. Instant Pot Duo Mini 7-in-1 Multiuse Cooker
Suitable for smaller kitchens, the Instant Pot Duo mini 7-in-1 multiuse cooker has an automatic rice cooking program, as well as pressure cooking, slow cook, steamer, sauté and yogurt making programs. This 3 quart cooker is only suitable for cooking white rice though, as rice cooking is pre-programed.
Its interior is stainless steel and the lid and cooking pan are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Unlike traditional rice cookers, this is a pressure cooking design, so does not emit any steam, cooking smells or heat. It has one touch controls and some temperatures are adjustable.It comes with a one year warranty and is UL Listed for its safety mechanisms. There are various accessories with it, including a measuring cup, steam rack, rice paddle and recipe booklet.
2. Aroma Housewares 20 Cup (ARC-150SB) Digital Rice Cooker and Steamer
The large capacity Aroma Housewares 20 cup (ARC-150SB) digital rice cooker and steamer offers program-controlled cooking with specialized functions for white and brown rice. It also has a quick rice option, which can cut cooking time by up to 50%.
The slow cook function means you can use it as a 4 quart slow cooker or even sauté then simmer with its STS function. It also has a keep warm function, although this may not work as well as similar cookers. It comes with a steam tray that you can use for steaming while rice is cooking.Designed for easy cleaning, it has a stainless steel body and the inner pan, and all accessories are removeable. The steam tray, cup and spatula are BPA-free, and it comes with a one year warranty.
3. Zojirushi Micom NS-TSC10/18 Rice Cooker and Warmer
The Zojirushi Micom NS-TSC10/18 Rice Cooker and Warmer is a fuzzy logic micro-computerized model with automatic keep warm, extended keep warm and reheat functions. It has eight menu settings including white/sushi, brown, steam, porridge, cake and quick cooking, although some users may experience that the preset options can slightly undercook or overcook the rice. Cooked rice may not be able to be preserved for as long on ‘keep warm’ as that cooked in more traditional rice cookers.
It has a 5½ cup or 1 liter capacity. Designed for easy cleaning, the exterior is stainless steel, the inner cooking pan is non-stick coated, and its inner lid is removable. Its LCD display has a clock and timer function, including a delay timer. When programs are complete an audible alarm or melody sounds, and its power cord is retractable for easier storage.There is a one year limited warranty on this cooker, although some customers have had a less than positive experience with customer services when trying to resolve warranty claims.
4. Zojirushi NHS-06 Rice Cooker
The 3 cup capacity Zojirushi NHS-06 rice cooker is a one touch operation cooker with a transparent glass lid and stay cool knob. Although it can keep rice warm for up to five hours after cooking, it does not have a separate keep warm function.The inner pan is non-stick, and it comes with a measuring cup. This rice cooker is UL Listed and has external handles so that it can be moved easily when hot.
5. Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer
The Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 neuro fuzzy rice cooker and warmer uses advanced fuzzy logic to cook rice to perfection. This is a 5½ cup capacity cooker that allows you to cook all types of rice, as well as porridge, although when rice is cooked on its designated program it may not always be as it should be. You may need to experiment by trying to cook a rice on a different setting if it is not cooking well on its correct setting.
It has a keep warm, extended keep warm and a reheat function. If you are looking for a Japanese cooker, Zojirushi is a Japanese manufacturer but this specific model is currently made outside of Japan. It has an easy read LCD display and a delay timer. Its power cord retracts, and it comes with two measuring cups, a spatula and spatula holder. The lid is removeable and washable and the non-stick inner pan has stay cool side handles. This cooker comes with a one year limited warranty.
6. Tiger 5½ cup Rice Cooker and Warmer
The Japanese made Tiger 5½ cup rice cooker and warmer is an urban satin colored cooker with one touch operation that automatically switches to ‘keep warm’ once cooking completes. The keep warm function can operate for up to 12 hours. The inner pan is non-stick coated for easy cleaning and the steam vent is removable and washable. The power cord retracts on this cooker for easy storage and it comes with a measuring cup and spatula.Although rice is cooked based on weight/liquid quantities, and guidance is given by the manufacturer, some may find that too much liquid is added which can come out through the steam vent. Also, it may not be as suitable for cooking brown rice. There is a one year limited warranty on this cooker.
7. Tiger Corporation JBV-A10U-W Micom Rice Cooker with Food Steamer and Slow Cooker
The Tiger Corporation JBV-A10U-W Micom rice cooker with food steamer and slow cooker is a one button operation cooker with a 5½ cup capacity. Its inner pan is non-stick coated, and it comes with accessories that include a cup and a cookbook for synchrony cooking.If you are looking to buy a Japanese rice cooker, please note that although this is a Japanese manufacturer, this model of rice cooker is made elsewhere. It has four cooking menu settings and an automatic keep warm function. It comes with a one year warranty and the cooking plate is free from BPA.
8. Zojirushi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer
The Zojirushi NP-NVC10 induction heating pressure rice cooker and warmer is pre-programed for cooking different types of rice, porridge and quick cooking. This stainless brown colored 5½ cup capacity cooker also has a steam reduce setting that reduces steam by 50%. It has an easy to read LCD display with a clock and delay timer.
This is an induction heating cooker that also uses fuzzy logic with AI (Artificial Intelligence) to automatically adjust cooking cycles for optimum results. It has an automatic keep warm, an extended keep warm and a reheat function. Some users have reported that although this is induction heating, it can take longer to cook some types of rice than more basic cookers.The non-stick inner pan is infused with platinum particles to alkalize water, which then breaks down protein on the surface of the rice and allows water to easier penetrate the rice. This also improves the sweetness of the rice.
9. Hamilton Beach 37548 Rice Cooker
The 14 cup capacity Hamilton Beach 37548 rice cooker has pre-programed settings for cooking rice, whole grains, cereal and steamed vegetables. You can cook rice in the base of the cooker and place the steamer/rinse basket above it to steam other foods.This has a delay option and when the cooking program is complete it automatically shifts to ‘keep warm’. The non-stick inner pan is safe to clean in the dishwasher, although some users have reported loss of non-stick coating with regular use of this cooker. The inner lid can get food stuck onto it during cooking, but it is removeable to aid cleaning.
10. Hamilton Beach 37508 Rice Cooker
With a capacity of up to 4 cups uncooked, the Hamilton Beach 37508 rice cooker offers one touch cooking and an automatic keep warm function. You can also steam food while rice is cooking with its 2-in-1 basket. The inner pan is non-stick, and along with the basket, it is suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher. The lid liner is also removeable for easier cleaning, although debris can accumulate under the lid itself which may be more difficult to clean. It is UL Listed and comes with a one year warranty.
11. Tiger JAZ-A10U-FH Rice Cooker and Warmer
The Tiger JAZ-A10U-FH Rice Cooker and Warmer is one button operation and keeps rice warm for up to 12 hours. With a 5½ cup capacity, it has a non-stick coated inner pan and the external is white with a traditional flower design. It comes with a steam basket and has a retractable power cord.If you are looking to buy a Japanese rice cooker then it is worth noting that although the manufacturer is Japanese, this particular model is made elsewhere. It comes with a one year limited warranty.
12. T-fal RK705851 10-in-1 Rice and Multicooker
The T-fal RK705851 10-in-1 rice and multicooker has a large 10 cup capacity. It is pre-programed and able to cook rice and risotto, grains, slow cook, steam, brown, bake and make yogurt. It is digitally controlled, and you can delay cooking time for up to 24 hours.It uses fuzzy logic technology to optimize cooking, although its keep warm function may not be the best for rice. The inner pan is non-stick with a ceramic coating and is suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Rice Cooker
If you eat rice regularly, then using a rice cooker offers automation to a cooking process that would otherwise take up a hob and some of your attention. All you need to do is measure and prepare the rice, add water and turn the cooker on. With a usual cooking time of around 30 minutes for long-grain rice and its ability to ‘keep warm’ it means that your rice is ready with the rest of the meal.
How Rice Cookers Work and Fuzzy Logic
The cooking of rice is a four stage process. The first is when it sits in water, the second is boiling. It then absorbs water, or steams and the last phase is when it rests.
A rice cooker has a removeable cooking pan or bowl that sits inside the main body pot and on top of an electric heating element. It also has a thermal sensing device. This is usually a spring-loaded thermometer set into the main body of the cooker.
The simpler heating elements heat the water in the cooker by just transferring their heat to the inner pan. Once the water starts to boil at 212°F, it is absorbed by the rice. The temperature remains stable while there is water in the pan. Once all the water is absorbed or lost as steam, the temperature will begin to rise so the thermal sensing device will detect this and switch the cooker to ‘keep warm’ as the rice is now cooked and in its resting phase.
Some of the more sophisticated cookers have fuzzy logic technology. Fuzzy logic is a way of programing that allows machines to interpret the world in a more human manner with degrees of truth, rather than just approaching tasks driven by hard parameters and data sets. Fuzzy logic can incorporate non-definitive words such as ‘almost’ or ‘slightly’ into its processes.
For rice cookers this means that it can automatically adjust its cooking time and temperature based on the rice being cooked, just like if we turn the hob up or down or add a lid to optimize rice cooking in a saucepan.
Newer models of rice cookers may also use induction heating. Like an induction hob, alternate electrical current passes through metal coils creating a magnetic field. The inner pan is placed into this magnetic field and it generates heat in the cooking pan. One advantage of induction heating is that the thermal sensing (thermometer) can be more accurate. Food is also cooked evenly as the pan is surrounded by heat rather than it just coming up from the bottom element. The heat created in the cooking pan also changes immediately if the magnetic field weakens or strengthens.
Country of Manufacture
Japan and Korea are recognized as global leaders in rice cooker manufacture. Cookers made in Japan tend to be higher quality as they may also serve the Japanese market. Some Japanese companies also subcontract production to other manufacturing companies such as those in China or Thailand; these cookers are generally made for the Japanese export market. They will often cost less than those made in Japan and will not have the quality that Japanese consumers would expect from their products.
Rice cookers developed in Japan after the First World War and by the end of the 1950s, they were common in Japanese homes. Earlier designs were double chambered and turned off when the thermostat determined the rice was cooked. The keep warm function developed much later in its history.
As rice was a diet staple in Asian countries, demand for the rice cooker soon spread across Asia. Introduced to the US in the 1970s, they became popular in communities such as Louisiana and South Carolina where rice was key in the diet. Combined with growing interest in Asian cuisine and alternative foods, use of the rice cooker soon became widespread.
Many consumers also recognize Korea as producing superior quality rice cookers; most manufacturers there do not outsource their production, instead they just export them directly.
The capacity of rice cookers is usually measured in cups. Be aware though that this measurement often means the cup that comes with the cooker, rather than a general cup measure. To be safe, it can be easier to look for a quart or liter capacity than rely on cups, as three different 5½ cup capacity rice cookers may all hold a different quantity of rice. It is also worth remembering that different types of uncooked rice do give different cooked volumes.
It is also worth checking whether the cup measurement is for uncooked or cooked rice, as again, some manufacturers may market their cooker using either, or both, measurements.
Because rice cookers usually work at the best when working at their intended capacity, larger cookers will be better for larger households. If you cook rice regularly but not constantly, then you may want to think about one that has additional capabilities, such as for steaming, so you can use it more regularly.
Features, Functions and Safety
Basic rice cookers are often only suitable for cooking long-grain rice, so if you are looking for one that will cook other rice such as short-grain or brown, then your budget will need to reflect that need.
The inner pan or bowl is removeable. Usually made from stainless steel or aluminum, these often have a non-stick coating, meaning you need to be careful with which utensils you use so that you do not scratch the coating. More traditional pans may be clay or charcoal, which are naturally non-stick but much more fragile than a metal pan.
Rice can burn in a cooker, and although not necessary, it can be helpful to stir it regularly once it begins to cook. When you buy a new rice cooker, it may take a little time to get used to using it and you may need to adjust water content slightly to reduce the risk of burnt rice.
All rice cookers have some form of ‘keep warm’ function. To reduce the risk of food poisoning, the keep warm function on a rice cooker needs to keep rice higher than 140°F to help reduce bacterial growth, yet not too high a temperature that will dry out and burn the rice. Electric rice cookers work at this temperature range and usually can keep the rice warm (and food safe) for no longer than 12 hours.
More basic cookers may not turn on or off automatically, you may need to remove the power cord to switch them off. Some cookers may have a transparent lid which can be useful to monitor progress and if measuring lines are etched on the inner pan it can be helpful when the measuring cup gets misplaced.
Most cookers come with basic safety functions, such as locking lids and stay cool knobs. Some may carry a Mark of UL Listed or UL Certified. This means that a representative sample of that product meets requirements of UL, a global independent safety science company. Among other things, UL focuses on safety, compliance, sustainability, transparency and delivering quality and performance in the US, Canada and across the globe. UL Standards are accredited by the American National Standards Institute and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).
The Difference Between White Rice and Brown Rice
All rice has a natural husk or hull outer that is also known as chaff. When rice is harvested, the husk needs removing before rice can be eaten. When the husk is removed, the bran layer is exposed. This is the nutritious and tasty outer of brown rice.
If rice is further processed, then the bran layer and the nutrient rich rice kernel or germ (found under the husk) is removed and the white grain is exposed. This is now white rice.
The length of the rice determines whether it is long, medium or short grain. Long grain is usually three to four times as long as its width. Its starchy composition means it tends to separate and stay light and fluffy after cooking. A medium grain is more tender and moister than long grain, which means it will stick together more. The short grain rice is usually less than twice as long as its width and is common in sushi because of its sticky texture.
Preparing Rice for Cooking in a Rice Cooker
The first thing to do is measure out your rice using the measure or cup that comes with the cooker. The rice then needs rinsing in a sieve under the faucet to remove the excess starch and bran.
You can then pop the rice into the inner pan and if you spread it around it will help it to cook evenly. Measure out the required amount of water, either with the cup or to the indicator on the inside of the pan and then add the pan to the cooker.
Add the inner lid if it has one and close the lid and fasten securely. Turn the cooker on, select its cooking program if you need to, otherwise just leave it to cook. It will then switch to keep warm when complete, either showing on its LCD display or just changing indicator light.
You may want to leave the lid closed for around 15 minutes and then carefully open while allowing excess steam to escape and letting any condensate run back into the cooker. Once the rice has had a good stir, it can then be served, and the cooker turned off ready for cleaning.
Cleaning Your Rice Cooker
The inner pan needs a good clean in hot soapy water after use. If rice is stuck on, then a good soak will usually remove any debris. Avoid using harsh abrasives as these may damage the coating on the pan. Some pans are suitable for dishwasher cleaning, so if you can, pop it in the dishwasher.
Give the outside of the cooker a good wipe with a damp cloth and check that the heating element and any other parts of the cooker body are clean and free from debris. If you do need to wipe the body, make sure it is properly dry before turning on again. The clean pan can then go back in the cooker and be put away ready for its next use.
If you are looking for a basic rice cooker, or something that is a little, or even a lot more sophisticated, we hope that you have found this review valuable. We also hope that even if you are a seasoned pro in rice cooking that you found something of interest, such as the latest cooking developments in fuzzy logic and induction heating.Whether you want to invest in your first rice cooker, or you are replacing a much-loved and trusty old cooker, then investing in the best rice cooker for your kitchen will help guarantee that your rice is always hot, fresh and fluffy.