Rice cookers are great for making perfect, fluffy rice every time, while freeing you up to prepare other parts of your meal.
Cooking rice should be a pretty straightforward affair, but results can be inconsistent or even disastrous if your pot is left unattended for very long. A rice cooker creates the perfect conditions for cooking rice unattended, saving you from worrying about the possibility of undercooked, overcooked or even burnt rice ever again. Some models can even cook vegetables and fish using an added steamer basket, allowing you to make whole meals in one go.
Many rice cookers include settings for various types of grain (short, medium, long, jasmine, brown), which is a boon to anyone looking for variety in meals or trying to eat healthier. These settings are especially useful for the notoriously finicky brown rice, as well as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) rice, a more nutritious, germinated version of brown rice.
Aside from their versatility when it comes to preparing meals, many mid-range models ($40+) include a number of convenient features. The most common of these is a “keep warm” setting, which is useful for preparing meals hours ahead of time. Other common features are delay timers for cooking food while away from home and programmable rice settings that let you customize how the rice will be cooked (heat level, cooking time, etc.).
Micom Rice Cookers and Instant Pots
High-end, “micom” rice cookers — so called because of their integrated micro computers — make use of their integrated microchips to constantly monitor and adjust the cooking temperature, ensuring the best quality rice or meal possible. In addition to the term "micom," you may see these models labeled as having “fuzzy logic” technology, which is supposed to mean that they work kind of like humans, making tiny adjustments along the way to produce a favored result.
Yet another consideration as you shop: Many home chefs swear that the Instant Pot or another multi-cooker is great for making perfect rice. Models such as the the 10-functionInstant Pot Ultra, our top choice in the category, can produce the same results as a dedicated rice cooker, with greater versatility in the meals it can prepare.
So, if you already own an Instant Pot, try out the rice cooking capability. If you like it, that will save you the trouble (and the cost) of buying a dedicated rice cooker. Alternately, you might consider buying an Instant Pot instead of a rice cooker.
Rice cooker buying guide
Rice cookers are easy to use overall, but not everyone has the same culinary needs. Keep these key features in mind when shopping for a model that’s right for you.
• Capacity. Knowing how much uncooked rice your cooker can hold is important when planning a meal. A larger meal will benefit from a larger model to cut down on overall cooking time. Always keep in mind that cooked rice doubles the uncooked amount used. In other words, one cup of dry, uncooked rice will produce roughly two cups of cooked rice.
• Settings. Some models include settings for different types of rice, making them useful for people who enjoy variety in their meals.
• Extra features. Add-ons such as steamer baskets for vegetables and other ingredients can help prepare full meals in a shorter amount of time. Digital timers are useful for keeping an eye on when your rice will be ready.
• Ease of use. The whole point of a rice cooker is to streamline the cooking process. Unless you’re looking to experiment in the kitchen, a rice cooker with one or two simple buttons and settings will do just as good a job.
Best rice cookers
1. Best overall: Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker
While it might be on the expensive end of rice cookers (about $190), the NS-TC10 is a versatile model that can do so much more than just cook rice. It includes a steamer basket, doubles as a slow cooker and can even bake cakes. It also uses “fuzzy logic” technology to maintain just the right temperature for any meal you make.
The NS-TSC can handle seven types of rice, as well as porridge, with enough capacity for five cups of uncooked rice. The “keep warm” setting has two modes, depending on whether you need to be away from the kitchen for more or less than eight hours. As a little bonus, this model is surprisingly easy to stow away when not in use, since its power cable is retractable.
2. Editor's pick: Cuckoo CR-0631F 6-Cup Multifunctional Micom Rice Cooker
This Korean-made micom rice cooker is a terrific choice for cooking all kinds of rice, including brown and GABA rice, two of the healthier, but trickier grains to prepare. It boasts six different cook settings, including a dedicated option for GABA rice, fast cooking and timer functions. It’s also one of the best models for keeping cooked rice warm, seeing as it can do so for up to 24 hours without drying the rice out.
Despite its overall excellent performance, it does have one minor drawback: The lid is not removable, which makes cleaning it out after every use a little bit of a hassle compared to similar models. Color palettes are also limited to a single (though admittedly very cute) white-and-pink color scheme, which might not suit everyone’s tastes.
3. Best for low prices: Joseph Joseph 450002 M-Cuisine Microwave Rice Cooker
The Joseph Joseph is a great model for kitchens with limited counter space, due to the fact that it is a microwave rice cooker. Unlike electronic models, the Joseph Joseph is designed to work inside a different kitchen appliance.
To use, just fill the dishwasher-safe pot with your selected amount of rice, add water, and place on the top and lock it down with the paddle, which can also serve as a serving spoon. Then simply pop it in the microwave and wait for your rice to be done just the way you like it.
For just under $30, the standard model makes up to two cups of uncooked rice, while the upgraded version includes a steamer and a griddle, allowing you to make whole meals. The only downside is that the handles can get very hot, so it's important to always hold it carefully and use pot holders, if necessary.
4. Best for simple operation: Zojirushi NHS Rice Cooker
Perfect for making family meals, this Zojirushi model does away with many of the extra features found in pricier rice cookers.
All you need to do is add rice and water and press a single button. Although it doesn’t alert you once the rice is done — it turns off by itself — it’s great for cooking the rest of your meal in the meantime.
The Zojirushi comes in three sizes, based on how much uncooked rice it can hold: 3-cup, 6-cup and 10-cup. Every Zojirushi rice cooker comes with a measuring cup, and larger models also include a serving spatula.
5. Best large capacity: Aroma Housewares ARC-150SB 20-Cup Digital Rice Cooker
When it comes to cooking large amounts of rice (and different types of rice), this Aroma model can’t be beat. It can make up to 10 cups of uncooked rice and includes a steamer basket to help make whole meals in one go.
The Aroma rice cooker has a variety of useful features such as a slow cooking setting, flash rice setting (speeds up the cooking process), and a 15-hour delay timer. That’s great when you have to leave the house, but would like a meal ready when you come back.
Be warned that although it has a “keep warm” setting, many owners of this particular model note that food doesn’t seem to stay warm for very long.
6. Best for Versatility: Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is a good alternative to a dedicated rice cooker because it can do so much more than just cook rice. Nearly all Instant Pots have a function dedicated to cooking rice. The 7-in-1 Instant Pot Duo, for example, includes "Rice" as one it its seven different single-button main settings, as well as other features standard to rice cookers such as a digital timer, food warmer settings and delayed cooking functions.
The Instant Pot Duo holds up to six quarts of food, which the company says equals almost 18 cups of rice (although it doesn’t specify whether that’s cooked or uncooked). Considering how fast the Instant Pot can work, the Duo or another model can make for a great addition to large households with little time for kitchen prep.