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When I was asked to help evaluate the best rice cookers on the market, I jumped at the chance. As a Korean American and lover of all rice varieties, I felt like I had a pretty solid understanding of not only what good rice cooker-made-rice should taste like, but what differentiates good rice from great rice.
I have a deep allegiance to rice cookers. Right up there with the coffee maker, it is the only other gadget that gets consistent and constant use in my home. Growing up, my family predominantly relied on Japanese rice cookers, specifically Zojirushi, before moving on to Korean brands like Cuckoo. A solid rice cooker has always been an indispensable help in my kitchen: ready to create perfect, warm rice with a push of a button, so all that’s left to do is pull together a few sides for dinner.
At home, when it comes to Japanese- or Korean-style short grain white rice, I do tend to cook it in a rice cooker 99 percent of the time. Other rice varieties, including American long-grain rice, jasmine, basmati (and their brown counterparts), will usually get cooked in a pot on the stovetop, though I will also occasionally cook them in a rice cooker instead, depending on my mood. For this reason, when comparing the best rice cooker contenders, I stuck to short-grain white sushi rice and short-grain brown rice as my control grains.
A few more notes on my methodology and experimentation:
- I used 2 cups each of uncooked rice: short-grain white and short-grain brown rice varieties in each of the rice cookers.
- I rinsed the rice three times for brown, five times for white.
- I filled the water up to the recommended line, as outlined on each of the rice cooker insert bowls. (My usual method is far less precise.) No separate measuring cup was used.
- When there was an option for warming, I let any remnant rice sit for at least a few hours and up to overnight.
- In selecting the best rice cookers, I initially looked at dozens of reviews and ratings online before narrowing it down to rice cookers whose primary function is to cook rice. With so many multicookers (including the Instant Pot and a variety of slow cooker and pressure cooker models) that also have this capability, this was an easy way to whittle down the playing field.
The quick conclusion? There are a lot of great rice cookers out there! With so many options to suit every need and budget (and take the guesswork out of the cooking process), you are bound to find the perfect one for you and your household.
Below, the best rice cookers to come from my research:
Best Overall: Zojirushi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer 1.0 Liter, Stainless Brown NP-NVC10
Best Splurge (and Strong Runner-Up): Panasonic IH Electronic Rice Cooker/Warmer, 1.0L model, SR-HZ106
Best for a Range of Rice (Including Japanese, Sushi, Korean Rice, and Porridge): Cuckoo CRP-P0609S 6 cup Electric Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer
Best for Small Spaces: Zojirushi NL-BAC05SB Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer
Best for Budget-Minded: Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker & Food Steamer
I’m going to start off strong with this solid Zojirushi rice cooker, a Japanese rice cooker which also boasts pressure and induction heating capabilities to ensure perfectly fluffy rice each time. The NP-NVC10 features the same “fuzzy logic technology” featured in many rice cookers that help make adjustments to create optimal cooked rice, multiple cooking functions, a nonstick inner pan and a detachable stainless-steel inner lid. There is also a safety feature that prevents the lid from opening when the Zojirushi rice cooker is on.
Pros: Feels solid; easy-to-navigate keypad; handsome on the counter; perfect rice, especially brown rice; reminder beep.
I mentioned before there’s no shortage of great rice cookers out in the market right now, and this Panasonic model, which also relies on induction heating, drives that point home. I was immediately drawn to the sleek design; it’s a major bonus that this rice cooker fits inside our kitchen drawer with plenty of clearance. The next feature that caught my attention is the beautiful, thick copper bowl, which is dimpled and sturdy, with some heft. Unlike most rice cookers, the keypad is on the flat lid, and is both simple and clear to use. The easy-release lid made cleaning a breeze. As for the cooked rice? Both white and brown rice came out beautifully soft and not sticky. Comes with a measuring cup, rice paddle and ladle. The MSRP price of $499.95 (though you can find it for cheaper at places like Amazon) makes this a splurge-level model.
Pros: Flat external lid helpful for drawer storage; sturdy inner bowl; beautiful rice.
Cons: No elapsed time shown from the start; priciest of all models tested.
Cuckoo is one of the most popular rice cooker brands in Korea, and I can see why. Cuckoo offers a range of affordable to super luxe models, and this one falls in the more affordable end of the company’s offerings (but still on the pricier end of all rice cookers in the market). It cooks delicious rice, especially Korean- and Japanese-style rice: beautiful jewels of soft, not overly sticky, rice with a great chew. This model is an excellent choice if you’re looking to upgrade from your existing rice cooker and have an average-sized household that eats a fair amount of rice. The bowl insert has a nice heft, along with helper handles. This model also boasts a full range of rice cooking abilities, including brown rice, mixed rice, porridge and nu rung ji (Korean-style scorched rice) settings.
Pros: Excellent cooked rice quality, especially for Japanese and Korean rice, and sticky rice; language controls available in English, Korean, and Chinese; auto steam cleaning function; safety features.
Cons: Larger in size; heavy lid opens a bit too quickly.
This is another reliable Zojirushi model with a smaller footprint, a great compact size for urban kitchens. Its clear keypad makes it extremely easy to use, though there is no option for mixed rice, if that is something you’re looking for. The timer starts at 60 minutes for white rice, making it very convenient to check in on its progress at any point. The brown rice took closer to 1.5 hours to cook. Both cooked white and brown rice texture came out perfect, fully cooked with a nice chew.
Pros: Compact size; easy-to-navigate keypad.
Cons: Limited functions (no mixed rice function, for example); more affordable than higher-end models.
Boy did I love this little guy. You certainly can’t beat the $30 price tag, but I was pleasantly surprised by its performance to boot. The small, lightweight size makes this an ideal contender for small living and/or those cooking for one. It even comes with a steamer basket (that doubles as a bowl for rinsing your rice) for cooking vegetables. I was impressed that this model displayed the cook time from the start (45 minutes for white, 60 minutes for brown). The buttons on the display are also clear and easy to use. As for cooking capabilities, the Hamilton Beach rice cooker turned out perfectly fine white rice with bits of yellowed (but still edible) rice, showing where the hot zones are on the insert pot. The brown rice came out great, but after leaving it on the warmer function for a few hours, I noticed some darker spots on the bottom.
Pros: Affordable; compact; steamer basket included; displays time from the start.
Cons: Basic functionality; thinner/lighter weight insert pot.