A Guide to Buying the Best Rice Cooker for You
Are you looking for the best rice cooker on the market? It can be challenging to find the right rice cooker because there are just so many rice cookers for sale! On this website you’ll find many detailed rice cooker reviews and a rice cookers buyers guide. Please scroll down to continue reading.
I’m Amy Chang and I’m here to help you buy the best rice cooker for your needs. This website was set up to help people find and choose the ideal rice cooker. One that matches your budget, exceeds your expectations and perfectly prepares the specific type of rice you like to eat. Please start your quest for the best rice cooker by reading this entire page. It’s designed to help you to understand the different types of rice cookers while explaining the key points you should consider in your buying decision.
For your convenience, the entire buyers guide is broken down into separate sections. You can choose to scroll down and continue reading or you can just click on the links below to jump to the specific section that interests you.
Table of Contents
- What is a Rice Cooker?
- Types of Rice Cookers
- Rice Cooker Features and Technology
- Tips on Choosing Rice Cookers
- Best Rice Cooker Brands
- My Recommended Rice Cookers to Buy
What is a Rice Cooker and How Does it Work?
Few foods are as universally loved as rice. Many cultures incorporate it into their food, from the nutty warmth of basmati rice in Indian food to the well-known sushi rice of Japanese cuisine. While the taste is simple, home preparation can be daunting, making the search for the best rice cooker a very important one.
A rice cooker is an easy to use machine that cooks rice at the touch of a button (or two). Several model and design points will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but almost all of the best rice makers share common elements. A removable inner bowl, typically made of non stick metal or enamel, is seated in a larger external pot which contains the heating element. Once the correct ratio of rice and water is poured into the rice cooker, the lid is sealed, and the heating element is engaged to begin the cooking process.
Inside, the water heats up to the boiling point, cooking the rice and circulating steam as the water passes from vapor to condensation and back to water again. The sealed interior ensures that while the water may vaporize, it always stays inside the pot to cook the rice. Once a certain internal temperature has been reached, a thermal sensor inside the rice cooker shuts down the heating element, allowing the rice to stay cooked, moist and warm without overheating it and drying out the grains.
What Types of Rice Cookers Are Currently on the Market?
As with most appliances, if you’re looking for a rice cooker, you’ll have a variety of options and price ranges to select from. You may find yourself asking, “How do I choose the best rice cooker steamer for my kitchen?” If you’re just starting out, a streamlined and simple model may appeal – the best cheap rice cooker options on the market are geared towards home cooks who just want to whip up a batch of rice and get on with their day; these models won’t have warming features to keep the rice moist, and thus should be emptied within a half hour or so at the end of the cooking cycle to prevent dry or overcooked rice.
These types of rice cookers are known as conventional/traditional rice cookers or on/off rice cookers. They will simply cook the rice and then turn themselves off or stay in a keep warm mode until you turn them off. They don’t have any other features at all and are extremely affordable. They are generally priced between $20 to $100.
On the other end of the spectrum are feature-packed digital rice cookers that are more suitable to users who want to prepare a variety of different rice types, such as brown, sushi, porridge and the traditional white rice. The best rated rice cooker has multiple settings, warming functions, sensors, and some will incorporate the much-touted “fuzzy logic” chip, which uses artificial intelligence to provide advanced cooking options while monitoring the status of the rice cook and automatically adjusting heat.
These digital rice cookers are usually made by Japanese or Korean companies and many consumers have found them to be excellent in many ways. Because of their features and technology, they are more expensive than traditional rice cookers and can range from $100 (for a basic level micom fuzzy logic rice cooker) to over $400 (for an induction heating pressure rice cooker). While pricey, they are highly recommended if you want to cook many different varieties of rice perfectly.
A Guide to Rice Cooker Features and Technology
While it doesn’t seem likely that the humble rice cooker would be a platform for some of the most impressive technology found in the kitchen, the advanced programming that inhabits some Japanese or Korean rice cooker models and even American rice cookers make them amazingly complex yet still easy to operate.
Fuzzy logic, as previously mentioned, is an enviable trait in an automatic rice cooker; this “human like” technology understands more than basic commands, enabling such abilities as self-adjustment if the temperature is too high or if the rice is already well cooked. This helps you to avoid rice that is over-cooked and it also means that you don’t have to watch over the entire process of rice cooking.
Another term you may read about is induction heating, which warms up the entire vessel of the best electric rice cooker models through electromagnetism rather than simply the bottom. Usual conventional or digital rice cookers are heated through a metal plate at the bottom of the rice cooker. On the other hand, rice cookers with induction heating are not just heated from the bottom but throughout the entire circumference of the rice cooker. This is much more efficient way to perform heating and allows for greater precision in temperature regulation.
‘Micom’, a term that may come into play in some rice cooker descriptions, is short for “micro computer chip” and indicates the model has advanced programming. This is just a well-known Japanese short-form referring to digital rice cookers who can automatically regulate the cooking heat and time so as to produce equally cooked rice.
At the top of the rice cooker line are the premium high pressure rice cookers which perform in a similar way to normal pressure cookers. These high pressure rice cookers cook at a higher temperature and results in softer rice that stays soft longer. The increased heat and moisture is designed to penetrate into every single little grain of rice and often results in very fluffy and sometimes, slightly sweet rice. Another key benefit of pressure rice cookers is that they can cook rice faster than the usual digital rice cookers.
Incorporated into many varieties of the fuzzy logic rice steamer and other high-end neuro fuzzy rice cooker models are features like LCD (liquid crystal display) panels, which allow the user to select exactly the setting they need. These panels and long timer settings ensure even cooking that is adjusted for the exact rice and volume being prepared, which in turn means no burned or wasted food or dinnertime disappointments.
Five Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Rice Cooker
While you may be wondering “what is the best rice cooker?”, it is helpful to base your buying decision on several key factors. The points below should be considered when you are searching for the best rice cooker on the market. Remember, the best rice cookers are the ones that fit your requirements. They aren’t necessarily the newest or most expensive rice cooker out there. They just have to fulfill all your specific needs.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy the top rice cooker:
- What will you be using the rice cooker for? While it seems obvious, the type of rice or grain you’ll be preparing most often is a very big factor in your ultimate decision. Looking through the best rice cookers or the top rated rice cookers will offer a good number of choices, but if the models you’re looking over are too complex or too simple for your needs, the fit won’t be ideal. Make a note of how often you anticipate using the machine and what types of rice you’ll be preparing to help guide your search. The best rice cookers for brown rice, for instance, may not be the best models for sushi rice. Remember: a good rice cooker is one that is ready and willing to live up to your personal cooking needs, not one that’s packed with bells and whistles for the sake of showing off.
- How many people are you feeding? This depends on how much rice a person generally consumes but on the safe side, one cup of uncooked rice should be enough for most individuals. Therefore, something like a 3 cup rice cooker is best suited for singles, couples and small families of around four or less people. 5 cup rice cookers can easily feed around 4 to 7 people at once although if you’re feeding 7 people or more, its better to get a 8 cup or 10 cup rice cooker. In general, its safer to choose rice makers that will have at least one cup capacity to each person served. This is a key point to consider when shopping: buying a large Chinese rice cooker with a 12 cup capacity is overkill for a small family and buying a machine that doesn’t make enough rice will be troublesome when it comes to meal preparation or entertaining guests.
- How much counter space do you have? This isn’t a vital buying factor to consider but still, it is relevant if you lack space in the kitchen. Many an eager rice novice has purchased a rice cooker that is far too large for their counter – many of the best rated rice cookers are intended to serve families and are made with a large body to contain the needed volume of rice. For the single user or couple, a mini rice cooker is generally sufficient. While doing a rice cooker comparison, the design and size of the rice cooker can be one to consider if the rice cookers you are considering all have similar features and technology.
- What is your budget? With such complex circuitry and settings, the more advanced offerings in the rice cooker market can carry a hefty price tag. The best value rice cooker choices aren’t hard to find, with online sites such as Amazon allowing a savvy shopper to sort by price once the results of a search or category are displayed. The best Japanese rice maker selections, on the other hand, provide an enviably luxurious experience for the demanding cook. Narrow your search to a comfortable price range, and don’t be afraid to make use of rice cooker ratings and reviews to help you pick the right rice cooker within your budget. Try thinking long-term as well. A good rice cooker can last you for many years. Dividing the cost over time might make it easier for you to appreciate why certain rice cookers are worth their asking price.
- What features do you really need? Budget aside, some chefs can really benefit from certain settings on the best rice cooker model for their needs. Absent-minded cooks will appreciate certain idiot-proof amenities, like an auto shut off feature that will keep the rice warm instead of overcooking it. Multi-taskers are sure to love LCD menu screens, which allow them to quickly and efficiently set the time and temperature they need. Busy moms and foodies can find some culinary support in machines that offer temperature settings for not only rice, but porridge and other grains as well.
The Best Rice Cooker Brands to Buy From
While there are many types of rice cookers on the market, there are only a few rice cooker brands worth mentioning. These are companies that have a long history of producing excellent rice cookers and they have a deep selection of rice cooker models for every price range. Some of these brand names should be familiar to you as you’ll often see reappearing throughout your searches as you compare rice cookers online or in the store. These five best rice cooker brand names are very popular with consumers and their rice cooker models have received rave reviews worldwide.
Without further ado, these are the best rice cooker brands you should pay attention to. Click on each of their names for a more in-depth overview of their product range:
- Aroma Rice Cookers. Made in the United States, Aroma rice cookers are well-known for their aesthetically pleasing styles, some of which even feature flowers on the exterior. Their “cool touch” design enables the outside of many of their cookers to remain cool to the fingertips, even during an active cooking cycle. Aroma is also a brand that produces stainless steel rice cookers, some of which come in large cup sizes.
- Zojirushi Rice Cookers. A much loved Japanese rice cooker brand, Zojirushi produces excellent digital rice cookers. Their in-depth setting options allow a user to select from different cooking levels, or different rice types, such as brown, sushi, mixed, porridge and white. The company boasts four different model types, which are identified by their cooking technology combinations: pressure/induction heating/micom, induction heating/micom, only micom and lastly, the conventional rice cooker.
- Panasonic Rice Cookers. Panasonic brand rice cookers offer the savvy consumer a hybrid of models, from smaller units intended for home use all the way through very large units suitable for industrial cooking applications. Their product line makes use of the patented “fuzzy logic” programming that allows each machine to make certain adjustments, such as cooking time or temperature, as needed without user input.
- Sanyo Rice Cookers. Another brand from Japan, Sanyo cookers make judicious use of micro computer technology, resulting in heavy-duty machines that offer additional helpful features, such as LCD clocks in the control panel and a 24 hour preset to cook the rice while the rest of dinner is being prepared. Sanyo is famous for their technology in gadgets like cameras and computers, their expertise has been put to use to make some of the best Japanese cookers on the market.
- Tiger Rice Cookers. Unsurprisingly, a final Japanese brand rounds out the list, with Tiger cookers offering up internal infrared technology that can tell when rice is finished cooking. With models that offer three-in-one settings that can function as a slow cooker or vegetable steamer, this company has all the technology a busy homemaker needs to get dinner ready in a flash.
Features such as removable baskets, special time-delay and warming settings, and artificial intelligence that produces the best rice possible are a hallmark of these favorite names, all of which have delighted users for years in kitchens across the country.
My Personal Recommendations for the Best Rice Cookers
I’ve written a lot of rice cooker reviews and I often get asked the same question. What is the best rice cooker on the market? What should I buy? After getting the same queries and emails over and over again, I’ve decided to put up my personal recommendations for the top rice cookers you can buy. These are the cream of the crop and I dare say they are definitely the best out there in terms of features, technology, durability and results.
The rice cookers listed below performed superbly in the tests I’ve run on them (yes, I’ve used each of them personally) and I feel that they are the most flexible: their wide range of cook settings and features allow them to perform in a variety of ways. This makes them value-for-money although you’ll soon notice that they aren’t exactly very cheap. The old adage of you get what you pay for comes into play here.
While I don’t mind using conventional on/off rice cookers, I find that digital rice cookers with micro-computer features like fuzzy logic and cooking technology like induction heating/pressure cooking are just much more convenient and helpful. This is especially the case when you are cooking different types of rice on a regular basis or if you want to be assured that you’ll get the highest quality rice possible every single time. ^_^
Without further ado, here is my list of the best rice cookers on the market right now.
The Best Rice Cooker – My #1 Recommendation (for Both Brown and White Rice)
Zojirushi NP-HBC18 10-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer With Induction Heating System. This is the perfect rice cooker for me. It’s got the bells and whistles that actually matter but it isn’t outrageously expensive. While there are pricier rice cookers (with pressure cooking built-in), I still think this is the best value for your money if you’re looking for a solid rice cooker that cooks MANY types of rice perfectly.
I love that this rice cooker uses induction heating. This means your rice is going to be more evenly cooked than rice cookers with normal heating. It offers a wide range of rice cooking options. There’s white, brown, sushi, mixed and porridge. The best thing about the options? There are 3 different types of settings for white rice alone (harder, softer, normal) and there’s a GABA brown rice option which produces healthy germinated brown rice (wonderful!).
As you may already know, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) brown rice offers health benefits like improved kidney function and lower blood pressure. GABA rice is simply brown rice soaked for 2 to 20 hours at 104°F (40°C) in order to germinate each rice grain, hence activating higher levels of the GABA amino acid.
Tests have shown that GABA brown rice has higher amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, zinc, magnesium, Vitamin E and many B vitamins than normal brown rice or white rice. And the fact that this rice cooker has a GABA brown rice option just makes it totally awesome and useful. You can definitely consider it as the best rice cooker for brown rice as well.
It has a detachable lid you can easily remove to wash after each cooking session and a lovely lcd display that’s at the top of the rice cooker (as opposed to the front face which may require you to lower your field of vision). In terms of price, this rice cooker isn’t very cheap but it isn’t extremely expensive either.
Given its heating capabilities (induction powered) and the wide range of cooking options (including GABA brown rice), I feel that its a steal for its price. Yes, there are newer higher end and more expensive rice cookers out there. But I think this one is more than adequate for almost everyone. Definitely my top recommendation.
A smaller 5.5 cup version of this rice cooker exists and it has the same exact features. Click here to see the Zojirushi NP-HBC10 5 cup rice cooker.
Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5-1/2-Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer. This is a cute little fuzzy logic rice cooker. It’s shaped like a little toy robot and comes in a lovely premium white color which makes it adorable. But looks aside, the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 is a feature-packed wonder that’ll please anyone interested in cooking many various types of rice.
When compared to other Zojirushi rice cookers or rice cookers from other brands, this rice cooker has a ton of menu settings you’ll learn to appreciate. It cooks all sorts of rice, ranging from white to mixed, sushi, porridge, rinse-free, semi-brown and brown rice. It also has a very useful reheating cycle, cool touch carrying handles and a retractable power cord which makes it VERY easy to transport to the dining table (if necessary).
However, it doesn’t have a GABA Brown rice mode so if you’re a hardcore brown rice fan, this might not appeal too much to you. It also uses traditional heating template (metal plates below) as opposed to something like induction heating, which heats the entire circumference of the rice pan at the same time.
Other than that, it’s a really good rice cooker that lasts for years without any problems. Recommended, not just because of its cute design but because of its durability and bountiful selection of cooking settings.
This particular rice cooker is also available in a 10 cup capacity. Click here to see my review of the Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 10 Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker.
Best Conventional Rice Cooker
If a digital rice cooker just seems to complicated and you’ll rather stick to a basic traditional on/off rice cooker, here are some options you can consider. Bear in mind, conventional rice cookers trade features for simplicity so as long as you’re fine with that, there are some really good conventional rice cookers to consider.
Sanyo ECJ-N55F 5-1/2-Cup Rice Cooker, White With Green Accents and Flower Design. This is an excellent conventional rice cooker and I’m surprised to see it not recommended more. A few simple reasons why I like the Sanyo ECJ-N55F: it has a porridge/soup mode (rare for non-digital rice cookers). It also has a lovely design and has a nice steaming tray. It’s non-bulky and the carrying handle makes it easy to transport it right onto another table or counter.
The major selling point for me is that it actually cooks porridge or soups in addition to the usual rice function. This is a big plus for a conventional rice cooker and makes it more versatile than other on/off cookers.
Best Value Rice Cooker (With Fuzzy Logic!)
Most digital rice cookers have microcomputers and fuzzy logic technology but they are usually quite pricey. Most of them are over $100 and many are over $200, depending on their features and heating capabilities. All of these fuzzy logic rice cookers are comparable in terms of cooking rice so it can be difficult to choose one over the other.
But in the category of cheap fuzzy logic rice cookers that are value-for-money, there is a clear winner.
Sanyo ECJ-M1000S Micro-Computerized 10-Cup Rice Cooker. This is a wonderful rice cooker with a ton of features AND a fuzzy logic microcomputer. It’s a full fledged digital rice cooker and it’s selling for under $60, which is pretty amazing. This 10 cup rice cooker can prepare brown, white and sushi rice along with porridge, soup and even cakes. It also has a 15 hour timer which allows you to cook meals ahead of time. It also has a steaming and reheating function which is useful for whipping up steamed vegetables or already cooked rice. A drawback is that this rice cooker doesn’t have a clock, which makes the timer setting a little cumbersome to use. It also doesn’t have an extended keep warm mode beyond 6 hours or so. Other than that, its a pretty good fuzzy logic rice cooker….especially since its selling under $60.
Best Cheap Rice Cooker Under $35
On a budget and looking for the best cheap rice cooker under $35? Maybe you don’t eat rice often and just want something to use when you have a craving for rice. While there are many rice cookers under $35, many of them are not too good at cooking rice. Many of them also have poor durability. I would personally invest more money on a more high quality digital rice cooker since a good rice cooker can last for years.
However, there ARE some good cheap rice cookers out there. At the price range of $15 to $35, the Aroma rice cookers are your best option. I feel that they produce some of the best cheap rice cookers out there that can actually last for a few years. Here are my recommendations.
Aroma ARC-838TC 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker & Food Steamer. The Aroma ARC-838TC 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker is a basic rice cooker that can handle up to 8 cups of uncooked rice. It has a simple control panel with 2 options (warm/cook) and a 15 hour delay timer. It also has a steamer tray that allows you to steam vegetables at the same time while the rice is cooking. A good point about this rice cooker is that its durable: A friend of mine has been using it for 3 years and its working well. While I personally don’t use this rice cooker, I have heard good comments about it from many.
Aroma ARC-996 6 Cup Rice Cooker and Steamer. Aroma ARC-996 6 Cup Rice Cooker and Steamer. This is a new 2011 model from Aroma and I’ve played with it a few times. It has a nice white design and it offers a specific brown rice mode, which is very handy. Not all cheap rice cookers have a brown rice mode so this was a plus point to me. Definitely a step up and this is a rice cooker to consider if you’re a fan of brown rice. Like other rice cookers in this price range, there is a steaming tray along with a delay timer and other steam/keep warm settings.
In general the downsides for cheap rice cookers are note-worthy: For example, you cannot really keep the rice warm for more than an hour or two without it getting too hard. There may be a tendency to overcook rice at the bottom. Water may spill out while cooking. They may not cook brown rice very well.
They also do not have convenient settings for several different types of rice. Since they don’t have a fuzzy logic micro-computer and only a thermostat, it may require some trial and error with the amount of water/rice added before you get exactly the type of rice you want.
As long as you’re prepared to deal with these potential problems, these cheap rice cookers will do the job just fine. If not, spend a little more and get a digital rice cooker with a fuzzy logic micro-computer, clock/timer, superior heating capabilities and multiple rice cooking options. As mentioned above, my top recommendation for such a rice cooker is the Zojirushi NP HBC18.
Best Stainless Steel Rice Cooker
Stainless Steel Rice Cooker Model ME81. For those who are looking for a non-digital rice cooker that can handle up to 8 cups of rice the Stainless Steel Rice Cooker is the perfect choice. This rice cooker has no Teflon or other chemicals to make it nonstick, the inner pan and the vegetable steamer tray are pure stainless steel. THis is helpful if you’re paranoid about chemicals leaking into your food or worried that the non-stick coating will peel off.
This rice cooker is simple to use, simply add rice with the enclosed measuring cup, the right amount of liquid and select the right setting. The indicator lights will alert users as to when the rice is done. Once the rice is done the rice cooker switches over to its keep warm function to ensure the rice stays at a safe temperature for several hours. The glass lid allows me to watch my rice as it is cooking, which is useful.
Still Looking For More Rice Cooker Reviews?
My recommendations above should be sufficient in helping you find the best rice cooker for your needs but if you’re still keen on reading more rice cooker reviews, you can see every single review I’ve written by clicking on this link. Alternatively, you may want to scroll up and look at the right sidebar to filter reviews according to your favorite rice cooker brand or cup capacity.
All in all I hope that I helped you to find the perfect rice cooker for your needs. Feel free to recommend this website to a friend!