Rice cookers take the guesswork out of preparing rice. A microprocessor determines how and when to adjust the temperature and heating time. Once the rice is done, the rice cooker switches to a keep-warm setting.
Expert and consumer reviewers say the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer NS-ZCC10 (Est. $165) is a quality choice because it consistently cooks rice perfectly. It is easy to use and clean. Menu settings include white (regular/sushi, softer or harder), mixed, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, rinse-free and quick cooking. It does not have an on/off button; you must unplug it to turn it off. Having rice ready to eat when you get home is simple with the use of the rice cooker's programmable timer. You can set it in the morning so that it starts cooking the rice an hour before you get home.
Our runner-up ZElectric Rice Cooker & Warmer NS-PC10 (Est. $90) -- has many of the same attributes as the NS-ZCC10 at half the price. Consumers say, however, that this model's instructions are not clear, and they struggle to figure out how much rice and water to use. Also, the cooker does not turn off until you unplug it; the unit has only a start button, unlike the NS-ZCC10/18, which has multiple settings. Other than that, reviewers say it is also simple to use and clean, and many say it's a particularly great value considering the many years they have owned and used it.
Both Zojirushi models come in two sizes. The smaller models have the capacity for up to 5.5 cups of dry rice (10 cups cooked), the larger model takes up to 10 cups (18 cups cooked), and you can cook as little as 2 cups of dry rice.