Basic rice cookers shut off or turn themselves down when the rice has absorbed all the cooking liquid. More expensive fuzzy logic rice cookers continuously self-adjust for different rice types and textures. This report discusses both types of rice cookers.
Although many of the sources we found are dated, most of the top picks are still available. We found two sources that provide detailed professional testing of rice cookers. Unfortunately, one of them, Choice magazine (from Australia), tests models that are mostly available outside of the U.S. (although it offers an excellent buying guide and tips on how to make perfect rice). Cook's Illustrated's review of rice cookers offers the strongest relevant review. Editors prepare brown, white and sushi rice in eight cookers in quantities of 1 and 3 cups (some cookers don't perform as well with small quantities of rice). Each cooker is judged on quality of finished rice, efficiency, ease of use and features.
Fine Cooking magazine, The Washington Post, MetaEfficient.com and the Los Angeles Times have all published rice cooker reviews, although they vary in quality. Fine Cooking tests five cookers with long grain, brown, sweet and sushi rice, reporting that all but one model made excellent white rice. (Unfortunately, editors don't reveal which rice cooker missed the mark.)
Owner-written rice cooker reviews at Amazon.com, and to a lesser extent at Cooking.com, provide a wealth of useful rice cooker information. We found that many owners press their rice cookers into service as slow cookers, steamers and even ovens. Unlike professional reviewers, owners report problems that crop up over time, such as flaking nonstick coatings, which can reveal models to avoid.
In professional tests, rice cookers from Sanyo, Panasonic and Zojirushi tend to outperform models from Oster, Rival, Aroma, Salton and Cuisinart. In reviews, many of the underperforming rice cookers have glass lids, which experts say don't seal completely and allow moisture to escape, increasing the risk of scorching. Many reviews say that one-piece rice cookers (with a hinged lid) outperform two-piece models (with a separate lid) primarily for this reason. Experts say that in a glass-lidded model, rice cooks less evenly and can congeal into a solid mass during the keep-warm stage. We read numerous complaints about hot, gummy liquid streaming out of glass-lidded units, a problem both messy and dangerous.