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Best Rice Cookers

By: Angela Stringfellow on October 18, 2017

Editor's note:
Reviewers agree that rice aficionados can't go wrong with the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer, and induction heating fans will love the Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Induction Rice Cooker and Warmer. The Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker and Steamer is a good low-cost compromise, while the Aroma 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker and Steamer makes one-pot cooking a breeze.

Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Capacity (uncooked): 5½ cups Timer: Yes Rice settings: 8

Best rice cooker

Reviewers say the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer is an all-around star that should please most serious rice lovers, but at a lower price point than some other fully featured models. A wide range of menu settings lets users cook several types of rice to perfection, including sushi rice, sweet rice and brown rice. A programmable timer and an easy-to-clean insert add to ease of use, and a unique memory feature helps the rice cooker remember your preferences for each type of rice.

Buy for $161.99
Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Capacity (uncooked): 7 cups Timer: Yes Rice settings: 3

Best cheap rice cooker

Most cheap rice cookers are smaller affairs, but the Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker can turn out an impressive 14 cups of rice. Experts also praise it for cooking white rice that's just as tasty as the rice from much pricier cookers. There are also a good number of features on this rice cooker for the price, including brown-rice and quick-cook settings, heat/simmer, steam, and a delayed start that means you can better time when dinner is ready.

Buy for $61.65
Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Capacity (uncooked): 5½ cups Timer: Yes Rice settings: 11

Best induction rice cooker

When you're a discerning rice lover with money to burn, reviewers say it doesn't get much better than the Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Induction Rice Cooker and Warmer. A vast array of menu settings means you can nail almost any kind of rice, or you can simply select "umami" to soak and steam rice longer for maximum flavor. A 24-hour timer means your meal can be ready any time you want it, and the platinum-infused nonstick insert alters water quality to impart a sweeter flavor.

Buy for $369.99
Aroma 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker and Steamer
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Capacity (uncooked): 4 cups Timer: Yes Rice settings: 2

Best rice cooker/steamer

If you want a rice cooker that can do more but you don't want to pay more, reviewers say the Aroma 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker and Steamer is the versatile value you need. The built-in steaming tray makes quick work of meat, fish, or vegetables while rice cooks below, and a digital timer and delayed-start function make the Aroma a good pick for busy households. Owners say it turns out consistently good rice, whether white or brown, and expert taste testers are also pleased.

Buy for $29.92
Prep Solutions Microwaveable Rice and Pasta Cooker
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Capacity (uncooked): 12 cups Timer: No Rice settings: N/A

Best microwave rice cooker

If you have limited storage or simply don't want to clutter your kitchen with another appliance, the Prep Solutions Microwaveable Rice and Pasta Cooker is as convenient as it gets. The multi-featured set includes a steamer, pasta drainer and measuring cups, but all pieces fit in the main rice bowl for compact storage. Reviewers say this microwave rice cooker is easy to use and clean, but they especially love being able to cook rice in about half the time of other rice cookers.

Buy for $20.49

Rice cookers make preparing perfect rice a breeze

Preparing rice is trickier than it seems. Not only is it too easy to burn rice using a regular cooking pot, but it's difficult to get the texture and flavor just right. If you frequently prepare Cajun or Asian cuisine or make rice one or more times per week, a rice cooker is a handy gadget for preparing perfect, evenly cooked rice – the right flavor, quality and texture – with ease. Unlike cooking rice in a regular cooking pan, a rice cooker doesn't require your constant attention to avoid soggy, dried out or burned rice -- meaning you can focus on preparing the rest of the meal while your rice cooks to perfection. These small appliances range from the basic to the full-featured rice cookers, which have a variety of settings for cooking different types of rice. Some rice cookers are double-duty appliances, cooking rice in the pot below while simultaneously steaming vegetables, fish or meat in the tray above for one-pot meal prep. For the fastest results, microwave rice cookers are an option, but these rice cookers are best for those who only cook rice occasionally and aren't too picky about the quality of the final product; they also require a bit of trial-and-error to get the best results.

If you're considering a rice cooker, consider how frequently you cook rice, how many people you typically serve with a meal, and the types of rice that you prepare – brown rice, for instance, requires different settings and cook times than white rice, so you'll want a rice cooker that can accommodate these differences. Don't forget to consider storage space, as well; whether you plan to keep a rice cooker on the counter or store it in a kitchen cabinet, you'll want a model that fits in your available space. The good news is that rice cooker/steamers can serve multiple cooking needs without the need to store several appliances. If you're looking for other ways to prepare one-pot meals, be sure to check out our reports on slow cookers and multi-cookers, as well.

The best micom rice cookers

The best rice cookers can be simple or complex, but most top models have a microprocessor, usually abbreviated as "micom," that allows for more precise heating. These units may also be referred to as "fuzzy logic" rice cookers, because the processor can adjust as it cooks to turn out the best rice possible. Micom rice cookers typically have a variety of settings so you can cook different types of rice, such as brown rice or rice for sushi. A micom rice cooker is a good middle ground for rice lovers who want a lot of features but don't want to overspend on a top-of-the-line induction rice cooker. These models typically have several rice modes and features, and they come in a wide range of capacities.

Experts and owners agree: The Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer (Est. $160) consistently cooks perfect rice at a friendlier price point than other fully featured rice cookers. It also earns raves for being easy to use and clean. Editors at one well-respected test kitchen praise its wide variety of menu settings, which include white (regular/sushi, softer or harder), mixed, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, rinse-free and quick cooking.

Having rice ready to eat when you get home is simple with the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10's programmable timer; then, if you're delayed, it will keep the rice warm for you without overcooking. Fine Cooking's Maryellen Driscoll is a fan of the Neuro's memory feature, which helps the cooker automatically cook your favorite type of rice to your taste. The ZCC10 accommodates 5½ cups of uncooked rice, yielding 10 to 11 cups cooked. If you need to feed a bigger crowd, the Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 (Est. $200) yields 20 cups of cooked rice. Reviewers appreciate the larger quantity, noting that the Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 will keep rice warm and fresh for a day or longer as long as the lid is closed, eliminating the clumps and stickiness that tend to occur when reheating already-prepared rice in the microwave.

If you want something a little sleeker than basic white, the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker (Est. $150) shares many of the pros of the Neuro, and is jazzed up with a brown stainless-steel finish. It also adds a steaming basket. The NS-TSC10 uses the same fuzzy logic technology to cook rice, and reviewers say it is equally easy to use. TheSweethome.com's Karen Solomon and Tim Barribeau praise this rice cooker's controls and easy-to-clean insert. It also has a rice-paddle clip and retractable cord – nice conveniences. The 1-liter NS-TSC10 has an uncooked capacity of 5½ cups; the Zojirushi NS-TSC18 (Est. $165) is the 10-cup version. Like the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 and NS-ZCC18 models, the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 and NSTSC-18 have an extended keep-warm and reheating cycle.

The NS-TSC10 has a wide range of settings: white/sushi, mixed, porridge, sweet, brown, cake, steam, and quick cooking. Cake? Yes, that's not a typo -- you can bake cake inside this rice cooker. If you're very picky about your rice, however, note that it lacks a few of the more specialized settings of the Neuro, including softer or harder white rice and semi-brown rice. As for rice quality, owners say it delivers consistently soft, tasty grains. TheSweethome.com testers agree, noting that it's the only rice cooker they found that makes Japanese rice, brown, and long-grain white rice equally well. That said, it can be slow, requiring 46 minutes to cook a 3-cup batch of white rice in tests and nearly two hours to prepare a 3-cup batch of brown rice, and it faltered slightly with quick-cook rice.

Cheap rice cookers

If you just want to stick to white rice, or don't see yourself using a rice cooker more than occasionally, an inexpensive rice cooker might be all you need. Basic rice cookers are typically simple appliances: add rice and water and push a button to start the heating process. Some also have smaller capacities, making them a sensible choice for one- or two-person households. Of course, at the bottom of the price range you often won't get extras such as rice-specific cooking modes and programmable timers. Still, owners say they do a good job of conveniently cooking fluffy rice.

Rice lovers who don't need extensive rice-specific settings will get plenty of bang for their buck with the Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker (Est. $40). It earns expert and owner praise for quick cooking and consistent results. It also boasts an impressive 7-cup uncooked capacity, which yields 14 cups of cooked rice -- much more than most budget-friendly rice cookers. Still not enough? The equally budget-friendly Hamilton Beach 37541 Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker (Est. $50) can turn out up to 20 cups of rice.

Experts with TheSweethome.com say the Hamilton Beach cooks white rice "as delicious as models that cost four times as much," including the Zojirushi NS-TSC10. They also appreciate the relatively quick cooking time of just over half an hour. Owners say the push-button controls are simple to use, but they appreciate getting some extras at this price point: brown rice and quick-cook settings, delayed start (up to 15 hours), a keep-warm setting, and even heat/simmer and steam, and it comes with a steam basket, as well.

Criticisms of the Hamilton Beach are muted, but some reviewers say it is only average for cooking brown rice, and that a pricier model may be worth the investment for brown-rice lovers. And, as TheSweethome.com notes, it won't allow for fine-tuning for firmer or softer rice. 

Another high-capacity rice cooker at this attractive price point is the Aroma 20-Cup Digital Rice Cooker (Est. $40). With a 10-cup uncooked capacity, it yields up to 20 cups of cooked rice. Like the Hamilton Beach, it offers a 15-hour delayed start timer, as well as automatic keep-warm and steam functions and settings for various types of rice including brown rice, white rice and flash rice. An added bonus, the Aroma has a slow cook function as well, making it useful for preparing soups, roasts and other slow-cooked meals.

The Aroma ARC-150SB isn't included in any professional roundups, but it's a favorite among users at Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Owners appreciate the included measurement cup and wide serving spoon, both of which store conveniently inside the cooker when not in use, along with the steamer tray. Most agree that it cooks rice well -- including white rice, brown rice and even quinoa -- and steams vegetables perfectly, and several users say it works great for soups, stews and chilis as well. It's easy to use and clean, owners say, although a few users point out that the lid doesn't detach completely. Instead, it's hinged on one side and can sometimes get in the way. That said, the inner metal bowl is removable for serving.

Induction rice cookers

This type of rice cooker uses an electrical current to warm the entire cooking bowl rather than a traditional heating element that warms only the bottom of the bowl. This means that rice cooks without any clumping of the finished product. Induction rice cookers cook much more evenly and can be fine-tuned to prepare even the most delicate rice types. They also cook faster than micom rice cookers, a plus for impatient cooks. On the flipside, you'll pay a premium for consistency: induction rice cookers are the most expensive kind on the market. Unless you're a true rice lover, you may also find that induction rice cookers have far more settings than you'll ever truly need.

The Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Induction Rice Cooker and Warmer (Est. $350) cooks rice to perfection, experts and owners say. This rice cooker uses induction heating, pressure cooking, fuzzy logic and artificial intelligence to do all of the thinking for the cook. Artificial intelligence is a technology that "learns" from previous rice cooker usage to adjust the cooking cycle for the best results, including addressing seasonal water and room temperature differences to maintain rice texture and consistency. Many reviewers say they hesitated for years before finally "biting the bullet" and shelling out the cash for a Zojirushi induction rice cooker, and now wish they hadn't waited so long.

There are as many menu settings on the Zojirushi NP-NVC10 as anyone will ever need, including white (regular, soft or harder), umami, mixed, sushi/sweet, porridge, brown, germinated brown, steam-reduce, scorch, rinse-free and quick cooking. User rave about this rice cooker's 24-hour programmable timer -- you can fill the pot and tell the rice cooker when to turn the rice on so it is done when you are ready for your meal. The platinum-infused nonstick inner cooking pan changes the water's quality to create sweeter-tasting rice. It holds 5½ cups uncooked rice, but there is also a 10-cup version, the Zojirushi NP-NVC18 (Est. $380).

Owners sing the praises of the NP-NVC10. Many say it turns out rice that's "as good as it gets," and that the keep warm setting produces rice that's tasty and well-textured for hours after it's cooked. However, a few reviewers say they don't feel the NP-NVC10's performance justifies its hefty price tag. Others point out that the Zojirushi NP-NVC10 and NP-NVC18 shouldn't be used to cook steel-cut oats (it can clog the vent and filters), and they don't have a steaming function for steaming vegetables.

If you have your eye on induction rice cookers but want to spend a little less, the Zojirushi NP-GBC05XT (Est. $205) offers the same technology with a smaller capacity and fewer features. You won't get the platinum-infused nonstick coating or extended keep-warm setting on this model, or other features such as modes for soft or hard white rice, jasmine rice, umami, sweet and semi-brown rice, steam reduce, and scorch. However, it still has plenty of cook settings, including for white rice, quick cooking, mixed rice, sushi rice, porridge, brown rice, germinated brown rice, and rinse-free rice, and it comes with a rice spatula, spatula holder and rice measuring cups. The NP-GBC05XT has a 3-cup uncooked capacity, which makes it a good choice for smaller families.

Owners are just as enthused about the NP-GBC05XT as they are the pricier NP-NVC10, saying it turns out rice with excellent taste and texture, and is a better choice for more basic rice dishes. Users also say it's easy to clean and appreciate its compact, space-saving design. A few complain that the detachable power cord is too bulky and stiff, while others want a backlit display, but overall most agree that it is worth every penny.

Rice cookers/steamers

Rice cookers/steamers can do double duty: cook your rice in the pot below while meat, fish, or veggies steam in a tray above. These appliances are a convenient way to make a complete meal without dirtying multiple pots and pans. The only downside is that true rice lovers may not get all the dedicated rice-cooking modes they want with these appliances.

Rice pairs perfectly with steamed meat and vegetables, and rice cookers/steamers like the popular Aroma 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker and Steamer (Est. $30) let you take care of both halves of your meal in one convenient appliance. Reviewers say the stainless-steel Aroma is a versatile little appliance and a fantastic value. You can make your whole dinner in one go, steaming meat and vegetables in the built-in steamer tray while cooking rice below.

Experts say the Aroma is easy to use and clean, with a digital timer, a 15-hour delayed-start function, and a removable inner cooking pot. A keep-warm function keeps rice toasty after it's done cooking for up to 10 hours, and it can prepare between two and eight cups of cooked rice of any variety. The Aroma even aced experts' rice taste tests, turning out grains as tender as a dedicated rice cooker model more than five times its price.

If you're a true rice aficionado, note that you'll only have white rice, brown rice and flash rice settings on this model. That doesn't bother most owners: They've made the Aroma one of the most highly rated rice cookers at Amazon.com, with thousands of reviews. Users praise the Aroma's consistently good rice-cooking and added steaming abilities, as well as its overall ease of use and compact design -- although a few note that the inner rice bowl can be difficult to remove when the contents are hot. However, some complain of durability issues, saying the unit stopped working after a few uses or the rice pan's nonstick coating started to flake off.

If you have a little more cash at your disposal, the stainless-steel Breville BRC600XL Risotto Plus Rice and Risotto Maker (Est. $130) packs a lot of functions into one small pot. While it has basic rice-cooking and steaming modes, you can also make risotto or sauté and slow-cook food. It holds up to 10 cups of uncooked rice, yielding up to 20 cups of cooked rice.

Owners say the Risotto Plus is extremely easy to use. There is no LCD display to navigate; instead, there are six single-function buttons at the base. A keep-warm function maintains the right temperature even after food is done, and the aluminum nonstick cooking bowl pops out for easy cleaning. The unit also has a removable power cord to make serving dinner less cumbersome.

Risotto is easy to flub, but reviewers say the Risotto Plus repeatedly aces the dish, even without the constant stirring that's traditionally required. They also like the versatility of being able to steam, sauté, and slow cook with the same unit. A few reviewers are underwhelmed with the slow-cooking feature, however, saying the unit is too small to really replace a programmable slow cooker, which we cover in a separate report. A handful of others say rice lovers would be better served by a dedicated rice cooker with more rice-specific modes. We also read a few complaints about units that shut off after a few minutes, either out of the box or after about a year of use.

For about half the price of the Breville, the Tiger Corporation JBV-A10U-W 5.5-Cup Micom Rice Cooker (Est. $65) earns rave reviews from hundreds of owners at Amazon.com. It holds 5 ½ cups of uncooked rice, but if it also comes in a 10-cup version, the Tiger Corporation JBV-A18U-W 10-Cup Micom Rice Cooker (Est. $70), which costs just a few dollars more. It has a synchro-cooking function, called "tacook," allowing for cooking a main dish and rice at the same time, and the cooking plate is designed to minimize the effect of foods being prepared in the cooking plate on the texture and flavor of the rice. Coupled with Tiger's Automatic Cooking Logic™ system, which actively monitors the temperature of foods to create perfectly-prepared meals, and one-button operation, the Tiger makes easy work of preparing complete meals in a single appliance.

In addition to the synchro-cooking function, the Tiger has settings for plain rice, brown rice and slow cooking/steaming, as well as automatic keep-warm for up to 12 hours. Owners say it's a great value for the price, making perfectly textured rice that tastes like it was freshly prepared even after four or five hours on warming mode. It works well for brown rice, white rice and sushi rice, users say, although like most rice cookers, it takes a long time to cook brown rice -- about an hour. On the downside, there is no timer and no audible beep to let users know that cooking is complete. The lid is hinged, which can be a bit awkward to clean, and it also tends to snap up quickly when the button is pressed to release it. For the majority of users, these are minor inconveniences, not deal-breakers.

Microwaveable rice cookers 

If you're not too picky about perfect rice and you need it in a jiffy, a microwaveable rice cooker might be your best choice. These are simple, microwaveable plastic bowls with vented lids that harness the power of your microwave -- no special appliance required, and some also double as pasta cookers or steamers. They are among the cheapest rice cookers you can buy, and they won't require a lot of storage space if you're in tight quarters. They're also quicker than traditional electric rice cookers. However, getting consistently good, evenly cooked rice can take some experimenting, especially since microwave wattage can vary. Be careful, too: Cook your rice for too long or with too little water, and you could end up with a melted hunk of plastic instead of dinner.

The Prep Solutions Microwaveable Rice and Pasta Cooker (Est. $20) is a versatile, fully featured set at a great price, owners say. This white 17-piece set includes a pasta draining insert, steaming insert, pasta measurer, measuring cups and spoons, rice paddle and locking lid. For easy storage, all parts fit inside the main rice bowl. It holds up to 12 cups of uncooked rice.

Users say using the GMRC-500 couldn't be easier: Rinse your rice, put it into the cooker, add water, lock the lid, and microwave. Cooking times for white rice listed in the manual vary from 11 to 12 minutes for 1 cup (cooked) to about 20 to 22 minutes for 8 cups. A draining insert makes quick work of pasta, and the steamer works well for vegetables, owners say. The GMRC-500 is dishwasher-safe in the top rack for easy cleanup.

Most reviewers say the GMRC-500 is a great way for anyone who prizes speed to make a hearty meal, especially those who don't have a lot of space to store bulky appliances. However, some say the 12-cup capacity is overkill, especially for most college students. Some users also complain there's too much trial and error involved in cooking overall; others say water runs all over the microwave despite using recommended amounts.

If you don't want to keep track of the extra pieces that come with the GMRC-500, the Sistema Microwave Cookware Rice Steamer (Est. $15) is a simpler unit that keeps the focus on rice. This cherry-red plastic unit has just four pieces: bowl, pressure chamber tray, lid, and rice spoon. It holds 11 cups of uncooked rice.

Cooking times vary, but it takes about 12 minutes to cook about 1 cup of long grain white rice, according to Sistema. Once you've rinsed your rice, you simply add it to the bowl, put the pressure chamber tray on top, lock the lid, and microwave. The pressure chamber tray helps lessen the chance of overflow by collecting water and draining it back into the base. The unit is freezer- and dishwasher-safe (top rack).

Reviewers say the Sistema steamer bowl feels sturdier than some competing products, and most say it cooks rice consistently well. We also read quite a few reviews from people who say that it's very versatile and they have used the Sistema to cook quinoa, oatmeal, soup and even vegetables. Complaints echo those regarding the GMRC-500: Many reviewers have trouble with water overflowing in the microwave, and others say directions aren't detailed enough, leading to a lot of trial and error and inconsistent results. However, many note that there is a learning curve depending upon your particular microwave, so that may be a factor in the latter complaint. A few users also report cracks in the bowl after a few uses, and we also read a few isolated complaints about bowls melting in the microwave. 

Expert & User Review Sources

There are a handful of hands-on reviews of rice cookers. Some of the most helpful are from CooksIllustrated.com, FineCooking.com, The Sweethome.com, Techlicious.com and Wired.com, all conducted by testers who pitted several top models against one another, evaluating the quality of prepared rice, consistency of texture and flavor, ease of use, ease of cleanup and other features. Finally, user reviews at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and BedBathandBeyond.com provided the final piece of the puzzle on how well these rice cookers fare in day-to-day use.

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