The Best Rice Cookers
For long grain and sushi rice and everything nice.
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Is there anyone who doesn’t like rice? It's a pantry staple. And while it’s completely possible to make great rice on the stove, doing so means hovering over the pot to ensure that your grains cook fully without burning. By using a rice cooker, like our new favorite Panasonic One-Touch Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker (available at Amazon for $79.14), you can avoid that hassle and focus on the rest of your meal. There's a reason these devices are a fixture in professional kitchens—they promise fluffy rice every time, and they do the work for you.
But which rice cookers fulfill their promise of perfection? If you're going to give up precious kitchen counter space for yet another gadget, it needs to be worthy. I tested six of the top rice cookers on the market to find out which ones were convenient, consistent, and—ultimately—which ones could make that ideal bowl of rice.
These are the best rice cookers we tested ranked, in order:
- Panasonic One-Touch Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker
- Aroma Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer
- Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer
- Oster Rice Cooker with Steamer
- Hamilton Beach Rice & Hot Cereal Cooker
- Instant Pot 9-in-1 Pressure Cooker
If you’re looking for phenomenal rice every time, this is the rice cooker for you. During testing, the results were fluffy yet soft and never overdone, each batch the kind you'd be proud to serve to dinner guests. While the Fuzzy Logic cooker took a little longer than I might have anticipated, the final product was worth the wait.
Using this rice cooker was also incredibly easy. It has only four buttons, all clearly labeled, which makes it simple to plug it in and just get cooking. The cooker fits best in a kitchen with a bit of extra counter space, but overall it topped the charts when it came to making great rice and steaming fantastic dumplings with very little effort on my part. It's a bit on the pricy side, but for anyone serious about their rice and looking for a simple set up, this Panasonic is just right.
The Aroma Digital Rice Cooker packs a big punch for a small footprint. It looks sort of like a tiny Instant Pot, but with more focused features. And while it didn't make perfect rice every single time, it came pretty close (one test out of five came out spottily cooked). Regardless, this was the cooker I reached for when I thought, “Maybe I’ll make more rice and dumplings tonight.”
It might feel a tad rickety compared to higher-priced models, but the results are tasty, the price is low, and the machine is downright easy to use. That makes it an easy pick for "Best Value." My only significant qualm: there's no way to tell how much time is left before your rice is done. A minor annoyance if you’re only an occasional rice devotee, but if you make rice every day, you might want to splurge on the Panasonic.
How We Tested
My name is Bethany, and while I’m primarily a baker, I also home cook most of my meals. For me, this means a lot of tofu and veggies—and a lot of rice or other starch. If I’m frying up a batch of tofu and simultaneously stir frying a batch of vegetables, I don’t have time to babysit a pot of rice. All of this translates to a desire for a rice cooker that can take care of that all-important task for me—while I spend my time instead on making sure the rest of my meal is perfect.
Before I began testing, I turned to the internet. I spent hours scouring other reviews, various cooking sites, and manufacturers websites to find the rice cookers worth their counter space. I then narrowed down my list to six of the best rice cookers that made the best rice as well as were easy to use and/or were budget friendly. If the cooker didn’t seem intuitive or get absolutely rave reviews elsewhere, it didn’t make the cut.
I then considered what to test. I decided that both white and brown rice were important, as they cook quite differently (white rice tends to be quick and easy, while brown rice takes longer and requires a different water-to-rice ratio). I wanted to see if each rice cooker could handle both a tougher, long grain brown rice and a sticky, short grain white rice. I also thought beyond rice, ultimately choosing to test the steaming baskets often included with rice cookers using frozen dumplings. (It’s 2018 – If my rice cooker can’t also help me make vegetables or steam dumplings, have I really chosen the right one?)
The next step was to put our rice cookers through their paces. I tested each rice twice to gauge consistency across tests—and judged each cooker harshly on its results. I also steamed my favorite Costco dumplings in each cooker, using the steaming basket provided.
Alongside its cooking results, I considered how easy each rice cooker was to clean, whether it cooked rice consistently from one batch to the next, and whether it could handle cooking a single cup of rice (enough for just a couple of people) or needed to cook up enough for an army before being able to cook evenly. Because while I love having leftovers to make fried rice, I don’t want to be required to cook the same few dishes one after the other every time.
A final consideration was how much counter or cabinet space was required to house this new piece of kitchen gadgetry. Was it going to take over my apartment counter, or fit neatly next to my microwave? Could I even tuck it away if I needed the counter space to make Christmas cookies or pie?
From all of this data, I determined our top contenders and noted various features and bugs others would benefit from knowing.
What You Need to Know About Rice Cookers
To be frank, I consider rice cookers to be an “extra” piece of kitchen gear. They’re absolutely phenomenal if you make a lot of rice, but you can also make rice on the stove. So, a rice cooker has a lot to live up to if I'm going to purchase a separate product. It also has to beat out a multicooker like the Instapot, which we tested here as well. Because why have both if you can get away with one? (Fortunately for today’s products, they all scored higher than the Instapot, proving that a dedicated rice cooker indeed makes better rice than an all-purpose machine.)
So before buying a rice cooker, ask yourself: How frequently do I cook rice? And how many features do I want from my rice cooker? Do I cook both white and brown rice frequently? Do I enjoy making sticky sushi rice? Would a warming function help me pull off those rice-based dinner parties I’m always planning? These questions are probably connected, and good to lay out before you make your purchase.
Some rice cookers, like the Oyster we tested, have a single function controlled by a single lever. These are the most basic, more economical, types. Others, like the Panasonic, have multiple cooking functions and a “keep warm” option along with an inner bowl that tells you exactly how much rice and water to use for different types of rice. Both types are useful, but it’s good to know which you want and how much you want to spend.
In general, if you want perfect rice every time—regardless of which type of rice you’re cooking—then you’re probably better off getting a cooker that offers different settings for brown and white rice. You might also want to splurge for a “fuzzy logic” rice cooker, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
How Do Rice Cookers Work?
Before we dive into fuzzy logic, let’s look at how rice cookers work. It’s pretty simple. Rice cookers are constructed of five main parts: an insulated outer container, a non-stick removable inner pot, a selection of thermal sensors, a heating element, and a lid. Much like cooking rice on the stove, you just add uncooked rice and water to the inner pot, pop on the lid, and add heat. In this case though, the internal heating element boils the water while the thermal sensors ensure that heating stops once all of the water is absorbed.
These sensors are where the magic happens. On the stove, you have to judge your rice carefully—too much time cooking and the rice will absorb all of the water and start to burn. But pop the top to check too frequently and all of your steam will escape. With a rice cooker, the sensors know when the internal pot is heating up too much and can stop the cooking for you. (If it’s getting past water’s boiling point, 212°, that means your rice has absorbed all of the available water and its becoming overdone).
Many rice cookers also have warming functions. These work by simply turning the cooking temperature way down after the pot reaches 212°, rather than totally off. This keeps the rice warm without adding enough heat to burn your food.
What Is Fuzzy Logic?
A few of the higher-end rice cookers, such as Panasonic and Zojirushi, rely on what they call Fuzzy Logic to cook the perfect rice. It seems to work, but what does it do exactly? And how is it different than a typical rice cooker?
Jessika Toothman from HowStuffWorks explains it in more detail, but in brief: fuzzy-logic rice cookers use computer chips that let the cooker make micro adjustments in real time. These programs allow more flexibility for cooking time and temperature, based on how the cooking process is going. So rather than always cook to 212° and then switch off, a fuzzy logic cooker may change the temperature or cooking time depending on how fast the rice is absorbing water or what type of rice it knows you’re cooking. In essence, it’s reacting to your rice.
So How Much Should I Spend on a rice cooker?
That depends on your budget. Think about the features you want and how much you’re willing to pay for them. If you know you’ll cook different types of rice, and rice quality is your highest concern, then I’d suggest splurging on a rice cooker with more features. Fuzzy logic programming makes phenomenal rice and you can easily set the cooker to different types of rice that require different water and cooking times. Plus, the nicer cookers come with that warming feature. It’s fantastic if you’re like me and enjoy going back for seconds.
Other Rice Cookers We Tested
The Zojirushi made the best rice of them all. If I was judging purely on the quality of the finished rice product, this cooker would have won. The inner bowl was also easy to clean and had markings for different types of rice as well as quinoa. Amusingly, it sung when starting and finishing a batch of rice.
However, the Zojirushi didn’t come with a bowl to steam vegetables or dumplings in, which I found unforgivable at this price point. For such a hefty price tag, I’d want this rice cooker to replace my Instant Pot, or at least walk the dog in the mornings, so without the steamer basket it seems a little too single function for the cost. Maybe if this rice cooker was able to produce perfect rice quickly I would understand, but it also took the longest of any cooker to finish a batch. The Panasonic Fuzzy Logic cooker made comparable rice, comes with a steamer basket, and costs a fair bit less, so there's no reason to spring for the Zojirushi.
If you’re the type of person who throws all of your laundry—sheets, towels, fancy clothes, and jeans—into the wash together, this might be the rice cooker for you. Its super simple setup means tossing rice and water in, pushing a lever, and waiting for the lever to pop back up. You never really know if you’re making rice correctly, but you just have to trust it will work. Luckily, the rice always turned out okay during testing, and it steamed my dumplings perfectly, though I simply had to guess when I thought they might be done.
This cooker is nice and compact, comes with a steamer bowl, and won’t break the bank. The rice doesn’t compare to our winner, but I wouldn't turn up my nose at it either.
The Hamilton Beach rice cooker feels like a pressure cooker missing a bunch of functions. It's larger than a rice cooker really needs to be, and during testing it had trouble cooking a single cup of rice without overcooking the bottom in some ares. The rice it produced was okay, but not stellar, and had a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot.
The one truly awesome thing about this rice cooker is that its steaming basket can double as a colander for rinsing your rice, which means that the Hamilton Beach is more of a “complete package” than the other cookers.
While I love the Instant Pot for more complex meals, including rice-studded risotto, I can’t say I recommend buying one if the rice setting is the function you're looking to use the most. It doesn't make bad rice, but the other cookers on this list do it better. That said, the true power of the Instant Pot is in its ability to cook stews and soups and vegetables and everything else under the sun. Its focus is not making the perfect bowl of rice.
If I already had an Instant Pot to use as a pressure cooker or general multifunctional cooking device, I would certainly use it to cook up some rice as needed. That said, I wouldn’t choose it over a real, dedicated rice cooker if I was specifically looking for one.
Simple to use
Lacks features in other models
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