The 4 best rice cookers in 2021

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If rice is a staple in your diet, a rice cooker is a convenient appliance to own. As someone who frequently makes sushi, I know firsthand that cooking rice perfectly is an art form. You need to carefully choose your rice, rinse it multiple times, and ensure an airtight seal as it simmers. While world-class sushi restaurants use a pot on a stove to cook their rice, your typical home chef just needs an easy way to cook well-textured rice. This is where rice cookers reign supreme.

With most rice cookers, you just measure out the rice, pour in water to the appropriate line, press a couple of buttons, and wait for the machine to let you know your rice is ready. Basically, you can set it and forget it. Even if you are a seasoned pro when it comes to cooking rice on the stove, a rice cooker is indispensable when you want to free up burners or if you simply don’t have access to a stovetop.

The rice cookers included in our guide are durable, have intuitive functions, and can be used for several varieties of rice. If you’re not sure where to begin your search, jump to the bottom of this guide for helpful info on what to look for when buying a rice cooker.

Here are the best rice cookers

The best rice cooker overall

best rice cooker

If you are looking for a cooker that produces delicious results no matter what type of rice you put in, the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker is the best.

Pros: Adjusts to the type of rice, uses “fuzzy logic,” produces tender rice, small footprint

Cons: Somewhat slower than other options

What sets the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker apart is its use of “fuzzy logic.” Basically, a microcomputer adjusts the cooking time and temperature to adapt to the rice, whether it’s brown, sweet, white, or porridge. At the bottom of the inner body of the cooker, there is a thermal sensor that keeps tabs on the rice and reports back to the microcomputer, which makes the appropriate adjustments.

The nonstick internal cooking pan features handy lines indicating how much water to add for each type of rice. Both the cooking pan and inner lid can be removed for easy cleaning, though they are not dishwasher-safe.

Other features include a large LCD screen, programmable delay timer for having your rice ready when you get home from work, handle and retractable cord for easy transport, reheating cycle, and an extended keep warm mode. There are two sizes: 5.5-cup and 10-cup. Both come with a one-year warranty.

Our editors also love this rice cooker. Senior guides editor Les Shu grew up in a household where rice was served nearly every night. His family has relied on Zojirushi cookers because they consistently make perfect rice and rice porridge. The 5.5-cup model is the model his parents now use after downsizing from a larger cooker. 

Senior reporter Connie Chen has also used Zojirushi cookers in her family home for many years and loves their reliability, compact size, and ease of use.

The best rice cooker on a budget

oster rice cooker

The Oster 6-Cup Rice Cooker is affordable, doesn’t take up much space, and has a detached glass lid that is easy to clean.

Pros: Inexpensive, glass lid, great for white, sushi, and sticky rice

Cons: No timer, actually only produces about four standard cups of cooked rice

The Oster 6-Cup Rice Cooker is the only option with a tempered glass lid. The compact size of the appliance allows for faster cooking, and the lid lets you monitor the progress of your rice. The “6-cup” size mentioned in the name of this appliance does not refer to a standard US cup but rather the slightly smaller cup that comes with most rice cookers.

There is only one button so the Oster rice cooker couldn’t be easier to use. Yet, there is no timer or alarm that lets you know when the rice is ready. Instead, you might be able to hear the audible click that occurs when the device switches from Cook to Keep Warm mode. You’ll also see an indicator light switch modes as well. Both the inner pot and lid are removable for hand washing. Oster backs this product with a one-year limited warranty.

Expert testers have found the Oster to clean up effortlessly and the rice quality to be terrific, particularly white rice and sushi rice. Brown rice, however, can be somewhat dry.

This cooker doesn’t take up much space and is ideal for one- or two-person households.

The best multipurpose rice cooker

best rice cooker aroma housewares

The Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker is an affordable appliance for cooking 20 cups of rice as well as steaming vegetables and slow cooking.

Pros: Large capacity, several uses, including steaming vegetables

Cons: The attached lid can be difficult to clean

The Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker is unique in that it can steam vegetables and meat while rice cooks. There are easy-to-program controls for slow cooking, flash rice (speeds up the cooking time for grains that usually take longer), steaming, brown rice, and white rice.

It also has a keep warm function and a 15-hour delay timer, which is useful for when you want your rice and vegetables to be ready when you get home from work.

The Aroma rice cooker yields 20 cups of cooked rice and comes with a serving spatula, rice measuring cup, and steam tray. The inner cooking pot features measurement lines that make it easy to determine how much water to add. And, the pot is removable for cleaning.

Thanks to its Saute-Then-Simmer function, the cooker is great for any recipe that first requires sauteing your ingredients. You can save time and space by switching directly to the simmer step to make dishes like risotto or chili. 

The best for GABA rice

best rice cooker 3

If you are looking for an affordable fuzzy logic cooker that can help you enjoy the health benefits of GABA rice, the Cuckoo Electric Heating Rice Cooker is an excellent solution.

Pros: Uses fuzzy logic, keeps rice warm without drying out for 24-plus hours, has GABA rice cooking function

Cons: Only available in pink

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) rice is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more about its many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving brain function. Enter the Cuckoo Electric Heating Rice Cooker, which has six cooking settings, including a GABA function, turbo cook, keep warm, and timer.

The Cuckoo rice cooker produces up to 12 cups of cooked rice. The inner pot has a non-stick surface and is removable for easy cleaning, though it’s not dishwasher safe. The company offers a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

Impressively, it can keep your rice warm for an entire day, so you’ll have fresh rice whenever you want it. 

What to consider when buying a rice cooker

Based on our research and survey of home cooks, here’s what to look for when shopping for a rice cooker.

Basic or advanced: We find that rice cookers typically come in two forms: basic models with a heating element at the bottom and simple, one-touch operation, and more advanced variants that utilize a computer to better regulate the cooking process. Regardless, both automate the rice-cooking process.

If you’re looking to cook rice quickly with no-fuss, a basic rice cooker should suffice. However, it won’t cook rice evenly (in our experience you’ll need to adjust the rice-water ratio to find the sweet spot), the rice tends to crisp at the bottom of the bowl, and it loses heat during the post-cooking/warming stage. When shopping, you may also find basic rice cookers that incorporate a sealed lid and heating elements all-around the unit to ensure more even cooking, such as this option from Zojirushi.

For those who must have perfectly cooked rice or like to prepare different varieties of rice, you may want to look at advanced cookers that utilize a microcomputer, typically labeled as “fuzzy logic.” The most popular brands include Panasonic, Zojirushi, Tiger, and Cuckoo. With smart technology, these rice cookers ensure even cooking by better regulating water, pressure, and steam. They have dedicated settings for rice type, as well as oatmeal and porridge. Some even chime when the rice is ready to eat and are better at keeping rice warm. However, they aren’t fast as the computer requires time to make adjustments, and some people may find the operation cumbersome. Still, we find that these advanced rice cookers consistently churn out the best-cooked rice.

Capacity: Household rice cookers come in various sizes — as small as 3 cups, and up to 10 cups. (There are commercial-grade rice cookers that hold up to 45 cups if you’re feeding an army.) Note that a cup is a lot of rice after it has been cooked, so a 3-cup cooker could suffice for a small family. Ultimately, choosing the right capacity will depend on your household size and eating habits, as well as budget and kitchen counter space. 

Multicookers: Nearly all multicookers (or electric pressure cookers), such as those from Instant Pot, offer a rice function. In some ways, a multicooker is really just a souped-up rice cooker: there’s a heating element at the bottom, and it uses steam to cook the rice. However, multicookers are sealed and also utilize pressure cooking, which speeds up the process. But like a basic rice cooker, you’ll need to be mindful of the water-rice ratio, as well as the pressure setting. Check out our guide for the best multicookers.

Accessories: The most basic rice cooker should include a lid, metal bowl (preferably nonstick), measuring cup, and either a spoon or spatula, which are all you really need. As you move up in price, you may get accessories like vegetable steaming trays, a holder for the spoon or spatula, and nonstick bowls made from high-quality materials.

Budget: A basic, 3-cup rice cooker can be had for around $15. Of course, the price climbs when you up the capacity and features. We find that you shouldn’t have to spend more than $30 for a basic rice cooker. If you want a “fuzzy logic” rice cooker, expect to pay at least $120 and as much as $300 or more.

Measuring cup size: It’s also worth noting that the measuring cups that come with rice cookers typically are smaller than a standard eight-ounce cup. Instead, they are about six ounces in volume. This is important to keep in mind when measuring out rice as you put it in your cooker. If you use a standard cup, you are likely to end up with tough, undercooked rice.

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