Best rice cookers reviewed for white rice, brown, sushi or even quinoa

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 30, 2020
I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

A rice cooker is an automated electronically controlled kitchen appliance that cooks rice by boiling or steaming it.

Its main parts include a metal container with a circuit board that controls the thermostat and heat source, a cooking bowl, and a glass or metal lid with a small depressurization hole on it.

The thermostat is preset to measure and control the temperature of the metallic cooking bowl in order to cook/steam the rice perfectly every time.

Best rice cookers reviewed

Some rice cookers have more complex systems and sensors which may have more than just one function.

My absolute favorite is this Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker because of its idiot-proof system. The “Fuzzy” is actually a logic IC chip that prevents you (me especially!) from adding to much rice or water in the mix.

Here’s a video review on the “Fuzzy”:

I’ll get to the complete review in a minute, as well as some others that are great in different situations you might need them for.

Of course, it wouldn’t make this article complete without discussing the most recommended electric and other types of rice cookers out there, now, wouldn’t it?

Having said that, we’ve reviewed 10 electric rice cooker brands and specific models and determined that they should be on your shopping list if you ever plan to cook Asian recipes at home.

We’ve also set the requirements on how a rice cooker will be considered in this list plus we also did some tests to see how well they can cook rice.

Keep reading to find out more about it!

Here’s the top 11 list in a quick reference table:

Rice cooker Images
Overall best: Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer Overall best rice cooker Zojirushi Neuro(view more images)
Best large rice cooker: Cuckoo CRP-G1015F Electric Rice Cooker Cuckoo electric rice cooker(view more images)
Top cooker for brown rice: Tiger JBV-A10U-W Tiger rice cooker with steamer(view more images)
Best rice steamer: Midea Multi Cooker Midea multi rice cooker(view more images)
Best rice cooker for Quinoa: Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker and Steamer Hamilton beach rice cooker steamer(view more images)
Best original Japanese import: Panasonic Jar Rice Cooker Panasonic Jar Rice cooker(view more images)
Best cooker for sushi rice: Aroma ARC-914SBD Aroma ARC-914SBD multi rice cooker(view more images)
Best Pressure & rice cooker: Instant Pot LUX60V3 V3 Instant Pot LUX60V3 V3 6(view more images)
Best microwave rice cooker: Sistema Microwave Collection Sistema microwave rice cooker(view more images)
Best small rice cooker: Dash DRCM200GBAQ04 Mini Best small rice cooker Dash mini(view more images)
Best Cheap Budget Rice Cooker: Oster Titanium

Best Budget Rice Cooker: Oster Titanium

(view more images)

In this post we'll cover:

Rice Cooker vs. Instant Pot

It’s only natural for people to speculate and compare these 2 kitchen appliances. After all, they are almost similar in the way they operate. However, they do have differences and they also have advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstances of their usage.

To begin with, both appliances cook food by using steam: however, the similarity stops there.

Material:

A typical automatic electric rice cooker has either an aluminum steel or polymer plastic casing. Also, it has a heating coil or pad inside, an inner cooking bowl, and a metal or glass lid. Now depending on the manufacturer, the rice cooker may or may not come with accessories (i.e. steam tray or tofu maker, etc.).

Heat source:

The heat source in the rice cooker heats up the cooking bowl. That’s where you place the rice and water. The liquid then evaporates.

Roughly two-thirds of the liquid will turn into steam and evaporate. The rice absorbs the remaining one-third. This is the reason why rice becomes fluffy pulps when it’s cooked.  Once the cooking cycle is done, the water dries out of the cooking bowl.

A pressure cooker, on the other hand, works in a similar manner as a rice cooker and even has similar parts as well, but with certain differences. A pressure cooker has an air-tight sealing lid and a pressure gauge. The rice cooker’s lid has a rubber lining. This seals in all of the air inside the cooking chamber. It prevents the air from escaping. 

This is how the Instant Pot manages to increase and maintain the pressure level in its cooking chamber. That’s also how it got its name “Instant Pot”. It’s almost instant because it cooks the food faster than cooking it in a stovetop. This appliance is even faster than the electric rice cooker as it combines heat and pressure.

Rice Cooker Pros

Rice Cooker Cons

Instant Pot Pros

Instant Pot Cons

Now that you have the rice down, read our post on making Sushi for beginners.

Top 11 Rice Cookers reviewed

Now, let’s get into the in-depth reviews of these rice cookers so you can see if they are suitable for your cooking habits.

a bowl of rice

Overall best: Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer

The Zojirushi Model NS-ZCC10 Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker is a state-of-the-art kitchen appliance. Itcooks good, fluffy, restaurant-quality rice at the touch of a button.

Built with an auto-adjust cooking ability (thanks to the fuzzy logic IC chip) that will prevent you from making rice and water measurement errors (even when you’ve already made them) plus a keep-warm, extended keep-warm, and reheat features make cooking rice like a walk in the park.

Zojirushi Cooker Features

The Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker comes with a ceramic-coated inner cooking bowl that provides adequate heating for the rice (and other rice cooker recipes) and is also easy to clean.

It is built with an easy-to-use LCD screen that displays the current settings and it also surrounded by pre-set cooking buttons that lets you cook anything in one go.

The cook settings include white rice, mixed rice, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, rinse-free, and quick cook.

Ease of Access

The inner lid of the rice cooker can be detached from its main body and is easy to clean. The clear and bright LCD control panel is visible up to 10 feet away.

The rice cooker comes with a delay timer with two different settings and a retractable power cord. It also comes with 2-180ml (6 fl. Oz.) measuring cups, a spatula, and a spatula holder.

The ceramic-coated non-stick inner cooking bowl makes cleaning easy and almost zero effort.

The Pros

The Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker makes cooking easy utilizing the cutting-edge fuzzy logic technology (mathematical algorithm) which almost makes the appliance having artificial intelligence adjusting its temperature and cook time to achieve the best results.

The rice cooker works with all sorts of rice and other known grains including brown rice, wild rice, and basmati, quinoa or oatmeal (you’ll need to use the porridge function to cook oatmeal).

You’ll get to keep your food warm in this rice cooker for up to 12 hours which is a good thing as it will also keep the rice quality to optimal levels.

The Cons

This rice cooker is a slow cooker because we’ve clocked its cook time for white rice to be about 60 minutes and about 90 minutes for the brown rice.

You can buy it here on Amazon

Best large rice cooker: Cuckoo CRP-G1015F Electric Rice Cooker

The Cuckoo CRP-G1015F Electric Rice Cooker is a great rice cooker that can cook any rice grain incredibly fast. It makes the rice taste perfectly yummy every time. 

The Cuckoo makes delicious brown rice with flavorful, aromatic, and excellent texture. It’s so good, it preserves the integrity of every grain. It also makes great medium-grain white rice but based on our test results the Zojirushi did it a little bit better.

This rice cooker can cook short and medium-grain white rice in just 29 minutes. This is excellent when you consider that it takes at least 40 minutes for the other cookers in this list to do the same. However, the Cuckoo is way more expensive than the rest of the cookers also, so only buy it if you prefer quality over price.

Pros

Cons

Check pricing and availability here

Top cooker for brown rice: Tiger JBV-A10U-W

If you’re into Asian dishes and plan to cook it yourself at home, then this Tiger rice cooker is the best kitchen partner for you. And it has a specific brown rice setting!

Make incredible delicious fluffy rice with ease in this amazing kitchen appliance. Or, you can cook other dishes with the Tacook plate on top while you’re cooking rice below at the same time!

Tiger JBV-A10U-W’s innovative and multitasking features are very hard to ignore. It makes automation sweet to your hearing.

Cook fresh, sweet-smelling, moist rice that you can serve at any time with the Tiger in your kitchen.

Features

  1. Removable inner cooking bowl and Tacook plate (easy to wash and clean).
  2. Built-in carry handle that makes it easy for the user to transfer the cooker anywhere aside from the kitchen counter.
  3. Has 4 menu settings including the synchro-cooking setting which uses the cooking bowl for the rice and the Tacook plate for other recipes.
  4. Has slow cooking function.
  5. Has one-push operation and a keep-warm function.

Pros

Cons

Check the latest prices here on Amazon

Best rice steamer: Midea Multi Cooker

The Midea Multi-Cooker is the result of decades of design and function refinements to achieve the best results for a rice cooker now with added cutting-edge technology for automation and efficiency.

This rice cooker comes with 8 pre-programmed menus for easy cooking that deliver amazing results!

There is a removable thick cooking bowl which is dotted with a unique honeycomb inspired surface to ensure uniform heating inside and cook whatever is in the pot thoroughly.

Thus making great fluffy rice and other delicious dishes, save on energy consumption as well as preserve nutrients.

The defrost function is one of a kind and makes it safe to thaw and cook frozen foods.

Features:

View the Midea here on Amazon

Best rice cooker for Quinoa: Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker and Steamer

The Hamilton Beach rice cooker has a lot of advantages to offer you. Among them include the ability to delay the start time of cooking and specific modes for different types of rice, for simmering and for steaming, which can help preset the cook times for various recipes to a specific time of day of your choosing.

The benefit here is that this gives you much more versatility in the kitchen, especially if plan to cook recipes other than just rice in the rice cooker later on.

Most of those functions are fairly common across rice cookers, except for the simmer function as it is less likely to appear in most rice cooker models, and it seems to have been designed specifically to cook meals like rice and pasta mixes.

Effortless Cooking

The Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker and Food Steamer have pre-programmed cook settings in order to make cooking simple and easy.

The rice cooker is so advanced that it has removed the human element from the equation, meaning you don’t have to monitor it constantly while it’s cooking rice and other meals.

This smart rice cooker has a built-in microchip controller that is programmed with fuzzy logic, which means when you cook using any of these settings:

The rice cooker will automatically adjust and ensure perfect cooking based on the number of food ingredients and water you’ve placed inside the non-stick cooking bowl.

Easy White Rice, Quick Rice & Whole Grain

The above subheading is the 3 pre-programmed functions in the fuzzy logic technology of the rice cooker. It makes calculations and decides the best cook time for each type of food. So you don’t have to check with the cooking directions indicated in the rice bag or oatmeal can.

The fuzzy logic memory chip is able to sense the food’s remaining moisture level, So, it automatically resets the cooking time to make it a little longer or shorter (whichever one may apply) before switching to the keep-warm mode.

Features

Check out the latest prices here

Best original Japanese import: Panasonic Jar Rice Cooker

Rice cookers experience a problem that’s often overlooked by the media. Chemical leakage due to overheating in some rice cookers has raised concerns among consumers.

The problem is that the ceramic coating for non-stick cooking bowls tend to leak chemicals. These include the likes of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These may seep into the rice when the rice cooker gets too hot (more than 100 ˚C).

Fortunately, the Panasonic SR-ZG105SSKM Jar Rice Cooker’s inner cooking bowl has a 6-layer diamond crafted finish that prevents any leaks whatsoever!

The evolution in the Jar’s design has resulted in a much stronger and sturdier rice cooker with its unique diamond ceramic coated inner layer and its heat-absorbing matte black outer layer.

This cooker has sturdy layers. Therefore, the heat is distributed evenly around each grain. The rice is tastier and fluffier. And who doesn’t prefer fluffy rice? Also, the rice doesn’t clump together. 

Features

Check pricing and availability here

Best cooker for sushi rice: Aroma ARC-914SBD

The Aroma ARC-914SBD is an 8-cup rice cooker and food steamer in one, so you can cook all your favorite dishes in one small compact and technologically cutting-edge kitchen appliance that it made cooking very easy.

Cook between 2 – 8 cups of cooked rice with the Aroma ARC. Also, you can steam some meat and vegetables too in the steamer tray simultaneously. The steamer tray comes with the rice cooker as an accessory.

It has programmable digital controls, functions for white and brown rice as well as an automatic Keep-Warm mode.

The rice cooker also comes with complete accessories such as a rice measuring cup, a serving spatula, and a food steamer tray.

Features

Pros

Cons

Check the latest prices here on Amazon

Best Pressure & rice cooker: Instant Pot LUX60V3 V3

The Instant Pot IP-LUX60 6-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker is the all-in-one cooker that you’re ever going to need in the kitchen! The Instant Pot has 6 different functions including includes a pressure cooker, sauté/browning, slow cooking, rice cooker, steamer and keep warm feature.

With these cooking options you should be able to cook any cuisine you have in mind and all you have to do is prepare the necessary ingredients, then place them in the cooking pot and press the preset cooking mode for the recipe, and walk away.

When the cooking cycle is complete, it will play a nice tune to alert you and you’re good to go with your meal.

 Every Instant Pot IP-LUX60 you purchase, includes a recipe booklet. Therefore, you don’t have to Google search for specific recipes that are good for this kitchen appliance.

Features

Pros

Cons

You can buy the Instant Pot here on Amazon

Best microwave rice cooker: Sistema Microwave Collection

The Sistema Microwave Collection Rice Cooker is conveniently designed to cook rice, polenta, and couscous in the microwave.

This plastic microwave rice steamer has a pressure chamber plate at the top near the lid that collects water vapor or overflows and drains it back into the rice.

The lid is cool to touch even when if you’ve just pulled it out of the microwave oven.

It has 4 easy-lift tabs and comes with a non-stick plastic rice scoop.

The Sistema Microwave Collection Rice Cooker is made from 100% virgin plastic. Also, it is BPA (Bisphenol A) as well as phthalate-free. It is microwave safe, dishwasher safe, and safe for refrigerator/freezer storage.

Features

Consider how versatile it is, there’s no going wrong with this device. 

Check it out here on Amazon

Best small rice cooker: Dash DRCM200GBAQ04 Mini

Nothing soothes the soul than coming home to a warm bowl of rice with just the right texture – fluffy and plump. Unleash every rice grain’s full potential and experience the rice’s natural taste only with the Dash mini.

With Japan’s Induction Heating (IH) technology, Dash cooks the most delicious rice. The rice cooker is engineered to provide the best results minimizing damage to the grain’s original quality and taste.

And it comes in such a small (and cute) package with different color options.

 

Features

Check out the latest prices here

Best Cheap Budget Rice Cooker: Oster Titanium

Best Budget Rice Cooker: Oster Titanium

(view more images)

If you are looking for a budget-friendly rice cooker, this is the one. It costs approximately $25, which makes it a super value product. It has most of the features of the more expensive cookers but it costs a fraction of the price. 

Keep in mind that 6 cups refers to smaller rice cups. In reality, you can cook about 4 regular sized cups of rice at once. But, overall this is an excellent rice cooker because it has a 1-liter steamer tray and it cooks up to 30% faster than other nonstick rice cookers of the same size. Therefore, it’s a cheap product that works effectively. 

What we love about this product is that it has a tempered glass lid so you can see the rice while it cooks. The Titanium-infused DuraCeramic nonstick coating makes this cooker durable long term. As well, since it’s non-stick, your rice won’t get stuck to the sides of the cooker. 

This product also comes with a measuring cup and a non-scratch rice paddle spoon. It has a 1-year warranty. 

Pros

Cons

Check out the latest prices here

How we reviewed the rice cookers

Before selecting the best cookers we first asked ourselves a question.

“What do people want in rice cookers that would make cooking rice not only easy and fast but also delicious and enjoyable?”

We asked around some random Asian and Western folks who like rice and other Asian meals the same question. Surprisingly, we foun out that they want a few more things from the automated part of electric rice cookers.

So, we narrowed down their answers this way:

  1. Well cooked rice.
  2. No unwanted smell from the water or from the rice reacting to the rice cooker materials.
  3. Must taste good (neutral) or when paired with other recipes like sushi or ramen, etc.
  4. The water or rice cooker materials must not influence the color of the rice when cooked. Although if the water source is not clean enough when the rice is washed, then this may affect the outcome.  The rice cooker itself is not to be blamed for it. The user must always make sure that the water is clean and safe to drink.

What to look for in a rice cooker

Evenly Cooking the Rice

An ideal rice cooker should be able to cook a batch of fluffy rice evenly, from the grains around the cooker’s edges to those in the middle.

If it can’t do this, then the result will be an unevenly cooked pot of rice that has a mushy center and crispy edges, or either soggy grains at the bottom of the pot and undercooked grains on top.

Consistent Quality Between Batch Sizes

An ideal rice cooker should be able to cook with the same consistency of fluffy rice whether the user will only cook a single cup of rice, or use up the maximum capacity of the rice cooker.

Can Cook Any Grain Type 

Typically, all-electric rice cookers have the ability to cook rice, but only the choicest ones can cook all sorts of grains including brown rice, long-grain white rice, quinoa, millet, and other fancier grains with finesse and aplomb.

Efficient Speed 

Having a rice cooker appliance around can be a lifesaver as you can cook rice quickly and cook it correctly, especially when you’re in a hurry to prepare the dinner table.

However, it has been confirmed that cooking rice on a stovetop is faster than cooking it in a cooker. It only takes 18 minutes for the rice to cook on a stovetop while it takes at least 30 minutes for it to cook in an electric rice cooker and some rice cookers take longer to cook.

The automatic electric rice cooker’s saving grace though is that you don’t need to monitor it constantly when compared to cooking it on the stovetop. One wrong move and your rice could end up a lump of half crispy charcoal at the bottom and tasting all burnt.

Must-Have a Non-Stick Cooking Bowl

Manufacturers mostly use aluminum or stainless steel with ceramic coating non-stick element as it cooks the best fluffy rice and is easy to clean and maintain.

But there are cookers with a plastic steamer basket too! However, they do not last very long and are therefore not cost-effective in the longterm prospect.

Built with Fuzzy Logic 

Fuzzy Logic is a type of mathematical algorithm based on “degrees of truth” rather than the usual “true or false,” but in relation to automatic rice cookers, this translates to manufacturers using an IC (integrated circuits) microprocessor that enables the rice cooker to detect (or sense) any human error such as unbalanced rice and water ratio and automatically adjusts its cooking parameters to compensate.

Less advanced and basic cookers do not have any intelligent microchips in them and cannot do what cookers with Fuzzy Logic can.

Needless to say that cookers with cutting-edge Fuzzy Logic technology are sold at least more than $100 on top of the basic rice cooker’s normal price tag.

A Lid That Has a Tight Seal

Maintaining the temperature and pressure in the cooking bowl is crucial to making the perfect fluffy rice; if the lid doesn’t seal the bowl properly, then the rice cooker is no good.

A Quick-Cook Setting

While using this feature will compromise the rice texture a little, having a quick-cook setting in your automatic electric rice cooker can help you prepare a meal for yourself or your guests in no time.

A Keep-Warm Feature

Essentially anyone who has owned a rice cooker will tell you that this feature is very advantageous as it helps keep the rice warm for hours and fresh in case it finishes cooking before the other recipes have.

Or if one of your family members or guest is still on their way to dine with you and you want to offer them warm rice to eat.

The best rice cookers have heating elements around the sides and bottom of the pot to gently warm the rice from all sides. These features allow the rice cooker to cook rice perfectly all the time.

A Compact Size 

Most household and commercial rice cookers have the capacity to cook between 3 – 10 cups of raw rice, but for this experiment, we’ve only picked those that have a maximum cooking capacity of up to 6 cups.

If you’re planning to buy a rice cooker anytime soon, then consider first how many people will you be cooking for?

If it’s just less than 5 people, then buy the 6-cup rice cooker but if it’s more than 5, then buy the 10-cup cooker (be sure to ask the store clerk before you choose though, so you’re better informed about the product that you’re buying).

Capacity

Just like size, the cooker capacity is very important. There are small rice cookers that only cook up to 3 cups of rice at a time. The rice cooker’s capacity is determined by how many uncooked cups of rice are cooked at once. 

Select the cooker that fits your family’s needs.

A Plastic Paddle

This tool is always included in the rice cooker you’ll purchase and because it’s made of plastic it doesn’t scratch any of the non-stick coatings on the cooking bowl.

An Alert or Musical Tone 

A minor feature but helpful nonetheless as it lets you know when the rice has cooked completely. This way you don’t have to keep track of cooking times and you’ll know as soon as the rice is cooked. 

A Warranty

Most electric rice cookers have a 1-year warranty from their manufacturers, although they are built to last much longer than that. Some of the features that we’ve included here below are noteworthy but do not play a crucial role in making great fluffy rice.

Induction Heating 

This process creates heat all over the cooking pot where stainless steel is available as it reacts to the electromagnetic field, and is believed to heat up and cook the rice evenly on all sides.

There are a few very high-end rice cooker models that combine pressure cooking with induction cooking in order to cook the rice quicker and also enhance its texture and flavor.

However, these models are extremely expensive and ordinary people would shy away from it just by looking at the price tag alone of at least $400 a piece.

A Mobile App

The latest rice cooker models, especially the high-end ones, include smartphone interaction via a mobile app, which allows you to control the cooking from your phone even if you’re far away from the kitchen.

It is possible to fill up the cooker with rice and water, then go to another room in your house, and switch it on and let it cook the rice automatically; although it doesn’t improve the quality of the rice in any way.

Voice Navigation

A nifty feature that tells you which button does what in a pre-recorded voice can be a bit of help, especially those people with failing eyesight or visually impaired. However, there seems to be no rice cooker model that speaks English in their audio recordings and only Korean cookers have this feature.

Presets

The most basic rice cookers only have one button: ON/OFF. But, more advanced cookers have presets. So, you can set the device to cook the type of rice you want. These presets are for different types of rice. Some also determine the cooked rice’s texture. 

Testing Each Rice Cooker with Various Rice Types

Outlining the criteria for rice cookers to be in our top 10 picks of being the best household appliances is prudent, but not enough.

Our philosophy is that we strive to ensure that you, our readers, are satisfied with the products that we’re discussing here. We have an obligation to give you detailed information about products so you can make better decisions as a customer.

With that said, we tested each rice cooker brand and model on how well they can cook not just 1 type of rice grain, but various kinds of them.

If we’ve determined that a rice cooker has performed well for rice flavor, texture, and cooking speed in this test, then we include them in our top 10 list. Otherwise, they will be ranked together with the other rice cookers that are not on this list.

We mainly used Japanese white rice, long-grain rice, and brown rice for this test, and for the white rice test, we rinsed and drained it 3 times before cooking it in order to wash away the starch that’s on the rice (it undermines the texture of the rice when it’s cooked).

We did not give the same courtesy to the long-grain white rice and the brown rice and we cooked them as is.

For this test, we used the 180ml (6 oz in US standard) Japanese rice measuring cup.

Here are details on each of the tests:

First Test (Japanese White Rice)

First, we decided to cook 3 cups of the famous medium-grain Nishiki rice. North American companies import Nishiki rice from Japan. It is very popular and widely available in these parts of the world.

Naturally, we followed the cooking instruction on the user’s manual down to the last letter. We poured the right amount of water needed for cooking 3 cups of white rice.

After the first 10 minutes into cooking, we stirred the rice before tasting it and closed the lid again and allowed the cooker to continue.

Each manufacturer has different cooking parameters and so we had to select between these settings as per the indicated in the model as follows:

Second Test (Brown Rice)

We did the same thing with the brown rice when we cooked it, we used only 3 cups of short-grain brown rice with the Lundberg brand and poured in 4 and 1/2 cups of water into the cooking bowl.

We’ve specifically selected the short-grain brown rice because it yielded much better results when compared to the medium and long-grain brown rice varieties (yes, we did a test for all the grain types of brown rice also).

Cook settings that we’ve used for this test varied from;

Third Test (Long-Grain Rice)

We used the Mahatma-brand long-grain white rice and also cooked only 3 cups of it in the cooker, then used 4 and 1/2 cups of water as well.

We used this type of rice for the same reason we did with Test #1 – its national availability (easy to find) and quality (makes great fluffy rice).

Unfortunately, there were no rice cooker settings for cooking long-grain white rice, so we just used the same cook settings that we’ve previously used for the Japanese white rice.

Fourth Test (Quick-Cook Japanese Rice)

We used the same medium-grain Nishiki-brand rice for this experiment and we adhered to the 3 cups policy and poured in the proportionate amount of water required for 3 cups of rice on all rice cooker models.

Again we stirred the rice before tasting it to ensure that the texture and quality are on point.

Almost all electric rice cookers have the quick-cook setting which made cooking the rice convenient for us, except for the Cuckoo, which does not have this feature.

Fortunately, it had the pressure cooking feature to mitigate this disadvantage which actually helped cooked the rice faster than all the other cookers.

We have deliberately cooked batches of incorrectly measured rice to test and see how well models that have the fuzzy logic feature adjusts and/or correct the errors intentionally made (i.e. cooking 1 and 1/2 cups of rice with 2 cups of water, then 2 cups of rice with 1 and 1/2 cups of water, etc.).

We were pleased to find out that the fuzzy logic technology worked like it was programmed to do so and rice cooked with acceptable quality.

According to Japanese chefs, the perfect cooked rice should not smush in your fingers immediately after you’ve pressed it. That’s considered as the perfect grain.

If all the rice grains in a single batch of cooked rice have this quality, then you’ll have very happy guests eating teppanyaki, teriyaki, sushi, sashimi, ramen, or any other Japanese recipes with such kind of rice.

About Rice cookers

Did you know that archaeologists found a Bronze Age (c. 1250 BC) ceramic rice cooker in Greece?

British Museum exhibits the ceramic rice cooker these days. It is believed to be the first rice steamer/cooker in history which is similar to the Charleston Rice Steamer (which had become a common name to all non-automated dedicated rice-cooking utensils not too long ago).

The rice steamer utensils are constructed like a large double boiler that has a venting hole or holes on the second cooking bowl to allow for the transmission of steam.

Today, however, the term Charleston Rice Steamer applies to automated cookers.

Suihanki (炊飯器) is the term associated with electric rice cookers in Japan where it was first developed.

How to use a rice cooker

Rice cookers/steamers are quite simple to operate, especially the automated ones. Just read off the instructions manual for like 3-5 minutes. It’s easy to operate the rice cooker. You become a pro at doing it by the third or fourth time you steam rice.

First, you fill the cooking bowl with rice. The rice cooker comes with a measuring cup and normally you’ll need to add 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.

Let the cooking bowl sit flat on the spring heat conductor. Then, close the lid and turn the power on. The water reaches and stays at the boiling point at about 100 °C (212 °F).

About 40% of the water will be absorbed by the rice and the remaining 60% will be evaporated as steam. When this happens the heat will keep increasing beyond the water’s boiling point. When it reaches a certain threshold, then the thermostat will trip and kill the power.

Other types of rice cookers don’t cut off the power but instead switches to the “keep warm” mode. It stabilizes the temperature at approximately 65 °C (150 °F).

More advanced cookers may use fuzzy logic for more detailed temperature control, induction rather than resistive heating, a steaming tray for other foods, and even the ability to rinse the rice.

Purpose

The traditional method of cooking rice required constant attention in order to control the heat and cook the rice properly; otherwise, it will burned into a crispy pancake-like undesirable food waste.

Modern electric rice steamers make the entire process automatic via mechanical or electronic heat control and precise cook time. This helps free up time management to control the heat and remove the human factor that made it inefficient in the first place. To be clear rice cookers do not necessarily cut the cooking time by any measure.

On the contrary, the cooking time has remained the same despite the advancement in technology; however, the cook’s involvement in cooking the rice is reduced to simply measuring the rice, and using the precise amount of water.

Once the cook has set the rice cooker to cook the rice, no further attention is required throughout the cooking process.

When it comes to rice preparation there are a few rice recipes that cannot simply be cooked in an electric or gas rice cooker. Some require more attention and must be cooked by hand include the risotto, paella, and stuffed peppers (capsicums) recipes.

Other foods

The rice cooker can also be used to cook other types of grain foods (usually steamed or boiled) besides rice such as dried split pulses, bulgur wheat, and pot barley. Foods that have mixed ingredients like the khichdi can also be prepared in the rice cooker, but only if they have similar cook times.

Other rice cooker types can also be used as automated couscoussiers. These are cookers that can simultaneously cook couscous and a stew.

Cook Time

Depending on the quantity of rice that needs to be prepared (max is 6-8 cups for a 1-liter cooking bowl). It takes about 20 – 60 minutes for a standard size electric rice cooker to completely cook the rice.

Some advanced models can back-calculate the cooking start time from a given finish time.

The factors that affect the cooking time of a rice cooker include atmospheric pressure. As well it depends on how much power the heat source has. Also, the amount of rice determines cook time. As a result, cook times vary from model to model.

Atmospheric pressure doesn’t affect pressure cookers, it only affects rice cookers.

Also read: the difference between Japanese and American sushi

Appliance Type

Most automatic rice cookers fall under the category of electrical or gas appliances, but there are also rice cookers for microwave ovens (rice cookers for microwave ovens do not need their own heat source as the oven provides it for them).

Most people prefer to buy an electric rice cooker as it’s easier to operate and clean.

There are many varieties of rice cookers for commercial or industrial use, some are electric or gas rice steamers, there are also those “rice boilers” for large-scale use, as well as fully automatic models completely removes the human factor from the whole cooking process from washing the rice to the end of the cooking cycle.

Most modern rice cookers are built with heat-insulating cases plus a warming mechanism. This allows for the rice to remain warm for as long as necessary so that when it is served the guests will enjoy eating it as it will seem it is freshly cooked.

The “keep warm” feature of modern electric rice cookers also prevents the rice from overcooking and creating waste food. Inversely, the thick insulating materials made for the casing can also be used to store cold solids and keep them cold for a long time.

History of Rice Cooker

During WWII (approximately 1937) the Imperial Japanese Army created the Type 97 automobile-kitchen as part of its armory division that has some kind of a built-in primitive type of rice steamer or cooker.

The rice cooker was ruggedly made and it was only a rectangular box made of wood that had 2 electrodes attached at opposite ends of it (positive and negative nodes).

The idea was to cook the rice via applied electric current which was fed directly to the rice and water in the box. This caused the water to heat up and boil and eventually cooks the rice, albeit inefficiently and dangerously, as it also presented a high risk of electrocution.

When the rice was cooked, the water mostly had also evaporated. As well, the cooked rice somewhat became a type of resistor. It reduced the power and kept the rice in a warm state just like how modern rice cookers “keep warm” feature does the same thing.

This primitive method of cooking rice was not an idea; for home cooking as it wasn’t suitable for different water qualities, or how well the rice was being washed.

The amount of heat produced varied each time the rice was cooked and the results varied as well.

Mitsubishi

About 8 years after the Type 97 automobile-kitchen was invented, something new came about. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation was the first Japanese civilian company to invent the electric rice cooker for home use.

The Mitsubishi rice cooker was a simple aluminum pot with a heating coil inside it. Users had to manually turn it on and off. It required constant attention as it had no automatic features on it whatsoever.

The first concept of commercial rice cookers relied mostly on fixed temperature thresholds to cook the rice. It automatically cut off the heat source once the thermostat detected it had reached that threshold.

However, the concept was flawed due to the varying room temperatures and often produced under-cooked rice. Most manufacturers experienced multiple failures continuously while conducting their trial-and-error approaches in an attempt to solve the problem.

At one point a certain manufacturer even developed a trial model that had embedded the heat source inside a traditional wooden rice container. At the time, this was backward thinking. Yoshitada Minami was the man who invented the world’s first practical electric rice cooker.  He sold his patents to Toshiba Electric Corporation for mass production.

By employing the triple-chamber rice cooker which helped insulate the heat in the cooking bowl with air and reduce the appliance reliance on varying room temperatures and atmospheric pressures to a certain degree, cooking rice became easy and efficient.

Toshiba

In December of 1956, the Toshiba Electric Corporation confidently launched their first-ever automatic electric rice cookers on the market, which had an incredible commercial success.

It used a double-chamber indirect rice cooking method. Rice was placed into the rice pot, and water into a surrounding container. With the heat source steadily supplying heat to the water reservoir, the temperature in the cooking bowl will also rise in rapid succession.

Once the temperature reaches a certain threshold, the bimetallic thermostat will then pick it up and trip in order to automatically turn off the power and prevent any overcooking.

Toshiba’s automatic electric rice cooker became such a hit that they were mass-producing it at around 200,000 units per month – and this was just for the Japanese market alone (they were also exporting it to other countries worldwide).

After 4 years of strong sales, it was reported that Toshiba’s rice cookers could be found in about 50% of all Japanese households.

The double-chamber indirect cooking rice cooker concept’s disadvantage was that it took more time to complete cooking the rice and it also consumed more electrical power compared to other models.

Although, it did very well in cooking the rice as people often report that the rice was soft and very good to eat, especially with other recipes.

Due to its inefficient nature, this concept was replaced in favor of the standard rice cooker model that we have today; however, Singapore-based manufacturer, Tatung, still produces this design.

The evolution of rice cookers

Today, all-electric rice cookers follow a standardized concept that utilizes an insulated outer container (usually with stainless steel outer casing and plastic/polyurethane inner covers with hollowed space in between them) and a removable cooking bowl.

The cooking bowl is either made of ceramic-coated non-stick stainless steel or just plain stainless steel for the lower-end models and is stamped with water-level graduations marked in cups of rice used.

The measuring cup for rice cookers is based on the traditional measuring system that the Japanese used which is 1 gō (合).

This amount is translated to the international metric system at approximately 180 ml which has a 25% volume difference when compared to the US standard rice measuring cup of 240 ml. It is believed that the US rice cup could produce enough cooked rice for a person to eat a single meal.

The first rice cooker models did not incorporate the “keep warm” feature yet, thus the rice would get cold after several minutes and is no longer desirable to eat.

They mitigated this problem though by placing the cooking bowl into heat-insulated serving containers.

By 1965 the Zojirushi Thermos Company added this ingenious feature to their electric rice cooker models and it became an even bigger hit than Toshiba’s rice cookers. Their rice cooker models sold 2 million units annually that other manufacturers quickly adopted the technology into their latest designs.

Making a healthy rice and fish dinner? Read about these fishbone pliers to help you out even more

Improving Rice Cookers

Benefits of the keep-warm feature in rice cookers include being able to keep the rice warm for up to 24 hours and preserve it. This feature keeps Bacillus cereus bacteria from growing in the rice. This bacteria causes food poisoning.

Another great addition to the electric rice cookers is the use of electronic timers. Prior to the integration of electrical and electronic equipment into rice cookers, a mechanical thermostat is used to turn off the cooker once the cooking process is complete.

Come the 1980s and manufacturers decided to upgrade the electric rice cooker yet again – this time adding microprocessor chips to control the entire cooking process as well as include an electronic timer and memory modules to help people set the desired cook time.

By the 1990s rice cookers had gone quite high-tech. In fact, they now allow users to select different desired cooking results. They were able to select, for example, the rice texture. It could be soft, medium, firm, or something else entirely.

This can be done on different kinds of rice or other ingredients besides rice. Think of foods like tofu & asparagus, mac, and cheese, pomegranate and quinoa salad, etc. Some rice cooker models can even be used to steam rice and other recipes.

Induction heating

Another notable innovation on rice cooker technology is the addition of induction heating on some high-end cookers. With more precise heating, this electric rice cooker concept makes the rice taste better.  The heat is controllable up to a certain degree compared to lower-end models.

On the other hand, pressure-cooking models use 1.2 atm to 1.7 atm in order to increase the temperature above 100 °C (pressure cookers for home use should not exceed 1.4 atm).

High-end pressure cooker models often have the steam heating feature.

Chinese Cooker

China saw an economic opportunity in the electric rice cooker industry and decided to mass-produce and export their products globally.

Having been made for the sole purpose of profit and gain the Chinese didn’t bother to add cutting-edge functions that would otherwise have made their product desirable, although they’ve made significant sales figures in spite of this.

Meanwhile, Japanese manufacturers were able to get a foothold in the rice cooker industry by increasing the number of features of their products and created a specific niche market where they can dominate.

In the 2000s, the rice cooker had undergone a complete redesign and gain worldwide media attention. Newer models are characterized by non-metallic materials for inner cooking bowls to employ thermal far-infrared radiation in order to improve the taste of cooked rice.

New Mitsubishi Model

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (Japan) created a new rice cooker model in 2006 that was priced at ¥115,500 ($1,400 USD at the time).

The reason for this expensive price tag?

The unique honsumigama (本炭釜) is a 100% hand-carved, pure charcoal cooking bowl. It has a better heat-generating profile made for induction cooking specifically.

Despite the unusually high price, people actually loved it and it scored 10,000 units sold in just 6 months since it was released. Its success created a trend for extremely high-end rice cookers in the rice cooker industry.

Some rice cookers utilize clay pottery as their inner cooking bowl, which is a bit strange. But in China, this is a normal thing as they have been making pottery-based electric cooking appliances since the 1980s. As a matter of fact, appliances that incorporate pottery in their design are still a thing in China to this day.

Some cooking bowls for electric rice cookers are made of luxurious materials like pure copper, ceramic-iron layers, and diamond coating.

Innovation

The manufacturers of these luxurious rice cookers are constantly researching new production methods. They want to find out how to produce the best tasting cooked rice in terms of taste and texture. They employ various innovations to achieve this goal.

Most researchers who are working for these electric rice cooker companies regard the traditional way of cooking rice in a hearth. Some even consider a gas pressure cooker as the best example of what the most ideal cooked rice should be. Based on those methods, they then try to copy or exceed it in quality.

Asian restaurants or restaurants that offer Asian dishes would often use industrial-sized rice cookers as most Asian cuisines come with at least 1 bowl of rice per serving.

These cookers are mostly gas pressure cookers; however, there are also electric models that can quickly and cheaply produce large amounts of cooked rice.

The electric rice cooker is one of the most important kitchen appliances in Asian homes as rice is almost always paired with other viand or recipes in every meal.

Also read: Japanese steamed buns that go great with your rice dinner

Frequently Asked Questions

Which brand of rice cooker is the best?

Most people who use rice cookers frequently agree that the best rice cookers are the Zojirushi Japanese rice ones. They are more expensive than many models, but they are high-quality, durable, and cook all types of rice perfectly.

The Zojirushi rice cookers are made of nonstick materials. This is great because it prevents the rice from sticking to the cooker. As well, the largest models can cook up to 20 cups of rice at a time. This makes them excellent for large families. 

Are rice cookers worth it?

It depends on how often you cook rice. If you like to batch cook and meal prep, a rice cooker is a kitchen essential. So, yes, if you like to cook rice, this small appliance is definitely worth it. 

A high-end rice cooker is a great long term investment because it is a durable device and also it is versatile. 

It’s surprising how much you can do with a rice cooker. You will save time and spend less effort multitasking. A rice cooker is no doubt a vital piece of kitchen equipment for families of all sizes. It helps you make healthy and delicious meals in no time.

Why are Japanese rice cookers so expensive?

We mentioned above that the Japanese Zojirushi rice cooker is the best brand on the market. The reason why it’s so expensive is that it does a very good job as a rice cooker. These cookers do much more than your average cheap machine. 

Most people in the West think of just one or two varieties of rice, mainly white rice and brown rice. But, in Asian culture, rice plays a very important part of many popular dishes. There are actually many types of rice and a Japanese rice cooker can prepare them all. A Zojirushi cooker can make perfect rice every time. As well, it cooks it exactly as it should be. Therefore, you get perfect rice in terms of texture, for all the rice varieties out there. 

It also cooks other grain types and quinoa. 

Therefore, you can cook different types of rice grains and make all kinds of tasty dishes.

How do I choose a rice cooker?

First of all, consider your budget and try to buy a higher quality rice cooker if you can afford it. But, if you don’t cook rice daily, a cheaper one works well enough. 

But, it’s important to consider how many people you are cooking for on a daily basis.

If you usually cook about 1 or 2 cups at once, or you live alone, you only need a small 3 cup rice cooker. 

In case you 2-5 cups per day, you need a medium-sized 5 cup rice cooker.

But if you have a large family and need to cook lots of rice at once, we recommend a 10 cup or larger rice cooker so that you can cook at least 5 cups a day. 

How long do rice cookers take?

Many people always wonder how long it takes (in minutes) to cook rice in a rice cooker. Well, it depends on the type of rice grain. The different types of rice require varying amounts of time and water to cook well and thoroughly. 

But, the best part of having a rice cooker is that you don’t need to sit by the stovetop to check if your rice is cooked or not. The rice cooker does all the work and lets you know once it is fully cooked. 

Here’s what you should know: c

If you cook a large quantity of rice in the rice cooker, it takes between 25-45 minutes. When you cook a small quantity, the rice is done in less than 25 minutes. 

How do you make fluffy rice in a rice cooker?

If you struggle with rice that’s flat and sticks together, don’t worry. You can make very tasty fluffy rice in a rice cooker. 

We advise you to let the cooked rice sit in the cooking pot for an extra ten minutes or so after the rice is finished cooking. Don’t lift up the lid, just let the rice sit in the cooker. This allows it to absorb any excess water which makes the rice fluffy. When the rice sits in the cooker it doesn’t overcook, instead, it starts to cool down slowly and it firms up. 

This firm yet fluffy texture is ideal for many tasty rice dishes.

What else can be cooked in a rice cooker?

Ok, although the name of this device is a rice cooker, it can do more. It is similar to an instant pot. Therefore, you can use it to cook other foods as well, hence why it’s a versatile piece of kitchen equipment. 

You can use the cooker to make breakfast foods like pancakes and oatmeal. As well, you can cook all kinds of grains, including quinoa and barley. 

If you’re feeling up for a challenge, you can even cook a pizza, some chili, a soup, and even short ribs. 

Do rice cookers work for brown rice?

Most rice cookers have a ‘brown rice’ setting. When you purchase a rice cooker, make sure it has this setting. This is important if you like to eat brown rice. If that setting is available then the cooker cooks the brown rice correctly. It tastes better and has a perfect texture when cooked in this setting.

If your cooker lacks the brown rice setting, there is cause for concern. Many people avoid brown rice because it’s a bit less flavorful and if you cook it in a rice cooker, it tastes even blander. Another big issue is that regular rice cookers make the brown rice mushy and clumpy. 

But, brown rice is healthier than its white counterpart. So, even if you don’t have a special ‘brown rice setting’ you can make it tasty. There is no need for concern.

Here is how to cook brown rice in a regular cooker.

Make sure you have the right water to rice ratio. For brown rice, it’s 1 cup rice and 2 cups water. 

Always use more than 1 or 2 cups of rice. If it’s the first time cooking brown rice, start with 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water. Add a teaspoon or more of salt.

 Fluff the cooked rice with a fork. If you fluff rice with a fork it doesn’t stick or clump. 

How do I clean the rice cooker?

The best way to keep your rice cooker from smelling is to clean it well regularly. Luckily, it is easy to clean a rice cooker. They are made of nonstick materials so all you have to do is wash the inside with hot soapy water.

Scrub the inner pot with a sponge gently and remove any stains or rice.

If your pot has a detachable lid, wash that too every time. Remove it and handwash with a sponge, soap, and hot water.

Some rice cookers don’t have detachable lids. In that case, wipe the lid inside and out using a damp cloth or paper towel.

Rice cookers also have a steam catcher. Empty this steam catcher after every batch of rice.

Almost all rice cookers come with a plastic rice paddle. Wash it with hot water because it helps you take the rice out without it sticking. 

Conclusion

If your household loves rice, a rice cooker is an essential small kitchen appliance. It is so easy to use, all you have to do is measure out the rice. Then, pour some water, and let the cooker do its job. You get delicious rice (or quinoa) in no time without making a mess in the kitchen. And even better, you don’t even need to strain your rice in the kitchen sink. 

You can get straight to cooking delicious rice-based dishes that are healthy and full of flavor. What we can say is that a rice cooker is indispensable for cooks of all skills. The reason is that this appliance makes your life so much easier. 

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.