Whether you’re a seasoned at-home chef or prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, rice is an essential food staple. Intuitive though it may seem, making deliciously fluffy rice is an art form, and one that’s a heck of a lot easier with the help of a great rice cooker. These handy devices will prepare your rice to serving temperature without scorching it or drying it out. They’re also a game changer for small kitchens, freeing up your stove burners for whatever else you might be cooking up.
History of the Rice Cooker
Now customary in Asian culture, the first automated home rice cooker from Toshiba hit the market in Japan back in 1955, according to the Japan Times. By the 1960s, it had become one of the most popular kitchen appliances in the country, right up there with the refrigerator, the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, and TV.
Its beauty was in its timer function, which gave families the ability to keep rice warm overnight and wake up to a perfectly cooked breakfast the next morning. As technology advanced, control functions, such as temperature and even heat, made them popular in households around the globe. Today’s rice cookers range from extremely high-tech to simple machines that any home chef can operate with ease.
How do rice cookers work?
Rice cookers are usually comprised of four different components: the cooker’s main body, an inner cooking pan (this is usually made of metal, such as copper or aluminum, which are more heat conductive), a heating plate at the bottom, and a thermal sensing device (a small, spring-loaded thermometer that continuously measures heat inside of the pan).
Most models use induction heating, which is created with an electromagnet that develops when the copper coil of the heating element reacts with the conductive metal of the pan. This makes for even cooking and allows for a more accurate temperature, as you can turn it up and down almost instantly, whereas other appliances may take a few minutes to warm up or cool down.
While this might sound a bit complicated, most rice cookers are actually very simple to use. You just measure out the rice, pour in the water, press the buttons for your desired rice type/temperature, and let your cooker get to work bringing your water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, it won’t get any hotter, so the temperature inside the cooking pan will stabilize without burning your grains. The rice grains will soak up the hot water and steam, thus creating the tasty, tender rice you’ll soon put on the table.
When all the water has been absorbed, the temperature in the pan will begin to rise again, and the thermal sensing device will either automatically switch the cooker off or change over to a “warm” setting, depending on what you’ve programmed it to do.
The end result will be fluffy, distinct grains, with no mush in sight.
Choosing the Best Rice Cooker for Your Needs
No matter your skill level in the kitchen, a high-quality rice cooker should be quick and easy to use. It should create even heat, so there’ll be no pockets of over- or under-cooked rice or any grains being scorched, and it will typically work for several different types of rice.
You’ll want to take note of any special features, from detachable inner lids that can be cleaned separately to high-quality inner coatings that won’t peel after use.
Lastly, picking a rice cooker with the capacity that will meet your needs is of the utmost importance, so you’ll want to consider whether you typically cook for yourself, make meals for two, or feed an ultra-hungry family of five — or more! Keep in mind that the cup size listed on the rice cooker’s packaging is for uncooked grains, so a cooker with a 3-cup capacity can actually hold up to 6 cups of cooked rice.
Some models will come with measuring cups, but note that they’re typically smaller (6 ounces) than a standard 8-ounce cup.
Ready to shop? Keep reading to check out FIRST for Women’s top picks for the best rice cooker for every home chef and get ready to step your grain game up instantly.
See more of our best product recommendations.
We write about products we think our readers will like. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the supplier.
Best Budget Rice Cooker
Oster Rice Cooker and Steamer
Where to buy: From $23.82, Walmart
If you’re in the market for a basic model that can still whip up perfectly fluffy grains every time, look no further than this 6-cup Oster rice cooker. It fits the bill for those looking for something easy to use, making great rice with the push of a single button. It’s also compact, fitting in even the tiniest of kitchen spaces, and its tempered-glass lid means you can keep an eye on your rice without having to constantly take it off. It's got a warming mode and comes with an aluminum steaming tray, a rice paddle, a non-stick inner pot, and a measuring cup.
Best Multipurpose Rice Cooker
Aroma Rice Cooker
Where to buy: From $28.87, Amazon
Even if you’ve already got a slow cooker or a multi-cooker that you love, it won't hurt to pick up a rice cooker that can double as a steamer in a pinch. That’s where this model by Aroma Housewares comes in handy: It’s the perfect all-in-one tool, making up to 8 cups of rice with an added steam tray for veggies, meats, and more. There's a removable inner cooking pot for easy clean-up, and a serving spatula is included.
Additionally, it's got a large, easily-viewable display with functions for slow cooking, flash rice (a speedy cooking time for grains that usually take longer), steaming, brown rice, white rice, plus a function to keep food warm. There's also a 15-hour delay timer, which means you can set your rice up in it the night before and come home from work ready to enjoy your meal. What could be better?
Best Professional Rice Cooker
Cuckoo Cooker & Warmer
Where to buy: $82.70, Amazon
Aside from looking super sleek and high-tech, this 6-cup electric rice cooker is aces for those who want something a little more advanced than what the typical rice cooker can provide. With eight built-in programs, including a smart "my mode" that you can program to make rice with your preferred soaking, heating, and temperature settings, it's basically rice cooked to order. It also has an auto steam cleaning function that will sanitize the interior of your cooker with its strong jet stream.
Fastest Rice Cooker
Hamilton Beach Rice and Hot Cereal Cooker
Where to buy: $64.19, Amazon
This customer-favored pick is your best bet for when you have last-minute guests and need to wow them with a delicious meal, fast. With the ability to cook all kinds of goodies, from different types of rice to steamed vegetables, to oatmeal and other hot cereals, quinoa, beans, and more, this cooker has reviewers raving about how fast it works without scorching, undercooking, or leaving you with rice that’s mushy and inedible. Its 11-hour delayed start function, options for white rice, whole grain rice, and quick rice, and large capacity for up to 20 cups aren't too shabby, either.
Most Stylish Rice Cooker
Tiger JNP-S10U Rice Cooker
Where to buy: From $130.25, Amazon
If you want a rice cooker that not only prepares tasty rice but also looks amazing in your kitchen (we're looking at you, Cuisinart stand mixer lovers!), you’ll love this Japanese rice cooker by Tiger. It serves up 5.5 cups of perfect white rice for sushi or as a side dish to whatever it is you’re craving, and the pretty floral print is simply too cute for words.
Its features include a non-stick inner pan for seamless clean-up and a retractable power cord for easy storage. It automatically switches to “keep warm” once cooking is complete for up to 12 hours, which is stellar for those nights you simply want to come home to a fresh pot of rice. As if all that wasn't enough, it also comes with a measuring cup, a spatula, and a removable and washable steam vent.
Best Stovetop Rice Cooker
Presto Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker
Where to buy: $49.50 (Originally $59.90), Walmart
If you still love the idea of cooking rice on your stovetop, don’t worry: you still can! This stainless steel pressure cooker by Presto works on gas, electric, smooth-top, and induction ranges, with an easy-to-grip helper handle for achy wrists and fingers that will prevent your hands from touching any burning hot surfaces.
Thanks to its 6-quart capacity, it’s great for pressure cooking all kinds of meals, but it can also be used as a regular old sauce pan and rice cooker. The stainless steel is rust proof, non-reactive, and stain-resistant, and this device is fully immersible and dishwasher safe, so you won’t be stuck scrubbing tough stains to keep this beauty clean.
Best Microwave Rice Cooker
Sistema Rice Cooker and Steamer
Where to buy: From $9.99, Amazon
Perfect rice from your microwave sounds too good to be true, but with this rice steamer by Sistema Plastics, you can get 11 cups of rice within minutes. Its steamer and pressure chamber design easily whips up fluffy grains without the use of a stove. There are locking clips to hold the lid in place while cooking, and its steam vents will nix your worry about hot water splattering everywhere. The side tabs also stay cool to the touch, so you won’t burn your hands once your rice is ready.
Easiest Rice Cooker to Use
Black + Decker Electric Rice Cooker
Where to buy: $13.99 (Originally $14.99), Walmart
You don’t have to be a whizz in the kitchen to enjoy your favorite rice every day. This electric rice cooker from Black + Decker, which has a 3-cup capacity, makes a perfect solo dinner or a meal for two without any fussy functionality. Simply push a button, and you'll be well on your way to serving your favorite grains. Better yet, there's a colored light indicator that will tell you when it’s cooking rice or when it's simply keeping your food warm with its automatic function.
There's a removable inner non-stick pot for easy clean-up, and the rice pot, tempered glass lid, and plastic accessories can be tossed in the dishwasher. It also has a measuring cup and a plastic serving spoon to prevent any scratches as you prep your meal.
Best Rice Cooker for Brown Rice
Aroma Professional Rice Cooker
Where to buy: $71.78 (Originally $100), Amazon
Brown rice is no doubt a healthier way to get your grains in, so if you want a cooker that specializes in this nutritional powerhouse, check out this model by Aroma Housewares. Though it has a slew of helpful functions, it really shines when it comes to the notoriously tough-to-master brown rice.
One recent buyer boasted about their meal post-purchase, calling it the “best brown rice I’ve ever cooked. Perfect every time, easy easy easy if you follow the instructions.”
This device also features cool-touch technology and easy-to-use, programmable, digital controls, an automatic “keep warm” setting, and more.
Best Overall Rice Cooker
Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker
Where to buy: $256, Amazon
If you make rice all the time and want the absolute best bang for your buck (understandably so!) you'll want this high-tech option, which uses the technology of “fuzzy logic” to work its magic on your grains.
Fuzzy logic might sound cute, but it’s actually pretty amazing. It works when a microchip adjusts a device's cooking time and temperature to adapt to the type of grain you're cooking, from brown and white to oatmeal, quinoa, porridge, and beyond.
This rice cooker is compact enough to comfortably fit in your prep area, and the cooking pan and inner lid can be removed for easy cleaning. It has a large LCD screen display, a programmable delay timer, a handle and a retractable cord for easy transport and safe carrying. There's also a reheating cycle for leftover grains, and a “keep warm” mode. Simply put, it’s the best of the best for those rice aficionados that won’t settle for anything less than flawlessly fluffy rice.