Best Rice Cookers 2018

Rice is one of those foods that are notoriously hard to cook well even for a lot of seasoned chefs. In a lot of cooking schools and classes, cooking different types of rice in different ways is one of the main ways to determine if a student is doing well.

The reason rice can be so tricky to cook well is that different types of rice require a different temperature, time and set up to be cooked well. This essentially means that you can be used to cooking the same type of rice, in the same way, all your life, but when given another kind of rice to cook in a different way – you can easily fail. Sushi rice is the most popular example when it comes to rice cooking failures, but there are countless of other rice recipes that can give a chef just as much trouble.

Add to that the fact that rice is an essential ingredient in literally thousands of meals, and cooking rice well becomes a pretty much vital “life skill”. So, having the right tools at your disposal can quickly make your life that much easier.

Whether you are a student who needs a compact, practical and easy to use cooking appliance for your dorm room; whether you are a busy parent who has to juggle work, house work, and feeding your family; or whether you are just a cook that needs help with preparing different types of rice; having a nice rice cooker in your kitchen is always a great benefit.

However, finding and choosing a rice cooker that’s not just great but also fits your kitchen and needs can be a challenge. There are an awful lot of factors to consider and literally thousands of sub-par products that are being sold. For a lot of cooks, the complicated nature of finding a good rice cooker is often what forces them to postpone the purchase. So, to help you out in your search, we decided to do the research in your stead.

Below, you will find our list of the best rice cookers currently on the market. You’ll also find an explanation on how we found the best rice cookers, a detailed buying guide, how does a rice cooker work, how to cook rice in a rice cooker, and a lot of other useful information about rice cookers in general.

Hopefully, armed with this knowledge you’ll not only find the perfect rice cooker for your kitchen but you’ll also have a blast using it as well.

Top 3 Rice Cookers:

VonShef Rice Cooker

If you want to cook perfect rice, VonShef has got your back. With this stylish, black device you’ll be able to easily achieve the perfect cooked rice. This rice maker has a 10.5 oz capacity, which is ideal for single dinners or for couples. It may be a small rice cooker but it also has a non-stick coating, a removable inner pot for easy serving and even easier cleaning, and simple and comfortable controls.

VonShef Rice CookerPros:

  • Great for single person dinners or on the road cooking
  • High quality materials combined in a practical and gorgeous design
  • Easy to clean and easy to serve
  • Great price

Cons:

  • The limiting capacity makes this item suitable for small meals only

Judge JEA63 Mini Rice Cooker

If you’re on the lookout for a small electric rice cooker, you shouldn’t skip the Judge JEA63 Mini. It may have a simple design, but that’s justified by its standard. It’s made out of high quality materials, it has a non-stick coating for easier cleaning, it is dishwasher safe, and it’s very energy efficient. It can keep your rice warm for up to 6 hours, the “single-push” controls are simple and easy to use, and the 10.5 oz capacity makes it ideal for single person dinners.

Judge JEA63 Mini Rice CookerPros:

  • Efficient cooking
  • High quality materials and practical design
  • Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
  • Ideal for single person dinners

Cons:

  • The limited capacity makes this item suitable for small meals only

Russell Hobbs 19750 Rice Cooker

This Russell Hobbs rice cooker comes with a 63 oz capacity. This makes it great for big meals, whether for family dinners or parties. Even cooking sushi rice is a great experience with this rice cooker, as it easily cooks up to ten cups of rice. It also has a “keeping warm” function if you need your rice to be served at a later time. The bowl is removable and has a non-stick coating. What’s more, this elegant rice cooker also comes with an included spatula and a measuring cup.

Russell Hobbs 19750 Rice CookerPros:

  • Great capacity for bigger meals
  • Beautiful and practical design made out of high quality materials
  • Includes a spatula and a measuring cup
  • The non-stick coating on the removable bowl and a “keep warm” function, make this a very practical item

Cons:

  • The guide of water level is inaccurate and will cause you to put in more water than necessary, resulting in moist rice. Adjust the water level by your own preferences

How we picked the best rice cookers?

Picking the best rice cookers on the market right now was a challenge for several reasons. Most of all, it was because of the sheer number of products that the market has to offer. The deeper you delve into the rice cooker “pool”, the more you get the feeling that literally everyone is manufacturing rice cookers. What’s more, there seems to be little correlation between price and quality. There are an awful lot of cheap rice cookers that are unfortunately trash, but there are also high quality cheap rice cookers.

The higher end of the price range wasn’t much better – obviously, there were a lot of expensive rice cookers that offered great quality, but there were those that only promised a good quality, good design and materials, and a vast array of cooking options, but failed in at least a couple of these areas.

So, sifting through each and every brand, and each and every model took a ton of time. And when you consider the fact that most of our research needed to be done through consumer reviews, the process became even more time-consuming.

Which isn’t to say that consumer reviews weren’t helpful – in fact, a big portion of our research was done through them. However, it’s in the very nature of consumer reviews to be subjective, to lack context, to be incomplete, and to sometimes be dishonest. We also used a lot of professional industry reviews, but those didn’t cover every product and can sometimes be biased.

Still, with enough time and effort, we eventually started narrowing down the different brands and models to fewer and better ones. During this process we prioritised several factors:

  • The quality of the materials. The best rice cooker needed to be made out of high quality materials. Generally, there are three materials to look for in a rice cooker: aluminium, stainless steel and ceramic. Charcoal and clay can also work for the inner pan as they are naturally non-stick, but ceramic is generally better in most ways. Ceramic is typically used for residential rice cookers as it doesn’t have the strength to last long in a commercial setting. For home use, however, it has a lot to offer. Whether you’ll prefer a stainless steel inner pan with a non-stick coating or a ceramic pan is up to personal preference. However, for our search, we focused on looking for any combination of these materials.
  • The design. The design of a cooking rice machine also has a lot of subjectivity in it. Some may prefer one design, while others may prefer a different one. Still, we needed to focus on the practicality of rice cookers’ design as it’s an essential part of whether the model is good or not. A poor design can mean that the rice cooker is misbalanced and doesn’t sit well, that certain parts of it are sure to break quickly and force you to look for replacements, that the overall machine is larger than its internal volume presumes of it, that there aren’t enough cooking mode options, and so on. As long as the design has avoided many of those pitfalls, it was enough for us to deem it “good”. After that, the rest is left to personal preferences.
  • The price. As we said, price can’t really be a determining factor as to whether a rice cooker is good or not. A lot of cheap ones are actually worth buying, while a lot of expensive rice cookers are nothing but a waste of money. Still, price cannot be ignored as buying a needlessly overpriced appliance is never a positive experience. So, we made it a focus point of our research to always compare the quality / price ration of rice cookers and make sure that we’re not recommending you any overpriced products.

And so, after sifting through hundreds of rice cookers and thousands of rice cooker reviews, we eventually arrived at our list. Of course, it isn’t the end all be all of rice cookers, and there are a lot of other good brands and models out there. So, even if none of our suggestions were to your liking, hopefully, they’ll at least serve as a good baseline for your future research.
But, since simply purchasing a rice cooker is not enough, let’s go over our quick breakdown of rice cookers.

A quick breakdown of rice cookers

Describing the standard rice cooker isn’t difficult – rice cookers are essentially just specialized cooking pots that have some additional features, allowing you to easier cook rice in them. Of course, rice can be cooked in a standard pot, but it’s usually much harder, much more time-consuming, and doesn’t give you the flexibility of cooking different rice cooker recipes. With its extra features, a good rice cooker will allow you to do all that.

What’s more, it will do all that without the need for a stove. This extra flexibility is especially nice if you frequently have to cook large meals for family gatherings or parties. It also means that you can take your rice cooker on the road, that you can use it in places with no kitchens like student dorms, and so on. Learning how to use a rice cooker also isn’t too difficult, since they are inherently simple devices that are easy to operate.

Simply put, a rice cooker is a specialized pot that allows you to cook rice easier, faster, better, and with much more flexibility.

Different types of rice cookers

It could be said that there are as many types of rice cookers as there are models of rice cookers. It would seem that every different brand and model is trying to do something new with their rice cookers in order to stand out of the competition. When looked at from the point of view of their basic principles, however, rice cookers can be summarized in several categories:

  • Standard rice cooker. A typical electric rice cooker is a very straight-forward machine. They have been around for over 60 years. It was in 1955 the Toshiba Company started distributing the first standard rice cookers in Japan. And ever since then, while the materials and the design of standard rice cookers have improved, the principle on which they work hasn’t changed that much. Such a rice cooker works on direct heating and thermal convection. They have a thermal sensor that can detect when all the water in it has been absorbed by the rice or has evaporated. When that’s done, the sensor will automatically shut down the rice cooker. Such a standard rice cooker will consist of the following: a thermal sensor, a detachable pan for easier serving and cleaning, and a detachable cord. Simple devices, all you need to do with such a rice cooker is add the rice and the water, and turn them on. A standard rice cooker can hardly compete for a “best of list”, but they can do great work at an affordable price.
  • Advanced rice cooker. While not technically a category in and of itself, we decided to deem all standard rice cookers advanced if they offered some more options in their toolkit. Rice cookers that offer variety to your cooking choices if you will. Such cookers typically have several different cooking settings for different types of rice such as brown rice, black rice, etc. A lot of advanced rice cookers also offer steam features that can fluff out your rice if it has been sitting for a while. Warming and extended warming functions are also typical for such models. A digital countdown timer is a given as well. All in all, advanced rice cookers are still easy and simple to use, they still have a detachable pan that’s easy to serve with and easy to clean. They still have a detachable cord and they still come in a variety of different sizes. They simply feature several more options when it comes to cooking different types of rice.
  • Multifunctional rice cooker. Further expanding on the standard and advanced rice cooker models, multifunctional rice cookers can deal with pretty much any type of rice you have brought home with you. Sushi rice? Rice porridge? Not only with a good multifunctional rice cooker deal with it, they can cook in dozens of different settings and modes too. They do this thanks to their expanded control technology. They have digital displays with countdown timers, delay functions, cooking modes, and so on. Reheat cycles and extended warming times are also present in these models. Detachable lids and retractable power cords are also popular and make up for a nice rice cooker that can also double as a serving bowl once the rice is cooked. Such multifunctional rice cookers are aimed at professional or amateur chefs that are looking to add more variety to their cooking and want more control over their rice cookers. By being more programmable, they also allow you to spend less time in the kitchen, constantly monitoring how the rice is doing. That last part alone can justify the higher prices for some people, as saving you time in the kitchen can be equivalent to saving you money if you spend that free time in a good way.
  • Induction heat rice cooker. These rice cookers are undoubtedly the higher end of the curve in this niche. These rice cookers don’t just add more options and control functions to the appliance, but cook with a whole different technology. Where the previous types of rice cookers used by transferring heat to the inner pot through thermal induction, actual induction heat rice cookers create a magnetic field that super heats the inner pot. This higher, faster and more consistent heat makes for faster and better rice cooking. Of course, all this comes with some drawbacks. Induction heat rice cookers are both more expensive and less efficient as they spend more energy when they work. Despite being pricier, induction heat rice cookers always grab the top mentions when chefs and industry professionals review different products. They cook rice flawlessly, they usually come with all cooking options and settings you can expect from a multifunctional rice cooker, they have digital controls, and much more. Whether you want to cook sushi rice, jasmine rice, black rice, brown rice, or any other kind – an induction heat rice cooker is likely to give you the best experience.

With all this being said, in making our list we didn’t just focus on induction heat rice cookers. They may be the best in terms of function and versatility, but that doesn’t mean that they are the best for every situation. If you are just looking for a good, reliable, effective and efficient rice cooker that you can cook white rice in for years, then a standard rice cooker can do that too. They are cheaper, simpler to use, and still perfectly effective at what they do, which often is all you need from a kitchen appliance. As long as they are well made, with a good design, and from top quality materials, they may be just what you need.

Rice cookers can work for more than just rice

Despite their name, most good rice cookers can be used for other things as well. All you need to do is insert a steaming tray in them and you can steam vegetables with ease. A lot of good rice cookers are directly sold with steaming trays and we definitely recommend going for such a model if you have the choice. The added versatility it brings to the rice cooker will make it a much more useful appliance in your kitchen. If there is no steaming tray included with the rice cooker, look around the brand’s catalogue – chances are that they will have separate steaming trays that can work with their rice cooker models.

Buying guide

Buying the perfect rice cooker is all about identifying your needs and finding the rice cooker that will best answer them. Here are the several key questions you need to ask yourself before making a purchase:

Do I want a standard, cheap and effective model or do I want dozens of functions of a high-end rice cooker?

It all depends on what you intend to cook in it. If you love cooking with white rice and you don’t care much for sushi, brown rice, jasmine rice, or other similar types – go for something standard. If you want the extra options, the extra control, and the additional freedom to cook anything in the rice cooker – consider spending a bit more.

What size do you need your rice cooker to be in?

This is a vital question, since getting a rice cooker that’s too big or too small can ruin your entire cooking experience. Yes, you can cook smaller portions of rice in a bigger rice cooker, but that’s inefficient and impractical. We don’t think much about the electricity our appliances require, but cooking with a needlessly oversized rice cooker for years will make a difference in your electricity bill. Plus, it will take more space in your kitchen, it will be harder to move, and so on.

What materials do you want your rice cooker to be made out of?

Do you want to go with a traditional stainless steel or aluminium inner pan with a non-stick coating? Or maybe you want a ceramic pan. Charcoal and clay are also popular choices, with all of them giving you different cooking experience and different taste.

What extra (and often unlisted) features do I care about?

Some of the less advertised but often useful features a rice cooker can possess are also important. These are things such as a see-through lid that lets you monitor the cooking of your rice without opening the cooker; a steam vent that helps prevent any bubbling over; measuring lines on the inside of the inner pan that allow you to measure your rice and water without using a measuring cup, and more.

Considering that a rice cooker is an appliance that can serve you for years, taking such extras into consideration can do you a lot of good.

After you’ve figured out exactly what kind of rice cooker you need, the next step is to actually find it. Like it or not, this usually involves reading a ton of consumer reviews. As with any other product, don’t ever let yourself be satisfied by reading just 2 – 3 customer reviews. We don’t mean to bash reviewers, but by their very nature, consumer reviews are subjective, out of context and sometimes obsolete. Reading as much as you can will ensure that you’ve made the right purchase.

That is, of course, unless you’ve already made your choice from one of our recommendations.

Either way, the last step to keep in mind is looking at the product’s brand. In this niche, looking at the cooker’s brand can often tell you most of what you need to know. Some brands are known to produce top quality, while others are known to sell cheap or overpriced garbage. If you need some more pointers, here are the brands that we’d recommend: Severin, Cuckoo, Gastroback, Zojirushi, Arendo, Tiger, Tristar, Midea, Russell Hobbs, Hamilton Beach, VonShef, and Judge.

Other information about rice cookers

Of all the criteria for picking a rice cooker we listed above, the size is often the most confusing one. It sounds silly, but the majority of people that purchase rice cookers, be it personally or online, tend to buy the wrong size for their needs. Sometimes even seasoned cooks can underestimate how much rice they need to cook at once or overestimate the size of their meals and buy something that’s needlessly big. To further help you out, here’s a quick per-cup guide to what size you need your rice cooker to be in:

  • 1 – 10 cups. Rice cookers of this size are best for home use. The size is definitely too small for any commercial enterprise, but is usually perfectly enough for nice family dinners.
  • 11 – 20 cups. Such rice cookers are also intended for home use but are suitable for more major cooking situation. If you often find yourself cooking for big parties, huge family gatherings and reunions, and so on, you might need more than 10 cups.
  • 21 – 30 cups. These rice cookers are best for light commercial use. If you have a small restaurant that only occasionally serves rice as a side dish to a couple of your dishes, this is the rice cooker you’ll likely need.
  • 31 – 40 cups. Ideal for medium commercial use. If you have a mid-sized restaurant that serves several different rice dishes but nothing too major, 40 cups should be perfectly enough for you.
  • 51 – 60 cups. These rice cookers are ideal for heavy commercial use. Asian and Mexican restaurants that serve rice in almost every dish need the 60 cups these rice cookers can work with.

Living with and using rice cookers

As a fairly simple kitchen appliance, rice cookers are quite easy to maintain. The non-stick coating that their inner pans have, makes them easy to clean. The simple control options are also usually very intuitive and easy to operate. As long as you keep the rice cooker clean, use it according to its instructions, and store it in an adequate manner, everything with it should be ok.

Conclusion

Rice cookers are very simple but extremely useful appliances that can make any cook happier if they cook enough rice. More advanced models offer different options for cooking more types of rice for different recipes and dishes, but even simpler, standard rice cookers can be very useful. Whether you cook a lot of rice, whether you need to speed up your cooking times, or whether you’re just looking for a practical and easy to use appliance for a student dorm, a rice cooker can make your life much easier.

And if you’re looking for rice cooker suggestion, here are our recommendations for the best rice cookers on the market right now:

This VonShef rice cooker is a stylish small wonder with 10.5 oz capacity. It’s great for couples or for singles. It’s easy to clean, easy to serve with, it’s made out of high quality materials, and has a gorgeous and practical design.

The Judge JEA63 is another mini rice cooker option that’s great for a lot of situations. It’s made out of top quality materials, it is dishwasher safe, and it’s very energy efficient.

This Russell Hobbs model has 63 oz capacity. It’s great for big family dinners or for parties. It easily deals with sushi rice, brown rice, and other types of rice. It also has a lot of auxiliary options and a nice, practical design.