The Best List

The Absolute Best Rice Cookers You Can Buy Right Now

updated Jul 21, 2023
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3 different rice cookers on a graphic colored background. Seal that reads "2023 the Best List the kitchn"
Credit: Instant Pot, Hamilton Beach, Zojirushi

Many of us here at The Kitchn rely on a rice cooker for, well, all of our rice-cooking needs. At its best, a rice cooker produces perfect rice every time (evenly cooked, separated grains!) and is incredibly easy to use (just add rice and a corresponding amount of water, push the start button, and go about your business until it’s finished!). There’s no babysitting a pot on the stovetop, making sure it doesn’t bubble over or scorch. 

Several years ago, I got a Zojirushi rice cooker as a Christmas present. And it’s served me faithfully since then, employed several times a week for lunches and dinners. (Let’s just not talk about the time my now-husband listed some old kitchen equipment of mine for sale on Facebook Marketplace and almost sold my $150 Zojirushi as a $5 slow cooker.)

But lately, I’ve been curious: What’s the best rice cooker out there? And is it actually worth spending more for, say, a pricier model? To find out, I rounded up enough rice cookers to fill my sizable kitchen and got to work making long-grain rice, short-grain rice, sticky sushi rice, and short-grain brown rice. I evaluated how well the rice cookers worked and how easy they were to use. Here’s what I found out. 

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Just some of the rice cookers I tested.

The Best Rice Cookers

The Tests

  • Make 2 cups (dry) long-grain white rice.
  • Make 2 cups (dry) sushi rice.
  • Make 2 cups (dry) short-grain brown rice.
  • Make 4 cups (dry) short-grain brown rice (because some models can struggle with larger batches of rice).
  • Clean each rice cooker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, after every use.
Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
I preferred a larger display (right) versus a smaller, tougher-to-read display (left).

What to Consider When Buying a Rice Cooker

How Well Does It Make Rice? 

The good news was that all of the rice cookers made rice and did so relatively well, but there were factors that had some performing better or worse. Rice cookers with thinner, lighter cooking pots often browned rice at the bottom, which isn’t ideal. And with some of the less-expensive rice cookers (including Cook’s Illustrated’s favorite model), water bubbled and spurted up and out through the top vent of the rice cooker and onto the countertop, even when making just 2 cups of rice. Which brings me to one more point: I tested 2- and 4-cup batches in each rice cooker because some models can struggle with larger batches. The best rice cooker needs to make perfectly cooked, tender rice every single time. Period. No matter how much or how little you’re making. And with no extra counter cleanup required. 

How Easy Is It to Use and Clean? 

All of the rice cookers were intuitive enough to use (add rice, water, select a setting, and press start), but the best rice cooker was by far the easiest of the bunch. Here are some of the factors that set it apart from the rest.

  • A large, clear interface that was easy to read.
  • An audible ringtone, indicating when the rice finished cooking.
  • A cooking pot that had clear, etched-on markings that were easy to read.
  • A cooking pot that had water indicators for different types of rice (white, brown, sushi).
  • Handles on its cooking pot.
  • A lid that slowly opens (versus flinging open).
  • A retractable power cord, for easier storage.
  • A hook for the included rice paddle.
  • A removable inner lid for easy cleaning.
  • A handle for easy transport.
Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Clear, bright markings like left were much easier to read than darker etchings like right.

What We Look for in a Rice Cooker 

I judged all of the rice cookers on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best).

  • Performance: How well did it cook different types of rice? 
  • Ease of use: How easy was the rice cooker to use, turn on and off, and what other usability factors made one stand out from the other? 
  • Cleanup: How easy was it to clean the rice cooker’s cooking pot and inner lid? 

Best Overall: Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer

This rice cooker was, by far, the easiest to use and consistently produced perfectly cooked rice. While it did take the longest of the machines to make brown rice, I consider this a small trade-off given its other features. It has a large, clear interface that’s easy to read, more rice settings than you’ll likely use (but are nice to have!), a handle so that you can easily pick up the rice cooker, handles on its cooking pot, a lid that slowly opened (others flung open), a hook for the rice paddle, a retractable power cord, and a loud, singsong-y ringtone that marked the start and end of cooking. Its cooking pot has clear, white etchings that are easy to read, denoting water levels for different types of rice. Its nonstick cooking pot and simple-to-remove inner lid make the rice cooker easy to clean. And while it is pricey, I think it’s a worthwhile investment for an exceptional machine. 

Specifications

  • Settings: White (regular/sushi, softer or harder), mixed, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, rinse-free, and quick cooking
  • Capacity: 5.5 cups, uncooked

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 5
  • Ease of use: 5 
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a great rice cooker and can afford to splurge a little.
Good to know: This rice cooker has a “keep warm” setting that immediately starts after cooking and goes for 12 hours, and an “extended keep warm” setting that can go for an additional 8 hours. It also has a programmable timer that can be set up to 13 hours ahead and it comes in a 10-cup version.


Simplest Display: Tiger Micom Rice Cooker

This rice cooker was much more minimalist than the Zojirushi, but some might like or need that. Instead of a menu of options, this Tiger model has images to go along with its text and four simple settings: Plain, synchro-cooking, brown, and slow cook/steam. This makes it super easy to operate and, if you are someone who has trouble reading a display or just would prefer something more straightforward, this is a great option. It made excellent rice, has an interior pot with markings for white and brown rice, has a handle for easy transport, and comes with a stand for the included rice paddle. The lid does fly backwards when opened and it lacks a retractable power cord and an easily removable inner lid, but, it’s still a solid pick and is priced for less than $150. 

Specifications

  • Settings: Plain, synchro-cooking, brown, and slow cook/steam
  • Capacity: 5.5 cups, uncooked

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 5
  • Ease of use: 3.5
  • Cleanup: 4

Who it’s best for: Someone who prefers or needs a super straightforward, more pictorial interface.
Good to know: The rice cooker comes with a cookbook for its synchro-cooking function, which uses the rice cooker’s included cooking plate accessory to cook the “main dish and rice at the same time,” according to the product listing. (I did not test the synchro-cooking function.) Its “keep warm” setting can hold rice for up to 12 hours.


Best Budget: Hamilton Beach Digital Programmable Rice Cooker

This model is totally no-frills and has a thinner cooking pot that tended to brown rice a little at the bottom during testing. However, it, overall, did a good job and made well-cooked rice. It has a simple interface with just four cooking settings (I used the whole-grain option for brown rice) and comes with a colander for rinsing rice and steaming, say, vegetables. Its interior pot markers are tougher to read than the Zojirushi’s and do not indicate separate water levels for different types of rice types. Its inner lid was harder to remove for cleanup and it had a smaller capacity than other models I tried, but for about $40 it’s very reasonably priced and is a great bang for your buck.

Specifications

  • Settings: White rice, whole grain, hot cereal, steam 
  • Capacity: 4 cups, uncooked 

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of use: 3
  • Cleanup: 4

Who it’s best for: Someone who wants a no-frills, budget-friendly rice cooker. 
Good to know: Its “keep warm” setting will hold rice for up to 12 hours.


Fastest: Instant Zest Rice and Grain Cooker

This rice cooker was the fastest of all that I tried, which could be a big plus on busy weeknights. It cooked white, sushi, and brown rice about 20 to 30 minutes faster than the Zojirushi. Its interface is straightforward and it has a plethora of settings (more than you would probably need!). Its thinner cooking pot did tend to brown rice a little at the bottom, and its interior pot etchings were tough to read. It also lacked separate water level indicators for different types of rice and a removable inner lid for easy cleaning. However, overall, this is a speedy rice cooker that’ll absolutely get the job done. 

Specifications

  • Settings: White rice, brown rice, quinoa, mixed grains, steam, sauté, oatmeal, barley, couscous, bulgur, risotto, slow cook 
  • Capacity: 10 cups, uncooked

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of use: 3
  • Cleanup: 4

Who it’s best for: Someone who wants a faster rice cooker with a large capacity.
Good to know: Its “keep warm” setting will hold rice for 10 hours and it has a programmable timer. It also comes in a smaller size.

Kitchn’s Best List Promise

We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we’ll condense the info into easy, breezy summaries, so that you can see what we picked and why, and then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!

Do you have a question about rice cookers? Let us know in the comments!