I had never used a rice cooker before. I cook in a small Brooklyn kitchen, and I wasn’t persuaded that I needed a separate device to make anything I could make on the stovetop (albeit with more hassle). I’m a rice cooker convert for life after steaming 28 batches of rice in seven rice cookers over the period of 15 days. I found the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer to be the greatest all-around rice cooker for preparing regular rice and impressing my dinner guests. It employs a technique known as Micom (short for “micro-computerized”) fuzzy logic, which monitors the development of the rice throughout cooking and adapts accordingly, producing rice grains that are bouncy and tender. The rice made in the no-frills Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker and Food Steamer also impressed me for a super budget rice cooker that outperforms its price tag. The Aroma offered delightfully chewy and soft rice grains that retained their characteristic shape in test after test. (For additional details, see our in-depth reviews of the Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Aroma Rice Cooker.)
- Best Overall Rice Cooker: Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker And Warmer
- Best Value Rice Cooker: Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker And Food Steamer
- Best Multi-Purpose Rice Cooker: Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
- Best Persian-Style Rice Cooker: Pars Automatic 4-Cup Persian Rice Cooker
Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker And Warmer
$198$233Save $35 (15%)
Dimensions: 14 x 10.13 x 8.5 inches | Weight: 9 pounds | Capacity: 11 cups (cooked) | Accessories included: Steamer basket, rice paddle, measuring cup | Retractable cord: Yes | Dishwasher-safe: No | Settings: White/sushi, brown, steam, cake, porridge, quick-cooking
- Consistently perfect rice
- Cooking many types of grains
- Straightforward setup and operation
- You think an hour is too long to wait for white rice
Zojirushi rice cookers are well-known for being among the best in the industry, and the NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker is no exception. Each of the four rice variations I made in it exceeded my expectations and much outperformed my typical stovetop rice. The jasmine and sushi rice were springy, tender, and curiously addictive (I couldn’t stop eating on it even after cooking numerous pots of rice in other cookers! ), while the basmati rice was fragrant, loose, and perfectly low-moisture. And the brown rice was softer and more bouncy than it should have been. My intake of brown-rice-based grain bowls has increased dramatically since the arrival of the Zojirushi rice cooker in my life.
When I initially opened the Zojirushi, I was a little intimidated. It’s large and dignified, with a commanding presence and a comprehensive instruction manual. However, it is also incredibly user-friendly, thanks to a cooking basket clearly marked with the appropriate water level for several rice species and cooking styles (white, brown, sushi, sweet, and porridge), as well as a panel display that makes switching between settings simple. Meanwhile, the fuzzy logic technology, which adjusted personalized cooking times for each batch of rice, ensured that my flawless pots of rice were steamed without any guesswork. I also found it cute that the rice cooker played a cheery melody when I set the timer and another after the rice was done cooking. What’s not to love about some background music in the kitchen?
The Zojirushi’s only serious flaw was that it took a long time to cook rice. Most rice cookers I tested cooked white rice in about 40 minutes and brown rice in about 60 minutes, but the Zojirushi took over an hour for white rice and close to two hours for brown rice. The cookers take longer, according to Marilyn Matsuba, a marketing manager at Zojirushi, because the cooking program includes soaking the rice before cooking, adjusting the heat during cooking, and allowing it to steam after cooking. She told me, “In our opinion, some things can’t be rushed. We program our courses to cook the absolute best rice.”
The Zojirushi has a fast mode that cuts white rice steaming time by around 20 minutes, but when I tried it with jasmine rice, the grains were more al dente than I wanted.
I can see how the lengthy cooking times could be aggravating on rushed weeknights, but I believe perfection is worth the wait. Meanwhile, the machine does provide a workaround with its delay setting, which allows you to measure the rice and water in the morning and set a timer to begin cooking later in the day. After the rice is cooked, a keep warm option keeps the temperature stable for up to 12 hours, and a reheat button allows you to resuscitate rice that has been cooked for hours. Any rice left in the cooker after the 12-hour interval should be thrown for food safety concerns.
Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker And Food Steamer
$30$40Save $10 (25%)
Dimensions: 8.6 x 9.3 x 8.5 inches | Weight: 3.6 pounds | Capacity: 8 cups (cooked) | Accessories included: Steamer Basket, rice paddle, measuring cup | Retractable cord: No | Dishwasher-safe: Yes | Settings: White rice, brown rice, steam, flash rice, keep warm
- Anyone on a budget
- First-time rice cooker users
- You want a compact rice cooker for camping and road trips
- You prefer a rice cooker with more bells and whistles
Normally, the phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true, however the Aroma outperformed its price point. On first glance, I liked its rounded, streamlined design and traditional stainless look, but I was skeptical that the bonded-granite cooking pot, which felt a little flimsy in my hands, would hold up to previous models. (Granite cookware has a nonstick, mineral-based coating that is resistant to scratches and flaking over an aluminum or stainless steel core.) I also noted that the display panel only had buttons for white and brown rice. But once I spooned into the first pot of jasmine rice, my reservations vanished. The Hamilton Beach Digital Programmable Rice Cooker and Steamer, another low-cost device I tried, produced jasmine rice that was considerably gummy in texture. However, the jasmine rice produced by the Aroma rice cooker was fluffy and tender, with distinct grains.
The Aroma worked equally well with basmati rice, which fluffed beautifully, as well as brown and sushi rice, which were delicious and chewy. The Aroma also supplied this high-quality rice (not as ethereal as the Zojirushi, but notably better) in a reasonable amount of time, clocking in around 40 minutes for each of the white rice kinds I tried, and slightly more over 60 minutes for brown rice. And, like the Zojirushi, you can set a timer to postpone cooking and it holds rice warm for up to 12 hours after it has finished steaming.
After several uses, the cooking pot exhibited no indications of wear and tear, and I loved that the nonstick pot was both toxin-free and dishwasher-safe. (Rice is starchy, so anything that cuts down on cleanup time after dinner is a plus in my book.) And, while there weren’t a lot of setting options, the instruction manual did contain advice about cooking different grains using the white and brown rice settings. I photographed some of the pages so that I would have access to the information even if (more likely when) I misplaced the physical manual.
I’ll admit that I didn’t have high hopes for the Aroma rice cooker, but it held its own against more expensive models. “Wow, surprisingly great!” I noted in my testing notes.”
Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
Dimensions: 12.2 x 13.4 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 12.35 pounds | Capacity: 10 cups (cooked) | Accessories included: Steamer rack, extra sealing ring | Retractable cord: No, but removable | Dishwasher-safe: Yes | Settings: Pressure cook, slow cook, soup, saute, yogurt, cake, beans, sous vide, sterilize, porridge, egg, rice, keep warm
- People who want one appliance that can accomplish multiple tasks
- Cooks with limited counter or storage space
- Anyone who wants their rice cooked in 20 minutes
- You want the best possible rice, and don’t need the extra cooking features
I’ve always been hesitant to use an Instant Pot. It felt overly convoluted. But when Che told me that she makes rice in her Instant Pot on a regular basis, I was convinced to give it a shot. In my tests, the Instant Pot produced respectable rice—and quickly—due to its “do everything” character (it pressure cooks, slow cooks, sautés, and even makes yogurt and dessert). (Forbes has also tested the top Instant Pots; read the entire review for more details).
For the white rice variety I tried, I utilized the usual rice option, but I found that the beans/grains setting worked nicely for the stronger brown rice grains. Each of the white rice pots I tested—jasmine, basmati, and sushi—required 12 minutes of active cooking time (plus about 10 minutes of preheating) to create chewy, tasty grains. My pot of brown rice was tender after only 30 minutes (including preheating). This kind of timing felt like a minor miracle to someone who often cooks supper on busy weeknights. The instruction manual did not give water-to-rice ratios, which seemed like an error. However, because the Instant Pot is so widely liked and used, it was simple to obtain that information online.
Overall, my Instant Pot tests convinced me that it makes superb rice with relative ease and astonishing speed—yet another reason why an Instant Pot is a worthy addition to any kitchen.
Pars Automatic 4-Cup Persian Rice Cooker
Dimensions: 11.5 x 10 x 6.4 inches | Weight: 4.14 pounds | Capacity 8 cups (cooked) | Accessories included: Measuring cup, rice paddle | Retractable cord: No, but removable | Dishwasher-safe: Yes | Settings: Timer
- People who regularly make Persian-style rice (or want to)
- Anyone who enjoys exploring new-to-them cuisines
- Impressing dinner guests
- You are looking for a super versatile rice cooker
The rice cooker is something I genuinely love. Making Persian-style rice with tahdig (a golden, crunchy layer that starts at the bottom of the pot) is delicious, but time consuming when made on the stovetop. The Pars rice cooker takes out the labor, making Persian-style rice a weeknight side dish rather than a special occasion treat. The cooker has a two-zone heat mechanism that generates additional heat on the bottom—just enough to crisp up the tahdig while keeping the remaining rice tender, well divided, and fragrant.
I ignored the instruction manual (which was poorly translated and unnecessarily convoluted) and added the basmati rice, water, oil, and salt all at once, as Deravian suggested. After an hour, I had Persian rice with tahdig that rivaled any other I’d tried. Deravian told me, “I give this rice cooker to everyone. I can’t tell you how many of my friends phone me to tell me how much they love it!”
When it comes to other types of rice, the Pars isn’t quite as enthralling. It produced adequate jasmine, brown, and sushi rice (with a timer set to 40 minutes and no oil), but nothing spectacular. It was also difficult to determine the sweet spot for the other rice kinds because it employs a simple timer rather than fuzzy logic. Although it is not as adaptable as the other rice cookers on this list, if you frequently make Persian rice with tahdig (or if you love impressing dinner guests), it is well worth finding room for a Pars—even if you already have another rice cooker.
Other Rice Cookers I Tested
Cuisinart 8-Cup Rice Cooker & Steamer: The Cuisinart rice cooker had certain advantages, most notably that it cooked white rice in around 20 minutes and brown rice in 30, which was literally half the time of most of the other models I tested. The rice cooker shone brightest with sushi rice, which was plump and chewy when it came out of the pot, and basmati rice, which fluffed up nicely. With jasmine rice, the Cuisinart rice cooker produced less consistent results. Despite soaking and rinsing the grains and precisely measuring the water, the rice came out gummy and mushy. On the other hand, the brown rice was too al dente—not crispy, but too close for my taste.
“Right now, my top priority in life is speed!”” Kim told me about his simple, one-button rice cooker. “Perhaps the rice isn’t as perfect, but I love how quickly it steams uncooked rice!”” If speed is also your top priority, the Cuisinart would make an excellent addition to your kitchen.” However, I found that other models performed better.
Hamilton Beach Digital Programmable Rice Cooker and Steamer: I enjoyed the rounded retro design of this rice cooker, and I appreciated that it came with a steamer basket for prepping veggies and other portions of a complete dinner as the rice cooked. However, the rice it cooked fell short of my expectations. The jasmine rice, which I cook the most regularly in my kitchen, was clumpy and gummy in texture compared to the jasmine rice produced in the other rice cookers. The basmati rice also had a slight stickiness, which is unusual for a rice variety noted for its low moisture content. The rice cooker from Hamilton Beach fared better with brown rice and sushi rice, which hold up better to excess moisture—but I was searching for rice cookers that performed more consistently across a variety of rices.
Dash micro Rice Cooker: For those who prefer to cook rice in smaller quantities, I included a micro rice cooker in my tests. The Dash Mini Rice Cooker, which comes in a variety of adorable hues, is decidedly small, holding no more than 1 cup of dried rice and yielding 2 cups of cooked rice. (If desired, you can steam only 1/2 cup of rice at a time.) The one-touch operation was simple and straightforward, and it produced good brown and sushi rice.
However, when I tested the rice cooker with jasmine rice, it produced far too sticky rice with poorly defined individual grains. And the basmati rice clumped in an unusual clump at the bottom of the pot. I was also surprised that the cooking time (40 to 60 minutes, turning on the rice variety) was so long, given the minimal amount of rice and water in the pot. While the Dash Mini Rice Cooker would be ideal for a college student looking for a late-night snack, I would not recommend it for other kitchens.
How I Tested The Best Rice Cookers
First and foremost, I made a lot of rice—28 batches in total—over the course of 15 days in search of the best rice cookers deserving of your cabinet or counter space. Each of the seven rice cookers steamed batches of jasmine, basmati, brown, and sushi rice, allowing me to assess how well they functioned with a variety of rice kinds and textures. To ensure consistency of results, I used the same brand of rice in all of the cookers.
I used the measuring cups that came with each rice cooker to measure the rice grains. I was surprised to see that the “1 cup” measuring cups that most modern rice cookers come with actually measure about 34 cup by Western standards. (The cups are modeled after the g, which is a traditional Japanese unit of measurement for a single serving of rice or a cup of sake.) I also soaked and swished each batch of dried rice grains in water for 30 seconds before rinsing, draining, and adding it to the cooking pot to remove any excess starch that could make the cooked rice gummy. Each batch of rice was evaluated based on its overall quality (taste and texture) as well as how quickly it cooked.
I examined the cookers’ other features while the rice steamed. I evaluated their usability as someone with a low tolerance for sophisticated technology. I was specifically seeking for straightforward displays and directions. Were the buttons and control panels well marked and simple to use? How difficult was it to switch between and pick settings? Did the instruction manuals offer timing and water-to-rice ratio charts? We’re not talking about launching into space here, so I wanted a rice cooker that made things easier rather than more difficult.
While I only evaluated rice varieties, I also searched for signs that the cookers could be used for other grains. Would the rice cooker allow me to cook quinoa or barley, or set a timer to cook a fresh pot of porridge immediately before I got up? (Although it wasn’t part of my official testing, I’ve since discovered that the Zojirushi rice cooker does the latter really well, and it’s a beautiful way to wake up.) I don’t usually steam vegetables—I’m more of a roast in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper type of person. But because I enjoy steaming fish and eggs, I added extra points to rice cookers that contained a steamer basket or rack, which all of the rice cookers on my best list include save the Pars Automatic Persian Rice Cooker.
Many of the rice cookers I evaluated were available in a variety of sizes. The Zojirushi, for example, comes in two sizes: 5.5 cups (which makes 11 cups of cooked rice) and a much larger 10-cup capacity (which yields 20 cups of cooked rice). And the Pars is available in seven distinct sizes. When deciding which rice cookers to test, I looked for machines that could handle cooking for one or two people as well as organizing a dinner party for six to ten people. Anything larger felt unrealistic for many households.
How To Pick A Rice Cooker
If you’re still undecided about which rice cooker is perfect for you, examine the following factors:
Quality Of Rice
A rice cooker is sure to become an MVP in your kitchen if you eat rice on a regular basis. However, not all rice cookers are made equal. Kim told me, “Perfectly prepared rice, in my opinion, consists of individual grains that are soft and bouncy while remaining distinct around the edges.” Fortunately, rice cookers of all price ranges can achieve this level of perfection.
I kept Kim’s words in mind when I tested batches of rice and found that the finest rice cookers produced pliable (but not sticky or gummy) jasmine rice, fluffy, low-moisture basmati rice, wonderfully chewy brown rice, and brown rice that softly clung together when pressed. A higher-end rice cooker that makes truly outstanding rice is the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker And Warmer, which is my favorite. However, I also fell in love with the considerably less expensive Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker And Food Steamer.
When choosing the best rice cooker for your home, you should consider how much counter space or storage capacity you have. However, you should also consider how frequently you will make rice and how many people you usually prepare rice for. A 4-cup rice cooker (which allows you to add up to 4 cups of dried rice to the pot at a time and delivers 8 cups of cooked rice) is large enough for most households. If you frequently serve a large group, search for a rice cooker that can produce 10 or more cups of rice at a time. Smaller rice cookers that can steam as little as 12 cup of dried rice at a time are available for college students and others who normally cook for one or two people.
Some individuals prefer a dedicated rice cooker that makes only the absolute best rice and grains. Other home cooks, on the other hand, desire their rice cooker to be multifunctional. If you want your rice cooker to do more in the kitchen, search for one with settings for other types of grains and beans, as well as recipes such as porridge or congee. Look for rice cookers that come with a steamer basket for steaming vegetables, fish, or meat while your rice cooks. For dessert, some models, such as the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom Rice Cooker And Warmer, can bake a cheesecake.
I’ve steamed numerous pots of rice in my 15 years as a professional food writer for publications including Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, the New York Times, and Food52, as well as writing seven cookbooks. That experience helped me develop a clear awareness of what makes rice wonderful, as opposed to merely a serviceable side dish to whatever else you’re cooking. For Forbes Vetted, I’ve also reviewed a variety of home gadgets such as toaster ovens, cold press juicers, and microwaves.
I asked three more professionals for their opinions on rice cookers for this piece. I spoke with Eric Kim, a food columnist for the New York Times and the author of the cookbook Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home. Kim is a rice connoisseur in addition to being one of today’s most famous food writers. He told me that he makes rice so frequently at home that his rice cooker “stays out on my counter because I’ve prioritized it.” I also spoke with Hannah Che, a chef and author of The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition, about her book, which takes a plant-based approach to the dishes and flavors she grew up with. Finally, I spoke with Naz Deravian, a food journalist and cookbook author of Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories, who introduced me to the concept of a Persian-style rice cooker that effortlessly makes the crunchy, golden tahdig coating that Persian rice is known for.
Do I Need A Rice Cooker?
Che defined ideal rice as “Q,” a Taiwanese term that denotes soft, delightfully chewy, and nearly bouncy, similar to al dente pasta—not mushy or gummy. Making rice on the stovetop that is “Q” grade is not a tough task, but it does require some patience and know-how. A rice cooker, on the other hand, streamlines the rice-making process and makes it a hands-off cooking experience. While you can easily make rice in a pot on the stovetop, a rice cooker is a wise addition to any kitchen where rice is made on a regular basis.
How Do I Use A Rice Cooker?
Rice cookers are generally simple and straightforward to use, even for beginners. The inside of most rice cooker pots is marked with numbers. Fill the water level to the equivalent 2 line on the pot if you wish to make 2 cups of rice, for example. Simply press the button, and the rice cooker will take care of the rest. Use the measuring cup that arrived with your rice cooker (which normally measures around 34 cup of rice) rather than standard measuring cups for the best results.
Should I Rinse Rice Before Using A Rice Cooker?
Rice grains contain starch, which contributes to their delectable texture. However, always wash your rice grains before cooking to remove any excess starch that may result in extremely gummy or sticky cooked rice. Cover the rice grains with cool water in a bowl. Swish the grains with your fingertips to release excess starch (the water will get hazy), then rinse and drain through a sieve. Repeat the process as many times as needed until the water in the bowl is generally clear. This washing process is equally effective and vital for rice cooked in a rice cooker as it is for rice cooked on the stovetop.