6 Best Rice Cookers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
We found the best rice cookers for making fluffy, tender rice every time.
Our Top Rice Cookers Picks
Tested by Andy Liang for Food Network Kitchen
Rice, a blank canvas with endless possibilities. It can be daunting to cook perfect rice that is fluffy, tender, and maintains individual grains. Before gas ranges or electric stoves, rice was cooked in stone pots over a charcoal- or wood-fueled stove that takes up a decent amount of floor space called a kamado. Cooking food on a kamado requires expert knowledge of how to manage fire, so your food doesn’t burn. Similar to kamado cooking, the use of metal pots on a gas stove also requires heat management to ensure rice doesn’t burn. Typically, the method to stovetop rice is medium-high heat with the right amount of water, bring to a boil and reduce to low heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, and turn off the heat to let the remaining moisture get either absorbed or steamed off. Sounds simple enough until you try it.
Now, with the invention of the electric rice cooker, the method of cooking rice is easier than ever. Just add the right amount of water and rice, and the rice cooker can do the rest of the work. Another plus when using a rice cooker is it clears up space on the stove to cook your entree to serve with the rice. All the rice cookers we tested come with a warm setting that will keep your rice warm (at a food-safe temperature) for a few hours.
We need to preface that buying a rice cooker isn’t always about how the rice comes out based on the rice and water ratio. You can always adjust the amount of water each time you make rice with your rice cooker until it’s perfect. For example, if you like drier rice try 1/4 cup less water next time. Once you get the perfect ratio, the experience of using the rice cooker becomes more important. We picked our best overall based on its multiple cooking functions, efficient design, ease of use, and how it cooks the rice without scorching the bottom layer. Read on for our other top rice cooker picks.
How to Use a Rice Cooker
All the rice cookers that we tested have similar steps when it comes to using the cooker.
Wash what you can before your first use. If it’s the first time using the machine, gently wash the inner pot, a lid (if it’s not attached to the main body), the rice spatula, steamer basket, and rice measuring cup.
Follow measurements that come with the pot. Measure out the amount of rice you want to cook (1 cup of the provided measuring cup is typically 2 servings after it’s cooked) and place it into the inner pot that is removed from the main body. Fill the inner pot more than half-way with lukewarm water, rub some rice between your fingers to quickly get rid of the excess starch, and pour off. Repeat at least 2 more times until the water runs clear and drain as much water as possible. Fill the rice cooker with enough water to meet the corresponding water line (i.e. 1 cup provided measuring cup to first water line or “water line 1”) or to your desired amount.
Different ratios will produce different textures. The desired amount of water-to-rice can be from “trial and error” or what you’ve been taught. For example, some say enough water means the water level “reaches your knuckles when you put your entire hand onto the surface of the rice” or “the first line of your index finger”. (The hand or finger method of measuring the water level comes from Asian families as they get passed down through the generations since our elders never used to measure anything. They will always say “measure by eye.”)
Wipe the outside of the pot and check the vent before pressing start. Before putting the inner pot into the main body of the cooker, make sure to wipe the outside of the inner pot because any dirt or water or particles will interfere with the heating element. Place the cleaned inner pot into the main body and close with the lid. Press the necessary buttons to start cooking the rice whether it is a single button or a “menu” button to cook to the correct type of rice. Once the rice cooker is starting to cook, just make sure that the vent on the lid of the machine is completely clear of anything and now you can cook your entree to serve with the perfect rice.
Rice Cooker Accessories
Many rice cookers come with included accessories. The standard ones are a rice paddle, steamer basket and measuring cup.
Some recipes for cooking rice would ask you to fluff the rice using a fork. Using a fork in a rice cooker isn’t ideal since many inner pots have a nonstick coating. The provided rice paddle is specifically made to fluff the rice properly without scratching the inner pot’s nonstick coating. There are other paddles that are made with wood or silicone; it's all based on preference. Some paddle designs have beads that are also helpful with preventing rice from sticking as you fluff and scoop the rice out of the inner pot. If you don’t have the beads on the paddle, you can lightly wet the paddle before fluffing the rice to prevent some rice from sticking. Some rice cookers have an extra attachment that will hold the rice paddle either on the countertop or attached to the machine, so it doesn’t dirty your countertop.
Rice Measuring Cup
The rice measuring cup that is provided with the rice cooker can be the most confusing item of the accessories because when you read “place 1 cup of uncooked rice into the inner pot”, it usually means one leveled scoop using the measuring cup provided. The provided measuring cup is actually 3/4 cup standard measurement, so 1 scoop using the provided measuring cup or 3/4 cup standard measurement equals “water line 1” on the inner pot for the best results. If you are using the standard measurement, the water line would not apply to the ratio. If you use 1 cup standard measurement, then water up to line 1 on the inner pot would yield a dry rice.
You can use a rice cooker for more than just rice. All the rice cookers that we tested included a steamer basket, which you can use to cook meals. Most manuals include recipes for a steamed side dish you can cook together with the rice. It can be considered a “one pot meal”. My favorite way of using the rice cooker is to cook some Chinese Sausage (as a side dish) with the rice and some frozen dumplings onto the steamer basket. Saute some vegetables when the rice cooker is on the warm mode and that’s a quick meal for one or two people. One caveat: If you are cooking more than 3 cups of uncooked rice, you shouldn’t use the steamer basket because once the rice is cooked, the top of the rice will stick to the bottom of the basket or even worse, affect how the rice cooks.
How to Clean a Rice Cooker
Once your rice is cooked and all the rice has been taken out of the inner pot, now is a good time to clean the rice cooker. If you’ve scooped out all the rice and just want to enjoy your meal, you can leave the rice cooker to soak with an inch of water just to prevent the leftover starch within the inner pot from getting dry and sticking to the pot. To clean the rice cooker, run a soft sponge across the bottom of the inner pot to release the starches with a bit of water. Discard the starchy water and wash with warm soapy water. Rinse with warm water and dry the inside and outside of the inner pot completely using a soft towel. Insert the inner pot into the main body and wipe the outside and lid of the main body with the same soft towel. If you are able, leave the rice cooker with the lid open for a few hours to air dry completely.
How We Tested
All 10 machines went through the same process. We start by unpacking everything within the box, gently hand-washing the inner pot, lid (if it isn’t attached to the body of the cooker), steamer basket, rice paddle, and rice measuring cup. We read each manual before starting to see whether the rice cooker has a general recipe (or ratio) for cooking white and brown rice. For this test, we decided to level the playing field by measuring 1 cup (from the provided rice measuring cup, which is 3/4 cup in standard measurement) washed white rice and filling using cold water to the first “water line” that is usually engraved within the inner pot. Some have specific water lines for specific types of rice or grain so we used them accordingly. Some rice cookers don’t have specific water lines for brown rice as it tends to use more water to fully cook, so we use what the manual says about how much water to add to the washed brown rice. In addition to keeping it fair with the same method of rice and water level, we also allowed the rice to rest for 10 minutes after the rice cooker switched to the warming function.
This machine has all the "bells and whistles." It has nine cooking functions to make different types of rice and grains including prewashed rice, which is relatively new and does not need to be rinsed before cooking. This rice cooker is designed with efficiency in mind: It has a nonstick inner pot with clear water line markings, two handles that are on opposite sides of the inner pot to help pick up the pot and also prevent the inner pot from spinning around, a retractable cord for a smaller footprint when storing, a rice paddle holder that attaches to the side of the rice cooker to prevent sticky countertops, and a cheerful tune when the rice begins and finishes cooking. This rice cooker is considered large for a household machine, measuring 10 inches wide by 14 inches long by 8 inches in height. The rice does take a long time to cook (white rice took 41 minutes, and brown rice 1 hour) due to a soaking cycle, which ensures the rice can fully absorbs the water. However, this cycle produces perfectly fluffy, tender, individual grains without the crispy rice at the bottom. It was consistent every time. When you’ve finished dinner, the rice cooker is easy to clean due the nonstick coating on the inner pot; the starches that are always left at the bottom of the inner pot will come off relatively easily. The manual recommends not to clean the inner pot in a dishwasher because of the nonstick coating, so hand wash with warm soapy water, rinse and dry immediately before storing.
This rice cooker is ideal for beginners because it has a simple design. Users simply wash and drain the rice, add enough water, press a button and the rice will start to cook. White and brown rice cooked quickly with 21 minutes and 38 minutes respectively. The brown rice had a thin layer of crispy rice, but it wasn’t that noticeable. With a 9-inch diameter footprint and a 3-cup capacity, this rice cooker is ideal for a household of up to six people. Though it’s simpler and more compact than our winner, the design isn’t affected. The pot is still easy to lift out of the body and rice is easily scoopable. This rice cooker comes with a steamer basket, so making a complete meal can be simple and quick.
The Dash Mini Rice Cooker is also a solid option for beginners, and it works well for small spaces like dorms or AirBnBs. With an 8.5-inch diameter and 6.5-inch height, you can have rice anywhere you go. The white rice took 35 minutes, but the water level was slightly too high because the rice was clumpy and sticky; with a lower amount of water, it would be fluffy and tender. On the other hand, the brown rice took 55 minutes, and it was fluffy and tender with a thin layer of crispy rice in the bottom. With the tiny size and a 2-cup capacity, this is a no-brainer for college students who want to cook in their dorm or small apartment.
We found the Aroma Rice Cooker worked surprisingly well despite its low price. It cooked the white rice really well, producing fluffy, tender, and individual grains of rice. However, the brown rice was a bit too soft and overcooked, with some starchy water coming out of the steam vent. We recommend using less water when cooking brown rice to avoid water coming out of the vent and soft rice. The cooker comes with a steamer basket, measuring cup, and rice paddle. The markings on the inner pot can be hard to read because of the black interior, but the plus side is the inner pot is dishwasher safe. In addition to easy cooking, included accessories and price tag, this rice cooker can cook 4 cups of uncooked rice which can serve up to eight people.
The Tiger Rice Cooker was another top pick, but was edged out by the Zojirushi because the white rice in the Tiger cooker came out a bit drier (perfect for fried rice), there’s only 4 cooking functions and it has the biggest footprint. Tiger cooks the best brown rice by far compared to all of the other rice cookers we’ve tested. With the specific brown rice cooking function, it took an hour to cook and resulted with tender and individual grains. If you are a brown rice lover, this cooker is for you. This rice cooker has a special function called Synchro-Cooking, which are specific recipes designed to cook the entree with the rice at the same time. See the manual and Tiger’s website for more recipes.
The Instant Pot Duo is a good alternative to rice cookers solely based on the texture of the rice. However, if you’re only planning on cooking rice in it, we would recommend any of our other picks. The manual does have a rice-to-water ratio, but it doesn’t have any specific instructions using the "rice" cooking function. We tested 4 different ways to cook white and brown rice collectively. We tested the white rice and brown rice separately based on the manual’s recipe, and the last two cooks used the “rice” function. The cook time for all of the rice is significantly quicker than all the other rice cookers’ cook time; white rice around 10 minutes with a natural release, and brown rice around 20 minutes with a natural release. (Always include a natural release as this is the time for the rice to absorb all the water.) If you plan to use the Instant Pot for more than just rice, we think it could be a worthwhile investment.