The Best Rice Cooker Brands for 2018 (Ultimate Buying Guide)
I love to have a big batch of cooked rice on hand simply for the versatility – rice cooked with almond milk and cinnamon makes a perfect winter breakfast, while big fluffy grains of brown rice are an ideal base for roasted veggies and plant-based protein at dinnertime.
When I was stuck making rice on the stove, however, I didn’t make rice nearly as often as I’d have liked to – the process of making rice in a pot created so much mess, on top of the time I’d have to spend next to it, stirring and making sure nothing boiled over.
Enter the Rice Cooker…
A small, quiet, energy-efficient machine, a rice cooker is a perfect addition to any home, apartment, or dorm room.
In addition to making batches of fluffy rice, many rice cookers also double as steamers for veggies, cookers for a variety of grains like oatmeal, or even slow cookers for soups, stews, and chilis.
The rice cooker you choose will depend largely on a number of people you cook for, how simple or complex you want the cooker to be, and your budget for your new gadget.
After combing through thousands of reviews on each product in our list, we’ve found the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multifunctional Pressure Cooker to be the best bang for your buck, and our top choice for rice cookers.
With tons of cooking functions, it can easily replace your solo rice cooker, stovetop pressure cooker, and slow cooker, all wrapped up in one appliance, not to mention the fact that it can get dinner on the table with lightning speed – we’re talking sub-10 minutes for steamed veggies, and easy no-boil mashed potatoes here.
Rice Cooker Comparison Table
Before we go into our guide and talk about each product, here's a quick list of the brands we will be talking about and how they stack up against each other.
Our Top Picks...
Features: Things to Consider Before Buying Your Rice Cooker
Before we dive deep into each product and help you along your rice cooker journey, it's important to mention a few key features you'll want to consider.
I encourage you to go through each feature, and decide the importance of each one.
This will ensure you make the right purchase for you and your family.
The capacity of your rice cooker refers to how much cooked or uncooked rice can fit in the bowl - most rice cookers have a 3-10 cup capacity.
When deciding what capacity will best fit your needs, think about the following questions:
- how many people do you have to feed?
- How much rice does your family tend to eat?
A family of two people who eat relatively small amounts of rice will, of course, require a much smaller capacity than a family of 4-6 who eat rice as a major component of most meals.
While you don’t want to get a rice cooker that’s too small to meet your needs, you also don’t want to get one that’s too big, either.
Many larger units have a minimum amount of rice that needs to be added to the bowl each time to prevent overheating and burning.
For reference, the average Japanese family uses a 5-cup rice cooker. The larger multi-functional units double as slow cookers, and the 6-quart capacity is similar to a large Crock Pot.
2. Bowl Material
Some models use stainless steel in their cooking bowls, but most use an aluminum bowl with a non-stick Teflon coating, so the rice slides out easily and doesn’t stick to the sides.
In addition to keeping the cooking bowl in tip-top shape, the non-stick bowl will make for easy cleaning after the rice has been made - you don’t want to spend all that time you saved cooking standing at the sink trying to scrape off dried-on rice.
Many rice cookers also come with a steam tray for vegetables, which can often be used at the same time the rice is cooking for healthy, no-oil sides and entrees.
Make sure that the steam tray is made from stainless steel or BPA-free plastic - regular plastic can leach harmful chemicals into your food over time.
Note: If you’re like me and are trying to avoid Teflon at all costs, opt for a model with a stainless steel bowl.
3. Time Needed to Cook Rice
While rice cookers aren’t usually all that much faster than stovetop cooking, some models do boast the ability to cook rice very quickly, usually through pressure cooking, but at the very least, you want a unit that will cook up a batch of rice in a reasonable amount of time.
To figure out the best option for you, think about how often you plan ahead, and how busy your schedule tends to be.
If you do most of your cooking in large batches (like a meal prep Sunday), or your schedule allows you to spend a little longer on dinner during the week, a model with a longer cook time may work well.
However, if your schedule is a little more hectic and you need dinner on the table yesterday, look for a rice cooker that has a pressure cooking option that can reduce cooking times, so you get your meal ready faster.
It can be hard to plan ahead when you’re busy, so having the ability to quickly get food on the table is another way to get your money’s worth from your appliance and use it more frequently.
4. Is it Dishwasher Safe?
There is nothing worse than a kitchen appliance that’s difficult to clean - if you know you’re going to be laboring at the sink elbows-deep in dishwater, you aren’t going to use the appliance as often as you would otherwise.
Additionally, tough, stuck-on food can compromise the quality of your rice and cooked dishes, affecting taste as they get burnt and old.
By choosing a model that has a dishwasher-safe bowl (and lid, if applicable), it means you’ll be able to give the bowl a quick wipe when you’re done and put it directly in the dishwasher.
Note: It’s important to note that only the bowl and detachable lid can be submerged in water and go in the dishwasher - the outer part that houses the electrical components should only be wiped down with a damp cloth if needed.
5. Number of Functions
As mentioned earlier, many rice cookers also have the capability to serve as slow cookers, pressure cookers, and even cake makers.
If you have an especially small kitchen or lack adequate storage space for multiple appliances, a multi-tasking rice cooker may be the best option for you as far as an efficient use of space is concerned.
This list includes simple machines, like the Panasonic, which only have one function - plain white rice - all the way up to the Instant Pot 7-in-1, which has every function under the sun, from cooking rice to chili to dried beans.
Rice aficionados may also want to look for a model that has dedicated functions for different types of rice, such as white rice, brown rice, and sushi rice option.
If you’re only eating plain long-grain white rice every once in awhile, this may not be necessary, but if you’re looking to get the perfect texture of short-grain for sushi, or big fluffy grains of brown rice, look for a rice cooker that has different settings for each style, as this can have major effects on the taste and texture of the final product.
6. Delay Start
Dinner can be a snap when you have your machine loaded and ready to go - but you don’t want to cook something in the morning just to have it sitting around all day until you get home.
That’s where the delay start function comes in handy - it allows you it simply set up the rice cooker ahead of time, say, in the morning before you leave for work. Then, you program the machine to begin cooking later in the day so you can come home to a fresh pot of steaming rice when you walk in the door.
Without a delay start function, you’ll be constricted to only making rice when you think of it, and it takes out some of the “set it and forget it” nature that comes with being able to prepare dinner while you’re not even home.
There’s something to be said for getting home to a complete meal that just needs to be served!
7. Types of Rice
Rice gets a bad reputation as being a plain, “boring” food, but in reality, there are so many types of rice that each bring their own texture and flavor to the table.
Classic long-grain white rice is delicious and comforting, while heart-healthy brown rice adds a pleasantly chewy, nutty flavor to a dish.
Short-grain sushi rice gets sticky enough to use for homemade sushi and Japanese-inspired dishes, while wild rice brings a little extra flavor and elegance to your meal.
Each of these types of rice has a different cooking method that must be employed to bring out the true texture and flavor.
Brown rice cooked on a white rice setting will turn out hard and crunchy, while sushi rice cooked on the brown rice setting, which is much longer, will result in a starchy, goopy mess as opposed to perfectly sticky sushi grains.
Takeaway: If you eat multiple kinds of rice, it’s best to look for a model that has a separate program for each type. However, if you find yourself eating mostly white rice with your meals, a single-option rice cooker may fit your needs perfectly.
An Overview of The Best Rice Cookers
Our Recommended Pick
The 6-quart, 7-in-1 Instant Pot is the king of kitchen appliances!
It may just be the gadget that replaces almost all your other kitchen appliances. In addition to cooking rice, the Instant Pot also slow cooks, sautees/browns, makes yogurt, steams foods, and reheats, all in one small, simple-to-use product.
While the machine technically boasts 7 functions in a single unit, it has 14 micro-processor controlled programs on the large, easy-to-use control panel, including dual pressure, automatic keep-warm, and three temperatures for saute and slow cook.
That means you have maximum customization for each and every recipe you create. With the push of a button, you have a setting to make soup, meat/stew, bean/chili, poultry, saute, steam, rice, porridge, multigrain, slow cook, keep-warm, yogurt, pasteurize, and fermented rice.
The Instant Pot also utilizes pressure cooking, which reduces cooking times up to a whopping 70%. This means that cooking dried beans from scratch is no longer a two-day process, and you can infuse slow-cooked flavor into your dishes in a fraction of the time.
And the best part is because each function is pre-programmed, you don’t need to be standing over it, watching - just set it up, wait about an hour for dishes like chili or Irish stew, and serve. The Instant Pot has a delayed cooking feature up to 24 hours and an automatic keep-warm setting that holds in temperature, generates no noise, and leaks no steam.
The unit is elegant and ergonomic, suitable for right- and left-handed users. The steel cooker base can be cleaned easily with a damp cloth, and the cooking bowl, made from 18/8 food grade 304 stainless steel, is dishwasher safe, for quick and easy cleanup.
Though this product has overwhelmingly positive reviews, every product is bound to have a few cons.
Some purchasers complain that the calculated time for each food does not include heat up/depressurization time - so, if the manual says a particular food will need 30 minutes to cook something, note that this does not include the time the machine spends heating up and depressurizing, which can take longer the fuller the cooking pot.
Additionally, the stainless steel cooking bowl is great for food quality but can mean stuck-on food, so make sure you immediately wash the cooking bowl or leave it to soak to prevent stuck-on food.
When considering the quality, price, and functionality of the Instant Pot, it’s no wonder it’s at the top of our list, and the overall winner for the best bang-for-your-buck.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
Excelling at making restaurant-quality rice at home, the Zojirushi is a respected name in rice cookery. The sleek design looks elegant on a countertop and takes up minimal counter space, so you aren’t clogging your work station with the appliance. The machine looks modern and fits well in most kitchens. It also has a retractable power cord for easy storage.
The Zojirushi 3-cup unit makes up to 6 cups of cooked rice, making it a good choice for singles, couples, and small families.
It includes a variety of cooking functions for many different grains, including white/sushi rice, mixed rice, brown rice, porridge, sweet rice, and a quick-cooking option.
It uses micro computerized fuzzy-logic technology to adapt to various types of rice and adjusts the temperature and cooking time as needed for each kind. This prevents the undercooking and scorching that can come from a rice cooker that simply turns off and on with no regard for the type of rice inside.
In addition to the different rice functions, the Zojirushi also has an automatic keep-warm, extended keep-warm and reheating cycle, and a delay timer with two settings.
This smaller model is perfect for smaller families, couples, and singles - with a smaller capacity, it’s also able to handle much smaller single-serving portions of rice.
Unlike larger units which have a large minimum amount of rice needed to prevent burning, this machine can easily make just enough rice for one or two people. If you’re tired of making big batches of rice you never wind up eating, this model is for you.
What Reviewers Loved
Reviewers also love the fuzzy logic technology - the machine automatically adjusts temperature and time depending on the type and volume of uncooked rice, ensuring consistently delicious rice every time whether you’re using white rice, brown rice, or a combination of different grains.
The Zojirushi is more expensive when compared to other brands, but reviewers note that the brand is extremely long-lasting, still making consistent batches of rice for years after purchase. Additionally, some users complain that the Teflon pan flakes over time, which can be frustrating when you’re paying so much for the unit in the first place.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
The Aroma Housewares rice cooker and steamer wins the title of overall value for this group of products.
Especially well-suited for dorm rooms and apartments, the Aroma cooker packs a lot of functionality into a small, affordable unit.
Able to cook rice and steam vegetables and proteins simultaneously, you can make a delicious, nutritious meal without ever having to dirty a single pot.
The cooker yields up to 8 cups of cooked rice at a time and includes programmable digital controls for steam, white rice, brown rice, a delay timer (up to 15 hours), and automatic keep-warm. Once the rice has completed cooking, the unit will automatically switch to a keep-warm setting, so there’s no need for you to stand over it, stir, or manually switch to the warm setting.
The unit’s “Quick Rice” function is perfect for those days when you haven’t planned ahead and need rice now! The Quick Rice function reduces cooking time by up to 50% - no more waiting an hour for rice to cook when your family is hungry and waiting for dinner.
Even more conveniently, the 15-hour delay cooking will have piping hot rice ready when you need it, and the keep warm feature means it’ll stay hot until dinnertime.
The machine uses unique sensor logic technology to detect the volume of food - it “thinks” for itself and automatically optimizes cooking temperature to enhance flavor and texture, and ensure consistent results each time you use it.
The minute timer illuminates when there are 12 minutes left to go in the cooking cycle, handy for timing other stovetop dishes, and beeps when cooking has completed.
The inner cooking pot is made of aluminum, which has been coated with Teflon to reduce the occurrence of stuck-on food. It’s recommended that you hand-wash the cooking bowl, but the non-stick surface means it’s easy cleaning, and you won’t have to stand at the sink for hours scrubbing stuck-on rice.
The unit includes a handy recipe booklet, BPA-free plastic steam tray for vegetables and proteins, rice measuring cup, serving spatula, and soup ladle, so you can get started immediately upon receiving your machine.
This is perfect for dorm (or apartment) dwellers, who may not have access to a kitchen full of utensils, but still want to be able to cook healthy and convenient meals.
While the unit is superb quality for the price, some reviewers do report a few nuisances they’ve run into while using the product. While the rice cooker makes enough rice for 2-4 people, the steamer basket is small and shallow, and only really holds enough for a single person. Additionally, the beeps that signify the end of cooking are high-pitched and annoying, which isn’t ideal for a small home or community living.
Despite these complaints, the reviews for the overall product are overwhelmingly positive, and the Aroma cooker takes the gold for best overall value.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
Many of the appliances in this list are multi-functional, doubling as slow cookers, yogurt makers, even cake bakers, but some people are just looking for a simple, straightforward machine to cook delicious rice every time. If this sounds like you, the Panasonic Rice Cooker may very well be the machine for you.
Capable of making up to 3 cups of uncooked rice via one simple “cook” option, it is a good choice for singles, couples, and small families who are just looking for an easy, clean way to get rice from bag to table.
The cooker makes enough rice for 2-4 people, so you don’t have to cook huge batches of rice to meet any minimums for the machine to operate.
The unit has a convenient see-through glass lid so you can easily monitor the progress of your rice, and uses a non-stick aluminum cooking pan for stress-free cleanup.
The rice cooker comes with measuring cup, rice scoop, and multi-lingual instructions in English, French, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese.With a convenient “cooking” indicator light, the unit cooks rice with the touch of a button, and the handles and lid stay cool during easy cooking.
Feet on the unit raise the cooking base up away from the counter surface, so you can use this machine even on granite countertops without fear of damage or cracking.
What Reviewers Loved
Reviewers appreciate that this is a basic, no-frills rice cooker - it doesn’t include features like warming, different cooking functions, etc., but it is a reasonably priced, compact way to cook rice.
Reviewers describe this as “a sturdy workhorse”, without the fancy bells and whistles of other models, but it’s a cheap way to get the job done.
As far as cons are concerned, some purchasers report short lifespan on the product, many having issues with the teflon coating peeling off and affecting the final cooked product.
Additionally, this rice cooker is not recommended for brown rice, as it has only one setting, and can leave brown rice crunchy and undercooked. This bare-bones model is the best choice if you’re simply looking for a straightforward way to cook plain old white rice, and not much else.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
A more simplified version of the 7-in-1 Instant Pot, the 6-in-1 programmable model also gets rave reviews on Amazon and can be a great choice for people who require a little more simplicity in their unit.
This model includes pressure cooker, saute/browning, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer & warmer settings, and has a large, easy-to-use control panel with 10 programs. This next generation electric pressure cooker was designed in Canada and was created specifically to meet the needs of North American customers.
Highly energy efficient, you can delay cooking up to 24 hours with this machine, as well as use a manual setting up to 120 minutes of cooking time.
The unit includes a 3-ply bottom stainless steel cooking pot, stainless steel steam rack, rice paddle, soup spoon, measuring cup, instructions, recipes, and cooking time tables, which is convenient for smaller kitchens, apartments, and dorm rooms who might lack a drawer full of tools and utensils to get cooking.
This model boasts the same 6-quart capacity as the 7-in-1 model, so you can still feed a crowd, or make just enough for one or two people with plenty of freezable leftovers.
This Instant Pot is a truly kitchen-friendly machine, as its brushed stainless steel exterior looks beautiful out on a countertop, and it produces no steam and no noise (that means you can use it when your baby or roommate are sleeping, with no chance of disturbance).
This Instant Pot is also perfect for healthy, green living, as you have 100% control over what’s going in your food, with no risk of issues from the non-stick coating. It’s also friendly to the environment by using 70 percent less energy through quick cooking times.
With thousands of reviews on Amazon, the Instant Pot has a dedicated fan base and plenty of positive reviews.
More than anything, people who buy and use this Instant Pot love the versatility of the machine - they use it to make everything from stews to porridge to baked sweet potatoes, and appreciate how little energy it uses - which also means lowering the temperature in your kitchen, saving you money in lots of different ways.
The ability to brown, saute and slow cook in one unit also means easy cleaning, which is perfect for busy families.
However, some reviewers do complain about the instructions that come with the machine - they are not detailed, don’t include basic recipes, and could use a lot of editing.
Luckily, there is a huge online base for the Instant Pot, but this can be frustrating. Additionally, the unit itself is very large - many purchasers noted it would not fit in their cabinets, so they were forced to store it on the countertop.
The machine itself looks elegant, but this can be problematic if you have limited counter space in your kitchen.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
Similar to its 3-cup sister model, this Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer can make up to ten cups of rice at once, making it a better option for larger families or smaller families who eat a lot of rice or want to have a big batch of cooked rice on hand for easy meals or leftovers.
It includes separate cooking functions for white/sushi rice, brown rice, sweet rice, mixed rice, porridge, cakes, steaming, and quick cooking. You can also change the melody and beep signal that alerts you when the cooking cycle has ended.
In addition to being one of the larger models in the Zojirushi lineup, this model also has a function for baking cakes in it. This makes it a perfect option for efficiency apartments and dorm rooms, where you may not have access to an oven and the necessary equipment for baking.
This model utilizes a Teflon-coated inner cooking pan that provides even heating, and the fuzzy logic technology allows the machine to “know” the volume and type of rice and adjust temperature and cooking time accordingly.
Even large quantities of rice come out consistently delicious and fluffy. The unit comes complete with a spatula, spatula holder, and rice-measuring cup, and measures 10 ⅛ by 14 by 8 ½ inches.
What Reviewers Loved
In addition to the modern, sleek aesthetics of this machine, Amazon purchasers rave about the pop-off lid, which allows for easy cleaning, retractable power cord, and non-stick pan in this model.
The versatility of the machine is also appreciated - while the machine is capable of making very large portions of rice, it can also handle smaller amounts of rice, and the warming function prevents wasted, uneaten rice, or grains that have been dried out from time spent in the refrigerator.
Some reviewers expressed disappointment in the cooking time of this model - it is not for the rushed family looking for a quick way to make rice.
White rice takes about an hour to make, and even the quick mode takes 30-40 minutes. However, reviewers do note that it’s worth the wait - cooking rice for the full cook cycle as opposed to quick results in a noticeably better taste and texture.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
The Tiger 10-cup Rice Cooker combines the simplicity of a straightforward rice cooker with the versatility of a fancier machine.
The syncro-cooking function “tacook” means it is possible to, with one push, cook your rice and the main dish simultaneously in this machine.
Overall, the model has four cooking modes: syncrony-cooking, plain rice, brown rice, and slow cooking. Between “no-frills” and “super fancy”, this machine is somewhere in the middle.
The Tiger’s inner cooking pot is non-stick, easy to clean, and BPA-free. It’s specially designed, so the flavors from the cooking plate do not affect the texture or flavor of the food cooking inside.
The machine does have a warming mode, but it tends to dry the rice out if used for too long. For best results, eat the rice immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer to enjoy later.
This rice cooker is a good option for a family of four or a smaller family who tends to eat a lot of rice throughout the day.
It is a small, portable option that fits well on countertops or in smaller kitchens where there might be limited counter space.
The unit includes a special measuring cup; that should be used when portioning out the rice for this particular machine. Using a separate measuring cup can affect the taste and texture of the finished product.
What Reviewers Loved
This model gets rave reviews from many Japanese reviewers who consume lots of rice and have high standards for the finished product.
With just enough functions, it is fancy enough to accomplish a variety of tasks in the kitchen, but not so many to make you pay for tons of functions you may wind up not using.
Additionally, the pop-out inner cooking bowl and steam tray are easy to clean, and the non-stick coating allows food to slide right out, meaning you spend less time scrubbing.
Some purchasers note that they had trouble with the unit bubbling over and leaking water on the kitchen counter when finished cooking. Not all reviewers note this particular difficulty, so your mileage may vary when it comes to your individual machine.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
In addition to easily cooking rice, the Hamilton Beach Simplicity model also cooks beans, whole grains, mac and cheese, and any pasta/rice mix you can think of.
This model yields anywhere from 2 to 14 cups of cooked rice, which means plenty of flexibility to cook small or large batches depending on your needs that day.
The one-touch programming is super convenient, as it allows you to simply choose a mode and walk away - no need to stand beside it and monitor or stir.
The machine includes a delay start function that allows you to prepare for cooking up to 15 hours in advance and, once cooking has completed, the unit will automatically shift to the warm function, so your food is piping hot whenever you’re ready.
In addition to cooking up rice, grains, and pasta, you can also use the handy steamer basket for vegetables, dumplings, and lean proteins for healthy, oil-free entrees.
The unit uses a non-stick aluminum cooking bowl that can be put in the dishwasher for maximum efficiency when it comes to cleanup - no one wants to save all that time cooking only to spend it all on dishes.
What Reviewers Loved
Reviewers on Amazon appreciate the ability to cook rice and steam veggies and main proteins at the same time - this means easy, quick, healthy meals for busy families and students with limited access to kitchen facilities.
This model also gets a thumbs up for making oatmeal, as it doesn’t overflow when cooking the oats, and the delay cook function means you can have hot oatmeal waiting for you when you wake up in the morning.
Some reviewers note that the power cord on this model is extremely short, which can limit your cooking space and create a need for an extension cord, which can look unsightly in your kitchen in addition to being inconvenient.
It works well for the price but tends to be on the flimsy side.
What We Liked
What We Disliked
The Bottom Line
In so many ways, your rice cooker can be a real heavy-lifter in the kitchen – while there are models out there that simply reliably cook delicious, fluffy rice every time if you’re going to devote the storage or counter space to an appliance, why not make it work hard to earn its keep?
Doing everything from sauteing, to slow cooking, to baking moist, fluffy cakes, your rice cooker can stretch your dollar by going far beyond simply cooking and reheating rice to having a hand in any and every entree you make for your family.
Out of all the cookers on this list, the 7-in-1 Instant Pot is the best bang for your buck, cramming 14 cooking functions into a single appliance.
In addition to the number of functions, it also cuts down drastically on cooking time thanks to pressure cooking, allowing you to do more of the things that bring you joy instead of standing by the stove.
With the delay start, you can make the Instant Pot fit your busy life, having dinner ready when you walk in the door, and the ability to put all the removable parts right in the dishwasher seals the deal.
No matter what model you choose, a rice cooker can be an easy, inexpensive way to make healthy meals for you and your family without the effort, time, and mess that can come with stovetop cooking.