For the full-size rice cookers, we cooked two uncooked cups of Nishiki Japanese medium-grain white rice in each model; in those that performed well, we then cooked two cups of short-grain brown rice, followed by two cups of long-grain basmati rice. For the mini rice cookers, we cooked one uncooked cup of the medium-grain white rice in each model.
Is the rice cooker easy to use?
The best rice cookers should make cooking rice nearly effortless and require very little human intervention. All the models we tested delivered on that intuitive simplicity with manuals that clearly outlined how to get started, including details on how to measure and wash rice, how much water to add to the cooking pot, which menu setting to use, and what buttons to push to start cooking. In machines that claim they can keep rice warm, we expected the Keep Warm setting to click on soon after the rice was done cooking.
How long does it take to cook rice?
Range in cooking times varied greatly among the machines. Though quick-cooking rice is always a temptation, we found that the best rice generally took the longest to make. The full-size Zojirushi models each took close to an hour for medium- and long-grain white rice and nearly an hour and a half for brown rice. By contrast, the Instant Pot and Breville Risotto Plus, which both performed so-so, took around 10 minutes.
What is the end result like?
We wanted to find a great rice cooker that excelled at all three types of rice we tested. We looked for evenly cooked, flavorful, fluffy rice. We also wanted flavorful grains that were cooked through without being gummy and retained bite without being too firm.
Does the rice cooker have any useful additional features?
Every rice cooker comes with a couple of key accessories: a measuring cup (don’t get confused, “1 cup” in rice cooker parlance is actually a ¾-cup measure) and a rice paddle. All but the Cuckoo and the Breville had a paddle holder on the rice cooker itself—a welcome feature. A few of the rice cookers that we tested included steamer baskets, which, in the case of the Hamilton Beach model, doubled as a sieve for cleaning rice. Technical features, such as the warmer or timer, make an already convenient machine even more user-friendly.
How easy is it to clean?
All of the rice cookers we tested, with the exception of the Instant Pot, have inner pots with a nonstick coating; this coating is essential for easy cleaning. You should be able to use your spatula or paddle to scoop out rice without leaving residue or stubborn rice bits stuck on the bottom. The lids of the Zojirushi, Instant Pot, and Breville machines are also washable, an added bonus, especially for those who think simply wiping down the lid doesn’t cut it. Keep in mind that almost no rice cooker is dishwasher-safe
How much room does it take up?
Each machine’s countertop footprint varied—most of the models we tested measured in at under a foot diameter, which meant they didn’t take up much more room than a food processor. Taking up less counter space is always better from a storage perspective, but the quality of the rice was more important to us in the long run.
Is the rice cooker a good value?
The machine prices varied wildly, starting at $25 and going all the way up to $260. Ultimately, the best rice cooker won regardless of price, though models like the Cuckoo and Zojirushi 3-Cup got points for performing well beyond what their price point would indicate. Conversely, a machine like the Breville was somewhat underwhelming given its $129 cost.
None of the machines we tested were an all-out fail; with any of these, you will be able, at the very least, to cook some rice. That said, there were pros and cons with each machine that ultimately factored into our final rankings.