Most of us have probably experienced the panic of a pot boiling over. Not only is this messy, but it can also destroy dinner. While cooking rice on a cooktop isn’t complicated, it does require attention and precision. A Japanese rice cooker can make preparing rice simple and worry-free—with no boiled-over pots or burned rice. While the rice cooker does its work, your time will be freed up to cook the rest of the meal without distraction. Explore the guide below to learn about the key features to look for in a rice cooker, and maybe even find the best Japanese rice cooker for you in the list of top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Aroma Housewares 2-8-Cups Digital Rice Cooker
- BEST SMART: CHEF iQ World’s Smartest Pressure Cooker
- BEST MINI: Dash DRCM200BK Mini Rice Cooker Steamer
- BEST PROGRAMMABLE: Hamilton Beach Digital Programmable Rice Cooker
- MOST VERSATILE: Cuckoo CR-0655F Rice Cooker & Warmer, 6 Cups
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Japanese Rice Cooker
Before you begin the search for the best Japanese rice cooker, take a moment to consider how often you’ll be using it and what other ways you could use it. Having an idea of where it will be stored and used and how often you’ll need it will give you a better idea of what kind of cooker you’re looking for. Then consider features such as type, capacity, the cooker’s material, the cooking settings it offers, its controls, how easy it is to clean, and other ways it can be used.
There are a few types of Japanese rice cookers that are generally used today. The first is a conventional rice cooker, a simple device with a heating element and an automatic shutoff for when the rice is ready. Then there are microprocessor cookers, otherwise known as electric rice cookers, which use programmable multi-sensors to intelligently cook any rice to its specific requirements. These replace the need for multiple cookers for different rice types and eliminate all guesswork. The user tells the machine which type of rice to cook, and it will smartly cook it to perfection. Lastly, there are induction rice cookers that use non-contact heating technology to evenly cook the rice with radiofrequency electricity. These cook the rice with heat from all directions, unlike others with a heating element on the bottom.
The best Japanese rice cookers are measured by how many cups of rice they can cook. This amount ranges from 3 cups up to 16 cups. Although a few can cook up to 28 cups, those are rare and less often used in a home setting. If you usually cook a small amount of rice at a time, save space and find a smaller model. However, if you’re planning to meal prep, and perhaps store extra rice in bento boxes, a larger model might be best. When comparing models, be sure to compare the same cup size measurements. Some rice cookers refer to the cups as cooked, while others will use uncooked measurements. This can get confusing when 10 cups of uncooked rice becomes 20 cups when cooked.
Japanese rice cookers are typically made with various types of metals, including aluminum and stainless steel. A few options are made of plastic, but these usually have an inner pot made with thin, nonstick aluminum. Fully stainless steel options are heavier and built to last for years, even with daily use. Durable materials such as stainless steel and aluminum are vital to ensuring the device lasts a long time.
If you plan to use the rice cooker often, it might be best to invest in an entirely metal option. While plastic cookers are typically more affordable, they won’t last as long as metal models when used every day.
There are as many cooking options on rice cookers as there are types of rice. The number of settings can range from two up to 16. Some cookers have a “cook” and “warm” setting where the device will cook the rice or keep it warm. Others have a setting for every type of rice, and some even have settings for cooking preferences such as rice softness. How many custom settings your rice cooker should have will depend on your needs. If all you need is white rice cooked perfectly every time, a standard rice cooker with two settings will work great. However, if you and your family like to experiment and cook many types of rice and dishes, then a more advanced option could be the way to go.
Some of us might not be able to use chopsticks very well, but with precise controls, we can at least cook rice perfectly. Most Japanese rice cookers have knobs that users turn to tell the cooker what type of rice is being cooked or how to cook it. More advanced models use LED screens and multiple buttons to specify cooking times and rice types. As more technology has been developed, there are even more advanced options, such as cookers that connect to mobile device apps through Wi-Fi so users can weigh, cook, and keep rice warm, all from their smartphone. All of these options allow rice to be cooked to ideal specifications, but the ideal choice depends on how much versatility users desire.
As mentioned a few times above, rice cookers can range from simply cooking rice to devices that can cook a wide range of foods. For example, some devices can steam cook and cook white rice, quick rice, whole grain, hot cereals, soups, beans, and even some pasta dishes. These are often pressure cooker devices that have many cooking controls and settings. These tend to be on the more expensive side than simple rice cookers, but they can serve more than one purpose in the kitchen. For those with limited space who are looking to optimize every kitchen appliance, these are ideal.
Ease of Cleaning
The best Japanese rice cookers come with a removable pot with a nonstick coating to make cleaning a breeze. All users have to do is take out the pot, wash it with soap and water, and then wipe out the lid. Some rice cooker devices have self-cleaning steam options that make it easy to clean and sterilize the rice cooker. Since rice cookers perfectly cook rice and won’t burn it, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to scrape off burnt bits after use as you would if a pot boiled over on the stovetop.
Most Japanese rice cooker manufacturers include measuring cups with the cooker to ensure the appliances are used correctly. They will recommend you only use the cup that is included to measure and fill the cooker. This is because the cooker has been designed to cook rice according to the specific measurements of that cup. While it may seem easy to use your favorite home measuring cup, these can sometimes be slightly different from the one provided and might cause the rice not to be cooked as well as usual.
Additionally, many rice cookers come with a mixing paddle. The shape and size of these paddles are ideal for stirring and serving rice. If you don’t already have your own at home, it might be an excellent idea to find an option that comes with one.
Our Top Picks
Whether the best product for you is a uni-task rice cooker or a multi-cooker that can craft a wide range of meals, use the considerations above to narrow down the choices. Then read on to discover the best Japanese rice cookers available to ensure there’s fluffy rice on the table every time.
Zojirushi has crafted a fantastic rice cooker that comes in a 10 cup and 5 cup size. The stainless steel is a brushed brown color that will suit almost any kitchen, and the cord is retractable for easy storage. It has multiple settings for convenience, including automatic, keep warm, extended keep warm, and reheat settings. These settings help keep rice ready to go while other items like fish or veggies are being cooked. In addition to multiple types of rice, this cooker can also steam veggies and fish.
The inner pot is a nonstick removable pan that makes cleaning easy, and the inner lid is also removable for washing.
Users can steam veggies while simultaneously cooking soup or rice in this affordable rice cooker. Aroma Housewares included four built-in presets, including white rice, brown rice, keep warm, steam, delay timer, and flash rice. With these presets, users can craft a wide range of delicious and nutritious meals. With an 8-cup capacity, it’s an ideal size for a single serving or meals for a small family.
With a stainless steel exterior, this cooker is durable and easy to wipe off. The inner pot is made of bonded granite, is free of lead, and is nonstick for easy cleaning. It’s also dishwasher safe. The rice cooker includes a steam tray, the inner pot, a rice measuring cup, and a serving spatula.
With either an iOS or Android phone, users can access over 300 cooking presets to create delicious meals, including meat, poultry, rice, veggies, and more. Chef iQ has designed an elegant cooker with an internal scale to weigh items quickly and easily. Download the Chef iQ app to access more than 100 recipes, including ones for cooking rice perfectly. It holds up to 6 quarts and has three automatic steam release options.
This cooker comes with a steam rack and steam basket and a nonstick inner pot that makes it easy to clean up after every meal.
This little Japanese rice cooker by DASH might be small, but it cooks rice consistently and quickly. There are two cooking settings, cooker and warm. The first will cook rice at ideal temperatures and time; the second will keep rice warm while the rest of the meal is still cooking. With a maximum capacity of 2 cups, this mini version is an excellent choice for single-serve needs. It’s made with a mix of metal and plastic, and the inner pot is coated with PFOA-free nonstick material. It comes in five colors, including aqua, black, pink, red, and white. Its compact size makes it great for smaller spaces or kitchens with limited storage options.
The purchase includes the rice cooker, the inner pot, a rice paddle, and a measuring cup.
The six programmable options on this electric rice cooker by Hamilton Beach include white rice, quick rice, whole grain, heat/simmer, steam cook, and hot cereals. There’s no need for doing math on a napkin or worrying about burning dinner with these settings. It cooks not only rice but seafood, poultry, and veggies. Included is a two-in-one rinser and steamer basket so the rice can be rinsed and then cooked in a single container. It comes with a serving paddle and measuring cup, and the inner pot has a nonstick coating for easy washing.
Its large capacity of 14 cups of cooked rice makes it ideal for big families for meal prepping. The stainless steel construction is sturdy and will hold up over time, even with daily use.
It’s easy to cook everything from rice to hot cereal to baby food in this electric Japanese rice cooker by Cuckoo. It has eight built-in programmable settings, making it quick to get food started. This cooker uses fuzzy logic to identify the type of rice and cook it at optimal temperatures and times for consistently fluffy results every time. It holds up to six uncooked cups of rice, and the nonstick Teflon coating makes sure rice doesn’t get burnt and is easy to clean.
The outside of this rice cooker is white and red plastic but has an aluminum removable inner pot. The cover inside detaches from the top for cleaning, but there’s also an auto steam cleaning setting that uses a strong jet of steam to sanitize the cooker’s interior.
A rice scoop and measuring cup are included with purchase.
FAQs About Japanese Rice Cookers
When it comes to our meals and the devices we use to cook them, many of us are incredibly picky. That’s why there are so many questions to be answered about rice cookers. Here are the most frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers.
Q. What is the best rice-to-water ratio?
The best rice to water ratio is 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice.
Q. How do you make fluffy rice in a rice cooker?
The great thing about rice cookers is that anyone can produce fluffy and tasty rice with just a touch of a button.
Q. Why does my rice burn in my rice cooker?
Burnt rice typically means that there wasn’t enough water for the rice to cook correctly. This could be from a lack of water added at the start or too much steam escaping during cooking.
Q. Why does my rice always come out soggy?
Rice becomes soggy when there is too much water in the pot. It can also be caused by condensation while the rice is sitting in the pot. To avoid this, you can put a kitchen towel between the lid and the pot to reduce moisture.
Q. How do I clean my Japanese rice cooker?
Many rice cookers can be cleaned by removing the pot and washing with soap and water. Others have cleaning settings that use steam to clean the device.
Q. How long will my Japanese rice cooker last?
If cleaned regularly and taken care of, rice cookers can last for up to 7 or 8 years.