Rice is a pantry staple for many families across the globe, a warm and comforting meal or quick-and-easy lunch option. The only issue is that, despite its simplicity, rice is actually pretty tough to perfect—unless you’re using a rice maker, that is.
Cooking rice on the stovetop can be a pain, especially if you’ve never done it before. Using a rice maker, however, allows you to make several servings of rice without having to work for it. Just scoop the rice, add water, and let it do its magic. If you’re not familiar with rice cookers, read on to see how to find the best rice maker for delicious rice every time.
- BEST OVERALL: Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker, 10-Cup
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Aroma Housewares 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker
- BEST LARGE CAPACITY: Aroma Housewares 32-Cup Pot Style Rice Cooker
- BEST SMART CHOICE: Instant Pot Smart WiFi 8-in-1
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE: COMFEE’ 5.2Qt Programmable All-in-1 Multi Cooker
Today’s rice makers have more functions than what your grandmother may have used, such as variable heating, pre-programming choices, and overall adaptability for other kinds of dishes. Simply put: Today’s rice makers make more than just rice.
With so many options, it can be difficult to decipher which rice cooker is the best choice for you and your family. Before you begin browsing the web for a rice maker, here are a few things to take into consideration.
There are four basic types of rice cookers: conventional, combination, microprocessor (or micom), and induction cookers.
Conventional rice cookers first appeared on North American shelves in the 1950s. They have an element in the base that evenly distributes heat over an inner pot with a non-locking lid on top. Conventional rice cookers are built with an automatic shut-off function but offer no other programming features or versatility in cooking. This type of cooker is frequently overlooked in favor of advanced models because of its lack of programming capability. However, it can still give excellent results and often also works well as a vegetable steamer.
Combination rice makers can also cook different dishes and foods, not just rice. Some of the more sophisticated combination rice makers can function as automatic pressure cookers, also known as multi-cookers, and can prepare even fancier meals.
Microcomputer vs. Induction Heating
Microcomputer or micom rice cookers have an onboard computer chip programmed to handle rice and other dishes. Microcomputer rice makers are equipped with internal thermal sensors and are more popular than conventional makers. The internal sensors can relay changes in temperature to the processors, which will adjust the cooking time. This feature allows you to set and leave it while it does the cooking for you.
Induction heating is the latest innovation for rice cookers and is more efficient than standard microcomputer conventional cookers. Induction utilizes electromagnetic tech to heat the entire pan or inner pot by moving the pan’s electrons, allowing for more efficient heat distribution. Induction cookers tend to be pricier but can respond to temperature variation faster than any other type of microcomputer cooker.
There are two questions you should ask yourself when buying a new rice maker: How many people will I be cooking for on a regular basis, and how much storage space do I have in my kitchen?
For instance, commercial rice cookers have the ability to cook up to 100 cups of rice at a time. But unless you’re running a sushi restaurant or have an extensive family, this is most likely unnecessary.
When cooking rice for one to four people, a 3-cup rice cooker should be sufficient and not take up too much room in your kitchen. For six or more people, you may need to double that size. If you’re planning on using your rice cooker to make cakes or yogurt, opting for a larger capacity will allow you to experiment with different recipes.
The exterior is usually made of hard plastic or stainless steel. The interior cup, pan, or pot should also be made of a durable, easily-washable, BPA-free material. If the lid is removable, which is the case with most conventionally designed rice makers, it should be made of a solid material like tempered glass. You should also be able to clean the face of the cooker with a damp cloth.
Conventional rice makers generally have one switch, which makes them pretty simple to operate. If you want to use your cooker to make anything other than rice or steamed vegetables, you may want to look toward a more advanced model with digital controls.
Some multipurpose rice makers also double as pressure cookers and can cook a number of recipes. Consequently, the controls will be more complicated, but a little practice, patience, and a look at the instructions should help you create a perfect bowl of rice.
Nowadays, rice makers have 20 or more different cooking settings for different types of rice and various dishes like porridge, stews, or pasta, just to name a few. These small appliances also offer a delay setting, which allows you to preset your dishes up to 24 hours before you need to have them cooked and ready. That way, you can set something at night and have it ready by the time you wake up. Rice cookers also feature a warming setting, so you can keep dinner warm until everyone is ready to sit down and eat.
If your rice maker is also a pressure cooker, it might feature Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to control the appliance with your tablet or smartphone. A retractable power cord makes the unit more convenient for storage or tidier if left on the counter.
Some manufacturers offer a selection of recipe suggestions on their websites for those who are new to cooking with a rice maker. Most rice makers also include a spatula that won’t damage the inner pot and a measuring cup that’s specially calibrated for you to use the right amount of rice.
Our Top Picks
Whether you’re cooking for your family, your co-workers, or you’re planning on making plain rice for yourself, start your search for the best rice maker with these recommendations.
Zojirushi rice makers are considered among the best available in the world. This microprocessor-controlled cooker can handle up to 10 cups of uncooked rice. Yet, it’s compact enough to do its job without crowding your counter (only 11.12 inches wide by 15 inches deep). The stainless steel exterior gives it a professional look, and it’s easy to keep clean. Plus, the retractable power cord makes for easy storage.
It features individual settings for different rice types, an insertable steam basket for vegetables or other steamed foods, and a cake setting—yes, you can make cakes, too! It can also be used as a slow-cooker, and it has a variety of settings including a delay timer.
If you’re looking for a straight-forward rice maker that doesn’t require spending a lot of money to get convenience and taste, consider the Aroma Housewares 8-Cup. It has easy-to-use, programmable, digital controls such as an “automatic keep-warm,” “brown rice” and “white rice” setting, in addition to a steaming option. There’s also a delay timer that can be programmed up to 15 hours in advance.
Like most rice cookers with a locking lid, it enables you to cook other meals like soups or chili. The cooker includes an insertable steam tray for meats or vegetables, a rice measuring cup, and a serving spatula. There aren’t many bells and whistles here, but it’s a good rice maker for the budget-minded consumer.
Whether you’re having a Thanksgiving gathering or an office potluck party, the Aroma Housewares 32-Cup rice maker should be more than sufficient to feed your guests. This 1000W cooker’s dimensions are 11.8 inches by 10.6 inches by 13.9 inches, and it features a tempered glass lid, so you can peek at its progress. It can cook between 4 and 32 cups of cooked rice at a time.
That being said, this particular rice maker would likely be cumbersome to use regularly unless you have 20 plus members of your immediate family to feed regularly. It also includes a spatula, measuring cup, and steam tray.
The Instant Pot Smart combines eight different kitchen appliances in one. It’s a slow cooker, cake maker, sauté pan, steamer, pressure cooker, yogurt maker, and warmer. The digital controls allow for 13 one-touch smart programs for “autopilot” cooking of meats, beans, desserts, and rice, to name a few.
The big difference between this appliance and the others on the market is that you can control the Instant Pot via a smartphone or tablet. The interface is easy to use, and there are also more than one thousand pre-programmed recipes available through Alexa. Its 6-quart capacity can cook for up to six people, and the stainless steel inner pot is made with a 3-ply bottom that is dishwasher safe. Tthese features may be more than you need if you’re looking for a basic rice cooker, but some may argue it’s better to have the features and not need them versus needing them and not having them.
You can make up to 20 cups of rice in this versatile rice maker that cooks much more than rice. It features 17 digital cooking programs for hearty dishes like pasta, steamed veggies, soup, stews, and more. Using a 6-step cooking process, it traps the steam in the inner pot that preserves the dish’s flavor and juices from escaping and enabling fluffy rice with each use.
This rice cooker’s ability to perform many other cooking tasks earns it a spot even in kitchens with limited counter space or storage. It also features a user-friendly, touch-sensitive digital LED display that allows you to start cooking with the touch of one button. The anti-stick inner pot is BPA-free and comes with dishwasher-safe accessories including a spatula and measuring cup.
FAQs About Your New Rice Maker
Getting a fluffy, fresh bowl of your favorite grain is easy with a rice maker. If you still have questions regarding your new rice cooker, here are some of the most common and their answers.
Q. What is the best rice-to-water ratio?
For conventional cooking, the ratio can vary greatly depending on the type of rice. For rice cookers, the ratio is generally 1 to 1 (1:1).
Q. How do you make fluffy rice in a rice cooker?
Let the rice sit in the pot without removing the lid for 10 minutes after it’s cooked.
Q. Why does my rice burn in my rice cooker?
If there is burnt rice at the bottom of your cooker, it’s usually because there wasn’t enough water added at the beginning.
Q. Why does my rice always come out soggy?
Too much water can make rice mushy or soggy. Use the measuring cup that comes with your cooker and follow the rice’s specific directions.
Q. Can rice cookers catch fire?
Technically, any electrical appliance can catch fire if misused or if there’s a manufacturing defect. Almost all rice cookers come with an automatic shut-off function to prevent it from cooking beyond the set time.