Need an easy way to cook rice? We've reviewed simple electric cookers and microwavable bowls, plus gadgets that double as slow cookers and pressure cookers.
If rice is a staple in your household, a rice cooker can make prep a lot easier. While it’s true that cooking times are fairly similar between a cooker and a hob, the rice takes care of itself in the former. Electric cookers produce consistently good rice with no worry of burning, bubbling over or turning to mush.
So, which is the best rice cooker for you? Read on to discover our top buys. For more unbiased, expert buyer’s guides, visit our reviews section to find 200+ round-ups of everything from food processors to coffee machines.
The best rice cookers 2020
Bamboo IH ceramic rice cooker (YUM-IH15)
Best all-rounder and our star buy
The Bamboo matches its price tag in the quality of its build, attractive design and in its fluffy, flavourful rice. Settings include a 'GABA' option that’s designed to germinate brown rice and 'Yumami' for white rice that uses phased temperatures to release sugars for a sweeter flavour. Non-rice programmes include slow cooking, porridge making, steaming and cake baking. Read our full Bamboo IH ceramic rice cooker review.
Cuckoo automatic rice cooker CR-0331
Best single function rice cooker
This specialist machine scored highly for its simple functionality. We tested the three-cup cooker but the Cuckoo is also available in a larger six-cup model. Both versions are compact and have small footprints. Though there is only one programme for cooking rice, we had good results with white, brown and short-grain. Read our full Cuckoo automatic rice cooker review.
Tefal all-in-one CY505 pressure cooker 6L
Best multi-cooker rice cooker
Multi-cookers offer just that – a variety of cooking options in one appliance. Tefal has various all-in-one machines in its range, but for rice cooking, this pressure cooker hybrid scored highly. In addition to plain rice, the pressure cooker can be used to make risotto, paella and other rice-based dishes, making it ideal for helping out at busy family mealtimes. Read our full Tefal all-in-one pressure cooker review.
Lakeland mini multi-cooker
Best small rice cooker
Rice cookers can be bulky, but this diminutive version from Lakeland is ideal for smaller kitchens. The rice cooking programmes worked well in testing and we had good, fluffy results. The cooker’s other functions include slow cooking, cake baking and a yogurt-making programme that can also be used for proving bread dough. Read our full Lakeland mini multi-cooker review.
Lékué microwaveable rice cooker
Best microwavable rice cooker
If space in your kitchen is limited, a microwavable rice cooker is a good alternative to an electric version. This model is large enough to cook four servings of rice and can also be used to make couscous, quinoa and other grains. After a few attempts, the finished results were very good. The stylishly designed cooking bowl can be taken straight to the table to serve and has a double-layered wall to keep the rice warm on the table. Read our Lékué rice cooker review.
How we tested rice cookers
We scored rice cookers against the following criteria:
Quality of cooked rice: each cooker was tested with white, brown and short-grain rice. We looked for consistently fluffy mounds of white, al dente but well-cooked brown, and slightly sticky but mush-free short-grain rice. We dismissed cookers where rice burnt, stuck to the pan or clumped together. We checked the rice at intervals on the ‘keep warm’ function to make sure the quality didn’t deteriorate either, for instance drying out from heat or sticking together due to condensation.
Safety: we looked for cookers with non-slip feet that weren’t liable to slide on kitchen worktops. There will always be steam and some hot water released from rice cookers but excessive sputterers of hot water were rejected – especially when there was concern the water might come in contact with sockets and switches.
Multi-cookers: multi-cookers had to be logical and easy to operate. Their performance as rice cookers was priority but the quality of their other functions were also put to the test. We considered how sensible the combination of functions were.
Extras: we looked out for useful extras like plastic rice spatulas, steaming baskets, rice measuring cups and condensation traps. Ability to delay the start of cooking, keep warm functions and manually adjustable cooking times were all considered bonus features.
Size: footprint and height relative to the capacity of the rice cookers were considered. The convenience of hinged lids was weighed against the height they took up when open.
Ease of use: rice cookers should be straightforward to use. We looked for cookers with intuitive interfaces, easy-to-press buttons and responsive touchscreens. We looked for clear instruction manuals with accurate advice on water-to-rice ratios.
Which rice cooker to buy
Glass or sealed lid
Some simpler models have a glass lid. Steam from cooking condenses between the lid and the cooking pot to form a seal – a bit like a slow cooker. The advantages are that you can see in the bowl and these models tend to be cheaper. Rice cooking is more vigorous than slow cooking, however, and so hot water and steam tend to spit out from the edges. More expensive models will have sealed lids with vents for a more controlled release of steam – these are safer and create less mess.
Single purpose or multi-cooker
Some machines also have slow cooking, steaming or pressure cooking functions. Having one multi-cooker rather than several single-purpose machines can be a good space saver. Multi-cooker machines are often more complicated to operate, however and it is important to make sure the functions are compatible. A machine that lets you steam fish and veg over your rice is certainly useful.
Other functions such as deep-frying are less helpful. A rice cooker relies on its non-stick surface but oil residues from regular deep frying will eventually accumulate on even the best non-stick bowls, tainting the texture and flavour of the rice. Likewise colour stains on the bowl from a slow-cooked stew might permeate your rice. Rice purists are best sticking with a single purpose cooker.
Basic rice cookers use a thermal sensor to determine when the rice is done. When the contents of the pan go above a fixed temperature, the machine either turns off or switches to a ‘keep warm’ mode.
Top of the range cookers use fuzzy logic processors which are programmed to make precise adjustments to cooking time and temperature in response to sensors in the cooker. For example, the ambient temperature in a kitchen can affect how fast a rice cooker cooks. In the same way that a chef would lower the heat under a vigorously boiling pan, a fuzzy processor will lower the temperature of the rice cooker’s heating element if the rice is cooking too quickly on a hot day. This technology is particularly effective in cookers that use induction heating.
Fuzzy logic cookers often have different programmes for different types of rice. Each program will have a unique heating/soaking cycle and temperature range for optimum cooking. Basic rice cookers are cheaper and produce good results particularly if you tend to cook the same type of rice. Fuzzy logic cookers are better at cooking different types of rice but they do come with a higher price tag.
The best kitchen kit tried and tested
This review was last updated in July 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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