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.
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If rice is a staple in your household, a rice cooker can make dinner 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 review 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
Pros: Responsive touchpad, six rice cooking programmes, fuzzy logic microchip, induction heater, easy to use, adjustable default timings, fluffy separate grains
Cons: Rice on crust setting becomes quite hard
At the premium end of cookers, the Bamboo matches its price tag in the quality of its build, attractive design and in its fluffy, flavourful rice. Though made in China, the cooker is factory-built for the UK and Europe. The instant induction heat (IH) cooks the rice evenly through both the base and sides of the inner pot. It has a fuzzy logic microchip that makes adjustments in temperature and cooking time according to the programme selected and information from a thermal sensor.
Five out of the six rice cooking programmes produced effortlessly good results in testing. This included a GABA setting that’s designed to germinate brown rice to release gamma-aminobutyric acid (which is reported to have some health benefits). The Yumami setting for white rice uses phased temperatures to release sugars for sweeter rice and added a noticeable depth to the flavour of the rice during testing. The crust setting for Persian-style rice, however, produced an overly hard crust in testing, so requires experimenting with water-to-rice ratios and cooking times.
Non-rice programmes include slow cooking, porridge making, steaming and cake baking. The steaming basket can be used on its own over water, or at the same time as cooking three cups of rice. We tested the cake setting with a Victoria sponge batter. The result was pale on the top with a deep golden crust on the bottom, but the texture was light and springy – a good pudding sponge.
The start of cooking can be delayed for a minimum of 70 minutes and up to 24 hours. This means you can set the cooker in the morning for hot rice on returning from work, or in the evening for porridge at breakfast. The manual is clear and includes advice on water ratios for different types of rice, plus recipe suggestions. None of the parts are dishwasher-safe but they are easy to clean.
Capacity: white rice 1-8 cups uncooked; brown rice 1-6 cups uncooked; GABA rice 1-5 cups uncooked, slow cooker function 1.5 litres
Dimensions: L37cm x W27cm x H24cm
Length of cord: 1m
Bowl material: ceramic coated, BPA-free and PTFE-free
Multicooker functions: steaming, slow cooking, cake baking
Additional extras: steam basket, rice spatula, ladle, rice measuring cup
Timer? Yes, default cooking times can be altered.
Preset cooking delay? Yes. Can preset delay from 70 mins up to 24hrs
Warmer setting? Yes, keeps warm for up to 24 hrs
Cuckoo automatic rice cooker CR-0331
Best single function rice cooker
Pros: Easy to use, sealed lid with steam vent, condensation collector, 3D heat system, compact, good results
Cons: Single cooking time, no timer, no variations on time or suggested water input for different types of rice, no delayed start time
This single purpose model was the most straightforward to use of those in our test. There is a plastic cup provided to measure the rice. After rinsing, tip the rice in and cover with water to the corresponding line on the bowl. So for three cups of rice, fill the cooker up to the line marked '3'. Once plugged in, you simply close the lid and click the button down to ‘cook’ mode. When the rice is done, the machine automatically switches to ‘keep warm’.
Though there is only one programme for cooking rice, we had good results with white, brown and short-grain. Whereas some rice cookers heat only from the base, the Cuckoo has a 3D system heating from the base, sides and lid for even cooking. The lid is sealed around the edges and steam is directed out of a vent to limit unwanted sputtering. There is also an effective condensation collector to stop water dripping back into the rice.
Giving the rice a good stir after cooking with the provided spatula releases excess steam and avoids stickiness and clumping. 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. The removable inner lid and non-stick bowl need to be hand-washed and the body wiped down with a damp cloth.
Capacity: 3 cups uncooked rice
Dimensions: L22cm x W22cm x H22.5cm
Length of cord: 1.4m
Bowl material: non-stick PTFE removable bowl; casing: BPA-free
Multicooker functions: none
Additional extras: rice spatula, rice measuring cup
Preset cooking delay? No
Warmer setting? Yes, for up to 12 hrs
Tefal all-in-one CY505 pressure cooker 6L
Best multi-cooker rice cooker
Pros: Cooks up to 12 cups of rice, delayed start, keep warm function, reheat function, condensation collector, multifunction cooker
Cons: Limited advice on rice cooking, only one programme for cooking rice
The large capacity of this rice cooker (up to 12 cups) and range of functions, including one for baby food, makes it ideal for families. There is a specific setting for boiling rice that works well and results in distinct fluffy grains. A condensation collector helps prevent the rice becoming soggy. But since it is a multicooker, the manual’s guidance on rice cooking and water ratios is more limited than those for rice-only cookers. There are options to adjust cooking time and temperature on the preset programmes, so you can experiment and tweak the rice cooking to suit your preferences.
In addition to plain rice, the pressure cooker can be used to make risotto, paella and other rice-based dishes. There are recipe suggestions for these with cooking times in an accompanying booklet. The cooker's start time can be delayed so that dinner is ready for when you get home. There are also helpful keep warm and reheat options.
Though there are lots of functions and programmes, we found the digital monitor was easy and logical to use. The hinged lid of the cooker is well sealed with controlled releases of steam through a vent and the non-stick inner bowl feels sturdy. The accessories are dishwasher-safe but the main parts are hand-wash/wipe-clean only. It works as a slow cooker as well as a pressure cooker. A good option for a family looking for a reliable multi-cooker with an excellent rice cooking function.
Capacity: 12 cups
Dimensions: L34cm x W34cm x H40cm
Length of cord: 1m
Bowl material: ceramic
Multicooker functions: pressure cooking, baby food, baking, steam, stew, brown, simmer, porridge, slow cooking
Additional extras: steam basket, rice spatula, trivet, rice measuring cup
Dishwasher-safe? Accessories only
Preset cooking delay? Yes, minimum 2 hrs maximum 24 hr delay
Warmer setting? Yes
Lakeland mini multicooker
Best small rice cooker
Pros: Three rice cooking programmes, small footprint, carry handle, smart cooking, easy to use
Cons: Water-to-rice ratio unclear
A four-cup rice cooker that is ideal for individuals or couples. There are three programmes for rice – white, brown and a quick-cook programme that takes roughly 15 minutes. The machine monitors the internal temperature during cooking and adjusts the cooking time and temperature in response. The lid is sealed at the edges and has a vent to release steam. Once cooking has finished, the machine beeps and switches to keep warm mode.
The manual is not as clear on rice-water ratios as others. It gives a rough suggestion of one cup of water to one cup of rice and says to follow rice packet instructions. This means a bit of experimenting and adjusting on behalf of the user. Despite this, the programmes did work 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.
Capacity: 4 cups uncooked rice
Dimensions: L28cm x W23.5cm x H20cm
Length of cord: 95cm
Bowl material: removable non-stick pot
Multicooker functions: slow cooking, porridge, quinoa, cake, yogurt
Additional extras: rice spatula, measuring cup
Adjustable timer? Adjustable cooking times for some preset programmes
Preset cooking delay? No
Warmer setting? Yes
Lekue microwaveable rice cooker
Best microwavable rice cooker
Pros: Dishwasher-safe, easy to store, insulated walls, lid stops it bubbling over, stylish design
Cons: Requires experimentation with timings and water quantities
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. Boiling water in the microwave can be a worry in case it bubbles over, but the cooker’s silicone lid has small oval holes to let steam escape while staying effective at keeping liquid in the bowl.
There are suggested cooking times and water-to-rice ratios in the manual, but both will vary depending on the microwave’s wattage and type of rice being used. It may take a couple of attempts to get it spot on. We found in testing that the cooking times were a little longer and the water needed was a little less than suggested. Once this was solved, the quality of the cooked rice was impressive. The stylishly designed cooking bowl can be taken straight to the table to serve and it has a double-layered wall to keep the rice warm on the table.
Capacity: 4 cups uncooked rice
Dimensions: Dia18cm x H12cm
Length of cord: N/A
Bowl material: BPA-free plastic bowl and silicone lid
Multicooker functions: can be used for other grains
Additional extras: none
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Preset cooking delay? No
Warmer setting? No
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 programs 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 January 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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