If rice is a staple in your kitchen and a dish you find yourself preparing more than once or twice a week, then the best Japanese rice cooker can be an appliance you can really rely on to turn out perfectly cooked rice, each and every time. A rice cooker will quickly end up being your favorite appliance, especially if you normally struggle to cook your rice to perfection.
Rice cookers are designed to simplify the cooking process. Using one to prepare your rice is pretty simple. All you have to do is add rice and the right amount of water, push a button to set the cooking time based on the type of rice you’re preparing, and that’s it. Whether you love jasmine rice, white rice, basmati, or brown rice, once you use a rice cooker, you won’t be able to go back to boiling your rice on the stove.
One of the best features a rice cooker has to offer is its stay warm feature, which will keep your rice warm and ready to serve for a period of five hours up to forty hours, depending on the model.
No longer will you have to sit around and keep a close eye on your rice as it cooks. With a rice cooker, the process is set it and forget, so you’ll be free to run errands, clean up around the house, or focus on cooking up another dish.
The Rise of the Rice Cooker
Since the rice cooker’s rise in popularity, many companies have flooded the market with new and innovative models that can also handle cooking poultry, meat, fish, veggies, porridge, and so much more. Because there are so many new models to choose from, finding the perfect rice cooker can be an overwhelming process.
We’ve made it our goal to review many of the leading models on the market, many of which came loaded with smart technology and a variety of cooking presets to choose from. We were able to narrow down our choices to the top five models. Each of these models come loaded with great safety features, rice cooking options, and induction heat.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that showcases the similarities and differences between each of the rice cookers we have reviewed, including important features such as heat technology and rice capacity.
Rise Cookers Comparison Chart
|Zojirushi Rice Cooker||5 cups||induction||$$|
|Tiger JKT-S18U||5 cups||induction||$$$|
|Panasonic Rice Cooker||5 cups||induction||$$$|
|Toshiba Rice Cooker||5 1/2 cups||induction||$$$$$|
|Cuckoo Rice Cooker||6 cups||induction||$|
An In-Depth Look at the Leading Models
We’ve dedicated several hours to testing the best-selling models of rice cookers currently on the market. Each of these rice cookers come loaded with some great features that give users total control over the cooking process including cooking time, reheating mode, a stay warm mode, and more.
Below you’ll find summaries for each of the five models that made it onto to our list.
Best Japanese Rice Cooker-Zojirushi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-NVC10
This model by Zojirushi took the number one spot on our list. This is an induction style rice cooker that’s highly programmable and loaded with a top of the line platinum infused pot, several preset options and reheat and stay warm modes. While it may not allow you to cook other types of foods like some competing models do, this dedicated rice cooker offers a solid, reliable performance and can cook a fresh batch of rice at a faster rate compared to other models thanks to the umami setting, which speeds up the soaking and steaming time. It also helps to infuse the rice with flavor and provides the type of soft, fluffy texture all cooks love.
Best Rice Cooker for Japanese Rice-Tiger JKT-S18U Multi-Purpose IH Cooker
Tiger’s latest rice cooker is a multipurpose model that allows you to cook fish, steam veggies, and bake bread. Even better, it allows you to cook these dishes at the same time your rice is cooking, so you can whip up a meal for the whole family in a matter of minutes. It also uses induction heat, which will promote even cooking. The set it and forget it cooking options will allow you to get work done around the home or prepare other dishes, without the need to keep a close eye on your rice as it cooks. Reasonably priced, beginner-friendly, and built to last, this is one rice cooker that you’ll find yourself using several times a week.
Top Multifunction Rice Cooker-Panasonic Rice Cooker & Multi-Cooker SR-HZ106
Panasonic has done it again by producing a reasonably priced model that comes loaded with some great features that allow users to get the most out of their rice cooker. This model can steam veggies, cook stews and soups, steam fish, and make porridge. The included pot has a total of seven layers of nonstick coating, which prevents food from sticking to the interior and also makes cleanup a cinch.
Most Innovative Design-Toshiba Vacuum Induction Heat Rice Cooker
Toshiba blew us away with their unique rice cooker design that combines vacuum technology and heat induction for rice that’s cooked to perfection and packed with flavor. It also offers an impressively long stay warm mode that you can use for up to forty hours. Aside from the longer than average stay warm mode, this model comes packed with preset options that you can choose from based on the type of rice you’re preparing. Easy to clean, equipped with intuitive controls, and available at a price that will work for most budgets, this model by Toshiba is definitely worth a closer look.
Best Value-Cuckoo Multifunctional & Programmable Electric Pressure Rice Cooker
If you’re on a tight budget, then you can’t go wrong with this rice cooker by Cuckoo. This is a multifunctional rice cooker that’s highly programmable. You can cook steel cut oats, steam veggies, or enjoy your favorite rice side dish. We were impressed with this model’s variety of features, considering many of them are often found on higher priced rice cookers. One of its biggest selling points is its auto cleaning mode which not only removes stuck on food, it also features a sanitizing process that prevents odors and bacteria growth.
Rice Cooker Buyer’s Guide
In Japanese culture, rice is often a staple for every meal. If you love cooking Japanese food or trying out new rice cooker rice recipes, then you need a rice cooker that can handle heavy use. In Japan, rice is often eaten three times a day, along with freshly steamed veggies and fish. Depending on how often you and your family eat rice and the size of your family you may need a rice cooker that can handle heavy-duty use. We came across many of the leading models on the market, each with a reputation for durability and ease of use. However, only five models made it to our list.
Most people don’t realize that many models of rice cookers can be used for more than just cooking rice. They can also be used to cook stews, soups, veggies, desserts, or hot cereal. But not every model will be quite this versatile, so if you’re looking for a rice cooker that can do it all, you’ll need to pay close attention to the spec sheet, where it will list what the rice cooker can and can’t be used for.
Additionally, you should also look at where the model was made. Many of the leading models are produced in Japan. While you can still find a model that’s produced in a different country that will offer a top of the line performance, many cooks claim that you won’t get as much use out of them.
The capacity of your rice cooker is often measured by the number of cups of rice the appliance can hold. Keep in mind that the capacity measures cups of uncooked rice, so you may end up with twice the amount of cooked rice. You should choose a rice cooker that can handle the amount of rice you need per meal, based on the size of your family.
Many newer models of rice cookers now come equipped with a variety of presets for different types of rice. You may also find options for grain firmness or softness. A standard rice cooker will only have a power button with no preset options. But keep in mind, models equipped with presets will come with a higher price tag.
Aside from the ability to adjust the firmness of the rice, or choose presets based on the type of rice you’re cooking, some models can also be used to steam fish or veggies. If you don’t cook rice very often, then this type of versatile rice cooker may be right up your alley.
Rice cookers that feature a pan that’s coated with a nonstick surface will be much easier to clean, while lower-priced models with a standard stainless steel pot can require more elbow grease, especially if you’ve accidentally overcooked the rice.
Every rice cooker will come with a lid, however, some lids are made out of durable clear plastic or stainless steel, while other lids are made out of glass. Some can also be detached from the base in order to clean it more thoroughly.
In lower-priced rice cookers you’ll commonly find a basic coiled heating element located directly under the internal pan. This type of heating element is usually to blame for overcooked rice, especially if the model is equipped with a pan that’s made out of aluminum. Higher priced models will utilize induction heat. Induction heat involves an alternating magnetic field that uses the entire pan as the heating element. This means the pan will cook the rice more evenly, rapidly, and with less risk of overcooking or burning the rice.
Rice cookers that feature pressure cooking capabilities are said to produce firmer rice that is able to retain the right amount of softness compared to a lower priced conventional rice cooker.
Frequency of Use
If you’re looking for a rice cooker you can use once or twice a week, then you should have no problem finding a great model for under one hundred dollars. But if you and your family cook rice several times a week, then a model that can handle heavy use is a must. These are usually the higher priced models that can handle regular use without fail. Cheaper rice cookers can wear out easily over a matter of months, while smart rice cookers can easily handle cooking up a batch of rice a few times a day, effortlessly.
Rice Cooker Styles
A rice cooker is a great choice for the professional who doesn’t have time to pay close attention to a slow-cooking pot of boiling rice. Many models will automatically shut off once the rice has been cooked to perfection, so you won’t have to worry about frequently checking on the rice’s progress. A warming feature is often included and is designed to keep the rice nice and warm without further cooking it. This means you can focus on preparing other dishes and not have to worry that your rice won’t be ready in time or that it’ll be mushy and overcooked by the time the other dishes are ready to be served.
However, choosing the right type of rice cooker can be a complicated process, especially considering the market is literally flooded with these handy appliances.
If you’re searching for the right type of rice cooker for you and your family, start by choosing the type of model that will work the best for your family, budget, and cooking needs. While there are a variety of styles of rice cookers to choose from, there are currently two basic types: conventional and smart.
Obviously, a conventional rice cooker isn’t quite as fancy as a smart rice cooker, however, these models can also come loaded with some great features that will make cooking rice a breeze.
Conventional models are very basic in design. Many of the lower priced models will come with a single button, which puts the cooking process into motion. These models are more affordable compared to smart rice cookers but if you’re looking for a model that’s totally hands-off, then a standard rice cooker isn’t the appliance for you. They can definitely cook your rice faster compared to boiling rice in a pot, but you will still need to keep a close eye on your rice.
These rice cookers have built-in sensors that are able to determine when rice is cooked to perfection. Many models will take rice type, quantity, and even the temperature in a room, into consideration, in order to ensure your rice turns out perfectly. These rice cookers are more expensive than a conventional model, but that’s because they offer a total hands-off operation. Basically, these are the set it and forget it rice cookers that many people are looking for, especially beginners who have a tendency to overcook their rice.
But some of these smart cookers are so tech-heavy that they can be difficult to use in the beginning.
Rice Cooker and Crock Pot
As we mentioned earlier, some models will not only cook rice, they can also steam veggies. However, you can also find some cookers that can work just like a crock pot, so it can be used to slow cook a roast or another type of one pot dish.
Care and Maintenance
Most models of rice cookers come complete with durable pots that are easy to clean, thanks to their layers of nonstick coating. Some higher priced rice cookers will also come equipped with a self-cleaning mode that can remove stuck on food in a matter of minutes. However, basic rice cookers can be difficult to clean, especially if it has been on stay warm mode for several hours. To learn how to keep your rice cooker running smoothly and find out what type of TLC it requires, click here to read our article on how to clean a rice cooker.
How A Rice Cooker Works
A rice cooker consists of four main components:
- A thermal sensor device located under the heating element
- Heating plate located on the bottom
- Cooking pan
- The main body
The sensor device is basically a spring-loaded thermometer that will constantly measure the level of heat inside the pot. This device is depressed once the pan has been filled with water and rice.
When the rice cooker’s heating element has been switched on it will instantly begin the process of bringing the water to a boil. When the water has reached the boiling point it will remain at this constant temperature.
The grains of rice will then start to soak up the water and begin to steam. Once all of the water has been absorbed the temperature will start to rise. The sensor device will sense this change in temperature, which will trigger it to switch to the warm setting or it will shut off automatically.
Rice cookers will heat their contents by transferring the heat from the heating element that’s located on the bottom of the model.
The amount of time it can take the rice cooker to cook the food will depend on the type of material the pan is made out of. Certain metals such as aluminum or copper are better at conducting heat compared to stainless steel and other types of materials that may be used. Material that can conduct heat more efficiently equals a faster cooking time.
What is Fuzzy Logic?
If you’re shopping for a new rice cooker, then you’ll probably come across the term “fuzzy logic”. Fuzzy logic stems from the fuzzy sets theory that was discovered by Lofti Zadeh who was a professor at UC Berkley in 1965. This theory involves mathematical groups or sets of elements or items. In many sets, an element will belong to a group or it won’t. There is not in between. But fuzzy logic deals with the in between. This unique principle can be applied to rice cookers. Fuzzy logic is used in rice cookers by taking a practical approach. This theory applies the idea of almost or slightly in order to determine the rice’s doneness. This will give the appliance the ability to use its judgment in a similar manner that a person would, as opposed to using a strict set of parameters.
As an example, if it’s very hot outside, this can cause the temperature in your home, especially, your kitchen, to quickly rise to an uncomfortable temperature. Because of this increase in temperature in the room, a standard rice cooker may heat up faster than it should, which can have a major negative impact in terms of cooking the rice evenly. When fuzzy logic is applied it will cause the appliance to compensate for the increase in the room’s temperature by adjusting the heating element’s temperature automatically. This will slow down the heating of the water, which will prevent the water from evaporating or being absorbed before the rice is done cooking.
Many rice cookers with fuzzy logic capability often come with a variety of cooking functions, while basic models can only cook white rice. Models with fuzzy logic are able to cook:
- Brown rice
- White rice
- Jasmine rice
- Sticky rice
- Sweet rice
And much more. But rice cookers with fuzzy logic will usually cost more. However, if you need more help in the kitchen than a standard rice cooker can offer, than an appliance that’s equipped with fuzzy logic will be well worth the higher price tag.
The best Japanese rice cooker can handle regular, daily use. It should also come loaded with preset options that will allow you to cook different types of rice, quickly and perfectly. But unfortunately, not all rice cookers are created equal, which is why we made it our mission to review several of the leading models and narrow it down to the top five models that are designed to last. Each of the models that made it to our list are not only durable, but they’re also designed to handle heavy use, offer an intuitive design that makes them beginner friendly, and comes with a variety of cooking options that will make it simple for you to set it and forget for the type of total hands-off rice cooking experience that most users are looking for.