A rice cooker can be the perfect addition to your kitchen if you want to make cooking dinner faster and easier. The best rice cookers for 2020 are models that come loaded with tech-heavy features including computerized sensors that are designed to make sure every batch is cooked to perfection. Adding this type of appliance to your kitchen will also free up the burners on your stove, so you can cook multiple dishes simultaneously, as your rice cooker powers away on the counter.
But many buyers don’t know that these appliances are capable of handling a variety of other cooking tasks including making stews and soups and steaming protein and veggies. They can also cook other types of grains including quinoa, barley, and oatmeal. However, modern models can be difficult to shop for since many do come with a variety of features, making it difficult to know which one will work for your specific skill level and cooking needs.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that will show you some of the similarities and differences between each of these models
Rice Cooker Comparison Chart
|Aroma Housewares ARC-6206C||12||Yes||Smart|
|Aroma Housewares ARC-150SB||20||Yes||Smart|
|Hamilton Beach Mini Rice Cooker||8||No||Traditional|
|Joseph Joseph 45002 M-Cuisine||8||No||Microwave|
Best Ceramic-Aroma Housewares ARC-6206C Ceramic Rice Cooker
The latest model by Aroma Housewares comes loaded with some great extras that truly shows what a rice cooker is made out of. It’s versatile, functional, and a model you can use throughout the week to prepare a variety of one-pot meals, side dishes, and rice. If you’re not very savvy in the kitchen, with this model, you don’t have to be. In fact, to use, all you have to do is choose the appropriate setting, add the ingredients, hit the start button, and you’re good to go. This model offers the type of set it and forget it operation that allows you to run errands, do laundry, or focus on preparing other dishes on the stove as this model handles the rest. It’s definitely a must-have model if you’re looking for an appliance that can help to simplify cooking dinner.
Best Steamer/Rice Cooker Combo-Aroma Housewares ARC-150SB Digital Rice Cooker
The Arc 150SB is another leading model produced by Aroma Housewares. It comes loaded with many of the same extras as the other model in my best-of list, however, this model has a cooking capacity of twenty cups, which can be a total gamechanger, especially if you have a larger family or you often host dinner parties. This model also allows you to set it and forget it and can handle a wide range of dishes including mac and cheese, steamed fish, cake, yogurt, and rice. The digital interface is very intuitive and easy to use, so this model is also considered very beginner-friendly. It’s a great buy if you want a rice cooker that can do so much more than steam rice and it’s available at a price that won’t break the bank.
Best 3-Cup-Zojirushi NHS-06 3-Cup Rice Cooker
If you’re not looking for a flashy, feature-packed model and instead you simply want an appliance that can handle cooking a smaller batch for the family, then this low-priced basic model is a great buy and one that you can use to whip up a fresh batch of fluffy jasmine rice, oatmeal, or even mac and cheese. It doesn’t come with any dedicated buttons for specific grain types and you won’t find any cooking presets, but it does offer a powerful and reliable performance and can turn out perfectly cooked rice each and every time, and that earned it a high rating in my book.
Best Small Rice Cooker-Hamilton Beach Mini Rice Cooker & Food Steamer
The Hamilton Beach rice cooker is compact, designed to last, and has a max cooking capacity of eight cups, which is pretty impressive given its compact design. This model is pretty basic in terms of features and settings, but it does offer the type of reliable performance and stay warm feature that many buyers are looking for. It lacks the dedicated grain buttons that can make cooking brown rice or quinoa easier, so you will have to babysit it if you’re cooking something other than rice, however, you can’t beat the price, low maintenance design, or beginner-friendly interface.
Joseph Joseph 45002 M-Cuisine Microwave Rice Cooker
The Joseph Joseph 45002 microwave rice cooker makes it even easier to cook your favorite rice dish, whether you’re learning how to cook curry rice, brown rice, or traditional jasmine. However, it does have its drawbacks in terms of functionality. You won’t be able to steam veggies or choose any fancy features. This model is as basic as it comes. But it can cook rice even faster than an electric rice cooker, won’t hog up any counter space, and can be washed in your dishwasher. It’s also available at a reasonable price, is beginner-friendly, and allows you to focus on other dishes as this model works to perfectly cook your rice in the microwave at lightning speed.
Rice Cooker Buyer’s Guide
There are a variety of styles and types of rice cookers to choose from. You can choose a traditional model or even one that features smart technology or pressure cooking capabilities.
This style option is as basic as it comes. You won’t have to deal with making space on your counter, spending time figuring out how to work the controls and programs, or stress over leaving it running while you’re not at home. This is basically just a pot with a lid that’s designed for microwave use. Many models are also dishwasher safe, so cleanup is a breeze. However, the big downside to this style is not just the lack of features, but the fact that you’ll have to do a little experimenting when it comes to cooking times since some microwaves are more powerful than others. But if you’re on a tight budget, plan on just cooking white rice, and don’t have the counter space to accommodate an electric model, then a microwave style cooker can be a great alternative.
A traditional model doesn’t come loaded with many bells and whistles. But they’re fairly easy to use. All you have to do is measure out the right amount of rice and water, add it to the inner pot, press a button and it’s good to go. Most of these models are primarily made to handle white rice only, but some do come with a dedicated sticky rice or brown rice setting.
This type of appliance relies on a computer chip that utilizes thermo sensors to adjust the cooking temperatures and times. In most cases, you’ll find that this type of machine is able to cook your rice to perfection each and every time.
This style relies on induction heat technology to cook rice perfectly. Inside the appliance, the inner pot is equipped with induction heat technology, unlike a conventional model that features a heating plate that’s placed directly under the inner pot. This type of cooker uses more precise temperature adjustments compared to micro-computerized and traditional models.
Pressure Cooking Technology
A pressure cooking rice cooker will combine two types of heating technology, providing a more versatile appliance that’s able to cook a wider range of dishes. The pressurized heating system will increase the cooking temperature to modify the structure of the starch in rice so it turns out fluffier, softer, and is cooked faster.
Cooking capacity will be a major feature that you’ll need to consider before you purchase a model. The term cooking capacity refers to how many cups of rice a model can cook at one time. If you enjoy cooking and hosting dinner parties, then you’ll want a model that comes equipped with a larger cooking capacity. If you live alone and enjoy an occasional side dish of rice, then you’ll want a model that has a max cooking capacity of two to three cups. In terms of a moderately-sized model that you can use to make rice for you and the kids, go for one that offers a max capacity of four to five cups.
There are rice cookers out there that are specifically designed to handle heavy-duty use and larger cooking capacities. These models can handle up to twenty cups of cooked rice or sometimes more. Keep in mind, models that have a higher cooking capacity often come with a bigger price tag.
A steam basket is exactly what it sounds like. Steam baskets can be used to steam meat, veggies, egg rolls, and a variety of other dishes. Many modern models will come with a steam basket that will allow you to use steam to freshly cook food so they can retain more of their nutrients. Steaming is also a great way to retain flavor and moistness. The size of a steam basket is often dependent on the rice cooker’s capacity.
An inner pot that has a non-stick design will make it easier to clean and serve. Models that don’t have a non-stick design can often be difficult to use because the rice will stick to the surface and can become mushy or dried out. Nonstick inner pots are often dishwasher safe which also means you can save plenty of time in the kitchen scrubbing pots after a meal is cooked.
If you want a model that comes with all the bells and whistles and look for one that comes with a steam basket, colander, measuring cup, spatula, and recipes. These kits are a great buy especially for the beginner and will come with everything you need to cook a wide range of recipes.
Models that come with a variety of presets can be pretty pricey. Presets will allow you to cook more dishes to perfection including oatmeal, rice pudding, brown rice, sticky rice, veggies, rice, soups, and more. These presets are basically dedicated settings for each type of dish, so all you have to do is press a button add the correct amount of water and ingredients and let the rice cooker handle the rest.
Care and Maintenance
Rice cookers are generally easy to clean, especially those that are dishwasher safe. Models that come with a nonstick inner pot should be cleaned with a non-abrasive sponge and a gentle cleanser. Obviously, you cannot submerge the base of the rice cooker in hot water. Because of this, all you have to do is use a sponge and some hot water and wipe down the exterior of a device. The inner pot is dishwasher safe and you can simply toss it in with the next load. And that’s it.
One of the best features on a rice cooker is the stay warm feature. When you make it batch of rice if you’re not going to be home by the time it finishes but you want it to be ready to serve when you get home, after you’ve added the rice and water and press the cook time, you’ll also hit the stay warm feature. This will allow the rice to remain warm without further cooking it so it will not be mushy or overdone. Many models will have a stay warm feature that works anywhere from two up to twelve hours. This will allow you to enjoy fresh, moist, fluffy rice around the clock.
Automatic shut-off is a feature that you’ll find on many models and it involves shutting the rice cooker off automatically once it’s finished cooking. However if you use certain presets such as the stay warm feature or the reheat feature, then the automatic shut-off will kick in after a certain length of time.
Ease of Use
If this is your first rice cooker, then a model that’s easy to use and one that features intuitive controls will be a must. Most models will come with a basic one-touch operation so all you’ll have to do is add the appropriate ingredients and press the cook button. However, more advanced models can be difficult to use especially those that come with a variety of digital controls that offer a wider range of cooking options. Choose a model that has a high rating for being beginner-friendly.
The delay start feature is a great option since it allows you to set up a rice cooker and have it start at a determined time such as an hour before you get home. For some, this is a much safer option than cooking rice before you leave and allowing it to stay warm throughout the day until you make it home.
Most models will come with their own user manual, which will walk you through how to use and clean your new model, in addition to how to utilize the presets to cook a wide range of dishes. It’s important that you always refer to the owner’s manual regarding how to use your rice cooker, what not to do, and what foods to avoid cooking in it. Below, I’ve included some common-sense tips on how to use your new rice cooker which will come in handy for the beginner.
- To start, you’ll want to avoid pouring water directly into the inner pot if the machine is plugged in.
- For many beginners, figuring out the menu settings system is the most challenging part. Again, you’ll want to refer to the owner’s manual and carefully follow the directions for how to use the settings and what types of rice and other foods are recommended.
- The rice cooker should always be placed far away from your conventional oven, and stovetop and it shouldn’t be placed near any type of flammable substance. Many of these devices can be used when you’re not at home and because of this, it’s important that you place it in a neutral location, ideally a bare countertop. Reference the owner’s manual in terms of how much space the rice cooker will need above and around it to ensure safe usage.
- Avoid using the stay warm feature overnight. Doing so can cause the rice to dry out so that it will be hard and somewhat crunchy by morning.
- Only prepare as much rice as you can eat in a day, or you can store the rice in your rice cooker using the stay warm feature. But as I mentioned above it will dry out over time. Placing the rice in the fridge can zap it of its moisture as well. For the best-tasting rice only cook up as much as you can eat during the day and no more, in order to avoid waste.
- Avoid adding spices, salts, and oil directly to the inner pot of the rice cooker since it can damage the nonstick coating over time.
The best rice cookers for 2020 will come loaded with the types of intuitive controls that will make throwing together a meal a breeze. These appliances come loaded with some great features that will also allow you to cook a variety of dishes including soups, yogurts, and stews. This guide is designed to help point you in the right direction, based on the features you’re looking for, the type of versatility you need, and a model that will work well with both your cooking needs and your budget.