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A rice cooker is a must for any modern cook who loves East Asian, Indian or Caribbean cuisine. Making rice on the stove top is fraught with risk. It’s hard to get the right temperature, rice-to-water ratio, and cooking time for perfect results.
How many times have you checked the pot too late, only to find your rice burnt and crusty?
Plenty, if you’re like most of us. That’s why it’s so important to find the best rice cooker for your kitchen. With a quality appliance, you can leave cooking the rice up to a machine, and spend your time and energy on better things.
Most good quality rice cookers also do more than just make rice, too. You’ll see devices that also steam vegetables, bake bread, pressure-cook beans, slow-cook stews, and even make cakes! Sounds good?
Then let’s take a look at some of the best Japanese rice cookers on the market!
"This relatively simple rice cooker features a non-stick inner pot that you can take out and clean in the dishwasher. It’s an improvement over hand-wash-only models with delicate coatings that can crack or peel."
"This rice cooker offers a large capacity and fuzzy logic-controlled cooking features to help you make perfect rice in bulk. It includes four separate cooking functions, each controlled by a large, readable button."
Another larger-capacity Zojirushi rice cooker, this model uses a more advanced version of the company’s fuzzy logic, called “Neuro Fuzzy.” This feature lets the rice cooker make fine adjustments to ensure perfect rice, even if your rice or conditions change.
The cooker makes up to 10 cups of cooked brown or white rice, as well as other grains like millet or oats. Programmable alerts ensure you’ll know when your rice is done, every time.
What’s more, the NS-ZCC10 also has plenty of great design features for clean-up and storage. Like most other Zojirushi rice cookers, the device has a retractable cord that coils itself up for storage. It also features special handles on the side of the round-bottomed pan that stay cooler and make it easier to remove.
If you’re serious about cooking great rice, try the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10.
If you like the many functions and sleek design of the Zojirushi NS-TSC10, but really just want to make rice, the NS-ZCC10 is the perfect alternative. It has a variety of computerized settings just like its more multi-purpose cousin, but they’re all oriented around rice. You can make white or brown rice, as well as sushi rice, jasmine and non-rice grains like quinoa.
What other features does it have?
There’s a quick-cook setting for when you’re in a hurry, and automatic warming and reheat functions to keep a meal ready for later. The NS-ZCC10’s removable inner lid and non-stick pan make things easier to clean up. Just be sure to hand-wash all the removable pieces.
Zojirushi recommends against dishwashers or other rough handling, which can cause the non-stick surface to peel over time.
What we liked:
Retractable power cord for easy storage
Automatic warming function keeps rice hot for hours
Aroma’s combination rice cooker and steamer can cook an entire meal with just the press of a button. Imagine placing rice, water, meat and veggies into a single appliance, then opening it 20 minutes later to find a fully cooked dish.
Be honest: it sounds like a great way to skip cooking for an evening, doesn’t it?
This relatively simple rice cooker features a non-stick inner pot that you can take out and clean in the dishwasher. It’s an improvement over hand-wash-only models with delicate coatings that can crack or peel.
The ARC-914D also includes a programmable timer that starts cooking even when you’re not around. It’s easy to make sure dinner will be hot and fresh with this feature. Just fill the rice cooker in the morning, and set the timer. You’ll come home to fluffy, flavorful rice.
If you’re new to rice cookers, but you know you need to cook larger quantities of rice, the ARC-914D could be perfect for you. This pot makes up to eight cups of white or brown rice, each with its own setting.
The cooker can also be used to make wild rice, quinoa, and other grains using the white or brown rice setting. When cooking finishes, the automatic warming function kicks on, keeping your freshly-cooked rice hot and delicious.
The Aroma ARC-914D is a no-frills appliance at a low price point that makes buying easy. It doesn’t have the fuzzy logic or many cooking settings of a fancier rice cooker, but it’s a low-cost investment that makes great rice. You’ll wait a while for brown rice in this device, but the result is fluffy and soft, without the hard, overcooked grains that some rice cookers produce.
For your first rice cooker, the ARC-914D is an excellent choice.
What we liked:
BPA-free steamer tray
Automatic warming function when cooking is done
Cooks white and brown rice as well as other grains
Have you been looking for a small-size rice cooker from a big name?
We all want name-brand quality in our appliances, but small kitchens can’t always accommodate a 10-cup flagship device. The NS-LAC05XT is a great compromise. This rice cooker offers you the quality that Zojirushi is known for, but in a smaller package.
This cooker holds three cups of uncooked white or brown rice, which expands to six cups when cooked. The NS-LAC05XT uses a special rounded-bottom pan to promote even cooking and prevent stuck-on, dry rice grains. When you’re done cooking, simply remove it for washing. You can also remove this Zojirushi rice cooker’s inner lid, preventing built-up starch residue, and retract its cord for storage.
Zojirushi is famous for its large, family-size rice cookers, each with a host of features. Not everyone needs a big appliance, however. If you’ve been hoping for a higher-end rice cooker but tend to cook for just one or two, the NS-LAC05XT could be ideal.
This cooker has a built-in clock, so you know what the time is at a glance. It also trades in the grating buzzer or beep of most rice cookers for a pleasant melody, so you know when your rice is finished.
Want to make a risotto, pilaf, or jambalaya?
Try the mixed rice setting to make an entire dish in one pot.
Listen: the Zojirushi NS-LAC05XT does have a few flaws. Even though this is one of the company’s smaller rice cookers, it still can’t make a very small amount of rice. Stick to cooking at least a cup of dry rice at a time to prevent sticking. It’s also important to wash the cooking pot by hand to preserve the non-stick finish. With a little care, however, the NS-LAC05XT could be the best rice cooker for your little kitchen!
What we liked:
Plays melody when cook-time has finished
Mixed-rice setting allows cooking pilaf and other complete rice dishes
This eight-setting rice cooker controls cooking electronically, sensing when your rice is done. It makes up to 10 cups of brown or white rice, as well as mixed rice dishes and porridge. Plus, you can steam vegetables and fish for a complete meal.
There are so many ways to make a meal with this single appliance!
To help you know when your meal is ready, the NS-TSC10 offers your choice of melody or beeping sounds. If you aren’t ready to eat yet, the cooker will automatically switch to warming mode. A reheat mode lets you warm up rice later without burning or overcooking the grains. The NS-TSC10 even has a setting that makes cakes and other baked foods.
It’s a great all-purpose smart cooking device for anyone who makes a lot of rice.
Anyone who makes rice on a regular basis can tell you that it’s easy to outgrow a basic rice cooker.
At first, a simple model might seem ideal. Over time, we all know the feeling of needing more space or just a little more cooking control. If you eat rice-based dishes frequently, it might be time to upgrade to the Zojirushi NS-TSC10.
This larger rice cooker includes a BPA-free plastic steaming basket, for the healthiest possible meals. Like Zojirushi’s other higher-end devices, this one includes a removable inner lid and programmable timer. It also stands on sturdy plastic legs.
One word of caution!
Those legs are smooth-textured and don’t have enough traction on some countertops. Consider putting a mat under your rice cooker if you’re worried about it sliding.
This rice cooker tends to require longer to cook than cheaper models. That’s because precise, computer-controlled cooking takes a little more time than simple boiling. If you’re willing to adjust your dinner plans a little, the improved taste and texture is worth the wait!
What we liked:
Steam setting allows cooking of vegetables and meats along with rice
Two-setting delay timer
Detachable lid for easier washing
Built-in clock and timer
Wide variety of rice settings
What could be better:
Rice takes longer to make compared to low-end models
Smooth plastic legs lack traction on some counters
Another multi-cooker, the Tiger JAX-T18U-K is the choice for cooking a lot at once. This model can handle up to 10 cups of uncooked rice, producing 20 cups of cooked.
What else does it offer?
It also features an extra-thick inner pan for more even cooking, and 10 separate menu settings for rice, soups or steamed food. Its synchro-cook function lets you steam main dishes while still making perfect rice.
When you need to make a lot of rice at once, a small rice cooker just gets in the way. That’s when Tiger’s JAX-T18U-K comes to the rescue. It’s ready to make large quantities of white or brown rice, porridge or pilaf. Its non-rice functions also come in handy for making stews and steamed food, while the rice functions also work for other grains.
The JAX-T18U-K isn’t as versatile as some multi-cookers. It’s still primarily a rice cooker, and programming some of its more complex cooking modes can be tricky. If you’re sick and tired of dealing with a too-small cooker, however, Tiger’s 10-cup model is ideal.
What we liked:
Made in Japan for higher quality
Slow-cook and Steam functions for non-rice cooking
Zojirushi may be best-known for their high-tech, computerized rice cookers, they still offer the basics. After all, sometimes we all want the reliability of a rice cooker, but we aren’t cooking enough rice to justify a luxury model. That’s where the NHS-06 comes in handy.
This little round rice cooker makes up to 6 cups of cooked white rice. It operates the old-fashioned way, with a thermostat and a single button that pops up when the rice is done. Then, the pot switches to the warming mode and stays there for up to 5 hours. This device has a small footprint that works well in tiny apartments, RV kitchens, and just about anywhere else that space is limited.
Sometimes what you want is just plain rice, quickly and without too much hassle. With its classic design, the NHS-06 gives you just that. It’s easy to use, even if you’ve never owned a rice cooker before, and it works for small amounts. If you’d like a rice cooker that serves just one, this tiny Zojirushi model could be perfect.
We’ll be honest!
This rice cooker isn’t ideal if you need to cook a lot of brown rice or use your cooker to make soup or oatmeal. While you can perform those functions in the NHS-06, Zojirushi doesn’t recommend it. Instead, choose this little machine when you just need the basics.
It’s inexpensive and no-fuss!
What we liked:
Inexpensive compared to other appliances of the same brand
Detachable power cord for easy replacement or storage
Works for small quantities of rice
Easy to use, even for beginners
What could be better:
Non-stick pan lining can scratch or peel if handled roughly
Single setting does not adapt for different types of rice or grains
Tiger’s JBV-A10U-W is a computerized multi-cooker with a family-sized capacity. It makes up to 10 cups of white or brown rice, with temperatures automatically monitored throughout the cooking session. It also offers a slow-cook setting that allows the JBV-A10U-W to function like a dedicated slow cooker for stews and soups.
While most rice cookers can be used in conjunction with a steamer basket to cook vegetables, this model adds a specific function. The one-button synchro-cooking mode lets you steam a main dish while still maintaining the kind of temperature control you need for perfect rice. The result is a delicious meal without the need for complicated programming.
If you’re looking for a rice cooker with some versatility, but you don’t want to deal with the price tag of a high-end model, the Tiger JBV-A10U-W is a great buy.
This rice cooker offers the reliable cooking performance you expect from a fuzzy logic rice cooker, but at a much lower cost. No programming is required: each cooking function is accessible via large, readable buttons. Just pop in your food, push the button, and wait.
The JBV-A10U-W offers both brown and white rice cooking functions. It also works with other grains, such as millet or oats, but does not have specific functions for them. This cooker also lacks the retractable cord and programmable timer you might expect from bigger-name computerized devices.
For most of us, those missing features are more than made up for by the reduction in cost. Tiger’s fuzzy logic rice cooker is convenient and effective, and that’s what really counts.
What we liked:
Less costly than higher-end fuzzy logic cookers
Cooks both brown and white rice, as well as other grains
Are you tired of dealing with fancy rice cookers that still don’t do enough?The NP-NVC10 from Zojirushi could be the answer to your problems. This luxury cooker offers a huge range of computer-controlled settings, producing the perfect rice, every time. It includes a platinum-infused pot and induction heating system for more even heating, along with a pressure system to speed things up.
The NP-NVC10 handles both white and brown rice, as well as a host of variants like sushi rice, GABA brown rice, half-milled brown rice and more. Each of these different grains has its own cooking properties, and this rice cooker has been programmed to handle the minute changes in heat and moisture required. It also offers a steam-reduction setting, to keep the vent from warping your cabinets, and an umami setting that steams and soaks each grain for longer.
Traditional stove top rice cooking often features a crusty, golden layer at the bottom of the pot. Used for khao taen, guoba and other special treats, this crust doesn’t appear in most rice cookers. The NP-NVC10 has a special “scorch” mode for dishes that require rice crust. While it cooks, this appliance’s artificial intelligence feature will learn from the process, making rice more effectively each time.
It’s just about the best rice cooker that money can buy.
The Zojirushi NP-NVC10 is the rice cooker you choose when only the best will do. It offers a host of features, including the ability to learn from past cooking. Its high-quality design and build reflect the fact that it is made in Zojirushi’s Japanese factories, which handle the company’s higher-end products. The result is a device that makes amazing rice, no matter what kind you need to cook.
To be honest, you may not even need some of these features.
Most people don’t each scorched rice or sprouted GABA rice on an everyday basis. This device is also designed purely to be a rice cooker. For those of us who eat mostly rice-based foods, this is no problem. For those who want our rice cookers to slow-cook or bake cakes, it’s a little inconvenient.
If you love rice and you want the best rice cooker that money can buy, the NP-NVC10 is a strong contender. It offers almost every rice-related feature you could wish for, along with top-of-the-line quality. For situations where money is no object, but great rice is mandatory, the Zojirushi NP-NVC10 stands ahead of the rest.
What we liked:
LCD panel includes clock and programmable delay timer
Ever wanted to buy one kitchen appliance that cooks everything?
We’ve all had that feeling, and the Aroma Housewares ARC-616SB is ready to help. Ideal for big-batch cooking, this device makes up to 12 cups of cooked rice.
It also functions as a steamer and a slow cooker, with a sauté-then-simmer function that allows for pilafs and similar dishes. The ARC-616SB even stews meat and bakes bread or cakes. Its built-in Sensor Logic technology ensures that no matter which mode you choose, your food will come out perfect.
For households that need to make a lot of food at once, but don’t want to manage multiple appliances, there’s the Aroma ARC-616SB. Whether you’re stocking up on reheatable meals or making a big batch of rice for the next family gathering, this smart multi-cooker has you covered.
The advantages are obvious, aren’t they?
With eight separate functions, this device can make almost any meal you ask of it, up to 12 cups at a time. Despite its large capacity, however, the ARC-616SB takes up relatively little counter space. Plus, its detachable power cord makes it even smaller for storage.
Any drawbacks here?
To be honest, the ARC-616SB does have a few downsides. It tends to overcook the rice at the very bottom of the pot, especially in large batches. It also has an oatmeal setting that’s better with rolled oats than the steel-cut style. However, if you need a rice cooker that does a lot more than just make rice, this is the model for you.
What we liked:
Detachable power cord for easier replacement and storage
Small footprint on countertop
Effective multi-cooker for entire meals
What could be better:
Oatmeal setting not appropriate for steel-cut oats
Tends to overcook rice at the very bottom of the pot
This rice cooker offers a large capacity and fuzzy logic-controlled cooking features to help you make perfect rice in bulk. It includes four separate cooking functions, each controlled by a large, readable button. The SR-DF181 can cook up to 10 cups of dry rice, for a total 20 cup capacity.
What is the best part?
The quick-cook function allows it to operate as a steamer, while the porridge function works for soup, oatmeal and congee. Good choice for a healthy diet. It also includes a dishwasher-safe non-stick pot, for easier clean-up than appliances that are hand-wash-only.
Panasonic’s SR-DF181 is a large-capacity rice cooker with computerized functions that doesn’t require a programming degree to use.
Ever feel like you’re banging your head against the wall trying to use a more complicated multi-function device or a high-end computerized rice cooker?
The feeling is common, which is why Panasonic’s rice cooker has just a few, highly-visible buttons.
This lightweight rice cooker still offers high-quality results. Like more expensive devices, it’s pre-programmed to make minute changes in temperature and cooking time in order to always yield perfect rice. It does take a while to cook brown rice, and the instruction book can be a little hard to understand.
However, at this price point, it’s easy to overlook those issues in favor of a low-cost device that’s simple to use, every time.
What we liked:
One-button operation reduces confusion
Low price point for a fuzzy logic device
Light-weight and easy to transport
What could be better:
Long cooking time for brown rice
Disorganized instruction book
Things to Consider
How Does a Rice Cooker Work?
At its simplest, a rice cooker is an electric appliance that holds a removable non-stick pot. The pot sits above a heating element or induction burner. When you add rice and turn it on, the element heats up until all the water boils off and the pot reaches a certain temperature. Then, it shuts off to keep the rice from burning.
Many modern rice cookers add many more features and use a computer to track and adjust the temperature and moisture levels. These extra features help produce higher quality rice and increase the price of a rice cooker accordingly.
Some even include platinum-infused cooking vessels and special programs for sprouted rice or unusual grains. Under it all, however, they’re all still the same basic appliance.
Buying the Best Japanese Rice Cooker
It really all depends on how and what you cook. If your family loves rice at every meal and enjoys a variety of different kinds, the advanced features of a fuzzy logic-type cooker might fit the bill.
But what if that’s not like you at all?
If you eat rice along with a lot of other foods and don’t need special features, you’ll do better with a multi-cooker that also makes stews or bread. Some buyers won’t even want a Japanese rice cooker at all, preferring an American brand like Aroma.
With all the rice cookers on the market, how can anyone know where to start?
Let’s admit it: we’ve all felt that way.
Buying a rice cooker doesn’t have to feel like you’re lost, though. There are a few main features you can check out to make sure any potential appliance will do what you need. These include the capacity of the rice cooker, the thickness of the pot, the type of heat regulation, and whether the cooker is just meant for rice.
Big rice cookers are great for making a lot of rice at once, but they can be disappointing if you only need a serving or two. A small amount of rice spreads out over the bottom of the pot and gets dry and crusty. Try to buy a rice cooker sized for the amount you usually eat. It’s also a good idea to pick an appliance with a relatively thick pot. Thinner ones encourage uneven heating and poorly-cooked rice.
Which Japanese rice cooker is best for your kitchen?
Your rice cooker will generally use either a thermometer to determine when rice is done or a computerized control type called “fuzzy logic” or “micom”. Thermometer-controlled cookers usually work faster and cost less, but it comes at the expense of quality. A micom-type rice cooker takes longer, but it usually makes better rice.
Ask yourself if you want to cook just rice, or if you need your appliance to do more. Both rice-only and multi-function machines are common from Japanese manufacturers. The multi-function type can be more complicated to use, but are valuable in small kitchens.
Rice cooker designs run the gamut from older-style pot-shaped cookers to futuristic models that don’t look much like kitchen appliances. A few design elements stand out, however. Some of the best rice cookers have lots of removable pieces, so you can wash them all individually. This is especially handy if the pieces can be washed in the dishwasher.
The best designs also include large, easy-to-understand displays with simple menus. Oddly, some of the most costly rice cookers do poorly in this area. Look for a rice cooker that doesn’t require much-complicated programming, unless you absolutely need more control. Simpler appliances tend to get used more often, but overly-complex ones can make you feel like you’re in a never-ending battle just to schedule a cooking session.
How much difference can the bowl of a rice cooker make in the finished rice?
It turns out the answer is a lot! Thicker rice cooker pans heat more evenly, avoiding the hot spots that make rice stick to the bottom or overcook. In general, the thicker the pan, the better the rice.
Big rice cooker bowls aren’t necessarily better. In fact, some larger rice cookers don’t do a very good job at making small quantities of rice. Choose your appliance based on how much rice you normally make at any one time. Smaller appliances do tend to have more limited feature sets and are less likely to include options like cake mode.
If you know you don’t eat much rice at once, but you want a device with a larger bowl capacity, consider freezing the leftovers in individual portions. They reheat well and make great lunches!
Famous Japanese Rice Cooker Recipes
Almost any rice cooker can make more than just rice, but it might not be obvious right away.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could look up a whole series of recipes, just for your machine?
We thought so! It turns out that most Japanese rice cooker companies actually provide an online list of recipes. Some of them are even sorted according to which models or features they require. Check out the manufacturer’s website for your rice cooker today!
Don’t forget about it!
After all, you might get a defective model that needs repair or replacement. Rice cooker warranties vary a lot, but in general, you can expect a few things.
Most warranties are for six months to a year and cover material defects or problems with how the rice cooker is put together. They’ll usually require you to prove you bought the device, and you may have to ship it to an authorized repair center.
If you bought your rice cooker in the US, this is unlikely to be a problem. If you order directly from Japan, however, it’s a good idea to make sure you don’t need to mail your rice cooker back!
Japanese rice cookers use a rice serving size of about ¾ US cup. This is a standard unit for measuring dry rice in Japan.
Which model is the best Japanese rice cooker for your home?
It all depends on what you need it to do. If you and your family eat a rice-heavy diet and want a really reliable appliance, you might choose a large, micom-equipped cooker with lots of functions. If you don’t eat much rice at a time or you prioritize space over features, you might try a basic three-cup model.
Our choice for the best all-round Japanese rice cooker is still theZojirushi NS-ZCC10. At a 5.5-cup dry capacity, this rice cooker makes enough food to serve a crowd without requiring you to cook a banquet every time. It offers some extra functions like “Stay-cool” and “Neuro Fuzzy” technology, they’re easy to access and understand. Plus, most importantly of all, it makes fluffy, reliable rice!