Whether it's in the form of a fluffy scoop served alongside a crock of homemade chili or transformed into a luxurious risotto, rice is a filling and versatile pantry staple that will never go out of style. And it's no secret to many families all over the world that having a rice cooker in your corner can make the weeknight dinner hustle as easy as pressing a button. Yet with modern day multicookers that can apparently do everything short of washing the dishes for you, why consider an appliance that can't do much more than its name suggests? There's something to appreciate about the defiantly single-minded function and consistent results you can get from a unitasker like the rice cooker. Perfectly tender, fluffy grains of white or brown rice with next to no effort or babysitting on the part of the cook? That's not exactly something that the stovetop method can claim.
What to Look for When Buying a Rice Cooker
A rice cooker worth your counter space should be exceptionally easy to use, easier still to clean, and deliver perfect results every time. The good news is that since rice cookers have been around for a while, brands for all budgets have the formula pretty much down pat. All machines work in a similar way: As the rice cooks, an internal thermometer detects when the rice is finished and will automatically switch the machine from cooking mode to a "keep warm" setting, which holds the rice at a food-safe temperature until you're ready to fluff and scoop.
Pricier models tend to have more bells and whistles, such as temperature settings that cater to specific varieties of rice, and different functions you can use like steam, slow-cook, simmer, and more. Whether you're looking for an ultra-precise, tech-heavy machine, or a more basic "press and go" cooker, we found models that fit the bill.
Looking to go all out? The Zojirushi brand is a favorite among the gadget-geek class. While the Zojirushi "NS-TSC10 Micom" Rice Cooker and Warmer ($155.84, amazon.com), is one of the more expensive options available, the technology it comes with justifies the price tag for many. Containing "fuzzy logic" technology in the form a microchip, this rice cooker can sense moisture and temperature levels, then adjust things when necessary. Think of it like having a trusty little robot on your team who oversees the process from the inside and will save the day when an unfortunate human error occurs. It makes up to 10 cups of rice.
There's no shame in wanting an appliance that looks pretty on your counter—after all, something that is both beautiful and useful is bound to be used more. Featuring a pearlescent pink exterior, LCD screen, and the same kind of microchip technology that makes cooking rice a goof-proof endeavor, the Cuckoo "CR-0631F" Rice Cooker ($103.04, amazon.com) is more affordable than the Zojirushi and gives the quality a run for its money. It has a slightly larger capacity than the Zojirushi model does.
The Budget Buy
The beauty of this type of rice cooker is how simple it is: After adding your rice and water, you press just one button and you're off to the races. The Oster Six-Cup Rice Cooker with Steamer ($32.24, amazon.com) is a workhorse (and fan-favorite) able to produce great results every time. With its smaller capacity—it yields six cups of cooked rice per batch—it's great for smaller families. If you're rice-cooker-curious, this would be a low-risk model to start with.
The rice cooker button on a multicooker like the six-quart capacity Instant Pot "Duo 60 321" Electric Pressure Cooker ($79, amazon.com) may be overlooked in reviews in favor of its flashier functions like its yogurt-making capabilities and pressure-cooking prowess, but it is worth pointing out that this gadget can cook a batch of rice with the best of them. The only issue that may crop up is if you want rice as a side dish to a recipe that requires the multicooker, so if you tend to use your instant pot a lot for things that could benefit from a bed of fluffy rice, like braises and curries, you may want to consider adding a rice cooker to the gadget cabinet.