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Rice, a staple of human diet for centuries, is also a pain to cook (or so I’ve been told). If you’re not careful, it can turn out mushy, or worse — burned! As tasty and versatile as this food is, a solution had to be found, to get perfect rice every time, no matter the cooking skill and how the stars aligned.
The first automated rice cooker, or Suihanki, was ushered in by Toshiba in 1955. This trusty appliance has undergone some changes in the decades since, many of which will directly affect the unit you choose to go for. We’ll start by diving into what makes them unique, followed by a breakdown of some great choices out there.
See also: Want to put that rice cooker to good use? Make some authentic Spanish Paella with one of these pans from our reviews of the top Paella pans!
The Defining Traits of a Rice Cooker
By now you may be wondering, what changes between one rice cooker and another? The answer is, more than you might think! Let’s break it down:
In other words, how many cups of rice it can fit. Most often, “rice” here means raw rice. When cooked, your yield will amount to roughly double what you poured in. A unit with capacity for 1-3 cups should be enough to feed a small family. There are others out there, large enough to take 20 cups, which are intended to serve you in a commercial setting. Counter and storage space should be kept in mind when deciding on size.
Most likely you have seen a rice cooker and figured there’s not much depth to them. You might be surprised! There are several types to choose from.
For example, have you heard of micom rice cookers? The moniker comes from “microcomputer”. They have a chip that constantly monitors your rice so it will be cooked to perfection without overflowing. Induction heat cookers, even if less sophisticated, are still innovative in the way they apply heat through the entire pot instead of just radiating it from a bottom plate. And how would you like to cook rice in your microwave? The right choice will make it possible!
Perhaps surprisingly, rice cookers vary wildly in terms of looks. Some of them are made in stainless steel, which gives them a rather contemporary look. Some others are offered in a variety of colors. Some more could even be described as “cute”. If you have a theme going on in your kitchen, or if you prefer a specific color range, then this will be fairly relevant.
Some cookers will have extra features such as timer, sealed lid, warm setting, or an app to control them from a distance. Some times, you will find they have separate cooking settings for different types of rice, or for vegetables, pasta, and so on. An option here and there will include accessories such as a steamer, which enables you to make a full meal with the same appliance, or measuring spoons, pasta drainer, and more!
If you like to keep your cooking as simple as possible, you could get a cooker with one-touch operation: push one button, and forget about it. There’s also something called Fuzzy Logic: this technology adjusts parameters such as temperature in real time, to maximize cooking performance. Furthermore, some cookers will be better at handling brown rice, which has become quite popular of late thanks to its nutritional value.
As you can see, if you got the budget for it, you don’t have to settle!
The body will usually be metal, although this can vary from one type to another (microwave cookers, for example, are made of plastic). Where it can change more frequently, however, is in the non-stick coating.
As with most appliances nowadays, you will have two main options: ceramic; generally considered the most harmless; and Teflon, the most common, which has raised some concerns about potential links to cancer. The relevant component, perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is considered a negligible risk by the American Cancer Association, but you can always go for an option with a ceramic-coated bowl for added piece of mind.
So many options out there, which ones stand out? Below you will find some alternatives to keep in mind.
This brown rice friendly option is a pick worth considering if you aim for top capacity. This unit will yield 20 cups of cooked rice, and can handle vegetables or even (yes, you’re reading this right) a cake!
The built-in steam function creates additional space towards the top, allowing you to cook an extra dish while the bottom takes care of your rice or soup. While it gives you the option to control time and temperature manually, it features 7 cooking options, each accessible through one corresponding button. These options include slow cooking and a proprietary Sauté-Then-Simmer (STS) option that applies high heat to brown food and then switches to a temperature appropriate for simmering when liquid is added. This adds several options to its repertoire, such as Spanish rice. When done, the unit switches to keeping warm all on its own, so you don’t have to worry about hurrying back.
Its inner pot is conventional non-stick. Includes a measuring cup, steam tray, soup spoon and plastic rice spatula.
- Affordable way to gain high rice-cooking capacity.
- Functional: easy to operate, with useful accessories and a decent number of cooking features.
- Cleaning is easy: cooking pot and accessories are dishwasher safe.
- Impractical lid: it cannot be detached for cleaning, and it does not seal or lock, which can lead to hot water spilling out.
- A recurrent complaint is that it undercooks rice.
A nice alternative if you’re looking for sophistication: its look and design give an unmistakable contemporary vibe, and its built-in cooking functions enable you to cook rice, quinoa, oatmeal and more, without much fuss. The inner lid is removable, as is the steam vent cap.
This one gets quite a few extra features. For example, you get to pick how you want to be notified at certain moments: you cannot change the signal for when reheating begins, but you get three alert choices for start of cooking, timer set or cooking/reheating complete: these choices are a) a melody, b) a beep pattern, and c) none, i.e. silent. The inner cooking pan has filling markings etched so you know the level you need to meet when cooking specific foods.
Its 3-cup capacity is nothing to write home about, but it should be enough to feed a small family.
- Plenty of unique details, such as the interchangeable melody.
- Cooks slower than other options, requiring to reserve longer times for preparing meals.
- Due to its advanced technology it is priced a bit high, especially for its size.
This might be a good fit for you if you are on a tight budget and don’t mind a minimalistic approach: this cooker takes advantage of your microwave to prepare, not only rice, but also vegetables and pasta. To this end, it includes everything you need: inserts for draining pasta and steaming vegetables, pasta measurer, rice paddle, 6 measuring cups and 4 measuring spoons. The lid features a locking mechanism to keep the food contained. Dishwasher safe.
- Easy to clean, store away and operate.
- Its rather simple looks might make it an ill fit for certain kitchen aesthetics.
- It can occasionally overflow and soak the bottom of the microwave.
- No instruction manual or reference for cooking.
It comes with the essentials: steam tray, measuring cup and spatula. You can cook an additional dish on the top while the rice is worked on at the bottom. Fits 3 cups of uncooked rice for a yield of 6 cups after cooking.
Operation is through one button. One light indicates cooking, another turns on for when food is being kept warm. The tempered glass lid allows full view of the food within. 3 colors available.
- Easy to operate, no need to take a guess at temperature and time.
- Reliable performance at a fairly accessible price.
- No-frills look and some variety in color might help it match different kitchen aesthetics.
- Even though it touts a 3 cup capacity for uncooked rice, filling it to this degree can cause overflowing. Best results have been reported with 2 cups.
- Non-stick coating on the pot can flake off with relative ease.
You can get it in 2 sizes: 5.5-cup and 10-cup. Its Syncro-cooking function adds the capacity to cook your rice and your main dish of choice at the same time. 4 cooking settings built-in, including slow cooking. Includes a cooking plate, non-stick spatula, measuring cup, and a cookbook for use with the Syncro-cooking function. Pan’s non-stick coating is PFOA-free.
Operating this unit has been made quite simple: a single push of a specific button, and the cooker does the rest. The maker recommends to use only the included cup to measure the rice.
- Simplified operation.
- Appealing look.
- A decent amount of accessories included.
- Not known to be long-lived.
This is quite low priced and comes in different colors. It can handle, aside from rice, several other foods such as stew, soup, quinoa and more. Capacity is 2 cups.
This appliance is operated with one button. Food is ready in 20 minutes, after which the unit goes into keep warm mode without further intervention needed. Includes rice paddle, measuring cup and removable PFOA-free pot.
- Easy access to additional recipes.
- Fairly portable, it can travel anywhere.
- Reliable, affordable and in a variety of colors, which makes it good for starting households or as a gift.
- Too small to handle more than one course, or feed a family. Better suited for only one person.
- Simplistic design leaves most variables out of the user’s hands, such as temperature and time.
From the company that pioneered the rice cooker comes this appliance, touting 3D cooking technology and cooking process comprised of 6 steps. Steam and heat are preserved by the non-stick pot and built-in valve to optimize results.
7 preset cooking functions allow cooking of rice of different sorts (long grain, brown, white), as well as porridge, oatmeal, and more. At 12 cups (cooked) capacity it is able to serve a medium sized family. Additional features such as 2-option delay timer, digital display, 24-hour keep-warm and proprietary Quick Rice function make for a fairly attractive option, which is widely considered to have optimal performance. Includes: serving Spatula, soup ladle, steam basket and measuring cup. Pot is conventional non-stick.
- Modern look.
- Decent amount of additional features and accessories.
- It can be moved around even when hot, thanks to the built-in handle.
- Easy cleaning thanks to removable inner lid and vent.
- Its innovative features and reputable brand are reflected on the price; might be out of reach for a low budget.
- Power cord is rather short.
While priced a bit high, its features help justify the purchase. The Neuro Fuzzy Logic technology handles the minimal adjustments when cooking, and the LCD screen displays clock and timer. Cord is retractable. Certain audio indicators are customizable, and the handle helps move the unit around without risk.
The inner pan is non-stick, in spherical shape for more uniform heating. Cooking functions include white rice, mixed, porridge, brown and semi brown rice; as well as rinse-free and quick cooking. Includes rice spoon, spoon holder, 2 measuring cups and recipes. Only the cups included should be used for measuring rice for cooking, to ensure best results.
- Spoon holder keeps the utensil close at all times.
- Rather unique looks that should be a nice addition to almost any kitchen.
- Very slow to cook even with quick cooking mode.
- Cooking results for rice can be less than desirable, especially after being used for some time.
Will Treat Your Rice Best: Toshiba TRCS01
See also: Thanks for checking out these reviews! If you want to see more, check out our reviews to find the best Dutch oven out there!
The company responsible for this innovation has not stopped caring. This trusty unit provides extra value with its several preset functions for cooking, Fuzzy Logic technology, 6-step process, and intuitive controls and screen. It keeps some of the most useful traits of the average cooker, such as steam tray for cooking a separate dish at the same time, delay timer, and function to keep your food warm for up to 24 hours. Its handle allows it to be transported with ease. By looks, it should be a boon to any space it is brought into. And for an extra touch, one of its included spoons is bamboo!
The asking price may be a bit steep, but it does not feel entirely unfair. This is an appliance that should serve you faithfully for quite a while. We did it: no more worries when cooking rice!