With so many options on the market, which one is best? We cooked 50 batches of rice to find out.
Last Updated Aug. 25, 2023. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 22: Vindaloo and Chana Masala
We recently tested two rice cookers from Zojirushi and Toshiba that are new to the market; they each employ induction cooking. We liked both machines, but neither consistently produced rice that was better than rice cooked in our winning rice cooker, Zojirushi 5.5-Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer.
The best rice cookers consistently prepare multiple varieties of rice well with the push of a button. We found two models that make exceptional rice and are also easy to use and clean. The Zojirushi 5.5-Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer is our top performer, followed closely by the Toshiba 6-Cup Rice Cooker with Fuzzy Logic. They both have clearly labeled measurement lines inside their cooking bowls and audible alerts that signal when they have finished cooking and switched to their keep-warm settings. And since both machines have removable inner lids and slick nonstick-coated cooking bowls, they are a breeze to clean. The Zojirushi came out on top due to the convenient plastic handles on either side of its cooking bowl, which protected our hands from the heat when scooping cooked rice.
You can make rice on the stovetop (or in the oven), but there are advantages to using a rice cooker: The process is mostly hands-off and yields consistent results from batch to batch. Plus, a rice cooker can keep cooked rice warm for hours without sacrificing quality. Rice cookers were developed for home use in Japan in the 1950s. Prior to that, Japanese home cooks used a centuries-old technique of preparing rice in either a cast-iron hagama or an earthenware donabe on a kamado (wood-burning stove). The electric rice cooker automated and simplified this time- and labor-intensive process first in Japan and then around the world.
So how do rice cookers work? There are two main ways. Most electric rice cookers use a hot plate (a resistive heating element) located beneath the cooking bowl to generate heat; the heat then travels through the cooking bowl to the food. But some modern cookers use induction heating, a different technology that causes the bowl to heat up directly by subjecting it to an electromagnetic field. Either way, the water in the bowl heats up, the rice absorbs the water as it cooks, and steam escapes through a vent in the top of the machine. A sensor inside the machine registers when the temperature rises above 212 degrees—the highest temperature water can reach when not heated under pressure, indicating to the machine that all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated. Every model in our lineup automatically switches to a “keep warm” setting when the rice is done cooking.
We’re happy to report that most of these machines made acceptable rice the very first time we used them, though some machines initially produced wetter rice than others. Rice cookers are designed to take the guesswork out of making rice, but there was a learning curve with certain machines. With some small adjustments to th...
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Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.