The best rice cooker is the one that makes the whole cooking process so easy that you don’t have to do any thinking, tinkering, or babysitting as you await a bowl of plump, fragrant grains. That means, whenever the mood strikes, you’re halfway to garlicky fried rice, crispy pilaf, or congee. And while you definitely can make good rice without a rice cooker—in the oven, on the stove, salted with your own tears—do you want to? If you eat rice with any amount of frequency, invest in a rice cooker. And the best rice cooker, the one Bon Appétit food editors use daily, is the Zojirushi Micom 5.5-cup rice cooker and warmer.
Why is the Zojirushi Micom the very best rice cooker?
We’d confidently recommend any of the Zojirushi rice cooker models, which consistently produce flawlessly cooked rice. But our absolute favorite is the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 Micom rice cooker. Unlike the brand’s more basic, conventional rice cookers, Micom machines are equipped with a micro computer and smart technology the brand calls “fuzzy logic” that can modify the cooking time and temperature as needed to counteract human error. For instance, if you accidentally add too much liquid to the pot, it’ll sense that and auto-adjust so your grains don’t end up mushy. This Zojirushi Micom even has specific cook settings for different types of rice, such as long-grain, white, brown, or sushi rice. It comes with a nonstick pot that can hold 5.5 cups of rice and can keep grains at the right serving temperature for several hours with a Keep Warm setting. Aside from rice, it can steam other ingredients like veggies, dumplings, and even cake. We also like that the sleek LCD control panel and stainless steel exterior are both nice looking and easy to wipe clean.
If you’re in search of a truly foolproof, high-tech appliance that can erase your mistakes and tackle many types of grains, this is the machine for you. This shiny gadget has taken up permanent residence in our test kitchen, a calming presence at the center of a roomful of cooks. When everyone inevitably gets hangry by midday, all we have to do is quickly reheat a leftover protein, scramble a couple of eggs, or slice some avocado and break out the chile crisp to turn those still-warm, tender, fluffy grains into a meal. We promise, you’ll want to make room on the countertop for this kitchen appliance.
That said, if all you need is a simple pot of white rice, there are less inexpensive models that will get the job done. Below are a few more of our top picks, from no-fuss rice cookers to more tech-upgraded options.
Before everyone had an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, there was the Tatung steamer, which is a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and popcorn maker all in one. We love that this machine combines versatility with simplicity. Different from the contemporary multi-cookers with dozens of buttons and settings, the Tatung steamer is powered by a single on-off switch. Don’t let that fool you, though: This switch offers many cooking functions. BA contributor Clarissa Wei confirms that, yes, it produces textbook fluffy rice, but it can also cook fish, braise pork, and ferment yogurt—all thanks to indirect steamy heat, which hovers around an ideal 159°F. Bonus: You can find this rice cooker in a variety of monochromatic colors like white, green, and red, in addition to special releases like this pastel Hello Kitty version.
For a lo-fi, stovetop option that won’t take up any counterspace, consider this gorgeous ceramic number made by Japanese brand Hario. It’s like a tea kettle, compatible with gas or electric (although not induction) and ready to take up permanent residence on your stovetop. Simply fill the pot with your rice and liquid using the internal measurement markers, simmer until the cooker whistles, and let it steam off heat for 15 minutes. It works wonders for when you just need a small amount of rice—it comes in a two- and three-cup capacity—and the little steam vent on the glass lid helps to prevent any overflow. While this analog cooker doesn’t have any fancy settings, you can rest assured that it’ll make delicious white rice, jasmine rice, brown rice, basmati rice, and more.
Associate food editor Kendra Vaculin says this humble three-cup rice cooker is one of the best purchases she’s ever made. Unlike the more complicated Zojirushi models with a bunch of presets, the Zojirushi NHS-06 has one button for one thing—cooking an impeccable batch of rice—and it does so faster than its high-tech brethren (we’ve seen that it cooks three cups of rice in about half the time as the larger Zojirushis). “It’s compact enough to fit in my small apartment kitchen but makes more than enough rice for my needs since three cups of uncooked rice is about nine cups cooked,” Kendra says. “And it’s still going strong after seven years of constant use.” With a price tag under $50, we think this mini rice cooker is the best bang for your buck.
We weren’t lying when we said we’d gladly recommend any Zojirushi rice cooker, and this model is as high-tech as it gets. It comes with the same non-stick pot and Keep Warm function that our fave model boasts, and it can similarly cook multiple types of rice, tackle ingredients other than grains, and auto-adjust its settings. The main difference is that this rice cooker uses induction, which heats the whole pot rather than just the bottom. The result is the most evenly-cooked rice you’ll ever eat: Each grain comes out fluffy, tender, and more flavorful than rice cooked in any other machine. This is the appliance for rice and grain connoisseurs, but it will set you back a few hundred dollars.
Why should I buy a rice cooker in the first place? How does it work, and what can it do that a pot on the stovetop can’t?
The greatest advantage of making rice in an electric rice cooker versus on the stovetop is that you can press a button and walk away, unlike a needy pot that you have to babysit from start to finish. Have you ever forgotten to take a pot of rice off the flame? Yeah, us too. Rice cookers can detect when the water in the pot has been absorbed or converted to steam, at which point they either automatically shut off or keep the rice warm for a while. Some rice cookers, like our top pick, would make it impossible to screw up rice even if you wanted to—but we know you’d never want to do that.