A rice cooker may not be a staple kitchen gadget, but for anyone who eats rice regularly – or wants to try cooking a wider range of Asian dishes – it’s an essential item. The best rice cookers can produce consistently great high-quality rice in a way that even those skilled with a saucepan couldn’t manage.
A rice cooker allows you to leave the rice cooking unattended and also keep your rice warm, meaning you can leave it covered for a little while without the worry it’ll go cold or need reheating.
The rice cookers listed below are the best that we’ve tested at Expert Reviews. Before that, though, we’ll take you through the basics: if you want to find out more about what to look out for when buying a rice cooker, read on.
READ NEXT: The best slow cookers for easy one-pot meals
How to choose the best rice cooker for you
What’s the difference between budget and high-end rice cookers?
Electric rice cookers can vary dramatically in price. All the models we’ve tested start at just over £20 and peak as high as £330, with mid-range models costing around £100. The reason for this huge variance in price is due to the differences in the way cheap rice cookers work compared to costlier models.
All electric home rice cookers consist of a removable bowl (usually ceramic or metal) that fits inside a pot. At the bottom of the pot is a heating element. Once the bowl is filled with water and rice and you’ve started the cooking process, the heating element boils the water.
Some cheap rice cookers will turn off the heating element once the boiling point has been reached and maintained for a set period; others will cease boiling once the weight of the bowl’s contents has decreased past a certain point, due to the rice absorbing some water with the rest boiled away as excess steam. At this point, your rice should be ready to eat.
The majority of mid-range and high-end rice cookers take a more sophisticated approach. Most models costing around £100 or more are equipped with processors, commonly marketed as “fuzzy-logic” or “AI” chips, and sensors. They can automatically adjust the cooking time, the temperature and the rate of temperature increase, similar to the way you would do so manually using a saucepan and the temperature controls on your hob.
How can I make sure I don’t cook too much or too little rice?
There should be no guesswork or trial and error involved as to how much water you need. All electric rice cookers come with a rice measuring scoop. These vary in size, but usually hold around 140g of rice on average – usually enough rice for one person. There are measuring notches on the inside of the bowl marked with the number of rice scoops – 2, 4, 6, 8 and so on. If you’re only cooking two scoops of rice, then you only fill the bowl with water up to the 2 point and so forth. Some rice cookers require more or less water than usual to cook different varieties of rice; the amount of water needed will be detailed in the cooker’s manual.
Are all rice cookers capable of cooking any type of rice?
Most cheap rice cookers can only cook long-grain rice and even then only to a basic standard of quality. Basmati, the curry house staple we’re all familiar with, is a long-grain rice. Pricier rice cookers can handle other types – notably short-grain rice, the type used in risotto as well as Thai and Japanese dishes, and more exotic rice-based dishes using presets chosen from a control panel on the front of the rice cooker.
What’s the best feature on a dedicated rice cooker?
One feature that every rice cooker has – as everyone will use it – is the “keep warm” feature. Once your rice has finished cooking, the rice cooker will keep it warm for you so you can top up your plate or have a hot dinner on standby for anyone coming home late.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best pressure cookers
1. Russell Hobbs Rice Cooker and Steamer 19750: The best budget rice cooker for big households
Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon
A neat rice cooker that’s a real crowd-pleaser. It can make up to ten cups of rice and features fuss-free controls, an auto-switch-off after cooking and a keep-warm function – great for big family dinners, entertaining or weekend batch cooking. It’ll double up as a steamer thanks to a special basket, so you can gently cook fish, potatoes and vegetables using zero added fat. Its non-stick cooking bowl is removable and comes with a spatula for scraping out every last grain, and there’s a measuring cup included so you don’t have to hunt for your scales. A sleek stainless-steel finish and glass lid mean it’s smart enough to have out on display, too.
Russell Hobbs 19750 Rice Cooker and Steamer, 1.8 Litre, Silver
2. Lakeland Mini Multi Cooker: Best small rice cooker
Price: £50 | Buy now from Lakeland
This dinky little multi-cooker is the perfect size for anyone with a small or shared kitchen. It’s not the prettiest appliance but the easy-to-use interface more than makes up for its clunky aesthetics. As well as making yoghurt, porridge and cakes, the Lakeland can slow cook and, of course, there’s its rice cooking function. It offers dedicated modes for cooking rice – white rice, brown rice and quick cook – and its performance was surprisingly good considering its price.
Indeed, when tested alongside more expensive cookers, there was little difference in either the taste or texture of the rice. We did notice some steam escaping from under the lid during the cooking process, which wasn’t evident on pricer alternatives and this also caused condensation on the top of the appliance. However, it didn’t negatively affect the rice as long as we left it to sit for a few minutes after fluffing. Another surprise is the amount of rice it can hold. Despite being marketed as a mini version of the original multi-cooker, it can still feed up to four people.
Buy now from Lakeland
3. Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus: Best does-it-all pressure cooker that’s great for rice
Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon
If you can’t quite justify buying a separate rice cooker or have been considering a multi cooker for a while, this latest offering from Instant Pot is a fantastic choice, especially for meat-eaters. Its pressure cooking function works like a dream, breaking down even the toughest cuts and the preset functions for rice produce fluffy white grains for three people in around 22 mins. It has preset functions for other types of rice too and even if your favourite rice isn’t available as a preset, there are plenty of recipes online and on the Instant Pot App to help you produce perfect rice.
The real seller here is that you can also saute, steam, slow cook and so much more from the same pot, so it really does give you the benefit of having a rice cooker and more, without drowning in kitchen appliances. We’re also big fans of the new Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus design. The digital interface is both stylish and incredibly easy to use, making it ideal for keen cookers who are trying out pressure cooking for the first time.
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus 10-in-1, 5.7L Electric Pressure Cooker, Sterilizer, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Grain Maker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker, Sous Vide, Bake, and Warmer 220V
4. Tefal RK302E15 8-in-1 Multi Cooker: Best rice cooker for brown rice and other grains
Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon
The Tefal is the most multitalented device of all the cookers here. With eight cooking modes to choose from, the RK302E15 eight-in-one Multi Cooker is capable of cooking white rice, brown rice, grains, porridge, slow cooking, steaming and making dessert too. If you’ve got a smaller kitchen and can’t justify taking up precious space with a device that just cooks rice, this could be just the ticket.
The various settings work well, and although the rice cooking performance isn’t up to the standards of the Sage, and far less refined more expensive models, it puts in a solid performance across the board. If all you want is a cheap do-it-all cooker that can handle multiple kitchen tasks with ease, then the Tefal is a cracking buy.
Tefal RK302E15 Multicook 8-in-1 Multicooker, (4 Portions), 600 W, 5 Litre Silver
5. Yum Asia Bamboo Induction: Best all-round rice cooker
Price: £189 | Buy now from Amazon
With its high-tech cooking process and bundles of functions, the Bamboo eight-person rice cooker is one for the connoisseurs. It uses a fuzzy-logic microchip and induction heating to make smart adjustments to the temperature as the rice is cooking, while the simple touchscreen offers ten preset functions. These include options for white, brown and short-grain rice, as well as the Yumami setting, which cooks and steams white rice for a sweeter tasting grain.
The GABA setting is another unique cooking option that supposedly releases additional nutrients from brown rice by germinating the grain. We couldn’t ascertain whether the rice was more nutrient-dense during testing, but its texture was noticeably softer and it certainly had a slightly different taste. There’s also a porridge setting, which can be used to make congee and a crust setting for Persian Tahdig. You can also steam, bake cakes and slow cook in the Bamboo Induction, making it a truly multifunctional cooker.
Cooking times vary depending on the weight of the rice and water, but the cooker alerts you when there’s ten minutes cooking time left and beeps when the rice is done. It then stays toasty on the keep-warm function until you turn it off, which is perfect if you need to leave the house.
Yum Asia Bamboo Rice Cooker with Induction Heating (IH) and Ceramic Bowl, 7 Rice Cooking Functions, 4 Multicooker Functions, Motouch LED Display (1.5L) 220-240V UK/EU Power (Champagne Rose and Black)
6. Joseph Joseph 45002 M-Cuisine: Best microwave rice cooker
Price: £21 | Buy now from Amazon
For the occasional rice cooker, this microwavable pot from Joseph Joseph is the easiest way to achieve fluffy white rice without the hassle. The ingenious little tub means there’s no more watching over your saucepan, worrying about whether your rice is too wet or too dry. Using the cup measure included, simply pop the desired amount of rice and right amount of water into the pot, put the lid on a set it going in your microwave.
Not only is this handy microwave cooker stylish, but it’s also dishwasher safe and small enough to be suitable for all small kitchens and households. So whether you’re in a flat, house share or in student accommodation, this nifty little kitchen tool is just the ticket.
Joseph Joseph 45002 M-Cuisine Microwave Rice Cooker Grain, Plastic, Orange/Beige
7. Sage by Heston Blumenthal Risotto Plus: The best mid-price rice cooker
Price: £65 | Buy now from John Lewis
This multipurpose home rice cooker isn’t the flawless five-star appliance you might expect from its celebrity-chef branding and endorsement. Even so, it’s reasonably inexpensive, looks good, is easy to use and cooks long-grain rice to a good standard in very little time. It even comes with a handy, well-designed steamer, so you can cook your vegetables along with your rice.
You have to jump through some hoops to cook good-quality short-grain rice, though, and the mess it generates while doing so will require extra cleanup. Even then, it’s not up to the standard of more expensive rice cookers. Still, it’s a good alternative if your budget can’t stretch to accommodate more expensive models.
Read our full Sage by Heston Blumenthal Risotto Plus review for details
Buy now from John Lewis
How we test rice cookers
All the rice cookers are put through a barrage of tests. We measure the time taken to cook both two scoops of long grain rice and then two scoops of short-grain white rice – common, inexpensive types of rice that are found in almost all supermarkets. The times quoted in the individual reviews don’t include the five-minute resting time most rice cooker manufacturers recommend – this resting period allows even more excess water to be boiled away as steam, which should result in less soggy rice.
It’s worth remembering that cooking times can vary – especially with the processor-controlled “fuzzy logic” models as these will adjust cooking times automatically as needed. Even so, our results should give you an idea of what to expect. Even if cooking times are long, this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage – some of the models with the longest cooking times also produced the best quality rice. Plus, that time can be used to cook the rest of your meal or attend to other household tasks.
What makes for the best-quality rice?
What makes for good-quality cooked rice is inherently subjective, but we think the vast majority of people would agree with our criteria. White long grain rice should have fully separate grains that don’t stick or clump together, as well as a soft bite.
Short grain rice, on the other hand, should stick together and be fluffy and soft too – much more so than long grain rice. Neither type of rice should be sodden with excess water that hasn’t been boiled away, as this makes for very unpleasant eating. To measure that, we weigh the bowl for each rice cooker filled with enough short-grain rice for two people and the appropriate amount of water before cooking. We then weigh the finished results (and subtract the weight of the bowl itself, of course, from both figures). The greater the difference in the before and after weights, the better the rice should be.
Cooking rice without the mess
I also looked out for easy-to-use controls: nothing is more frustrating than a fiddly kitchen appliance when you’re trying to sort out dinner for a hungry family. Just as important is ease of cleaning. Contrary to the recommendations of most manufacturers, we didn’t rinse our rice before cooking to remove excess starch.
Not only because most busy home cooks won’t have the time or patience for this, but also because we wanted to see how much mess each rice cooker created. Claggy bits of rice, gunk and filmy residue covering both the inside and outside of a rice cooker were a frequent sight on some models. This is obviously far from ideal for an appliance of convenience.
Cheap rice cookers tend to have saucepan-style lids with a simple system for expelling steam: a small hole. Pricier models with a hinged lid and an inner seal for retaining as much heat as possible have a modestly more elaborate venting system for expelling steam. This should be as easy to disassemble and clean as possible.
Once you’ve experienced the convenience and consistently high-quality cooking of a top-notch rice cooker, trust us – you’ll never want to go back to your saucepan.