Rice is a staple of countless cultures’ cuisines.
Japanese rice cookers make the process of cooking perfect rice easy. It’s no surprise that some of the best rice cookers come from Japan, where perfectly cooked rice is not a side dish, it is an art form.
Of course, it’s possible to cook rice in a regular pot, but this method requires time and vigilance to make sure the rice cooks properly and doesn’t stick to the pot or burn. The secret to perfectly prepared rice is choosing a good Japanese rice cooker.
In this article, I’m going to give you the low-down on everything you need to know and provide in-depth reviews of some of the best Japanese rice cookers out there.
How do Japanese Rice Cookers Work?
The first electric Japanese rice cooker arrived on the market in 1955, and they soon became a popular appliance around the world. Today, rice cookers are very versatile, and many cook foods other than rice!
The four phases of cooking rice are:
A rice cooker takes the rice through each of these phases automatically. Rinse the grains of rice in clean water to wash off any dust or dirt. Then add the rice and water to the Japanese rice cooker pot.
The heating plate warms and cools to the right temperatures for each stage of the cooking. Once all the water boils off, the temperature inside the pot begins to rise, and the heating element switches to warming mode to allow the rice to go into the “resting” phase.
Heating Technology in Japanese Rice Cookers
Rice cookers automate the process, minimize the risk for mistakes, and free you to do other things while they make the perfect batch of rice, and many have other cooking capabilities.
Conventional Rice Cookers
Simple rice cookers work by transferring heat from a heating plate to the metal cooking pot. The pot is made with aluminum, copper, or another metal that conducts heat well.
Simple rice cookers usually don’t have a non-stick cooking pot, making cleanup a potential chore. In most cases, the only automated feature is the auto-shutoff at the end of the cook cycle. Many models don’t have lights or a way to indicate where it is in the cooking cycle.
Most simple rice cookers are in the $30 to $75 price range. It is a good investment for any budget-conscious person who values convenience.
Micom Rice Cookers
Higher-end Japanese rice cookers have a computer chip and thermal sensors that allow it to make adjustments to the temperature or cooking time throughout the process. Think of them as smart-rice-cookers.
The main benefit of a “fuzzy logic” rice cooker is that they usually have different settings and quick-cook cycles to cook different varieties of rice perfectly. Some even allow you to set your texture preference, whether you like sticky, hard, or soft rice.
In addition to cooking rice to perfection, Japanese rice cookers with fuzzy logic often have settings that allow you to cook other foods like soup or even bread!
The best Micom or “fuzzy logic” rice cookers are in the $125 to $150 range, and quality brands last for many years.
Induction Heating Rice Cookers
These are the most modern type of Japanese rice cooker. Instead of using an electrical heating plate, rice cookers that use induction heating cook using an alternating electric current from the wall outlet.
Cooking rice with induction heat allows the temperature sensors to be more accurate because the heat surrounds the whole pot instead of radiating up from the bottom of the pan, cooking more evenly.
Induction heating rice cookers offer simplicity and precise cooking, but they are quite expensive, starting at about $180. But even an absent-minded cook like me can make a perfect batch of rice with an induction rice cooker.
Rice Cookers with Pressurized Induction Heating
These are the most high-end rice cookers. They raise the cooking temperature by cooking under high pressure. The pressurized environment even affects how the rice cooks, allowing you to make softer, fluffier rice.
An added benefit of pressurized rice cookers is that they can keep the rice warm for up to 24 hours.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Japanese Rice Cooker
Unless you are planning to purchase a basic, bare-bones rice cooker, there are dozens of features and things to consider. Let’s take a look.
What Will You Cook?
A rice cooker can do more than just cook rice if you would like. If you only plan to cook plain rice, then a simple rice cooker will probably suit your needs. If you would like to cook other types of rice or add things like vegetables, meat, or grains, then you should consider investing in a rice cooker with additional settings.
If you would like the option to cook other foods like soup, stews, grains, or bread, then you should look at a “multi-task cooker” that has several settings. These cost more but are likely worth the investment.
How Many People Will You be Cooking For?
Rice cookers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 1 to 10 cups of uncooked rice. On average, one person eats about one cup of rice per serving.
Of course, leftovers are always a plus, but if you only plan to cook enough rice for one or two people at a time, a smaller rice cooker will be more efficient.
Additional Features to Consider
If you are looking at rice cookers with a lot of extra features, it can get overwhelming and even a bit tedious to learn. However, some of the features are nice to have—like a delayed cook setting.
Imagine coming home from work to a pot of piping hot, perfectly fluffy rice already made!
Or think of how convenient it will be to make a pot of steaming soup this winter and keep it warm for hours without leaving your stove on. Some rice cookers have a convenient steamer basket for veggies. A removable inner bowl makes serving and cleaning much easier—especially if it is dishwasher safe.
What is Your Budget?
Japanese rice cookers range from $20 for the most basic to as much as $350 for one with all the bells and whistles. As you explore different options and features, make a note of all your “must-have” features.
There is surely a rice cooker in your price range that will serve you well.
Top Five Japanese Rice Cookers
There are hundreds of rice cookers on the market and a lot of competition!
We looked at dozens and selected five that perform well, offer great features, and consistently garner excellent reviews.
Zojirushi blends function and design in this sleek little rice cooker easily handles 5.5 cups of rice at a time. It uses “fuzzy logic” technology to “think” as it makes fine adjustments throughout the cooking process.
The nonstick inner cook pot is designed for uniform cooking and warming. It has side handles that stay cool so you can easily remove the pot and serve piping hot rice.
Both the cooking pot and inner lid are detachable for convenient serving and cleanup. There is even a fold-down handle to carry the cooker easily to your next potluck.
The LCD display makes the menu, clock, and timer easy to read. Choose from a dizzying number of options like porridge, sweet rice, white rice, brown rice, quick cooking, and many others.
- Advanced “fuzzy logic” technology
- Many menu settings to choose from
- Easy to read color LCD display
- Spherical cooking pot and heating system for more even cooking
- Removable cooking pot with handles and inner lid
- Folding handle for convenient transport
- Retractable cord
- Includes two measuring cups, a spatula, and spatula holder
- Cooking times can vary depending on the type of rice
- Some people find the beeping notifications bothersome
One thing that sets the Tiger brand apart is their inner cooking bowls made of thick stainless steel. It is easy to clean and won’t transfer unwanted flavors to your rice.
The Micom smart technology uses sensors to adjust time and temperature throughout the cooking process, and the LCD display screen makes it easy to use. While this rice cooker has many great features, it is easy to learn so you won’t spend frustrating hours figuring out how to use it.
The Tiger JAX rice cooker also steams, slow cooks, makes different types of rice, and can even cook two dishes at once! The included cookbook has some great recipes to get you started.
There are two pre-set cooking timers and an automatic “keep warm” setting that will keep your food at the perfect temperature for up to 12 hours.
It has a unique removable inner lid and “steam cap,” all of which are a breeze to clean. The Tiger JAX is available in several sizes to fit your needs.
- The stainless-steel inner bowls allow you to cook two things at once and are removable for easy cleaning.
- The removable inner lid makes cleaning easier.
- Easy to read LCD display screen
- Many settings and easy-to-use functions
- Two preset cooking timers
- Available in two sizes
- Included cookbook
- Non-retractable cord
- Lithium battery for LCD display (can be replaced)
- No condensation collector to collect the water that condenses on the lid
This Zojirushi is a well-designed rice cooker at a reasonable price point. Weighing in at 7lbs, it is lightweight for a rice cooker, especially considering it has a stainless-steel body. The sleek design and small footprint mean this rice cooker won’t take up too much counter space.
The LCD screen and digital controls are easy to read and adjust as you cook. There are many settings to choose from on the built-in menu. If you don’t find what you need, you can custom program the quick-cooking options!
Because of its “fuzzy logic” features, this rice cooker can tackle anything from porridge and sushi rice to steamed veggies. The inner pot comes out for easy serving and washing.
- Easy to clean stainless steel outside and removable inner pot
- “Fuzzy logic” technology and multiple menu settings offer a wide variety of cooking options
- Easy to read LCD and digital controls
- Ability to create custom cook programs
- A unique quick-cook setting for last minute meal prep
- Helpful “extended keep warm” and “reheat” cycles
- Operates on 120 volts, making it more efficient and cost-effective
- Includes measuring cup, steam tray, serving spatula, and cookbook
- Retractable power cord for convenient storage
- Only cooks 3 cups of rice at a time so not ideal for large families or crowds
- The timer uses military time, not a standard 12-hour clock
- The “feet” tend to slide easily on counters
This handy little rice cooker is packed with great features at a very reasonable price. This model comes in several sizes, but it’s surprisingly compact and weighs just 4.2 pounds. It can cook up to 8 cups of rice to feed the whole family.
The Aroma rice cooker has digital controls that are easy to use. Choose between several programs like steaming, browning, or the keep-warm function.
You can even make a cake in this rice cooker!
The delay timer feature is particularly helpful for people with busy schedules. Just fill the rice cooker in the morning and set the timer so you can come home from work, class, or the gym to beautifully cooked rice.
- Easy to use digital controls and programs
- “Set-it-and-forget-it” delay timer feature delays up to 15 hours
- Cooks up to 8 cups of rice at a time
- Cooker automatically switches to “keep warm” when finished cooking
- Removable non-stick inner pot is easy to clean
- Includes a steamer tray, rice measuring cup, and plastic rice spatula
- Very affordable price point
- A few pre-programmed settings are not included in some Aroma models (like slow-cook and sauté-then-simmer features)
- Some people think the beeps it makes are a bit loud
This Zojirushi rice cooker is one of the “smartest” rice cookers on the market. It uses “fuzzy logic” to make sure every batch of rice is cooked to perfection, taking the climate and temperature into account.
It uses induction heat and pressure-cooking technology. For safety, it includes a pressure control valve, a back-up safety valve, and a pressure indicator on the control panel. Additionally, the lid locks during the pressure-cooking process.
Even the platinum-infused internal cook pot and inner lid stainless steel lid are easy to remove and wash.
This rice cooker has a unique Umami setting in addition to a “scorch” setting, and a “steam reduce” setting. There are two delay timer settings and an automatic “keep warm” setting.
- “Fuzzy logic” smart technology
- Uses induction heat for efficient and precise cooking
- Pressure cooking technology speeds the cooking process
- Extra safety features for the pressure cooking
- Platinum-infused, removable internal cooking pot
- Unique Umami setting and many other cook settings
- You get what you pay for, but this model is particularly pricey
Though each of the rice cookers we reviewed has their own merits, our overall winner is the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer. It’s a great blend of all the best features at a reasonable price and is very easy to use.
This Japanese rice cooker is perfect for anyone with a busy schedule or cooks who want the freedom to create all kinds of rice dishes easily. It’s a great blend of quality, affordability, and function in a well-designed package.