Cooking white rice to perfection is hard enough, but have you ever tried creating mouth-watering brown rice using a pan and some boiling water?
No, we haven’t either!
Luckily, investing in an affordable Japanese rice cooker allows you to cook pretty much any rice at the push of a button.
Most of the best Japanese rice cookers also allow you to cook various other dishes, from porridge, soups, and stews to sushi rice.
The other area in which rice cookers make your life more convenient is the way you can utilize their delayed programmable timers to get the base of your meal started on demand. Once cooked, all the best models will keep your rice warm at serving temperature for up to 12 hours. With some models, this is automatic, while other rice cookers need you to activate a Keep Warm setting manually.
Today, then, we’ll be kicking off with our curated list of the most efficient Japanese rice cookers. We compare them like-for-like so you can easily see at a glance which one might make the best fit for you. We rate our overall favorite and runner-up, although the remaining rice cookers are deliberately not listed in any order of preference. We also throw in a dedicated budget rice cooker for anyone hunting out a bargain.
Once our reviews are in place, we’ll push on to show you what you need to look out for on the buying trail.
Dig in and explore these nifty workhorses…
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I. The 8 Best Japanese Rice Cookers
1. Our #1 Pick: Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Neuro-Fuzzy 5 1/2-Cup Rice Cooker & Warmer
If you’re hunting for the best Japanese rice cooker, we feel the best all-rounder is this 5 ½-cup gem from Zojirushi. This brand dominates this space with just cause: they make awesome rice cookers that don’t bankrupt you.
How does this model stand out, then?
Off the bat, fuzzy logic technology ensures whatever rice you pop in is cooked optimally without worrying about timings.
From white or brown rice through to mixed rice, sushi rice, porridge, and sweet rice, there’s not much you can’t cook in this thing.
As with most of these rice cookers, you’ll get an irregularly-sized measuring cup bundled. You should use this if you want to cook your rice with precision. We’re figuring you do if you’re investing in a fuzzy logic rice cooker.
When you’re buying a rice cooker, it’s always a delicate balance between getting the capacity you need and making sure you have enough room on the kitchen counter to accommodate it. This cooker measures up at 14 x 8 x 9 inches and weighs just 3 pounds. Considering the 5 ½-cup capacity, you get enough space to cook for the whole family in a fairly compact unit.
For an efficient rice cooker with the requisite programmable delay timer, a generous bunch of free accessories, and a highly efficient microprocessor onboard to optimize cooking, what’s not to love?
2. Runner-up: Zojirushi NP-HCC10XH Induction Rice Cooker & Warmer
Coming a close second in our exploration of Japanese rice cookers is another Zojirushi. How does this model differ?
Well, the clumsily-named NP-HCC10XH packs an induction heating system. Rated at 1230 watts, you’ll get all the power you need under the hood without drawing down too much power.
The interface looks garnish with an unattractive orange hue to the display. We’re guessing you’re not buying a rice cooker based on appearance, though. Instead, push the buttons to navigate your diverse options when it comes to rustling up some rice.
If you enjoy more than standard-issue white rice – something with barely any nutritional benefit – you can widen your repertoire and cook brown rice, germinated brown rice, or GABA rice without any hassle or specialist knowledge. Just pop it in the machine and punch a button.
When your rice is done, there’s an extended keep-warm function to ensure it’s piping hot and ready to serve, even if you need to wait for your main dish to finish cooking first.
A quick note: if you spot any sparks coming from the plug, this is not something to worry about, as it happens routinely with rice cookers.
If you want to cook a wide variety of rice without undue effort and you don’t mind digging deep, this Zojirushi is currently available at an aggressive discount. So act quickly and grab yourself a real bargain.
3. Budget Pick: Panasonic Rice Cooker and Multi-Cooker
What can you do if you’re looking for a versatile rice cooker on a tight budget? Well, you could save yourself a headache and pick up this multipurpose Panasonic.
Available in a spread of sizes, this 6-cup model should give you the capacity you need to cook for the whole family. But, as with all full-size rice cookers, ensure you’ve got enough space on the kitchen counter before you commit to purchase.
You can cook white, brown, and yellow rice with push-button ease. This is not the extent of your options, though. This multi-cooker is also ideal for soups, stews, and vegetables. You can even whip up some oatmeal in the background as you start your day, then wolf down a nutritious breakfast before heading out.
Once you’re done cooking, the aluminum pan is a cinch to clean. Food won’t stick to the sides in the first place, even after years of sustained use. You then need to wash it in some warm soapy water, then dry it thoroughly.
Besides this easy cleaning, the aluminum build also encourages completely even heat distribution, so all your rice is cooked through.
With all this freedom to cook any rice and much more besides the appliance coming from heavyweight brand Panasonic, you’ll be amazed at how little this Japanese rice cooker costs.
4. Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer
Next up in our Japanese rice cooker reviews is another stellar model from Zojirushi. Again, this company specializes in these appliances, and that expertise shines through.
There’s a triple-way heating system delivering heat from the bottom, the sides, and the lid. This helps to cook all types of rice thoroughly and consistently, so you’re off to a strong start.
Now, this is only a 3-cup rice cooker so make sure this meshes with your requirements. If it’s too big or too small, this brand has a deep bench of alternatives you can choose from. Bear in mind that while this might not be the largest unit, the inbuilt benefit is a space-saving footprint and a rice cooker ideal for apartments and small kitchens.
Menu settings are broad. Cook up some white or brown rice for your regular meals. Mixed rice, sweet rice, and sushi rice all come out well at the push of a button. You also get a porridge setting and a quick-cooking preset baked in.
The inner lid is removable, so you won’t need to worry about contorting yourself to clean up.
Choose from a beep or a melody to alert you when your rice is done.
Our advice? If you often whip up homemade sushi or meals based on other specialty rice, this cooker is of exceptional value. However, for anyone who sticks to regular rice, you can find cheaper options that get the job done just as well.
5. TIGER JBV-A10U 5 1/2-Cup Micom Rice Cooker & Food Steamer Basket
In a sea of garish rice Japanese rice cookers, the Tiger is a muted classic. However, this company was founded almost a century ago, and they’re still going strong today, bringing you the best household products.
This rice cooker is super simple to use, even if you’re a complete beginner. 4 basic menu settings are punched in, so all you need to do is hit a button. What are these functions, then?
Punch Plain Rice if you want fluffy white rice done to perfection without any stirring or effort on your part. The Brown Rice preset optimizes cooking to allow for the lengthier water absorption brown rice calls for.
Beyond rice, there’s a Slow Cooker function that widens your scope further. Leave a pot roast, stew, or casserole simmering all day long when you’re at work, then open the door to the wonderful smell of a meal just about ready to serve.
With the Synchro Cooking feature, enjoy the freedom of cooking your rice and main dish simultaneously. Use the bundled tacook plate, and you can still cook up a storm even if you’re crunched for time.
As well as this 5 ½-cup cooker, you can buy one with double the capacity if you have a large family and need that extra capacity. Be aware that the 10-cup variant is pretty bulky.
Despite some gripes about build quality, most consumers have positive feedback about this mid-sized Tiger. So why not give this beast a try?
6. Zojirushi NS-TSC10 5-1/2-Cup Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer
We have another medium-sized Japanese rice cooker up next, yet again from Zojirushi. With most products, we seldom review more than a single product per brand. However, in the case of Japanese rice cookers, it’s impossible to ignore the dominance of this company.
The fuzzy logic technology onboard sees a microprocessor optimizing rice cooking according to its type. This means you won’t need to tinker around with any settings to get any rice you choose cooked to a turn.
A warming cycle can be pushed into extended warming. For example, this lets you keep rice warm for 12 hours straight. There’s also a reheating cycle, so you can easily bring any ingredients back to serving temperature without scorching or overheating.
The inside of this rice cooker is non-stick stainless steel. One of the biggest nightmares of owning a bad rice cooker is how those grains stick to the walls as though glued on. Avoid this completely with the Zojirushi.
A delayed programmable timer allows you to create the meals you want when you want them, even if you’re not at home.
As with all Zojirushis, flick between a melody and a beep to let you know it’s time to serve up.
Act quickly, and you could capitalize on the slight discount being offered to make this 5 ½-cup Japanese rice cooker well worth a place on your shortlist.
7. Toshiba TRCS01 Cooker 6 Cups Rice Cooker
As we edge to the end of our Japanese rice cooker reviews, in steps electronics giant Toshiba. How does this rice cooker shape up?
Intelligent cooking is programmed into this thing. The fuzzy logic ensures that any rice that goes in comes out just the way it should. So whether it’s standard-issue brown, white, sweet rice, sushi rice, or specialty rice, they’ll all be cooked optimally. There are 7 distinct rice settings pre-programmed.
If you’re a fan of porridge, this is an area where Toshiba excels.
Timing can be delayed, and you can then make certain your rice is ready when you get home from work rather than needing to wait for an hour or so. A Keep Warm feature is handy when you mistime things slightly or have another dish taking a little longer than expected. Whatever the reason, you can always keep your rice ready to roll.
An oversized steam vent is in place so that no food or liquid overspills as you’re cooking. This is removable for ease of clean-up.
If you’re looking for a Japanese rice cooker that’s easy to use, just as simple to clean, and comes from a brand you can rely on, look no further.
8. Tiger JNP-1800-FL 10-Cup Rice Cooker & Warmer
To round out our rice cooker reviews, we have another superb model from the inimitable Tiger, this time a 10-cup rice cooker and warmer rolled into one. If you feel this bulky unit is too large – it measures up at 10.7 x 11.8 x 11.7 inches – you can pick up a smaller alternative from the wide Tiger range.
The JNP series contain rice cookers that are staples in Asian households and popular around the rest of the world. In many ways, this model defines the classic Japanese rice cooker in that you get everything you want and nothing you don’t.
Once your rice is done, it will be automatically kept warm for up to 12 hours, giving you more than enough room for maneuver, however hectic your schedule might be.
Although we appreciate you’re not buying a rice cooker based on looks, the white exterior is embellished with a striking pink floral design.
What should you watch out for before whipping out your credit card with our rice cooker reviews put to bed?
II. What to Look for When Buying a New Japanese Rice Cooker
Buying a Japanese rice cooker couldn’t be easier if you keep your eye out for the following simple pointers.
- Overall Dimensions
- Cord Type
- Stay-Cool Handles
- Cooking Functions
- Warming Feature
- Ease of Cleaning
The first thing you should double down on when you’re looking for a rice cooker is capacity.
How much rice you can rustle up is expressed in terms of cups of uncooked rice. Unfortunately, most of these manufacturers needlessly provide an off-size cup. For the sake of precision and consistency, always use the cup provided.
For a single person or couple, smaller rice cookers with a 3-cup capacity or less are more than fit for purpose. Small families should find a 5-cup or 5 ½-cup cooker ideal. Step things up to 10-cup rice capacity rice cookers and beyond if you need to regularly whip up large quantities of rice.
Linked closely to size, you’ll need to think about how much space this thing takes up on the kitchen counter.
If you have a huge kitchen and ample storage space, this is not such a concern. However, anyone with limited kitchen counter real estate or anyone living in an apartment should make certain there’s enough space for the rice cooker in question.
We draw your attention to any rice cookers that are especially compact or bulky, and then you can choose the smoothest fit.
Most of the best Japanese rice cookers come with retractable cords. Let’s face it. You’re unlikely to leave your rice cooker on permanent display. Most of these things don’t look great, and they’re typically quite substantial.
Retractable cords help ensure the cable doesn’t get tangled up in storage and streamlines storage itself.
Avoid removable cords as these detachable alternatives are usually less reliable and awkward to use.
While all rice cookers come with handles, they’re not all made from the right material. We find this kind of design oversight inexcusable as it’s potentially dangerous.
Make sure any rice cookers on your shortlist have cool-touch handles.
Check that the rice cookers you’re considering come with the cooking functions you need.
Many of these appliances allow you to cook up porridge. A handful of the better models serve as slow cookers, too. We would recommend investing a little extra and opting for one of these models, but only if you think you’ll get good use out of it.
The same applies to all cooking functions. So don’t just hunt out the rice cookers packed with most settings if you don’t think you’ll make full use of them.
All rice cookers will keep your cooked rice warm, many for up to 12 hours.
The main difference is that some models take care of this automatically while others demand you punch a setting.
Ease of Cleaning
Last but certainly not least, you should look at how easy the rice cooker is to clean. When rice adheres to pans without non-stick coating, removing it is tough, even using a knife. That’s also a surefire way to scratch the surface and ruin the rice cooker.
Instead, make certain that the rice cookers on your shortlist are all straightforward to clean. You should remove the inner pan with ease and clean it using nothing more than soap and hot water. Then, please leave it to soak in the unlikely event of rogue grains of rice sticking to the sides.
While this might seem an unimportant point, buy a poor-quality rice cooker without the requisite treatment, and we can guarantee you’ll regret it.
To round out, we’ve assembled answers to the most frequently asked questions about Japanese rice cookers.
1) What’s the point of a rice cooker when I can cook rice in a pan?
Firstly, you can leave your rice cooking in the background without any input while cooking the rest of your meal. This alone makes them a worthwhile addition to any kitchen with lots of rice-based meals being cooked. The warming function and timer onboard most of the best models give you even greater freedom. Easy to clean and easy to use, these things are also cheap. What’s not to love?
2) What is a fuzzy logic rice cooker?
These rice cookers have a computer chip on board that helps ensure all kinds of rice are cooked to perfection, with you needing to do little more than push a button.
3) Can I cook all types of rice in every Japanese rice cooker?
If you stick to the big brands and the best cookers, you should be spoiled for choice and able to cook everything from white, brown, and sweet rice to GABA rice, sushi rice, and germinated brown rice.
Well, if you started today with no idea how to find the best Japanese rice cooker, that’s hopefully changed by now.
As long as you keep some simple guidelines in mind and stick with reputable brands, there’s no reason not to quickly and easily find the right cooker for you. Choose any of the models we review today, and you can buy with your eyes wide open. Veer away from this shortlist, and you’re still safe: refer to our buying guide, and you’ll have no problems.
Before you go, take a moment to bookmark Foodie&Tours. We have a super-busy content calendar over the coming months, so come back soon for everything you need to know when you’re buying kitchen equipment. See you soon!