The Best Rice Cookers for Easier Meal Prep

12 Nov.,2022


Digital Rice Cooker

Whether you're looking for a small tool for tight spaces or a professional-level device to really dive into a variety of grains, this list of the best rice cookers has something for everyone.

We assessed each product's cooking capacity, functionality, and versatility, for a comprehensive list for all types of household needs. We also considered how easy each product is to store and clean.

We spoke to James Beard Award-winning chef Ming Tsai about the importance of rice cookers and how to shop for one. "I've always used rice cookers in all of my restaurants," he said. "Why? Because you push a button and have quality rice in 30 to 40 minutes." Because different types of rice require different cooking styles, Tsai recommends evaluating your needs before purchasing a cooker. "The key is to choose based on what type of rice you are cooking, and always make sure it has a 'keep-warm' function," he said.

No matter your skill level, cooking rice can be a challenge. A quality rice cooker eliminates the effort and guesswork and can be an efficient way to prep properly cooked grains in advance—no more babysitting the stove and still getting starchy, undercooked mush or crunchy, half-done grains.

Unlike white rice, brown rice keeps its bran and germ covering, meaning it's chewier, nuttier, and a little trickier to cook. For best results, look for a rice cooker with more user control like this option from Cuckoo. In addition to its 11 menu and texture options, this 6-cup cooker uses a patented "My Mode" function that allows users to customize exactly how their rice is cooked. From sticky rice to crunchier, more al dente rice, this cooker delivers a more personalized experience. The removable inner nonstick pot and lid make for easy cleanup, and the excess water dish helps prevent soggy rice by draining extra moisture. The fully programmable machine also utilizes a delay timer that lets you set the completion time up to 13 hours in advance.

Cons: Accessories must be hand-washed, and certain functions (like mixed rice) can take over an hour to cook.

Pros: This fully programmable cooker lets you control the exact texture of the cooked rice, and an automatic cleaning function steam-cleans the cooker after use.

For a versatile gadget that serves multiple purposes in the kitchen, the classic Instant Pot is an efficient option. It's a pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, and a rice cooker in one stainless steel pot. The 6-quart capacity makes it a convenient option for meal prepping or feeding large groups. This 7-in-1 multifunctional cooker features a delay timer so you can prepare food in advance and control when it begins cooking and utilizes three temperature settings to properly cook different foods. The pot itself is dishwasher safe and nonstick for easy cleanup. For added comfort, this gadget is designed with 10 safety features, including overheating protection and a safety lock. The Instant Pot is ideal for someone looking to invest in a gadget that performs other functions and is a durable, efficient meal prep tool.

"The best rice cookers cook under pressure," said Tsai. "Recently, I've been enjoying cooking rice in an Instant Pot because it makes perfect rice under pressure in about 20 minutes."

Cons: It's not a dedicated rice cooker, so the functionality can be more complicated than some of the simpler gadgets on this list.

Zojirushi's Induction Heating System has specific functions to prepare jasmine rice, sushi rice, porridge, sweet rice, GABA brown rice, and more. The delay timer allows you to control when you begin cooking, and the digital clock and LCD control panel are easy to read. The set comes with a spatula and measuring cup. Though this gadget is functional and convenient, it's important to note that it's the most expensive on our list.

Induction technology is one of the latest innovations in the rice cooker category, and it allows for faster and more flexible ways to cook rice. Unlike traditional cookers that warm from the bottom, induction rice cookers heat up the entire container, which helps to cook the grains more quickly and evenly. In fact, this option from Zujirushi even heats from the lid, then keeps rice warm for up to 8 hours once it's done. It also gives cooks more control by allowing them to make temperature adjustments while the machine is running.

Cons: The accessories and the inner pan must be hand-washed, and it's the priciest option on our list.

Thanks to its large size and durable parts, this cooker is ideal for restaurant or commercial use where large quantities are needed. The simple functionality has two settings, "cook" and "warm," and the product comes with a measuring cup and spatula. Keep in mind that because of the size, this machine could be difficult to store in home kitchens and is certainly not ideal for apartment living.

By far the largest rice cooker on our list, this commercial-grade cooker is best for someone looking to make generous quantities of rice in one batch. The extra-large capacity can yield up to 60 cups of rice and automatically flips to "keep-warm" mode when the grains are done cooking. The heavy-duty stainless steel lid traps in heat and steam, and the nonstick aluminum cooking pot prevents any rice from caking on the bottom of the pan.

Pros : This simple machine is easy to use and automatically flips to a warming setting when rice is done cooking.

If you struggle with counter or cabinet space, this 3-cup cooker is ideal for small kitchens. Similar to its larger counterparts, this Zojirushi cooker makes perfectly cooked rice on a smaller scale. With a single, easy-to-use switch, the 3-cup cooker employs a much simpler interface than the others on this list. It's perfect for single servings or dinners for two and is an efficient way to have grains ready when you need them. Alternatively, it's not a good option for those looking to make big batches or program their rice cooker in advance. With one single function, this simple gadget is easy to use and store, and the durable nonstick inner pan makes for easy cleanup. Stay-cool handles and knob promise easy transport.

If you're a beginner looking for an entry-level device, this cooker from Black + Decker is an affordable choice. The nonstick bowl and tempered glass lid can accommodate up to 8 cups of uncooked rice and cooks to completion in 20 to 40 minutes. After the rice is cooked, an automatic function keeps it warm and ready to serve. The clear, glass lid makes it easy to check on how your grains are cooking, and an indicator light lets you know when your food is done. Additionally, it comes with a steaming basket, measuring cup, and serving spoon, and all parts are dishwasher safe. It's easy to use and care for, which makes it a reliable option for a college dorm or an amateur cook. Keep in mind that this is a basic machine, and unlike some other cookers on this list, it's not programmable, so you can't set up your rice in advance.

Pros: A glass lid makes it easy to see how your rice is cooking, and all parts are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.

This model uses computerized "fuzzy logic" technology to sense how your grains are cooking, automatically adjusting the time and temperature to prepare up to 10 cups of uncooked rice at the ideal texture. The device has a total of eight settings, including specific white and brown rice settings and a steaming function for vegetables and seafood. A surprisingly versatile gadget, this rice cooker also has a setting for baking cake. A retractable cord makes for easy storage. Other design features include an easy-to-read LCD display, a stainless steel exterior, and automatic functions like "keep warm", "extended keep warm," and "reheat".

For a professional chef-approved machine, check out Zojirushi's Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer. "I have a very old Zojirushi rice cooker, which makes life very much easier in the kitchen, as it not only cooks rice—and quinoa, bulgur wheat, and any number of grains—but keeps it safely warm afterward," TV cook Nigella Lawson told us, adding that it's especially useful for those with children or busy work weeks.

Pros: It can yield up to 20 cups of rice and utilizes automatic functions to keep it warm after cooking.

This cooker from Aroma is quick, durable, and affordable. It uses specific functions to cook up to 8 cups of brown rice, white rice and quinoa (including a "quick rice" option that claims to cook grains up to 50% faster), which can serve up to eight people. This Aroma version also comes with a steaming tray to cook proteins and vegetables simultaneously and a nonstick inner cooking pot that's removable for easy cleaning. Eight presets like steam, slow cook, sauté and oatmeal make it a multifunctional gadget that's ideal for small kitchens with limited storage space. Thanks to its 15-hour delay timer, it's particularly useful for busy home cooks who don't have time to babysit a stove. An automatic keep-warm function turns on as soon as the rice finishes cooking for added convenience.


Rice cookers are an easy and efficient way to take the guesswork out of making rice. Though there are many options out there, Aroma's Professional Rice Cooker (view at Amazon) combines the functionality of a professional machine with the affordability of a simple gadget. This cooker is streamlined, versatile, and programmable for easy meal prep.

Factors to Consider

Ease of Use

Some rice cookers are more technologically advanced than others, and the more intelligent they are, the easier they are to use. One of the top-rated brands uses "fuzzy logic" to determine when rice is cooked to perfection, adjusting automatically for environmental conditions like hot days or rice that is cooking faster, as well as custom settings for different types of rices like brown or sushi, and even preferences on levels of rice doneness. These features can shift the price of a cooker upwards exponentially, but they also make them a truly foolproof unit to use.


The best rice cookers are designed to cook rice and other grains, but not anything else. Some will tout other applications, though often at the cost of not really being great at those, or worse, not being great at rice. If you need an appliance that cooks rice and has other features like steaming, you may want to opt for a multi-cooker with a rice cooking feature instead of a rice cooker. The best features to look for are different settings for different rices and grains, a good "keep warm" feature, dishwasher safe components for ease of cleanup, and a clear and easy-to-use interface.


Rice cookers for home use are available in sizes as small as three cups and as large as 12 cups or more. Determining the right size for your home is as easy as knowing the amount of rice you go through in one typical meal. The benefit of a rice cooker is fast, easy, foolproof rice anytime you want it, so there is no need to make more at one time than you need for that meal or that day. You can estimate the average person eating about a cup of rice as a side dish for one meal or two cups as the basis of an entrée. If you are single or a couple, a three- or four-cup cooker is likely all you need. If you have a larger family or entertain a lot with rice, you will likely want something like a six- to eight-cup cooker.


Q: How long does it take to cook rice in a rice cooker?

A: "As short as 30 minutes, after you press a button, you don't have to do anything and it's done, says chef Sawako Okochi of Shalom Japan in Williamsburg, New York, who finds a rice cooker indispensable for home cooks.

Q: What do you look for in a rice cooker?

A: "I recommend a brand that's not hard to use," says Okochi. "It shouldn't be too complicated to cook rice in a machine. It should come with a rice measuring cup and an insert bowl that has lines for water level after you put rice, so you can just pour water to the line corresponding to the number of cups of rice you put."

Q: Is a rice cooker worth it?

A: From the quality of the rice it makes to the time it saves, a rice cooker is worth investing in. "In general, rice cookers can free up your burner and your hands so that you can concentrate on cooking other stuff to go with it," Okochi says.

Q: How should you season rice in a rice cooker?

A: "Most of the time I don't add any seasoning, but if you want to season your rice, sea salt is most simple, and you can elaborate with dashi instead of water, soy sauce, mirin, and cooking sake for Takikomi gohan. I'd add some protein or seaweed and start cooking. If adding green vegetables, such as green peas or asparagus, I add them blanched after the rice is cooked and fluff together," says Okochi.

Q: What else can you cook in a rice cooker?

A: Rice cookers can be versatile, according to Okochi. "You can slow cook meat such as chicken or pork, or some beans. Some elaborate machines have softer or harder texture setting, it can cook porridge, cooks brown rice better with pressure setting, and keep rice warm without drying it. Some can even cook cakes," she says.

Our Expertise

Katie Macdonald is a Food Editor who has covered everything from chefs' must-have classics to the latest and greatest kitchen gadgets for Food & Wine since 2019. She previously wrote for Food52, Popular Mechanics, and Men's Health. For this piece, our editors used their own culinary knowledge and performed market research, analyzed competitor recommendations, and consulted experts.

This piece was also updated by Stacey Ballis, a freelance writer, recipe developer, and product reviewer. Stacey has been published on Food & Wine, Eating Well, Allrecipes, MyRecipes, Delish, and more.