As anyone who’s watched Jamie Oliver make rice is well aware, it’s as simple as one cup of rice to two cups of water, and boil for 12 minutes. In theory. Anyone who’s ever suffered from a burnt-on layer of rice stuck to the bottom of the pan or hard-as-bullets grains knows differently. So why bother with it at all? The best rice cooker can make short work of long-grain and ensure your basmati is the business.
And we’ve got seven of the best rice cookers right here. It's rice to see them.
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What you need to know about rice cookers
If they're any good, you don't need to know anything about rice cookers really. You just put rice and water in, go away for a minimum of half an hour or so, then return to perfect rice.
Now, we used to think that surely using rice cookers was cheating. But people in Asia – the Far East in particular – use them all the time, and quite rightly feel no shame at doing so. And if anyone knows about rice, it's people in Asia.
The fact is, the best rice cookers make rice making completely idiot proof – and you are an idiot, let's face it – and also drastically reduce the amount of washing up required after.
Rather like getting a good bean to cup coffee maker usually leads to spiralling expenditure on beans, you'll probably find your rice consumption level shoots up after getting one. And that's great, because rice, cooked right, is nutritious and delicious.
What is the best rice cooker?
Comfortably the best rice cooker we've tried is the Yum Asia Bamboo UMAI. This cooks with a fabulously techy blend of induction, ceramic and 'fuzzy logic', has several novel cooking styles you won't find elsewhere and cooks rice to perfection every single time. Oh, and then keeps it warm for up to 24 hours. A good one for very slow eaters, then.
If you want something a little more low rent, who better to turn to than rotund, bantering housewives' choice James Martin? The ZX916 Multi Cooker, which James no doubt hand assembles in his own shed, is cheap, very good at cooking rice and will turn its hand to various other things, too.
The best rice cookers, in order
Since being sent one of these, I have never eaten so much rice. It's been quite the eye-opener. The Bamboo is Yum Asia's range-topping device, and deploys a sizeable tech arsenal to justify its premium price. It also looks quite good, at least by rice cooker standards.
Cooking is via induction, the non-stick cooking bowl is very easy to keep clean, and there are programmes for every type of rice, as well as, slightly bafflingly, porridge. There are also slow-cooking programmes that can produce a more 'yumami' white rice and a supposedly more nutritious, definitely nuttier-tasting 'GABA' brown rice.
The most bestest thing of all about the Bamboo, however, is that none of this requires any effort on your part whatsoever. You can use a timer if you want, but for most purposes all you do is toss in your rice, add the same volume of water, select the type of rice via the touch controls, then hit go.
The Bamboo then uses fuzzy logic AI to cook the rice to perfection, before keeping it warm for 'up to 24 hours'. It does tend to dry out a bit if you leave it on the stay warm setting for hours on end, so maybe add an extra half cup of water, but it's true that is does keep the rice very edible, even after standing for long periods.
Testers loved the Wahl ZX916 Multi Cooker for its ability to make, in their words, the perfect light and fluffy rice. For anyone looking to buy the best rice cooker, that should be testament enough, but for anyone who likes to cook full stop, this is an even more remarkable buy.
A great alternative to a slow cooker for those who don’t have the time or the inclination to saute beforehand, this multi-cooker has a 24-hour delay timer and six different modes for steaming, sauteing, stewing, desserts and of course brown and white rice.
With a four-litre capacity it’s great for batch cooking and big family meals, and testers were left very impressed by the easy-clean non-stick and dishwasher-safe parts.
If you’re really dedicated to risotto, you’ll know how much tender loving care it requires to turn out perfectly. But with this Sage by Heston Blumenthal rice cooker, you can actually throw that knowledge out the window, because even without constant stirring, testers found it makes risotto quickly, with less liquid, and – perhaps a little depressingly – with a taste barely distinguishable from a dish slaved over for hours.
Users found the Food Sear mode easy to use for getting maximum flavour out of add-ins, and starting off slow-cooked dishes, and loved that it slow-cooks, fast-cooks and steams on top of cooking rice.
Another excellent rice-cooker-slow-cooker hybrid, this Tefal multicooker has delayed start and automatic keep-warm functions to help you time your meal to perfection, even if you’re out all day with no time to sweat over a saucepan.
As well as presets for oatmeal, steaming, dessert and a catch-all slow-cooking mode, there are three dedicated modes for rice alone and one for grains, so if you feel like swapping out your quick rice for quinoa one night, this ensures it’ll go off without a hitch.
Reviewers loved the ease of use and maintenance, too, between the lift-out dishwasher-safe bowl and the included rice spoon, measuring cup and recipe booklet, making this a triple whammy for busy cooks.
It’s all very well and good having a preset for every food under the sun, but what if you really do just want a rice cooker? Well, according to happy owners, this Zojirushi model should just about do it. One for the rice-obsessed, it has dedicated settings for white, brown, sweet and even sushi rice. California roll? Sorted. Rice pudding? You bet. Regular plain old white rice? If you insist.
Users loved the thoughtful design: the countdown timer, the excellent keep warm function… it even plays a little tune when your rice is ready. This specialism does mean that it has a lower profile than most of our slow-cooker-alike designs, but we hear it does have one extra helpful function: it steams a mean bit of veg.
Again, anyone who’s in the market for a dedicated rice cooker is probably pretty serious about their grains, but if the impeccable Zojirushi above has nonetheless shown you that you’re not quite £200 serious, there is some comfort: this Russell Hobbs rice cooker.
At under £25 RRP, it’s quite a jump down from our previous pick in terms of price, but reviewers say it still makes a really great bowl of rice, automatically turning off when your choice of grain is cooked to perfection and keeping it warm until you need it. And if you do find yourself wistful for that extra bit of functionality after all, even better news: it also comes with a tray for steaming fish or vegetables.
Sure, it’s a great rice cooker, but with 15 smart programs this offering from Aigostar Happy Chef is pretty much a great anything cooker. There are modes for rice, bread, pasta, frying, stewing, steaming, baking and even more besides, including making your own yoghurt, and there’s even an ‘add ingredient while cooking’ function to ensure that even the forgotten bits get the best chance at proper cooking.
The large LED display with 24-hour preset timer makes for a great, easy-to-set slow cooker on those blurry early mornings, and the automatic keep-warm function keeps food at serving temperature for up to 12 hours. Last night’s curry still smelling delicious the next day? It’s got your back.