Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Rice Cooker
Cooking perfect rice is no easy feat, and most of us find out the hard way.
It’s almost a rite of passage – spending an entire evening labouring over a curry or stir-fry, anticipating a fluffy and flavoursome side dish, only to be left with a pot of half-burnt, half-raw clag that only faintly resembles rice. With method, temperature, water ratio and timings all playing an important role, any hopes for perfect rice can quite literally go down the drain with a small miscalculation.
Still, when done right, rice is not only one of the most versatile kitchen staples but an excellent source of low-fat and nutrient-rich carbohydrates.
There is really only one thing for it — and that’s investing in a rice cooker.
Though they’re less popular in the UK than they are in Asian countries, the best rice cookers not only prepare perfect rice every time, but do so with next to no effort. No waiting by the stovetop. No juggling protein and grain timings. Just easy, expertly-cooked rice.
The process is simple. You measure the amount of rice you want to cook, give it a quick rinse, pour it into the rice cooker, and add the appropriate measurement of water (all good instruction manuals will come with suggestions). It is important to follow instructions closely at the start – even if you’ve used a rice cooker in the past – as most appliances have varying requirements.
From there, you only have to close the lid, press a few buttons, and wait for the rice cooker to work its magic. It will gradually heat your grains and switch off when the liquid is fully absorbed. For most rice cookers this happens at 212 degrees fahrenheit (the boiling point of water), while more advanced rice cookers cook the rice in intuitive phases. This is especially common in Japanese rice cookers. Either way, the process typically takes between 20 and 30 minutes.
Rice cookers can also be used to cook much more than rice. They can double up as an appliance for boiling eggs, steaming vegetables, slow-roasting stews, cooking one-pot meals (mac ‘n’ cheese is a personal favourite) and ‘baking’ cakes.
Here’s what I found while testing the best rice cookers on the market, starting with my favourite…
1. Bamboo Induction Heating Ceramic Rice Cooker
Why we like it: It’s essentially an entire kitchen in a box
At almost £200, Yum Asia’s Bamboo rice cooker is certainly pricey – but it also happens to be a dream come true for foodies ready to invest in forever-perfect rice. This little kitchen gem genuinely makes rice taste better.
We have its ‘Umai IH’ technology to thank for this – the first of its kind in Europe. It induction-heats rice through a series of intuitive phases, rather than steaming or boiling the grains, to ensure the best aroma, texture, nutrition and taste imaginable.
The rice cooker’s special ‘extra taste’ settings (GABA for brown rice and Yumami for white) even utilizes special processes to heighten flavour payoff. As an added bonus, the GABA setting activates and releases brown rice’s natural gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA) content, multiplying its nutrient value.
The Bamboo’s many settings include induction heating for white long grain rice, white short grain rice (ideal for sushi rice), brown rice, crusting rice (for Persian Tahdig), quick cook, steaming, slow cook (handy for family-sized joints of meat), cake baking, and porridge. Plus a ‘keep warm’ function so you can have perfect rice prepped and waiting when you get home from work.
To boot, the ‘champagne rose’ (aka rose gold) rice cooker has an eight cup capacity (suitable for one to eight people), a removable ceramic bowl for easy cleaning, a two year warranty, and looks rather fetching on a countertop. Win win win win.
2. Lakeland Mini Multi Cooker
Why we like it: It’s small in size, big in performance
If you don’t imagine you’ll be cooking family-sized portions of rice any time soon, this lovely little multi-cooker from Lakeland might have everything you need. It is not only the lightest and cheapest rice cooker on this list, but the only one small enough to be stored easily in kitchens with limited counter space.
Where functionality is concerned, I was pleased to discover it also comes with more features than you might expect. Its one-touch programmes offer set-and-leave options for white rice, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, cake, and yoghurt. The latter takes around eight hours to complete, but the resulting yoghurt was better than any I’ve bought in a supermarket, and rice and quinoa can be cooked in as little as fifteen minutes.
Though you can speed up or slow down the cooking times on all of the multi-cooker’s programmes, the slow- and quick-cook options offer an easy way to get rice on the table quickly or whip up soups, stews and curries, respectively.
For the best results, I’ve found it’s best to cook your chosen rice on its designated programme. ‘Quick cook’ only saves ten to twenty minutes, depending on the rice’s grain, and fluffy rice is worth the wait.
3. Kumo YumCarb Fuzzy Logic Ceramic Rice Cooker
Why we like it: It genuinely changes the carb content of rice, meaning you can eat more for less
Despite its slightly strange name, the Kumo YumCarb is a revelation for the carb-conscious. Using special technology, the industrial-looking rice cooker not only cooks rice perfectly, but comes with an optional ‘YumCarb’ setting that reduces the rice’s carbohydrate value by up to 25 per cent.
Initially, I thought it was a gimmick, so decided to test my blood sugar before and after eating a cup of ‘normal’ and ‘YumCarb’-ed rice. As a type 1 diabetic my blood sugar level rises when I eat carbohydrates, so any noticeable differences in the readings, before and after, should be able to prove or disprove the technology.
After eating a cup of YumCarb rice, my blood sugar increased half as many milligrams as it did with the same amount of normal rice. Which, at least for me, means the Kumo’s YumCarb setting prepares healthier rice.
On top of its carb-killing wizardry, the 5.5 cup rice cooker also steams, slow cooks, makes porridge, and keeps any creation warm for up to 24 hours, making it incredible value for money. It felt a little less luxe to use than Yum Asia’s Bamboo (above) and Sakura (below), but the choice between dark and light steel versions let you to match your rice cooker to your kitchen aesthetic.
4. Ninja Foodi
Why we like it: There is literally no other kitchen appliance that can roast an entire chicken and cook rice this well
A month ago, I would not have believed it was possible to cook fluffy rice and a perfectly-crisped roast chicken in the same pot. But I’ve since met the Ninja Foodi.
This weird and wonderful multi-pressure cooker and air fryer is a lazy person’s dream come true. Particularly if said lazy person has a family to feed. It tackles everything from slow-roasting pulled pork to frying handmade chips with the click of a few buttons and, thanks to a six-litre capacity, it can handle multiple tasks at the same time.
With a reversible rack and ‘cook & crisp basket’, I found it incredibly easy to cook rice in the bottom of the bowl while cooking meat at the top. (I say I cooked, but the Foodi does all the hard work for you.) I particularly love it for handling tofu, as its TenderCrisp technology heats food up to 70 per cent faster than traditional cooking methods and finishes most proteins off with the perfect crisp.
At almost 12 kilograms, it’s a bit of a beast, but definitely worth the counter space if you’re looking for a commercial rice cooker or an all-in-one gadget. It can cook rice, steam, slow cook, saute, air fry, pressure cook, bake, roast and grill up a storm with no expertise required. In fact, it even makes brilliant no-stir risottos.
5. Sakura Micom Fuzzy Logic Ceramic Rice Cooker
Why we like it: It’s an all-rounder with an affordable price tag
Last but not least we have the Sakura — a super-smart little rice cooker that looks and performs a lot like a Japanese rice cooker.
The big draw here is its ‘advanced fuzzy logic’ technology, a built-in benefit which cooks rice in seven tailored phases; pre-heating, absorbing water, heating, boiling, steaming, cooling down, and keeping warm with steam (which retains rice quality without over-cooking).
When comparing the Sakura’s rice to a cup cooked with Yum Asia’s ‘Bamboo’ rice cooker, there was no noticeable difference, meaning the Sakura may be a better (and cheaper) option for those who aren’t fussed about altering taste or nutrients. The Bamboo is just that little bit more deluxe and unique.
With an eight cup capacity and brilliant multi-cooker capabilities – steam, slow cook, soup, cake baking, crust (tahdig), porridge and yoghurt – the Sakura is a sensational all-rounder.