If you cook a lot of rice — brown, white, basmati — there are many ways to fail. Mushy rice or a badly burned batch that leaves the pot hard to clean can be a problem. Rice cookers can come to the rescue, and Consumer Reports has advice on which ones to buy.
Consumer Reports tested six rice cookers from popular brands, ranging from $20 to $270. Testers looked at the quality of the finished rice, how easy the appliances were to program and clean, how much energy they used, and how long it took to cook rice.
An ideal batch was cooked evenly from top to bottom with soft, fluffy grains and no pockets of mushy or crunchy rice.
The big difference between them was the amount of time they took to make a batch of rice. For a cup of white rice, the machines ranged from 20 to 45 minutes. For brown rice, it was 30 to 90 minutes.
Here are CR’s top picks:
The Zojirushi NP-GBC05 for $270 (in Canada, $470) was the most expensive model in CR’s test and scored the highest. It uses induction technology, so the heat is distributed throughout the pot, not just from the bottom. It has clear markings inside and produces fluffy rice.
For a lot less, the Instant Zest 8-Cup rice cooker for $30 (in Canada, $40) takes up to four cups of uncooked rice. It has simple-to-use controls and turns out very good rice that’s on the sticky side.
Some of these cookers come with only one setting, while others have programs that let you cook different types of rice and grains. One model CR tested even has a sauté function in case you wanted to soften some onions and garlic before throwing in your rice.
It’s worth noting that these rice cookers refer to a cup as “their” cup, which holds less than a regular cup measure. So check for the amount of cooked rice that a machine makes.