Best Budget Rice Cookers
Even those fortunate few who never have a problem making rice on a stovetop can benefit from a good electric rice cooker: The rice that results is consistently cooked every time, with fluffy, aromatic, separate grains that are never burnt or soggy. Some machines have a delay-start feature, so that rice can be put in the pot in the morning and be programmed to produce a warm meal in time for dinner. Even if rice is not a staple in your household, this versatile gadget can come in handy for a lot more than just rice. It functions very much like a slow cooker, so anything that requires a long simmer, like soup or chili, can probably be cooked in a rice cooker. Most also come with a steamer basket, so that vegetables can be prepared alongside the rice.
Still, many consumers don't want to spend too much on yet another small, specialized kitchen appliance. Cheapism.com sifted through hundreds of consumer and expert reviews to find some of the best rice cookers for $75 or less. From basic on/off machines to high-tech computerized models, here are six rice cookers that make preparing perfect portions -- for the whole family or just for one -- a pretty much foolproof process.
This basic machine is the kind that many reviewers say their parents have used for years, and durability is one of its best features. The Tiger JAZ-A18U (starting at $70) makes 20 cups of rice and keeps it warm indefinitely -- a boon for families and those who like to make a big pot and eat it over the course of multiple meals. It is mostly meant for cooking white rice, and fans say it does so flawlessly. Brown rice and other grains are a bit trickier, but with instructions and a bit of fiddling, many say they've gotten great results. This model also has a steamer basket, so that vegetables can be made on top of the rice.
The problem with making rice for one person in a big rice cooker is that it tends to dry out. For small families, dorm rooms, and even travel, the Panasonic SR-3NA-S (starting at $40) has a 1.5-cup capacity and yields 3 cups of cooked rice. It's also incredibly simple to use: Wash and measure rice, add water, turn it on, and it will turn itself off when done cooking. Although the machine does not have a warming feature, the removable glass lid has no vent, so it holds the steam in the pot to keep food heated for short spans between prep and mealtime. This personal-size cooker's dishwasher-safe lid and nonstick inner pot also make cleanup an easy task.
The Aroma ARC-150SB (starting at $37) is a programmable pot that produces up to 20 cups of rice. It includes settings for white rice, brown rice, steaming, and slow cooking. Any type of grain, from quinoa to farro, can be made in this cooker. A delay-start timer can be set for up to 15 hours -- say, to prep steel-cut oats for the morning meal. It also helps the machine do double duty as a slow cooker for dinner. The nonstick pot cleans up nicely, and a steamer makes vegetables that never get overcooked because steaming time can be set from 5 to 30 minutes.
Selected by The Sweethome as the best rice cooker of 2016, the low-priced Hamilton Beach Digital Simplicity 37549 (starting at $33) has a lot of the same capabilities as much more expensive machines. Designed for cooking 2 to 14 cups of rice, this programmable pot sports six functions: white rice, quick rice, whole grain, heat and simmer, steam, and keep warm. It can also cook prepackaged pastas, beans, grains, soups, and stews, and users can toss a few vegetables into the steamer basket for even more meal options. The 15-hour delay setting makes cooking ahead easy, and this cooker keeps food heated for hours.
It's hard to find a micro-computerized rice cooker priced under $75, but the Panasonic SR-DF101 (starting at $66) competes with appliances that cost more than twice as much. It's easy for a novice to use, with only four buttons that cover quick cooking or steaming, white rice, brown rice, and porridge or soup. It uses "fuzzy logic" to automatically adjust the internal temperature for different foods, so that the final product is always optimally cooked and never burnt or overdone. It can also continue warming for up to 12 hours, making it suited for long-cooking foods such as soup or stew. This model holds up to 5 cups of uncooked rice.
Another inexpensive micro-computerized or "micom" rice cooker, the Tiger JBV-A10U (starting at $70) takes up to 5.5 cups of uncooked rice and yields about 10 cups of cooked product. Its synchronized cooking function allows two foods to be prepared at once -- one in the inner pot and one on a plate that sits above it -- without mixing the flavors or aromas. It cooks brown rice as well as white rice and can also act as a slow cooker. It keeps food warm for up to 12 hours, and users describe the rice it serves up as truly superb.