In Japanese cuisine, properly cooked rice is of great importance. Some would say that a meal could be great, but if the rice is flawed, then the entire meal is flawed. With this focus on such an integral part of the cuisine, it stands to reason that the people of Japan take their rice cooking very seriously.
There are many ways to cook rice. A simple saucepan will certainly do the job, but there are also a great many variables that make this method less than ideal. For accuracy and proper doneness, the rice cooker is the tool of choice for both professional and home cooks. The outcome should yield nicely cooked, fluffy rice grains that are never mushy and overcooked, nor dry and undercooked.
The rice cooker is an extremely important electronic appliance for the Japanese home, and the purchase of this tool is not to be taken lightly. For this reason, many cooks around the world have sought out the best rice cookers that are often made in Japan. These days, it is possible to get your hands one one quite easily, but with so many makes and models on the market, it may seem a bit overwhelming to sort through the details.
In this article, I will answer your questions about Japanese rice cookers and provide you with eight options, one of which is sure to suit your needs. In the end, you will have a better understanding of the things to consider before heading out to pick one up for yourself.
What Should I Look For When Buying Japanese Rice Cookers?
There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration before purchasing any kitchen electronic appliance for the home. The rice cooker is no exception. Here are a few important things to consider before making your purchase.
Criteria #1: Size
Are you cooking for one or two or making rice for a crowd? This guide will give you a number of options in a range of sizes to suit your needs.
Criteria #2: Technology
Not all rice cookers function the same. A simple rice cooker may be fitting for some cooks, while the latest rice cooker technology can allow you to fine tune your results. I will offer options for standard rice cookers that heat solely from the bottom of the unit as well as induction cookers that transfer heat evenly from all sides of the pot.
Criteria #3: Budget
You do not have to break the bank when you are looking to bring a rice cooker into your home, but for those cooks who are looking for the best rice cooker, I have provided higher end models as well.
Once you have given some thought as to what you are looking for, this list will surely have something that will accommodate your needs for size and cooking technology within your price range.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Japanese Rice Cookers
In coming up with these rice cooker selections, I took a few things into consideration. First of all, I had a look at actual consumer reviews from cooks who know and understand the importance of properly cooked rice. Because people who use rice cookers tend to be pretty passionate about well-prepared rice, the reviews of better machines became quite clear.
Next, I considered the flexibility of these cookers to handle other tasks such as steaming, warming, and delayed start.
Beyond that, I figured in price. My list offers options at a number of price points so there is something here for everyone.
#1: Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer (Best Value – All-Purpose)
[amazon box=”B006W22KF8″ template=”horizontal” title=”Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (10-cups” description=”Comes with a time delay timer and ‘keep warm’ function. Also has 8 menu functions to allow you to pick the best setting for your specific task. Also great for steaming vegetables and baking cakes. Comes with a 1 year warranty”]
My choice for the best value in an all-purpose Japanese rice cooker is the Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker. This model is made by a very well-recognized maker of kitchen appliances. With a reputation for excellence and quality, Zojirushi has been around for over 100 years.
This particular model features micro computerized fuzzy logic technology that allows the machine to automatically adjust the temperature of the heating element to slow the heating of the water so that it is properly absorbed or evaporated precisely when the rice is finished cooking.
There are eight distinct menu settings on the interface of this rice cooker, including white/sushi, mixed, porridge, sweet, brown, cake, steam, and quick cooking. This allows you to select the proper setting for the specific task you desire. The result is rice that is cooked with greater accuracy which yields perfect grains that are never mushy.
There are a few functions that set this rice cooker apart from base models. For example, a convenient delay timer will allow you to start your rice cooker so that it is finished in time for when you plan to eat it. This is as simple as washing your rice thoroughly, setting up your rice cooker with the proper proportion of rice to water, and selecting the correct time to start the cooking. With this feature, you can wake up to fresh, warm rice in the morning in much the same way you would preset a timer for your coffee maker.
If you prefer to keep your rice warm when it is finished cooking, there is a handy “keep warm” function. This works particularly well in households where people may be eating at different times. Beyond that, it is equipped with a handy reheat function which expands the scope of this machine.
With an easy-to-clean, clear-coated, stainless steel exterior, this rice cooker maintains a nice looking exterior, while the easy-to-read LCD control panel keypad is coated in plastic for simple clean-up. A retractable cord stays conveniently out of your way when it is not in use.
This machine comes with just a few accessories including a plastic rice spatula, which will not scratch the non-stick bowl, a spatula holder, and a rice measuring cup.
For the cost, this Japanese rice cooker has all of the necessary components of a well-built machine while keeping it reasonable in price. Of course, you can spend more, but this is a tried-and-true model is, backed by a reputable name, that will deliver well-cooked rice time and time again.
#2: Zojirushi NP-HCC10XH Induction Heating System Rice Cooker and Warmer (Best Rice Cooker)
[amazon box=”B00VAG84O2″ template=”horizontal” title=”Zojirushi NP-HCC10XH Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer – 1 liter” description=”Induction cooking technology means the rice cooks from all sides of the pan, ensuring more evenly cooked rice. Wide range of preset functions allow for cooking jasmine and GABA brown rice. Comes with a 1 year warranty.”]
Also by the well-known maker of kitchen electronics, Zojirushi, my choice for the best rice cooker is the Zojirushi NP-HCC10XH Induction Heating System Rice Cooker and Warmer. At first glance, it may appear quite similar to the Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker. In fact, the exterior styling is rather similar, but it is what is under the lid that sets this machine apart.
There are a few distinct features that set this rice cooker apart, making it my choice for the best overall Japanese rice cooker.
Reason #1: Induction Cooking Technology
The technology that this machine utilizes to do the actual cooking makes it unique. Using induction cooking technology, the rice is actually cooked from all sides of the pan, rather than just from the bottom, as it is in my previous selection. The heat distribution encompasses the entire inner cooking pan which in this case results in more evenly cooked rice.
Reason #2: More Preset Functions
The Zojirushi NP-HCC10XH boasts a wider range of pre-programmed functions, broadening the scope of its capabilities. These including settings for more specific types of rice including Jasmine and GABA rice.
Jasmine rice is a little different than short or medium grain white rice. For this reason, there is a special menu setting for cooking Jasmine white rice.
For GABA brown rice, which boasts an amino acid believed to have a number of health benefits, this function keeps rice at a lower temperature for a longer period of time of about three hours. The result is perfectly cooked rice with a measurable increase in nutrients.
Reason #3: Accuracy
What we can’t say about this model is that it is the fastest rice cooker. However, it more than makes up for that with the attention to precise temperatures that yield the optimal results. For those cooks who are well-versed in the finer points of rice cookery, this may be the machine for you. You can expect to pay more for this technology which sets it apart from its lower-priced contenders. Experts agree that perfectly cooked rice will make the meal a success.
#3: Tiger JNP-1000-FL Rice Cooker and Warmer (Best Easy-to-Use)
[amazon box=”B004S59E6E” template=”horizontal” title=”Tiger JNP-1000-FL 5.5-cup Rice Cooker and Warmer” description=”This rice cooker from Tiger is great if you only want to cook white rice, and are not looking for a delay timer function. It will, however keep your rice warm for up to 12 hours. Comes with a 1 year warranty.”]
Tiger is a widely known and respected name in Japanese rice cookers and has been for nearly 100 years. Known for simplicity and high quality, this is the type of appliance you can expect to deliver consistent and properly cooked white rice for years to come.
This is a straightforward rice cooker with a non-stick inner pan. There are no preprogrammed functions as my previous choices offered, which makes cooking rice very straightforward. With the measuring cup that is included with this machine, measuring is very simple and accurate. Also included is a plastic rice paddle or spatula that is the only thing you need to scoop and serve your rice.
This machine has an attached lid that opens conveniently with a sturdy handle. It is well-insulated so that the exterior does not get too hot while in use. Furthermore, a retractable cord tucks away neatly when not in use making it neat for storage.
Once your rice is finished cooking, it is best to allow the cooked rice to steam for an additional 5-10 minutes for optimal doneness. At that point, you can keep it warm with the keep-warm function for up to 12 hours.
Priced at less than half the price of my choice for best machine, this Tiger model is a great mid-price model that will conveniently cook enough rice for about 4 to 6 people. Its simple design and ease of use make it a fit for those who plan to cook white rice in a reasonable amount of time with consistent results.
#4: Zojirushi NHS-10 Rice Cooker (Best Low Cost)
My choice for best low-cost rice cooker is also by the well-known brand, Zojirushi. This 6-cup cooker, steamer, and warmer is a budget-friendly model that is backed by a recognizable name in kitchen appliances.
This flexible, yet simple, machine will steam your rice in an easy-to-clean, non-stick inner pan, while allowing you to use it as a steamer with its stainless steel cooking tray. It comes with a see-through glass lid, measuring cup, spatula, and removable cord for easy storage. These are all the essentials you will need to cook short grain white rice with ease.
The set up could not be easier with its switch that starts the cooking and then flips to “keep warm” when your rice is finished.
Some reviewers indicated that the vented lid did tend to sputter a bit as the rice was cooking, though it was not a deal-breaker for most. One suggested a thin tea towel placed over the vent would allow it to cook and release the steam properly while reducing the mess.
Overall, this is a great machine in this price range. If you are looking for a reliable, entry-level rice cooker that will give you a little flexibility with its steamer basket insert, this model is a great choice. At less than half the price of my selection for the best easy-to-use model, you can have a nice cooker without a lot of bells and whistles.
#5: TIGER JBV-A10U 5.5-Cup Micom Rice Cooker with Food Steamer Basket (Best Multitasker)
[amazon box=”B00KDNKTJG” template=”horizontal” title=”Tiger JBV-A10U 5.5-cup Micom Rice cooker with Food Steamer Basket” description=”This rice cooker from Tiger will also allow you to cook your main meal at the same time as cooking the rice, and it also cooks white and brown rice. Comes with a 1 year warranty.”]
The TIGER JBV-A10U 5.5-Cup Micom Rice Cooker packs a lot of functions into one simple machine. This multitasker allows you to cook a main dish and rice at the same time with the syncro-cooking “tacook” function. Beyond that, it boasts slow cooking capabilities which significantly broadens the range of this rice cooker.
With just 4 simple buttons and a one-touch setting, this rice cooker takes all of the guesswork out of the programming. Just touch a button and let the machine do the work. Equipped with a non-stick spatula, cooking plate, measuring cup, and cookbook for using the “Synchrony-cooking” function, it has all of the tools you need to make delicious meals that are carefree and fun. With an easy-to-clean, non-stick inner pan, it is just as easy to clean up after use.
Some reviewers indicate that this machine would have benefited from a signal indicating when it is finished cooking, though, for its moderate price and capabilities, it wasn’t a deal-breaker. Others felt an attached cup would have been a nice feature to collect water that otherwise drips onto your counter. Again, a small inconvenience when you take into consideration that this model cooks white and brown rice while cooking main dishes and slow-cooked meals.
Overall, this is a well-rounded kitchen appliance that has a lot to offer. Cooks with smaller spaces and limited storage would benefit from this rice cooker that is so much more than meets the eye.
For those who are looking for a rice cooker at a reasonable price point, there are some nice options that won’t break the bank. Below are my choices for models that normally run below $60.
My first choice for best budget rice cooker is the Comfee multi cooker/rice cooker/steamer. It is an attractive black and stainless steel color which would look good in any kitchen.
It has 8 digital cooking programs including rice, brown rice, quick rice, steam, mixed grain, quinoa, saute and oatmeal functions. It easy to clean, with the inner pot being non-stick, which can easily be wiped clean.
For those times when you want to delay your start time, you can set it to cook up to 12 hours in advance. This works great for families who wish to wake up to freshly cooked porridge, congee, or rice. A keep-warm function will hold your food for you until you are ready to eat.
This is a fitting model for someone who wishes to expand their rice cooking into other cooking methods. With a reasonable price tag, you shouldn’t necessarily compare it with the best rice cookers out there, but this one will allow you to dabble in a number of techniques all with just one simple machine.
[amazon box=”B0752VWV65″ template=”horizontal” title=”Hamilton Beach Digital Rice Cooker & Steamer (37518)” description=”This comes with a steam basket that allows you to make a healthy one pot meal. No delay timer, but there is an automatic ‘keep warm’ function if you are not quite ready to eat. A great value multi tasker.”]
My second choice for best budget Japanese rice cooker is the Hamilton Beach Digital Programmable Rice Cooker & Food Steamer. This is another multitasker in the kitchen that allows you to do so much more than cook rice. It handles jobs like cooking hot cereal, steaming vegetables, and making healthy one-pot meals.
With five pre-programmed settings, you can select your desired method with the touch of a button and be on your way in no time. After the cooking cycle has finished, the unit will automatically switch to “keep warm” so that your rice stays hot until you plan to use it.
A few reviewers indicated that the keep warm temperature tended to run a bit high, so it should be noted that, if you plan to hold your food for some time after it is finished cooking, it may overcook or dry out.
This rice cooker comes with a non-stick inner pot, attached lid, plastic rice spatula, rice measuring cup, and a steamer basket that doubles as a rice strainer, which comes in handy when washing the rice before cooking. Overall, it is well-equipped for such a reasonably priced machine.
For the price, this Hamilton Beach electric rice cooker does a decent job. Some felt it operated a bit slower than some of the others, but if you are looking for a budget-friendly machine that has some additional features, this is a good fit.
#3 Best Budget – Aroma Housewares 2-8-Cups (Cooked) Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker and Food Steamer
[amazon box=”B007WQ9YNO” template=”horizontal” title=”Aroma Housewares Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker & Steamer” description=”This Aroma Housewares Rice Cooker offers a 15 hour timer delay, and keep warm function for a great price, as well as having a steam basket. It comes with a 1 year warranty.”]
My third choice for best budget rice cooker is the Aroma Housewares 2-8-Cups (Cooked) Digital Cool-Touch Rice Grain Cooker and Food Steamer. This reasonably priced kitchen appliance boasts over 40,000 reviews with a high star rating.
This simple rice cooker offers a few functions that are easy to program. With this cooker, you can select options including white rice, brown rice, flash rice, and steam. With these options you can do much more than simply cook rice, making it a multi-functional kitchen appliance that goes beyond its call of duty.
This basic rice cooker offers a 15-hour delay time which is great when you want to program your rice cooker in advance. When your rice is finished, it will automatically switch to Keep Warm mode, ensuring that your rice will be hot and ready when you are.
Equipped with a non-stick inner pot, steam tray, rice measuring cup, and plastic serving spatula, this machine has everything you need. It is a rather compact machine with a 2-8 cup capacity making it a suitable size for families or small gatherings. It cleans up quite easily with a dishwasher-safe inner pot and a removable inner lid that should be cleaned regularly. It also has a small attached cup that collects condensation that may develop. Simply remove this and rinse after use to keep it clean.
Overall, this is a very reasonable rice cooker and steamer. Given the price, it is a fitting option for those looking to get something that they will use occasionally to get decent results. Add to this the fact that you can use it as a steamer and you have a rice cooker that has a lot to offer, considering the price point. It’s a sensible kitchen appliance that won’t break the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Worth Buying a Japanese Rice Cooker?
For those who recognize the value of properly cooked rice, it is a very worthwhile investment, taking the guesswork out of the process. Add to that the fact that several of these rice cookers are multi-taskers in your kitchen, and you have a tool that can do so much more than cook rice.
What Rice Cookers Do Japanese People Actually Use?
Is It Important to Wash Rice before Cooking It?
My preferred method is quite simple. Just measure your rice and place it in the inner pot of your rice cooker. Pour clean tap water over the rice covering it well, and agitate it with your hand. Be gentle, so that you don’t break the grains of rice, and then strain. Repeat this process about 5 or 6 times, until the water begins to run clear. At that point, measure your water according to the amount of rice you are cooking and begin the process of rice cooking.
Your efforts will yield rice that is less starchy and better tasting in the end.
Verdict: Your Best Japanese Rice Cooker
Choosing the best rice cooker that can deliver perfectly cooked rice to your table without a lot of guesswork can seem overwhelming. There are options that will suit your needs within your budget with features that will make cooking a breeze.
Here is a breakdown of my findings.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer.
If you need the best multitasker, pick the TIGER JBV-A10U 5.5-Cup Micom Rice Cooker with Food Steamer Basket.
If you want to keep the spend low, pick the Zojirushi NHS-10 Rice Cooker.
With over 40,000 varieties of rice and a great many cuisines that rely on well-cooked rice to make a proper meal, it stands to reason that there are a lot of rice cookers out there to meet the needs of cooks who enjoy it. Finding the best Japanese rice cooker will ensure that you are serving the best rice to your guests.