Invented and perfected in Japan, rice cookers are convenient products that allow us to eat delicious rice, and are a staple appliance in Japanese households. In fact, there are so many types of rice cookers, such as those for people who live alone, those for big families, and those that not only cook rice but also can bake bread or also double as a slow-cooker. On top of that, there are high-end rice cookers as well as entry-level rice cookers from various manufacturers like Zojirushi, Panasonic, Tiger, and Toshiba, all with different strengths and weaknesses, making it difficult to choose the best rice cooker.
To determine what the best rice cooker is, we compared 9 of the best-selling Japanese rice cookers found on popular e-commerce sites in Japan, such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping and put them all to the test.
We tested each rice cooker for the following:
Rice cookers just cook rice, right? Well, not really. Since rice is arguably the centerpiece of Japanese cuisine, Japanese rice cookers have continuously innovated their products since the world's first-ever consumer electric rice cooker was released by Toshiba in 1955. Today, rice cookers not only cook rice perfectly, but have a multitude of other functions as well.
Unlike your average rice cooker, Japanese rice cookers cook rice with lots of steam and pressure to force the grains of rice to absorb more water. They're also incredibly consistent, always cooking rice to perfection regardless of the type of rice you use, allowing you to simply add rice, water, and push a few buttons to cook perfect, fluffy and delicious rice.
For tips on how to choose a buying guide, see the link below. Since Japan is the pioneer of rice cookers, all the points featured in the article below apply to the products featured in this article.
In order to cook delicious rice, it takes a little bit more than just picking up a fancy rice cooker, and requires some techniques and tools.
While some people might wash their rice in the inner pot of their rice cooker, the friction from the rice can actually damage your rice cooker. While this isn't always necessary, it's better to wash your rice in a separate bowl.
Moreover, when you wash your rice, a lot of scum and excess starch from the rice will wash out. The key to washing your rice is to quickly rinse your rice so that it doesn't re-absorb what you just washed off.
Another thing to keep in mind is you don't need to vigorously scrub your rice. You want to gently rinse your rice, not pulverize it! Use your fingers to wash the rice, and press the rice down with your palm when you dump out the water you used to wash the rice.
Using a fine mesh colander, like in the image above, can make washing rice easy. Check out the link below for the best colanders.
According to major Japanese rice cooker manufacturer Tiger, when your rice cooker finishes cooking the rice, you should quickly stir it up to release excess moisture on the surface of the rice. Not releasing this excess moisture can make your rice soggy and mushy, losing its texture.
When stirring your rice, gently insert your rice scoop into the rice and lift up sections of the rice. Never press down on the rice, since that will turn it into mush.
Generally speaking, Japanese rice cookers are sold in three different capacities: 3 cups, 5.5 cups, and 10 cups. And if all of these rice cookers, well, cook rice, you might be thinking it's fine to just cook 2 cups of rice in a 10 cup rice cooker, right?
Using a rice cooker that's bigger than what you need not only uses more energy than necessary, they also can't cook rice optimally. Additionally, cooking rice at maximum capacity usually means that there isn't enough space for the water to move around, and the heat won't be evenly distributed.
People often think that you can just cook small amounts of rice with say a 5.5-cup rice cooker, but the truth is, bigger isn't always better if you're not planning on cooking a lot of rice.
Rice cookers are designed to optimally cook at 60% of the rice cooker's capacity. Rice cookers are designed to let the rice absorb water before it starts cooking, so if the rice absorbs too much water during this time, you can end up with mushy rice.
Now for the 3 best compact rice cookers. Compact rice cookers can cook up to 3 cups and are perfect for cooking rice for up to two people.
Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker NP-RT05
Micro Computer-Controlled Rice Cooker JBS-A055
Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker RC-6PXR
Size Matters Not - Capable of Cooking Soft, Fluffy Rice
Best for People Living Alone
Best for Firm Rice and User-Friendly Design
|Japanese||象印マホービン 圧力IH炊飯ジャーNP-RT05||タイガー魔法瓶 マイコンジャー炊飯器JBS-A055||東芝ライフスタイル 圧力IHジャー炊飯器RC-6PXR|
|Volume||3 cups||3 cups||3.5 cups|
|Size||9x12.5x7.7 inches||9.7x10.9x7.5 inches||9.7x11.9x8.5 inches (16.7 in. with open lid)|
|Weight||9lbs||5.9 lbs||11.2 lbs|
|Pot material||Fluorine coated||Far infrared black special thick kettle||Far-infrared coating exterior, charcoal diamond coating interior|
|Unique features||Variable cooking pressure, moisturizing heat retention, high heat retention, aged cooking (white rice/brown rice), cleaning, 2 clock-based timers||Heat retention time display, washable inner pot, clear LCD (gray)||3 options for furnace-style cooking, extra sweet rice cooking option, environmentally-friendly cooking|
|Ease of maintenance||3.2||4.2||3.3|
|Pot material||Fluorine coated|
|Unique features||Variable cooking pressure, moisturizing heat retention, high heat retention, aged cooking (white rice/brown rice), cleaning, 2 clock-based timers|
|Ease of maintenance||3.2|
|Pot material||Far infrared black special thick kettle|
|Unique features||Heat retention time display, washable inner pot, clear LCD (gray)|
|Ease of maintenance||4.2|
|Size||9.7x11.9x8.5 inches (16.7 in. with open lid)|
|Pot material||Far-infrared coating exterior, charcoal diamond coating interior|
|Unique features||3 options for furnace-style cooking, extra sweet rice cooking option, environmentally-friendly cooking|
|Ease of maintenance||3.3|
Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker JPI-G100
STAN. Induction Heating Rice Cooker NW-SA10-BA
Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker JPI-A100
Best at Balancing Grain Texture and Softness
A Reliable Rice Cooker That Always Delivers
Delicious Heated Rice Eliminates the Need to Freeze
|Japanese||タイガー魔法瓶 圧力IHジャー炊飯器JPI-G100||象印マホービン STAN. IH炊飯ジャーNW-SA10-BA||タイガー魔法瓶 圧力IHジャー炊飯器JPI-A100|
|Volume||5.5 cups||5.5 cups||5.5 cups|
|Size||9.9x11.9x8.3 inches||11.42x9.25x7.68 inches||9.9x8.3x11.9 inches|
|Weight||11.9 lbs||9.47 lbs||11.9 lbs|
|Pot material||Earthenware coating||Fluorine coating, aluminum, stainless||Body: Stainless steel, aluminum, alloy, pure aluminum/Coating: copper, earthenware coating|
|Unique features||Foam cooking, pressure washer course||Black thick pot, even heating, reheating, dimple stainless (inner lid), 2 timers, notification melody, washable inner lid, cord reel, capable of washing rice in inner pot||Cleaning, 24-hour heat retention, fast cook, delicious small-portion cooking, environmentally-friendly cooking|
|Ease of maintenance||3.2||4.3||4.3|
|Pot material||Earthenware coating|
|Unique features||Foam cooking, pressure washer course|
|Ease of maintenance||3.2|
|Japanese||象印マホービン STAN. IH炊飯ジャーNW-SA10-BA|
|Pot material||Fluorine coating, aluminum, stainless|
|Unique features||Black thick pot, even heating, reheating, dimple stainless (inner lid), 2 timers, notification melody, washable inner lid, cord reel, capable of washing rice in inner pot|
|Ease of maintenance||4.3|
|Pot material||Body: Stainless steel, aluminum, alloy, pure aluminum/Coating: copper, earthenware coating|
|Unique features||Cleaning, 24-hour heat retention, fast cook, delicious small-portion cooking, environmentally-friendly cooking|
|Ease of maintenance||4.3|
Steam and Variable Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker SR-VSX181
Induction Heating Rice Cooker JPW-A180
Bincho Charcoal Induction Heating Rice Cooker NJ-VEB18-W
The Rice Cooker for Those Who Value Deliciousness Over Everything
Authentically Replicates Rice Cooked in an Earthenware Pot
Best for Fluffy and Sweet Rice
|Japanese||パナソニック スチーム&可変圧力IHジャー炊飯器SR-VSX181||タイガー IHジャー炊飯器〈炊きたて〉JPW-A180||三菱電機 備長炭 炭炊釜NJ-VEB18-W|
|Volume||10 cups||10 cups||10 cups|
|Size||11.7x15.4x10.6 inches||11.3x15.2x9.4 inches||10.3x12.4x10.1 inches|
|Weight||19.8 pounds||10.8 lbs||13.2 lbs|
|Pot material||Diamond coated||Earthenware coating||Charcoal coating|
|Unique features||Auto-cooking, optimized cooking for various rice brands, steam heat retention, frozen rice menu, "Kitchen Pocket" app||Timer, various cooking settings||Environmentally-friendly cooking (white rice/unwashed rice)|
|Ease of maintenance||3.2||4.4||3.4|
|Pot material||Diamond coated|
|Unique features||Auto-cooking, optimized cooking for various rice brands, steam heat retention, frozen rice menu, "Kitchen Pocket" app|
|Ease of maintenance||3.2|
|Pot material||Earthenware coating|
|Unique features||Timer, various cooking settings|
|Ease of maintenance||4.4|
|Japanese||三菱電機 備長炭 炭炊釜NJ-VEB18-W|
|Pot material||Charcoal coating|
|Unique features||Environmentally-friendly cooking (white rice/unwashed rice)|
|Ease of maintenance||3.4|
We gathered the 9 most popular Japanese rice cookers available online from e-commerce sites popular in Japan like Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping, and put each one to the test in order to find out which was the best rice cooker.
We tested each product for the following:
The most important thing in rice cookers is whether or not they can cook delicious rice. For this test, we cooked rice at different volumes with each rice cooker. For the compact rice cookers, we cooked rice once at minimum volume and again at maximum volume and conducted taste tests after we cooked each time.
We cooked three and seven cups for our 5-cup and 10-cup rice cookers, respectively. We then conducted four taste tests in total: once immediately after cooking, once after leaving it heated in the cooker at six hours, again at 12 hours, and finally, frozen rice that was defrosted using a microwave.
<Left: 5-Star Rice Meister Muneyoshi Nitta>
Muneyoshi works in sales at Mitsuhashi Rice Milling. He earned the rank of 5-Star Rice Meister in 2017. He recommends and sells various brands of rice and blended rice to supermarkets and restaurants depending on their needs. With his motto of providing delicious rice to his customers, he works hard in sales on a daily basis.
<Right: 5-Star Rice Meister, Class 1 Side Dish Manager Keiichiro Yamanabe>
Keiichiro currently also works at Mitsuhashi Rice Milling, where he's hopped from role to role, ranging from systems, planning and PR, and online sales. Today, wanting to have as many people eat delicious rice as much as possible, he also supervises and operates the earthenware pot-cooked rice specialty restaurant, GOHANYA'GOHAN. He also runs classes on various rice blends, how to cook rice, and compares rice brands at schools, companies, and other events.
Next, we tested the functionality of each rice cooker. We invited Japanese editors from mybest's Japanese team and had them evaluate each product's functionality on a scale of 1 to 5.
We asked them to focus on the following:
In this test, we again had our Japanese editors test each rice cooker for how easy each rice cooker was to use.
We had them rate the rice cookers based on the following aspects on a scale of 1 to 5.
Finally, we tested for how easy the rice cookers were to maintain, since rice cookers are something that sees a lot of use.
We evaluated the rice cookers based on how easy the parts were to wash and how heavy the inner pot was on a scale of 1 to 5.
Now that you've gotten a Japanese rice cooker, time to get some more products that you might find useful!
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