I recommend a fuzzy logic rice cooker if you eat rice every day, basically making your cooker an always-on device. Your rice will take about twice as long to cook as it does in on-off rice cookers — but if rice is part of your daily routine, that will never be a concern. In a fuzzy logic cooker, there will be no more scooping leftover rice into containers for the fridge. You can just get the cooker in a size that fits your needs. That device’ll cook then keep all the rice warm in it until you eat it all — usually within a day or day and half — at which point you’ll probably just wash out the bowl and put in more rice to cook for the next day or day and half.
I’ll start with the on-off cookers and move onto more complex models — which means the prices will go up as I proceed. Since all the rice cookers here are best in their class, I recommend buying the lowest-priced one that has all the bells and whistles — whether it’s a brown rice function or a pre-settable timer — you need as an individual:
Panasonic SR-G06FG 3.3-Cup Rice Cooker/Steamer
This no-frills 3.3-cup rice cooker weighs merely 4 pounds and measures 8 x 10 x 8 inches, making it a good option for small households with small kitchens. While the cooker does shut off automatically, it also has no other frills — no programmable options, or even a keep-warm function. However, you can get enough nicely-cooked rice for about 3 adults in roughly 35 minutes — White rice, that is. Since this cooker’s really only got one switch, if you want brown rice, you’ll need to soak the grains for a few hours before hitting cook. In fact, if what you usually eat is brown rice, this isn’t the cooker for you.
Get the Panasonic SR-G06FG at Amazon for $28.49., or go for the bigger Panasonic SR-G18FG 10-Cup Rice Cooker/Steamer if you’ve got a bigger family. That item comes with a veggie steamer you can put over the rice and costs $40.65 at Amazon.
Sanyo ECJ-N55W 5-1/2-Cup Electric Rice Cooker
This 5.5-cup cooker’s a bit more expensive than the Panasonic, but a lot more versatile too. For one, this Sanyo model’s good at cooking brown rice — and other types of rice — plus has settings for soup and porridge. The cooker also comes with a steamer basket.
At 10 x 9 x 10 inches and 6.5 pounds, the Sanyo ECJ-N55W is bigger and weightier than the Panasonic. And while the Sanyo does have a keep-warm function, making use of that function for more than a few hours will dry out your rice. Get it at Amazon for $54.95.
Panasonic SR-DE102 Rice Cooker/Warmer
Need a cooker you can preset? You can set the Panasonic SR-DE102 up to 13 hours in advance — then automatically keep your rice warm for 12 hours after that. The cooker also has 6 settings, from steam to brown rice to cake baking, so if you want a rice cooker that’ll do a lot more than cook rice, this Panasonic’s the cheapest on the market I’d recommend. Oh — and it comes with a steam basket for your veggies too.
Considering its price, the Panasonic SR-DE102 is a great value for picky rice eaters on a budget. It’s available at Amazon for about $85.
Sanyo ECJ-D55S 5.5-Cup Micro-Computerized Rice Cooker/Steamer
The Sanyo ECJ-D55S’s your best pick for an affordable fuzzy logic rice cooker, since it comes with everything from a 24-hour timer to a steamer tray to multi-menu settings. Read the Amazon reviews, and you’ll find that simple brown rice people love this cooker for its ability to make great, simple brown rice, while the more experimental people love how the cooker makes everything from quinoa to pudding.
As with all fuzzy logic cookers, expect longer cooking times — and higher prices. Amazon has the Sanyo Sanyo ECJ-D55S for $109.09.
Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5.5-Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer
This fuzzy logic rice cooker’s got all it takes to cook and keep your rice perfect until you’re ready to eat it. Use the 24-hour programmable preset timer, select one of 5 rice settings, and even pick from a chime or tune to signal when your rice is cooked. There’s a quick cook feature too — but as you know by now, the rice won’t taste as good if you cook it quickly.
Sally’s Kitchen says “If you cook primarily brown rice, this is the one to buy.” Plus, a memory setting will remember how you like a certain type of rice, according to Fine Cooking. The one downside may be that the cooker doesn’t have a steamer basket. Get Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 for $175 at Amazon.
Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 10-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer
Hey big spender! I know some of you Metaefficient readers are really into induction heating, where “instead of direct heat, electrical currents create electromagnetic waves to heat the pot quickly and evenly,” as LA Times puts it. It’s true — Induction heating tends to be more energy efficient than other methods. It also tends to be a lot more expensive!
Yes, you get the 5 settings plus “quick cook” option, the 24-hour timer, and the chime — but the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy has all of those features too. In fact, aside from the high price tag, LA Times’ note that this induction heating system warns “electromagnetic signal may affect pacemakers and erase the data on credit cards and audiotapes nearby” kind of turns me off of the whole thing. No, I don’t have a pacemaker, but I do have credit cards — and audiotapes from junior high sweethearts. If you still wanna go for it, get the Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 at Amazon for a about $180.
A few extra thoughts to keep in mind: Japanese cups — and you’ll notice all the cooker models I recommended are Japanese — are smaller than American cups (200 ml vs. 240 ml). Keep that in mind when making your purchase.
And if you’re really interested in getting a rice cooker for cooking things other than rice, heed Julia Moskin of the New York Time’s advice: “Cooking foods other than rice in a rice cooker is like baking a layer cake in an Easy-Bake oven: best approached with patience, curiosity and something to snack on in the meantime.” Of course, Julia then goes on to provide rough instructions for cooking everything from bibimbap to daffodil-yellow pilaf in your rice cooker….
Lastly: Rice cookers that make perfect rice every time weren’t always around — and some cultures actually developed yummy dishes based around the imperfectability of rice cooking. Which is to say that the toastily burnt bottom layer of rice used in some traditional Korean and Persian dishes will be tough to recreate in your always-perfect rice cooker — even if you get one with a toast setting. Perfection and efficiency sometimes comes at a cultural cost….