The best rice cooker is the one that makes the whole process so easy that there’s no daylight between your craving a bowl of plump, fragrant grains and lunch. Whenever the mood strikes, you’re halfway to garlicky fried rice, crispy pilaf, or sushi casserole. And while you definitely can make great rice without a rice cooker—in the oven or on the stove, salted with your own tears—do you want to? For the perfect rice, you need a rice cooker. And the best rice cooker, the one our food editors use daily at Bon Appètit, is the Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer.
This sleek gadget has taken up permanent residence in the Test Kitchen, a gently whirring constant at the center of a roomful of cooks in motion. When everyone inevitably gets hangry by midday, all we have to do is quickly reheat a leftover protein, scramble a couple of eggs, or slice some avocado and break out the chile crisp to turn those still-warm, fluffy, and tender grains into a meal. Of all the kitchen appliances out there, you’re going to want to make room on the countertop for this one.
The greatest advantage of making rice in an electric rice cooker versus the stovetop is that you can press a button and walk away, unlike a needy pot that you have to babysit from start to finish. Ever forgotten to take a pot of rice off the flame? Yeah, us too. Rice cookers can detect when the water in the pot has been absorbed or converted to steam, at which point they either automatically shut off or keep the rice warm for a while.
It’s not the cheapest model on the market, but the 5.5 cup (cups of uncooked rice, that is) capacity Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer is one of our top picks for a reason. Not only does this Japanese-designed model cook flawless, super fluffy rice consistently, but the price tag is a bit more budget-friendly compared to the brand’s higher end induction model, which is beloved by rice obsessives everywhere.
So why do some cookers cost $40 while others run upward of $400? The short answer is that less expensive models can generally only tell you when there is no more water in the cooking pot, whereas higher-end “smart” cookers, like this one, are equipped with a micro computer that uses something called “fuzzy logic” to compensate for human error (say, if you accidentally added too much liquid to the pot, it’s able to sense that and adjust so your grains don’t end up mushy).
The easy-to-read LCD control panel features a clock and programmable cook settings for each type of rice—like white or long grain, brown, porridge, and mixed grains—that take all the guesswork out. The thick inner pot conducts heat evenly, ensuring each batch of rice is uniformly tender. A countdown timer lets you know exactly when your rice will be done, the delay timer looks out for future-you, and an automatic “keep warm” function holds your grains at temp until you're ready.