The rice cookers we tested fell into three loose categories: small, affordable devices, midrange multicookers and specialized, high-end rice cookers.
Each mini rice cooker we tested, including the Imusa 3-cup, the Dash mini 2-cup rice cooker, and the Black & Decker 3-cup rice cooker offered decent, small servings of white rice — although the Dash took a painfully long 35 minutes just to cook just one cup of white. All of them struggled with brown rice and mixed rice, though.
The slightly larger 6-cup Oster (our budget pick) and the Zojirushi rice makers performed nearly identically, making perfect pots of white rice in 19 and 20 minutes respectively and very good brown rice — albeit perhaps just slightly underdone — in a lightning-fast 22 minutes. We would gleefully recommend either one as a solid space-saving rice cooker option. While the Zojirushi does seem slightly more solidly built, it’s more than double the price of the Oster, which gives the Oster our final nod.
The $50 8-cup Hamilton Beach rice cooker seems like a good deal for the size, but its rice was inconsistent, with severely undercooked, dry rice sections. Zojirushi’s 3-cup option also disappointed with rice that was too wet and slightly broken down, losing the distinction of well-cooked white rice.
Cuisinart’s 4-cup and Black and Decker’s 7-cup rice cookers were some of our least favorites because they were both so messy. Cuisinart’s boiled each time we used this conventional rice cooker and Black and Decker’s larger model leaked onto the counter, necessitating significant cleanup.
When it came to the midrange multicookers, we found the cooking time to be slow and the results consistently a little off. An 8-cup Aroma rice cooker and food steamer, Instant Pot’s Zest cooker and a five-cup Panasonic got us excited with the various functions available on their interfaces, but all three produced overcooked, slightly mushy rice, possibly due to the slow cooking. We also tested Cusinart’s larger Rice Plus Multi-Cooker and while it can hold a lot of rice and produced decent batches of white and brown, cooking rice took longer than any other machine to do so at well over an hour and a half for brown rice.
If you find yourself cooking loads of different types of grains, one of these may be a viable option since they have so many niche settings. But for rice, there are better options available. You might also find you get more bang for your buck with a true multicooker that includes a pressure cooker function. I’d direct you to CNET’s list of best Instant Pots for 2024 for a bit more on that.
Finally, the higher-end, specialized rice cookers from Tiger and Zojirushi were both impressive, as noted above. It’s clear these devices are carefully calibrated; Zojirushi even offers a little bit of personalization as to how you want your white rice cooked, which is ideal if you’ve got folks with different rice texture preferences living under the same roof.
The Tiger, however, is less than half the price of its counterpart and cooked rice extremely well faster than any others. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the Zojirushi, which nabs our top pick for custom rice, but it’s our top overall choice for the best rice cooker in 2024.