What is the best, most versatile rice cooker?
July 25, 2014 12:00 PM   Subscribe

I am a college student looking to purchase a quality rice cooker for everyday use to prepare both delicious rice and other one-pot meals. Does anyone have any specific brands or models they would recommend? My absolute upper limit is $150, but a model under $100 would be great.
posted by fignewton to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Zojirushi rice cookers are amazing. They've got a few models in the $120 range, I think.
posted by colin_l at 12:27 PM on July 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have this rice cooker by Aroma that I picked up from Costco for about $30 that I really like. I think it satisfies the versatility requirement, as it works as a slow cooker in addition to a rice cooker. It comes with a steaming basket, too, in case you want to make dumplings or steam a small amount of veggies, etc.

Generally, though, the holy-grail of all rice cookers, is considered to be a Zojirushi. Those things are trusty and last a looooooong time. Worth looking around to see if you can find one in your price range.
posted by krakus at 12:28 PM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a 1994 Zojirushi that still does everything well. It lives on the counter and has earned that position.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:33 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

nthing a Zojirushi. This is the one I have and it's great, though it's at the top end of your budget and I find the instruction manual to be... lacking.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have not already seen this, here's Roger Ebert on "The Pot and How To Use It." He links to a $45 Zojirushi at the start of it, though I think that's by way of example. I have a hand-me-down Black & Decker model that works well enough.

(The Pot and How To Use It was later published in book form, with large print and lots of white space, but virtually all of it is in that post and the comments thereon.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 12:48 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

This little Zojirushi guy is the one I have. It is slightly over your budget at 149.95, but it is amazingly easy to deal with and the rice is exceptionally tasty. Can also handle steel cut oats effortlessly. It has a timer and plays cute little songs. When I bought this, I considered it a frivolous purchase, but have used it almost daily ever since.
posted by ainsley at 12:51 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the one we have though we definitely didn't pay that much for it. I doubt we would have gone over $150. If you have any Asian grocery stores near you (we have Korean ones that usually have a good appliance section) they might carry them for cheaper prices than online. In any case I definitely nth Zojirushi.
posted by brilliantine at 12:56 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

We are about to retire the Zojirushi that we've had for well over ten years. I am seriously considering this electric pressure cooker as a possible replacement. It will cook rice and also gives you a lot of versatility for one-pot meals. (and it is within your price range)
posted by Tanizaki at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2014

I have one one of the combo rice/crock/pressure cooker (such as the one Tanizaki) and if you are pressed for space, it is the way to go. You can also brown meat in the pot for dishes that are better that way (texas style chili say).
posted by bartonlong at 1:20 PM on July 25, 2014

Chiming in for Zojirushi. We absolutely love ours. We bought it off of eBay for a reasonable price ($120 inc shipping, IIRC).
posted by Kitteh at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2014

I went with The Sweethome's recommendation of a Hamilton Beach about a year ago. So far it's seen heavy use and I've no regrets.
posted by rewil at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2014

You can pick-up a Zojirushi 5.5 cup for less than $90 at Costco. But to be honest you can pick-up the Aroma at either Target or Costco for $30-40. The main thing is that you want one that has an on/off switch, which the models at a lot of Asian stores may not be sporting.

A majority of rice pots use teflon coated pans. I would absolutely advise against getting an aluminum pan that is UNCOATED because that stuff used to sheer off during wash-ups and having rice stuck to it.

Both the Aroma and Zojirushi work very well. There are multiple modes on each. I have had amazingly luck with rice cookers from Costco. Just remember to not lose the rice measuring cup that comes with the cooker (it is not really an American or British cup measurement).
posted by jadepearl at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2014

I have the Costco Aroma model linked above and I like it. I've used the steamer basket successfully and am currently slow cooking some beef at home, so hopefully that function works as well!
posted by MadamM at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2014

I've been looking for a good one for a while, but most can't seem to make just one or two cups so if you're looking to make smaller quantities that's something to check.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:39 PM on July 25, 2014

We have the Zojirushi and we never use it. It makes perfect rice but takes 3x longer than a $15 rice cooker. So not worth it.
posted by sid at 5:27 PM on July 25, 2014

When you say one of your requirements is "versatile," here's how I interpret that:

With my Z., I can put in some steel-cut oatmeal before bed, set the timer and the cook setting to "porridge," go to sleep, and wake up to tasty-ass oatmeal.

Can't beat that.
posted by colin_l at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

^^ All good options I'm sure, but there's something to be said for keeping your cookware as simple and versatile as possible. So I suggest a medium sized metal pot with a lid. Bonus: You'll build up skills over time, starting with time management. I used to burn rice at first, but now I can do perfect steamed rice every time, without measuring the water, in the time it takes to cook the rest of the meal.

Actually, I think it was the The Pot and How To Use It that convinced me to get a mortar and pestle. Which opens up entirely different things to do with food. Notice that Ebert didn't say, go get a food processor to go with your rice cooker. He wasn't really writing about modern conveniences; he was writing about taking something simple and learning to get the most out of it, and also about good cooking not actually being hard.
posted by joeyh at 6:56 PM on July 25, 2014

I went low carb 3 years ago but I kept my Zojirushi rice cooker just in case I ever want rice again. I had a cheap one for a while (bought at Goodwill) and when I decided that I liked having a rice cooker I bought the Zo. The 3 cup capacity of this one is perfect for 1 to 2 people. If you want to actually cook other stuff in with the rice you might want the 5.5 cup, but do spring for a model with a brain if you are serious.

Just remember that they're generally made for cooking short/medium grain rice. Nishiki is nice because you don't need to rinse it.
posted by monopas at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2014

Nthing Zojirushi for quality and longevity. My husband bought this Zojirushi model when he went off to college in the early 90s; HMart has it for $115, and it's probably cheaper on Amazon. It's still turning out awesome rice (and quinoa and other whole grains) in his younger sister's kitchen today 20 years later; we upgraded primarily because we wanted a bigger pot. But the rice cookers even one level up (for Zojirushi, that's everything Micom and above) are where you start getting the automatic flexibility for making things like congee, oatmeal, brown rice, soups, etc, and that played a factor too.

On preview, also what snickerdoodle said. Both our old Zojirushi and our newer Cuckoo keep rice ready-to-eat for 48-72 hours in far better condition than rice that's been removed from the cooker and placed in the fridge, then reheated. It's magic science magic.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:19 PM on July 25, 2014

My Zojirushi cooker makes such perfect rice that I sometimes eat the rice alone (plain and without protein), just so I can taste the perfectly cooked al dente grains and the sweetness of the rice. It's that good.

It also makes deliciously perfect brown rice.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 12:23 AM on July 26, 2014

Response by poster: For anyone curious, I went with a Zojirushi (3-cup model), and I have been very happy with the results. Thanks for all the advice.
posted by fignewton at 10:12 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

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