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Say goodbye to instant rice: Five rice cookers that do it right

Why buy a rice cooker when you can make instant rice with minimal effort in just a few minutes? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, instant rice is more expensive. While this might not seem like a big deal for a single meal, if you eat rice on a daily basis the cost difference will quickly add up. The nutritional content of instant rice is also different. This quick and easy meal loses some of its nutritional value as it’s precooked, dehydrated, and packaged. But perhaps the biggest reason to use a rice cooker instead of instant rice is because of the taste and texture these appliances provide. There’s simply no comparing the deliciousness of a freshly prepared bowl of rice to the rehydrated contents of a box of instant rice.

More: What’s a multicooker, and do you need one?

If you’re looking for your first rice cooker, or are ready to upgrade your old pot, here are some appliances that you should consider.

Aroma Housewares 6-Cup Pot Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer ($17-19)


Aroma Housewares makes a wide-range of rice cookers and just about all of them could have been included on this list. We chose the Aroma Housewares 6-Cup Pot Style Rice Cooker because it’s easy to operate, it’s sold at an unbeatable price, and it has a decent cooking capacity.

Appliances don’t get much simpler than this offering from Aroma. Simply add rice, water, flip the switch, and the rice cooker will take care of the rest. The Aroma Housewares Rice Cooker will even automatically switch to “warm” mode when your rice is done so you don’t have to worry about over-cooking your rice.

This product is missing some features, such as a sauté function, but for $17 this rice cooker is hard to beat.

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Hamilton Beach Digital Simplicity ($29)


While it’s amazingly simple to cook perfect rice with almost any rice cooker — simply add your ingredients, select your cooking mode, and let the appliance do the rest — the Hamilton Beach Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker earned its inclusion on this list thanks to two key features: a delay start timer and an included steaming basket.

The Delay Start Timer allows you to set up your meal up to 15-hours early. This means that you can get everything prepped before you head to work, set your start timer for the end of your workday, and by the time you get home you’ll have a freshly prepared meal. Digital timers are a common feature on rice cookers, but it’s not something that’s included on many sub-$40 appliances. The Hamilton Beach Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker also doubles as a steamer. Rice cookers create a lot of steam and the Hamilton Beach doesn’t let any of it go to waste. With the included steaming tray you can steam vegetables, meat, or other sides at the same time that you cook your rice.

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Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Induction Heating Pressure Cooker ($372)


A $372 rice cooker better have some nice features to justify its price, right? Well, how about “fuzzy logic” artificial intelligence that learns from past cooking experiences and takes things into account like room and water temperature? Or how about heat induction technology that drives heat into your food from all angles, ensuring an even cook? Or how about a separate “scorched” setting to create a layer of crispy rice? What about a umami cooking setting that extracts more sugar out of the rice to create a sweeter dish?

Those are just a few of the features that make the Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Induction Heating Pressure Cooker one of the most impressive rice cooking appliances on the market. While the $372 price tag may keep some shoppers away, this product is certainly worth it for serious chefs who are only satisfied with the very best rice.

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Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker ($69)


The Zojirushi rice cooker may be impressive, but its price tag may put it out of reach for most home cooks. While the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the aforementioned rice cooker, it is a pretty versatile appliance, and it’s listed at a much more affordable price. This product can cook a great bowl of rice, but it can also be used as a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, and even a yogurt maker. Of course, the two most useful features for rice eaters are the steaming and sauté functions.

The Instant Pot also boasts several convenience features, such as a 24-hour delayed start timer and an automatic “keep warm” function. If you’d prefer a rice cooker with Bluetooth technology (no, really, it can be useful), you can upgrade to a smart rice cooker for $147.

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T-Fal 10-in-1 Rice and Multicooker ($57)


The T-Fal 10-in-1 Rice and Multicooker is another appliance that does a lot more than cook rice. You can make creamy risotto, hearty stews, yogurts, and even bake desserts with this device. Of course, its main purpose is cooking rice and it does that admirably. The T-Fal has the same “fuzzy logic” technology found in more expensive models, which allows this cooker to automatically adjust its temperature and cooking time in order to make a consistently great bowl of rice every time.

While this appliance can cook everything from breakfast to dinner to dessert, it’s still amazingly simple to operate. Simply add your ingredients, choose your cooking method, and let the T-Fal 10-in-1 take care of the rest. You can also use the 24-hour delay start timer to prepare your meals up to a day in advance. Read our full review.

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