Rice is a tricky thing to make: even the most experienced cooks will frequently have problems with it. It’s easy to overcook and it’s easy to undercook. There’s a good chance you yourself have had to throw away part of a pot of rice where the bottom got burnt and wound up spending some quality time scrubbing it off on the sink.
You’ve also probably heard that the secret to perfect rice every time is making it in a rice cooker. People in places like Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, where rice is a staple ingredient that is consumed with nearly every meal, take the use of rice cookers to heart. Since rice holds such a special place in their tables, Asian rice cookers are some of the best in the market. They have settings to cook numerous types or rice and feature some pretty advanced technology to ensure high-quality results.
QUICK COMPARISON: TOP ASIAN RICE COOKERS
**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
What exactly makes Asian rice cookers so special?
There’s a few key features that set Korean, Japanese and Chinese models apart from their simpler Western counterparts:
1. Fuzzy Logic Technology
Fuzzy logic technology makes rice cookers “smart” by giving them the ability to identify what’s put in them, decide how it should be cooked and make any necessary adjustments during the cooking process. It allows the machine to control for temperature and cooking time based on what’s going on inside of it instead of what a pre-established menu setting dictates. This helps to make up for human mistakes such as adding too little or too much water and control for environmental factors that may influence the cooking such as outside temperature and humidity.
2. Multiple Menu Settings
In Asia, people use different types of rice for different foods and occasions. The type of rice you use for sushi is very different from the rice used to accompany stir fries or the one that winds up getting turned into fried rice while certain varieties are preferred for making sweets and desserts. Asian rice cookers come with multiple menu settings to accommodate for all of these types of rice and their preparation. One model may include settings for jasmine rice, sushi rice, brown rice, glutinous rice or black rice. Many of them include settings to cook other items such as oatmeal and some even include settings for making western rice dishes such as risotto.
3. GABA Setting
GABA settings allow you to sprout and cook brown rice. Sprouted brown rice is prized for its nutritional benefits, more specifically for its high content of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has been proven to contribute to brain and nerve health. Sprouting brown rice requires a complicated process involving a soak of up to 20 hours plus a few rinses before finally cooking it. The GABA setting in rice cookers takes care of the entire process of sprouting and cooking brown rice in less than three hours.
4. Keep Warm Settings
All asian rice cookers come with a “Keep Warm” setting that will keep rice warm and prevent it from losing its moisture for a period of up to 12 hours. This is useful for keeping the rice at an optimal temperature before serving, avoiding the growth of dangerous bacteria and also for people or families who consume rice at multiple meals.
Our Picks for the Top 5 Asian Rice Cookers
Zojirushi makes our list again with this cooker that is made in Japan and is just the right size for a couple or small family. You can put 5 ½-cups of uncooked rice into this cooker, which will result in about 10 cups of cooked rice.
This cooker makes the following types of rice: sushi, brown, mixed, and porridge. It also has a steam function, so you can steam foods like fish and vegetables while cooking your rice (or just on their own).
Although there are a lot of buttons to play with on the front of this rice cooker, they lend themselves to the many features that I love, including: a delay timer (so your rice doesn’t start cooking too soon), a programmable beep to let you know when the rice is finished, and warming cycles that you can extend in case you’re not ready to eat yet.
This rice cooker comes with everything you need to make great rice, including a spatula, spatula holder, and two measuring cups. It also has a retractable cord, so the entire unit can sit neatly on your countertop.
Zojirushi is top on my list with this state-of-the-art rice cooker that makes multiple types of rice and porridge, has a setting to soak and steam rice, can toast rice with its “scorch” function, and uses induction heating for higher, more precise temperatures than conventional rice cookers.
The NP-NVC10 takes fuzzy technology to a whole other level; Artificial Intelligence-level. This cooker learns from your previous setting choices and tries to cook foods to your preferences. Basically, this rice cooker outsmarts humans (and conventional rice cookers) to make sure you get perfect food every time.
This rice cooker is made in Japan and comes in a metallic brown finish. The cooking pot has a non-stick coating, so clean up is easy. This Zojirushi model will make you wonder why all of your other small cooking appliances are so “basic”.
This tiny Korean rice cooker is a powerful and more affordable alternative to pricier Japanese models. It allows for cooking multiple types of rice like germinated brown rice, mixed rice and porridge and for selecting the desired degree of softness and glutinosity for your rice. Same as its Japanese rivals, the Cuckoo also features fuzzy logic technology that guarantees perfect rice every time.
The Cuckoo’s settings are simple and straightforward and while the menu doesn’t offer the myriad of options that fancier models, the machine does its job of properly cooking different types of rice very well.
Users agree that the Cuckoo is a great value for the money and that the results are comparable to those of Zojirushi machines and favor it’s compact size. We think this rice cooker is a wonderful alternative for people who live alone or have small families, who live in apartments or have smaller kitchens or do not frequently prepare rice but still want high-quality results when doing so.
Tiger Corporation is based in Japan, where it ranks as a top-name in rice cookers (along with Zojirushi). Tiger’s new 10-cup Micom cooker is made in Japan and features a sleek stainless steel and black finish. This rice cooker has technology similar to the Zojirushi “fuzzy logic”, so it is constantly monitoring your food to make sure it is cooking it at the right temperature.
It not only cooks your favorite types of rice, but it has a slow cooker function that allows you to cook soups and stews, porridge, and risottos. I get hungry just watching their video!
What really sets this rice cooker apart from others is that it has a synchronized cooking function (called “tacook”) that makes sure that all these features and functions work together to produce your complete meal at one time. If this doesn’t make your life easier, I don’t know what will!
Here’s something you don’t see often: a rice company that makes and sells their own rice cooker!
Lotus Foods’ 12-cup rice cooker got my attention over at Ezvid.com, where they ranked it the easiest rice cooker to clean, even though the inner pot is made from stainless steel and isn’t treated to be non-stick.
The use of un-coated stainless steel makes this a standout cooker because the pot won’t rust or tarnish, and food odors won’t be absorbed and transferred to other dishes.
Don’t Knock It Until You Try It
There are plenty of rice cooker nay-sayers out there; people who think that rice cookers are a waste of money, and that cooking rice in a pot on the stovetop isn’t all that complicated. My experience is that I didn’t know what I was missing until I tried a rice cooker.
If you’ve never cooked rice in an Asian rice cooker before, I really encourage you to give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a much easier way to prepare a household staple.