Rice cookers

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Get perfect rice every time with a rice cooker.

We tested 11 rice cookers in a range of sizes: small (a maximum of 5 cups uncooked rice), medium (maximum 7 to 8 cups) and large (maximum 10 cups).

From our test

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How they work

Rice cookers are great for cooking large quantities of rice.

You just put the correct amount of rice and water or stock into the non-stick bowl, place the bowl on the heating element, close the lid, switch it on … and forget about it.

Inside the cooker the heating element gently brings the liquid to a boil. When the rice has absorbed most of the liquid the cooker switches to a warming function, where the rice has another 10 to 15 minutes before it’s ready. You can also keep the rice warm at a safe temperature – great for families who eat at different times.

Extra settings

Most models do more than just cook rice. With a couple of exceptions all the models in our test can steam vegetables, fish and meat.

As well, some can make risotto, desserts, porridge, soup, congee, crispy rice and sushi rice.

Such extra settings do come at a cost. If you just want plain old rice-cooking you’re better off getting a model that does the job quickly without the extra bells and whistles.

Do you need one?

You don’t need a rice cooker to cook perfect rice. You can use a saucepan or the microwave.

Cooking rice by the absorption method on the stove can be tricky. You need a hotplate or burner that can be turned down low. You also need a heavy-based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid – although you can use a layer of foil to seal the saucepan if the lid’s a loose fit. Then follow the instructions on the rice packet.

You can buy microwave-safe rice cookers which have lids with steam vents, but any microwave-safe bowl or jug will do the trick (just make sure you leave an opening for the steam to escape). Follow the instructions on the rice packet or in your microwave manual.

Tip: 1 cup of uncooked rice gives you 3 cups of cooked rice. You can cook rice in smaller quantities than the cooker’s maximum capacity.

What to look for

Here's what to consider when you're choosing a rice cooker.

  • Think about the size of your household and how much rice you’ll probably cook at one time. Bigger cookers also take up more cupboard space.
  • A removable cord is useful for taking the rice cooker to the table for serving and makes the cooker easier to store.
  • Automatic shut-off turns the cooker to a “warm” function. This keeps the rice warm for several hours.
  • A non-stick bowl for easy cleaning.
  • A sealed lid stops the liquid splattering out when cooking. A glass lid lets you check on your rice without interrupting the cooking, but it can rattle and allow liquid to bubble over.
  • Extra accessories may be included such as a rice paddle/spoon, measuring cup, and food steamer. Measuring cups aren’t standard sizes, so use the supplied cups when following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Measurement levels on the inner bowl are useful for cooking exact amounts.

Types of rice

There are many different kinds of rice:

  • Short grain, medium grain, and sushi rice are the softer white rices. Their soft cream texture makes them ideal for desserts, nori rolls, and sushi.
  • Brown rice is a wholesome nutritious grain with a characteristic nutty flavour. Short-grain and medium-grain brown rices suit poultry stuffings, rissoles, stuffed vegetables, and soups. Long-grain brown rice suits sweet and savoury rice dishes, salads, curries, and pilaffs.
  • Long-grain white rice has a fluffy texture that will separate well when cooked. It's suitable for most everyday dishes - fried rice, stir fries, curries, and rice salads.
  • Arborio is a medium-grain white rice traditionally used in risotto and similar Mediterranean dishes. It will swell and absorb large amounts of water while remaining al-dente.
  • Basmati is ideal for Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. It's an aromatic long-grain white rice with dry separate grains that are essential to the success of these dishes.
  • Jasmine is a subtly fragrant long-grain white rice for Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. Its natural moisture makes it soft and fluffy when cooked.
  • Wild or black rice (tuscarora) is not actually rice at all, but an aquatic grass with black to brown grains, a chewy texture and nutty flavour. It needs to be washed before use and is often mixed with other kinds of rice because it's expensive. Serve it flavoured with sautéed onions, mushrooms or nuts, as an accompaniment, or in soups and salads.

Nutritional value

Rice does not contain gluten, making it an important food for those with coeliac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance.

White rice
White rice is free of cholesterol and gluten - and rich in energy, complex carbohydrates, protein, B-group vitamins, and minerals. It's also low in fat, sugar and salt. White rice provides about a quarter to two-thirds the fibre of brown rice.

Brown rice
Brown rice includes the outer bran layer and has the highest nutritional value of any type of rice. As well as having all the nutritional benefits of white rice, it's a good source of dietary fibre - both soluble and insoluble fibre - and rice bran oil.

Soluble fibre has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and therefore protect against heart disease. Insoluble fibre aids normal bowel function and may help protect against bowel disorders such as bowel cancer, constipation, and diverticulitis.

Rice bran oil (which is found in the bran layer of brown rice) has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels. It's also a rich source of vitamin E, an important antioxidant.

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Rice safety

You can get food poisoning from eating reheated rice. But it’s not the reheating that’s the problem – it’s the way the rice has been cooled. Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus and the spores can survive the cooking process. If rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will germinate into bacteria that cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

It’s best to serve rice when it’s just been cooked. If that isn’t possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within 1 hour) and keep it in the fridge for no more than 1 day. When you reheat it make sure it’s steaming hot all the way through, and don’t reheat it more than once.

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