Don’t throw away your cooker’s cup. The plastic measuring cup that comes with your cooker isn’t a standard 1-cup measure. It holds about 180 ml versus 240 ml for a standard U.S. cup. To ensure that your rice cooks properly, measure the rice with the cooker’s plastic cup and then pour in water until it reaches the appropriate etched line inside the cooking bowl.
I’ve always followed standard stovetop procedure with rice: simmer gently, never peek, never stir. And the results have been perfectly fine. But when I made rice in some of the top fuzzy-logic rice cookers on the market, I realized that my stovetop method was no match.
And what is a fuzzy-logic rice cooker? Basically, it’s an intelligent version of a no-frills rice cooker. Instead of just an on/off button, a fuzzy-logic rice cooker has a micro-computer that lets the machine regulate time and temperature according to the type of rice being cooked (brown rice, for example, cooks at a lower temperature than white rice). It can cook more kinds of rice than you’ve ever heard of—including sweet and germinated brown—and some models can even cook oatmeal or polenta, steam vegetables, and make stew. But what really sold us on the cookers was how well they handle the white and brown rice we use every day.
Such sophistication comes at a price, though. Even our Best Buy costs more than $100. And these cookers will also cost you time: Expect to wait 45 to 50 minutes for white rice to cook, more for brown.
All but one of the cookers we tried made excellent white rice. But in tasks beyond cooking white rice, the models showed their true colors. Our favorites (shown here) had special settings and guidelines for cooking finicky brown rice and did a better job than cookers without those special settings.
Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy
Rice Cooker & Steamer
$179.99 at EverythingKitchens.com
This 5-1/2-cup cooker is as versatile as it is precise. A chime or tune (your choice) tells you when the cooking cycle is complete, which is especially handy with brown rice because it degrades in flavor and texture if held in the keep-warm setting. It also has a memory setting, which lets the cooker remember how you like a certain type of rice.
Settings & features: quick cook, mixed, porridge, keep warm, extended keep warm, reheat, timer-controlled cooking; removable inner lid for easy cleaning.
Rice Cooker & Steamer
$114.95 at Cooking.com
This 5-cup cooker has all the features almost anyone would need. Its only quirk: Brown rice must be washed and left to soak for an hour before cooking, or it will come out undercooked. If you can remember this step, though, you’ll be rewarded with perfect brown rice.
Settings & features: quick cook, mixed, porridge, keep warm; settings to cook stew and dol sot bi bim bab (a classic Korean rice dish in which the bottom layer of rice gets toasted and crisp); steamer insert and removable inner lid for easy cleaning.
A whiz with white rice
Tiger Electric Rice Cooker
$119.99 at Costco.com
(5% more for nonmembers)
This 5-1/2-cup cooker lets you customize white rice’s consistency, gives you the option to “scorch” it, meaning it can toast the bottom layer in the pot for a subtle nutty flavor and lightly crisped texture, and beeps when the cooking cycle is complete. Brown rice cooked unevenly in our tests: fluffy toward the top of the pot, pasty towards the bottom. Also, it’s inconvenient that the inner lid isn’t removable for in-sink cleaning.
Settings & features: quick cook, mixed, porridge, keep warm, reheat, scorch, timer-controlled cooking.
Menu settings, defined
Fuzzy-logic rice cookers have lots of menu settings and features. Here are definitions of some that you’ll see.
Quick cook: cooks white rice 10 to 15 minutes quicker than the normal cycle but with some sacrifice in quality.
Mixed: for instances when you’re cooking rice with ingredients other than just water, such as spices or broth.
Porridge: developed for rice porridge, an Asian staple, but also works for oatmeal, polenta, rice pudding, and the like.
Keep warm: use to keep rice warm for up to 12 hours after the cooking cycle; most manufacturers recommend using this only with white rice.
Reheat: for rice that’s been sitting in the keep-warm cycle, this feature makes it hot for eating in 5 to 10 minutes; can’t be used to reheat cold rice.
Timer controlled: lets you program the cooker in advance to cook rice at a set time.
How we tested
We tested five manufacturers’ top-of-the-line fuzzy-logic rice cookers with capacities between 5 and 6 cups uncooked rice. With each cooker, we cooked long-grain white rice at the cooker’s maximum capacity and also with just 1 cup uncooked rice; we made brown rice with 3 cups uncooked rice; we tested the quick-cook cycle of those cookers that offered it, using 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice; and, if cookers offered a harder or softer cooking mode or a cooking cycle for sushi or sweet rice, we tested it.
In each test, we evaluated the entire pot of rice for evenness in consistency and texture.
The other rice cookers in our tests were the Aroma Sensor-Logic rice cooker, model ARC-896, and the Elite Pro Fuzzy Logic rice cooker, model B601T.