If you’re like me, you make rice several times a week. It’s versatile, healthy, and inexpensive. Rice can be a side dish or part of the main dish, and it works with all types of cuisines.
And while cooking rice on the stove is simple, it’s not always consistent; you risk burnt, undercooked, or gelatinous rice if you don’t watch it closely.
For that reason, cooking rice with a high-quality rice cooker is the best way to get consistent results.
I found the Zojirushi IH Rice Cooker to be unbeatable in terms of performance and quality. If you want the best Japanese rice cooker, you can’t go wrong with this one.
It is one of the most expensive options, however. Another thing to consider? You may want a rice cooker that’s simple to use or offers other cooking functions.
Luckily, I’ve broken down the pros and cons for all the best Japanese rice cookers. Here’s my list:
- Zojirushi Induction Heating Rice Cooker: Best Overall
- Tiger IH Stainless Steel Rice Cooker: Overall Runner-Up
- Tiger Micom Rice Cooker: Best for Ease of Use (Also on BBBY)
- Zojirushi Neuro Rice Cooker: Best Budget Option (Also on BBBY)
- Toshiba Rice Cooker: Best for Oatmeal
- Panasonic IH Rice Cooker: Best Splurge
And a couple of non-Japanese alternatives:
- Cuckoo Rice Cooker: Best Multi-cooker (Korean not Japanese)
- COMFEE’ Asian Style Multi-cooker: Best Budget Multi-cooker (Not Japanese)
But how do you know which rice cooker is the best for you? Read on to learn more.
Rice Cookers Made in Japan: Buying Guide
Why should you choose Japanese rice cookers?
Rice is a staple food across cultures, but Japan has taken rice cooking to the next level. From choosing rice to rinsing and soaking it, the Japanese take great care in preparing the perfect rice.
This care extends to rice cookers. Japanese rice cookers are made with the highest grade materials. Their compact design means you can easily store these rice cookers in your cabinets.
Oh, and their performance? Simply superior.
Japanese rice cookers use microchips to manage temperature and timing with the utmost precision. In addition, they can cook a wide variety of rice types. From brown rice and white rice to sushi rice and mixed rice, these cookers can handle it all.
The best Japanese rice cookers are continually advancing in technology. There are now several models that offer induction heating, delay timers, and much more. These technologically advanced cookers help you get perfect rice every time.
Best of all–Japanese rice cookers are built to last, so you can enjoy delicious rice for years to come.
Where’s the catch then? Well, none of this quality and functionality comes free or even cheap.
Made in Japan vs. Japanese rice cooker brands
Where the rice cooker is actually manufactured is an important distinction. There are Japanese brands that have manufacturing plants in other countries, such as China.
Standards regarding materials and quality control vary from country to country, so the final products are not always as consistent.
For the best quality rice cooker? Choose one that is made in Japan by a recognizable brand, such as Tiger or Zojirushi.
Korean Rice Cookers
While we’ve been heaping praise on Japanese rice cookers, and for good reason, we don’t want to leave out Korean rice cookers.
Like Japanese rice cookers, that difference in quality is reflected in their price point. But Korean rice cookers are also durable and should last for a long time.
The most popular Korean brand for rice cookers is Cuckoo. They offer a wide range of rice cookers for different needs and at various price points.
What size rice cooker should I get?
This is perhaps the most common question people ask when buying a rice cooker. After all, who wants to spend money on a cooker that doesn’t make enough rice?
As a general rule, you should approximate 1/2 cup of rice per person if using rice as a side dish. If rice is the base of a meal, you should approximate 1 cup per person.
Also, remember that most rice swells to approximately double its volume during the cooking process. So if you want one cup of cooked rice, you’ll need 1/2 cup of uncooked rice.
You’ll want to check the product description to see if the rice cooker measures its capacity in cooked or uncooked rice.
Lastly, be aware that a rice measuring cup is not the same as a standard U.S. measuring cup. A rice cup is 180 mL, approximately 3/4 of a standard U.S. cup (240 mL).
Most Japanese rice cookers label their maximum capacity with rice cups, not U.S. standard measuring cups. So if your rice cooker has a maximum capacity of 5.5 cups, that likely means it can fit 5.5 rice cups, which is a little over 4 standard cups.
A helpful suggestion? Keep the exact equivalencies nearby to use when you’re ready to cook rice.
Use the chart below to help you decide which capacity rice cooker is the right size for you:
|Uncooked Rice Volume, in Rice Cups||Metric volume||U.S. standard cups||Approximate volume when cooked(in U.S. standard cups)|
|3 cups||540 mL||2.25 cups||4.5 cups|
|5.5 cups||990 mL||4.13 cups||8.25 cups|
|10 cups||1.8 liters||7.5 cups||15 cups|
How do I use a Japanese rice cooker?
For most Japanese rice cookers, the process is pretty straightforward. Simply add the correct amounts of rice and water to the inner cooking pot, select the correct cooking program, and press the start button.
There are some ways to optimize your rice results, however. First, rinsing and soaking the rice will help remove excess starch.
Unless you’re making sticky rice, you want each grain to be separate, but soft. Rinsing and soaking will also help draw out the flavor of the rice.
Next, make sure to use the proper water ratios. This largely depends on the type of rice you’re using and the firmness you want in the final product. The more water you use, the “mushier” your rice will be. A general rule is to use double the volume of water to rice.
Lastly, it’s crucial to select the correct cooking program on your rice cooker. Japanese rice is a short-grain, fluffy rice. It’s also slightly sticky. The white rice you typically find in U.S. stores is long grain.
For that reason, you might need to select a cooking cycle specific to long-grain rice. Jasmine, basmati, and mixed rice settings should all be suited for long-grain rice.
If you plan to keep your rice warm for long periods of time, however, you might add a little extra water to prevent the rice from drying out.
What features should I look for?
Starchy steam can leave a film on the lid of rice cookers, and cleaning it can be a hassle. A detachable lid is a convenient feature because it makes cleaning your rice cooker a breeze.
Look for a stainless steel lid, which is more durable and can handle the high heat of the rice cooker’s steam.
Fuzzy logic refers to the technology rice cookers use to determine correct cooking times and temperatures. Basically, a fuzzy rice cooker has a microcomputer chip that can adjust the cooking cycle based on different variables.
Fuzzy logic rice cookers are more advanced than basic rice cookers, which have a single cook cycle for all types of rice.
A Fuzzy rice cooker is ideal for cooking brown rice, which needs a longer cook time than white rice. It’s also suitable for sweet rice or sticky rice, which, likewise, require different times than white rice.
A few years ago, fuzzy logic cookers were the most technologically advanced rice cookers on the market.
While they are still more advanced than basic electric rice cookers, they are increasingly common and vary in their sophistication.
Keep warm function
Many rice cookers have a keep-warm function, but the effectiveness of this function varies among models.
Automatic warmers are preferable since they don’t require you to manually switch from cook to keep warm. Some cookers will dry out rice after an hour, whereas others can keep rice fresh for up to 36 hours.
If you like to batch cook rice, you will want to get a rice cooker with a decent keep-warm function that can run for several hours.
Inner pot material
Rice is a notoriously sticky food, especially glutinous rice and sticky rice. So the inner cooking pan material is essential. Stainless steel pots are great, but they are prone to sticking.
Many rice cookers have an aluminum inner pot with a non-stick coating. Aluminum conducts heat well, so it’s good for quick, even heating. The non-stick coating helps make cleanup easier.
It’s also helpful if there are measuring lines inside the cooking pot.
Obviously, the thicker the pot, the better the heat retention and overall durability. But a thicker cooking pot might take longer to heat than a thinner one.
You might see some rice cookers labeled as IH cookers. That IH stands for induction heating, which uses electromagnetic power to heat the inner pot evenly and quickly.
The question is, how is this different than a conventional rice cooker?
A basic electric rice cooker only heats from the bottom heating element, much like a stove. With induction rice cookers, however, the pot itself acts as a heating element. This means heat comes from all sides. The result? Evenly, perfectly cooked rice.
Another benefit is that many rice cookers have a knob on the heating plate that can be challenging to clean. Induction rice cookers do not have that raised knob, making cleanup easier.
Quick Cook Setting
Rice cookers are great for getting brown and white rice cooked perfectly each and every time. They are also convenient because you don’t have to monitor the rice while cooking.
But if you expect your rice cooker to cut down on cooking time? You might be disappointed. Most rice cookers will take close to an hour to get the perfect rice, not including the soaking time.
Rice cookers vastly improve the results, but they don’t cut down on the overall time. Unless they have a quick cook setting. The quick cook setting can usually cook rice in about 30 minutes, which is great for busy households.
Not every rice cooker has this option, so you’ll want to check the product description to make sure.
If you like the idea of a multi-tasking rice cooker, you might want one that includes a steam basket. Sometimes called a steam tray, this basket is great for steaming vegetables while your rice is cooking.
Increase efficiency and cut down cooking time? I’ll take that.
Just remember that if you plan to steam fish or vegetables while cooking rice, that reduces the amount of rice you can cook at one time.
Most rice cookers include a rice measuring cup and rice scoop or ladle. This is convenient for accurately measuring rice.
But before you toss that cup to use your own, don’t forget about the difference in volume between a rice cup and a standard measuring cup.
As far as other nice-to-have features? Some cookers have a retractable cord, so they’re easy to store. Most also have a convenient handle for carrying your rice cooker.
Product Reviews: Best Japanese Rice Cooker
Zojirushi Induction Heating Rice Cooker: Best Rice Cooker Made in Japan
This Zojirushi rice cooker is manufactured in Japan and has a capacity of 5.5 cups (1 liter) of uncooked rice. That’s enough rice to feed ten or more people. For those who need something larger, Zojirushi also offers a 10-cup (1.8 liters) option.
The sleek stainless exterior looks good in most kitchens. It also has a convenient carry handle for portability.
It uses an induction heating system to cook rice evenly and thoroughly. It has settings for a variety of rice, including white rice, sushi rice, sweet rice, and even GABA rice, a nutritious sprouted brown rice.
The Zojirushi rice cooker has a detachable lid, which makes this rice cooker easy to clean. The non-stick inner pan is easy to clean, but I suggest washing it with a soft sponge and mild soap.
The Zojirushi automatically switches to keep warm upon completion. This rice cooker also has an extended warm function, which keeps rice warm for up to 36 hours.
If you’re expecting this Japanese stainless steel rice cooker to cut down on time, however, think again. A normal cook cycle for plain white rice will take close to an hour.
The good news? You can set a delay timer for when you want the cooking to be complete. This option means you can start the timer before work and have rice ready to eat when you return.
This rice cooker includes a rice measuring cup and scoop. There are also measuring lines inside the cooking pot, so you have fewer dishes to clean.
As far as performance? This Zojirushi consistently turns out perfectly cooked rice. Customers raved about their results.
- Fantastic performance
- Induction heating
- Multiple rice settings
- Non-stick inner pan, easy to clean
- Long cooking time
Tiger IH Stainless Steel Rice Cooker: Overall Runner-Up
Like the Zojirushi, this Tiger rice cooker and warmer is made in Japan. It comes in a sleek stainless beige look.
It has a capacity of 5.5 cups (1 liter) of cooked rice, just above 4 standard cups of cooked rice. This is enough rice to feed a family of four.
You can make as little as one cup of rice (180 mL) in this unit. Other units this size require larger minimum batches.
There is also a 10-cup (1.8 liters) version that would be ideal for larger families or batch cooking.
This Tiger rice cooker uses induction heating technology to cook rice evenly.
It has a detachable lid for easy cleaning.
And its triple-layer metal inner pot is 1.5 mm thick, with handles for easy lifting.
This rice cooker has an elongated design, so it takes up a little more counter space than other rice cookers. But it doesn’t have the height of some other cookers. It also has a convenient carry handle for easy transport.
As far as performance? The Tiger rice cooker is consistently top-notch. Customers had excellent results with jasmine rice, basmati rice, white and brown rice, and even steel-cut oatmeal.
The delay timer means you can start cooking rice on your schedule, and the keep warm function will keep your rice fresh until you’re ready to eat.
For those that like to bring out maximum sweetness and flavor, there is also an Ultra setting. It does take longer than the other cooking settings, however.
The orange LCD display is easy to read, but it’s not backlit. It also does not have multiple cooking functions, such as baking or slow cooking.
- Delay timer
- Auto-warm function
- Ultra setting for max flavor
- Inner pot has handles
- More expensive
- No slow cook option
For those that like simplicity, this Tiger Micom Rice Cooker is easy to use. With a capacity of 5.5 cups of uncooked rice (1 liter), it can easily cook white rice or brown rice for ten people.
The white plastic exterior is simple, and its compact design means it can easily fit in almost any kitchen.
It has four cook settings: plain rice, brown rice, synchro cooking, and slow cooking. The slow cooker option is helpful for soups and stews.
The synchro cooking allows you to cook vegetables while simultaneously cooking rice. The orange cooking plate is for holding vegetables during the synchro cooking process.
But be aware that using the synchro cook setting will lower the maximum capacity of rice cooked.
This rice cooker features a microcomputer chip fuzzy logic, so it automatically adjusts cooking temperatures to ensure you get soft, fluffy rice.
Users mentioned that this rice cooker does not have a sound indicator for when the unit is done cooking rice. It also doesn’t show the time remaining in the cooking cycle, which can be inconvenient.
The non-stick inner cooking pan is easy to clean. But the lid is not detachable, so the top is not as easy to clean as the induction models. Some customers mentioned it would also be nice to have a retractable power cord.
Overall, this Japanese rice cooker is great for those that like simplicity. It does not have all the features of the induction cookers, but it is significantly less expensive than those models.
- Slow cooker function
- Synchro cooking function
- Easy to use
- Fuzzy logic cooking
- Not induction
- No signal to alert when rice is cooked
- Lid is not detachable
If you are looking to shop around then this rice cooker is also available on Bed Bath and Beyond:
Zojirushi Neuro Rice Cooker: Best Budget Option
This Zojirushi Neuro Rice Cooker has a white plastic housing and a capacity of 5.5 cups (1 liter) uncooked rice. It’s large enough to feed seven or eight people.
Zojirushi also offers a 10-cup (1.8 liters) version for those who need an even larger capacity.
This rice cooker and warmer features 8 different rice settings, including brown rice, mixed rice, sweet rice, white rice, sushi rice, steamed rice, and porridge.
It also has a setting for rinse-free cooking, which is great for busy home cooks. This Zojirushi rice cooker has separate keep-warm, extended warming, and reheating functions.
This rice cooker does not have induction heating like the other Zojirushi on our list. But it does use a microchip and fuzzy logic for cooking rice intuitively and precisely.
The spherical non-stick cooking pan and detachable lid make cleaning this rice cooker a snap.
The display is easy to read, and it also shows the time left until completion. So you know exactly how long your rice has left to cook.
When this Zojirushi is done cooking rice, it has a nice little jingle to alert you. Several customers mentioned they liked this tinkle.
That might seem like a minor detail. However, if you’ve ever had an appliance with an obnoxious alarm, you know how important that can be.
Customers loved this rice cooker’s performance. They consistently said this was the best rice cooker they’d had, especially at this price point.
Users had great results with all types of rice, and some even had success with pasta dishes.
Another nice feature? This Zojirushi includes helpful tips and instructions. For instance, there’s a chart on understanding the different types of rice and choosing the right program for each type.
One of the biggest complaints about this Japanese rice cooker is its unpleasant plastic smell during its first use. This is entirely normal and should go away by the second use.
While this Zojirushi is more expensive than the basic electric rice cooker at a box store, it is a more affordable option than the IH models.
- Great performance
- More affordable than IH models
- Fuzzy logic cooking
- Retractable cord
- Auto keep warm & extended warm option
- Multiple rice settings
- Detachable lid and non-stick cooking pan
- Not induction
- No slow cooker/steamer option
- Has plastic smell on first use
If you want to shop around for this budget option then you can also check it out on Bed Bath and Beyond:
Toshiba Rice Cooker: Best for Oatmeal
This Japanese rice cooker comes from Toshiba, a Japanese company that has been around for over 140 years. Toshiba manufactured one of the first automatic electric rice cookers in the 1950s.
This model has a large capacity, holding 6 cups of uncooked rice (1.08 liters). That means you can easily make enough rice for eight people.
There is also a low-carb option, designed to reduce the amount of unhealthy digestive starch. I’m a little skeptical at how effective this could be, though: If you want a low-carb diet–avoid rice!
The white exterior is plastic, but the inner cooking pot is non-stick. The lid is removable for easy cleaning, as well.
Some customer-reviewers did complain the inner pot’s measuring lines were a little off. But others had no problems with the lines.
The 7 pre-programmed settings use fuzzy logic cooking and work well with a variety of rice. The steamer insert is convenient for steaming fish or vegetables while cooking rice.
The automatic keep-warm can go up to 24 hours, and it features a delay timer. These features make it great for overnight cooking.
This model has a separate setting for steel-cut oats so that you can make overnight oats for breakfast with the press of a button. Owner-reviewers loved using their Toshiba rice cooker and warmer for oatmeal.
Are you strapped for time? The Toshiba rice cooker has a quick cook option that cooks rice in just 30 minutes, convenient for weeknight meals.
Several people did complain that the power cord was too short and not retractable.
- Great for oatmeal
- Auto keep-warm up to 24 hours
- Multiple rice cooking programs
- Fuzzy logic technology
- Includes steamer
- Short power cord
- Not induction
- Reports of incorrect measuring lines
Panasonic IH Rice Cooker: Best Splurge
Another prominent Japanese electronics company, Panasonic also manufactures rice cookers. This Japanese rice cooker cooks rice with induction technology, meaning you get the best results.
This Panasonic rice cooker has a capacity of 5 cups (.9 liters), a slightly smaller rice cooker than the others on the list. Still, it can handle enough rice to feed a family of five.
The sleek stainless exterior has a modern look. The inner pan has a copper exterior and seven layers to increase durability and performance.
The interior of the cooking pot features a Diamond non-stick coating, and the stainless steel lid is removable for easy cleaning.
Even better: This rice cooker has a self-cleaning cycle to get those hard-to-reach spaces.
The keep-warm setting is automatic, and it can hold rice at the desired temperature for up to 12 hours. The automatic shutoff will prevent rice from overcooking or burning.
As for versatility? There are 13 preset programs for cooking white rice, quinoa, porridge, sticky rice, and more.
The display has a battery-operated clock that shows the time, even when unplugged. However, there is one downside: The display only shows the time remaining for the last 15 minutes of the cooking program.
This Panasonic cooker comes with a rice spoon, ladle, and measuring cup.
While this rice cooker does include a comprehensive instruction manual, this model is not as simple to use as other models, like the Tiger Micom. If you want simplicity, this may not be the best fit for you.
If you want a host of features and high performance, this Panasonic fits the bill. But all of these features will cost you. This Panasonic rice cooker is the most expensive Japanese rice cooker on our list.
Here’s the thing though when I compare the Zojirushi vs Panasonic rice cookers, I just don’t see the extra cost is worth it for me personally.
- 13 preset programs
- Induction technology
- Superb performance
- 7-layer non-stick cooking pot
- Battery clock display
- Auto keep-warm
- Significantly higher price point
- Learning curve
- Only shows time remaining for last 15 minutes
Are there any alternatives?
The following rice cookers are not made in Japan, but they are high-quality alternatives that offer versatility.
Cuckoo Rice Cooker: Best Multi-cooker
Cuckoo is a well-known Korean brand that has been making rice cookers for over 40 years. This model can do much more than just cook rice, however.
It’s a pressure rice cooker that can also steam, warm, brown, fry, sauté and make yogurt. It can also be used for slow cooking and making soup.
It has a capacity of 5 quarts and is housed in a range of attractive colors, including sleek black, white, and rose gold and white.
The 2-ply clad inner pot has a core of aluminum and stainless steel. These layers are coated in Cuckoo’s proprietary X-wall non-stick coating.
As with other pressure multi-cookers, this Cuckoo has built-in safety features, including a steam cap to safely release steam while cooking.
This is the only option available that has voice navigation. Not only that, but it has voice navigation in three languages: English, Korean, and Chinese.
Like the Panasonic, this Cuckoo rice cooker has a self-cleaning steam cycle. It also has a detachable stainless steel cover.
The keep-warm function kicks in automatically, and the delay start gives you flexibility and control. Some users did have problems with the rice not tasting as fresh after a while in the warming function.
Customers were pleased with the performance overall. They had success with stew, potatoes, fried rice, and sticky rice. Although several reported texture problems with getting mushy rice or too firm, overcooked rice.
Overall, this rice cooker might require some trial and error on the cooking times.
This multi-cooker does not use induction, but it has a 3D heating technology that heats the lid, the bottom, and the sides.
Several people did mention that this model takes up a lot of room on the counter.
Cuckoo vs Zojirushi Rice Cooker
When comparing the Cuckoo rice cooker vs Zojirushi, I would say the Cuckoo is more versatile while the Zojirushi is easier to use if you are cooking rice. Get the Cuckoo if you need it for more than rice and the Zojirushi for a dedicated rice cooker.
- Attractive color options
- 8-in-1 multi-cooker
- Includes recipe book
- Voice navigation in 3 languages
- Self-cleaning cycle
- Not induction
- Learning curve
- Some reports of mushy or overcooked rice
- Takes up a lot of space
If you like the idea of a Korean Rice Cooker, but aren’t entirely convinced by this Cuckoo model, check out my Korean Rice Cooker roundup.
COMFEE’ Asian Style Multi-cooker: Best Budget Multi-cooker
Although COMFEE’ is not a Japanese brand, it does manufacture this Asian-style rice cooker. It also functions as a slow cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté, and stew pot.
The COMFEE’ includes a few accessories, including a rice cup, ladle, and steamer insert.
This multi-cooker has a capacity of 5.2 quarts (4.9 liters). Because this is a multi-cooker, COMFEE’ lists the max capacity in standard cups.
There is some conflicting info in the product description, though. One graphic claims the cooker yields 6 cups of cooked rice, whereas the manufacturer claims elsewhere that the cooker has an ultra capacity of 10 to 20 cups of cooked rice.
Do you absolutely need 10 or more cups of rice? I would probably go with another option to make sure.
However, this multi-cooker does offer some advantages. The 24-hour delay timer means you have ultimate cooking convenience.
The automatic warming cycle will keep rice warm for up to 12 hours, which is helpful. But some users had issues with the unit shutting off after eight or ten hours.
The stainless steel housing is easy to wipe down after each use, and the 12-millimeter non-stick inner pot is easy to clean.
A lot of reviewers said this model was easy to use. They liked the simple control panel and how easy it was to get started. The downside? Several users complained about the lack of instructions. You’ll have to figure out rice to water ratios on your own.
- 24-hour delay timer
- Auto warming up to 12 hours
- Multiple cooking functions
- Lack of cooking instructions
- Not induction
- Conflicting info on max capacity
- Reports of unit shutting off during warming cycle
Why are Japanese Rice Cookers so expensive?
Japanese Rice Cookers are expensive because they are high quality and use the latest technology. This technology in particular is where the real value add is.
Yet it doesn’t mean they cook your rice any better. What it really means is that if you don’t have the time or the knowledge to cook the rice well yourself, they will do a great job doing it for you.
The most expensive rice cooker isn’t necessarily the best. I quite like the technological aspects, both for the geek factor and the ease of use. But they aren’t for everyone.
The Best Japanese Rice Cooker? Final Verdict
Which one is the best Japanese rice cooker? While you can’t go wrong with any of the cookers on the list, the Zojirushi IH Rice Cooker and Warmer is at the top, in my opinion.
Not is it just me who things this; Zojirushi appears to be the most popular rice cooker made in Japan.
It has the best combination of high-tech features, outstanding performance, and ease of use. The Zojirushi is a solid investment for any rice lover and is one of the best rice cookers from Japan.