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The best rice cooker

Hamilton Beach's 37549 Digital Simplicity offers good value for the money.

The Sweethome
03.15.16 in Home

By Karen Solomon and Tim Barribeau

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer's guide to the best things for your home. Read the full article here.

After going through more than 100 hours of research and cooking more than 200 pounds of rice, we recommend the Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker and Steamer for most people. This 2-to-14-cup model is an outstanding value that's well suited to most households seeking the ease and convenience of no-fuss, no-burning cooked rice. It makes better-tasting short-grain and medium-grain white rice—the variety most commonly made in a cooker—faster than models 10 times the price. It also offers features you tend not to see on rice cookers at this price, most notably a delay-start mode, stay-warm functions, an insulated lid to hold in steam, a large capacity, and a heavy, high-quality cooking pot. It's by far the best low-priced cooker we've found.

How we tested

For the white-rice tests, we rinsed rice of starch, dust, and any other particulate matter before cooking. Photo: Tim Barribeau

For our original 2013 review, we first tested the cookers informally with some home cooks. Then we conducted a formal group taste test with the chefs from Japanese restaurant Ken Ken Ramen in San Francisco. For this update we didn't perform a panel test, but in each of the 10 cookers we made a batch of Japanese white rice—likely the most critical and the most-used skill for a rice cooker. Any cooker that performed well on rice flavor, texture, and cooking speed in this test then moved on to three other tests: brown rice, long-grain rice, and quick-cook Japanese rice. For the Japanese-rice tests, we washed the rice of its exterior starch for one full minute and then drained it for one full minute before cooking (we didn't wash the brown or long-grain white rice).

Our pick

The Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity. Photo: Michael Hession

The Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity is the best value for most people because it offers tremendous functionality for the price. Above all, it makes short-grain or medium-grain white rice as delicious as what you get from models that cost four times as much.

The construction feels solid, and it cooks more quickly in comparison with most of the competition (it was the second-fastest cooker we tested). With a 14-cup capacity, the Hamilton Beach model is also much larger than many other machines at this price.

Additionally, it's a pleasure to house on almost any kitchen countertop: Its sleek stainless and black design makes it look like a more expensive model, and it's more well-contained in a small footprint than most. It delivers on features that we thought a great rice cooker should have, including a timer, stay-warm functions, a tight lid, and a heavy, good-quality cooking pot.

Also great for frequent cooking and brown rice

The Cuckoo CRP-G1015F 10-cup cooker. Photo: Michael Hession

If you make rice at least a couple of times a week or are particularly discerning about rice texture and flavor, consider the Cuckoo CRP-G1015F 10 Cup Electric Pressure Rice Cooker. Because it's a pressure cooker, it makes both white and brown rice far faster than the competition, and its quick-cook setting was the fastest among all the rice cookers we tested. Next to the results from similar cookers at this price, we found that the texture and flavor of the Cuckoo's cooked rice is unsurpassed. This model is also built more solidly than the Hamilton Beach and equipped with more cooking options, but those features are worth the significant extra cost only if you make rice frequently.

Runner-up for frequent cooking

The Zojirushi NS-TSC10. Photo: Michael Hession

If the Cuckoo is too expensive for you but you'd like a sturdier and more versatile cooker than the Hamilton Beach, the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is one of the best machines available, and it's the only machine we found that makes short-grain, brown, and long-grain white rice well. Zojirushi is a well-known and trusted brand in rice cookers, and the company's machines are built to last. Note, though, that this is also a very slow machine. (It'll cost you nearly two hours for a batch of brown rice!) The Zojirushi is more versatile than our Hamilton Beach main pick and a bit cheaper than the Cuckoo, so we think it's a good alternative should the Cuckoo sell out.

Wrapping it up

After performing more than 100 hours of research and cooking more than 200 pounds of rice, we found the Hamilton Beach 37549 Digital Simplicity is the best rice cooker for most people. This well-designed cooker makes delicious Japanese rice better than models that cost 10 times more. It also has an insulated lid and other features you won't see on models at this price.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

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