A rice cooker could make a very convenient addition to your kitchen if you can't cook rice the way you like it on the hob. We've tested eight rice cookers to find out just how useful they can be.
We found that not all rice cookers are the same. Although some give you perfectly fluffy, delicious rice, others will undercook it or leave your rice dry and stuck together.
In November 2020, we compared cheap rice cookers for less than £50 (some can go up in price to about £200) to see if you can still get delicious rice without breaking the bank. We've included popular brands, such as Argos, Asda, Russell Hobbs and Tefal in our test.
See our full results below to find out which rice cooker you should buy to get the perfect accompaniment for your chilli con carne, curry or stir-fry.
Pricing and availability last checked: 29 April 2022.
Only Which? members can view the rice cooker test results below. If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the rice cookers we tested. to get instant access to our test results and Best Buy recommendations below.
Size and weight: 26 x 34 x 26cm (H x W x D); 1.95kg
Capacity: Maximum 1,500ml/8 cups of rice; minimum 360ml/2 cups of rice
Cooking times: Approximately 21 minutes for 2 cups of basmati rice; 28 minutes 30 seconds for 2 cups of wholegrain rice
Other key features: Comes with plastic serving spoon, 160ml measuring cup and non-stick cooking pot, not dishwasher-safe, fill lines are labelled, one-year guarantee
This Argos rice cooker is the largest we tested that only cooks rice. Some of the other large models can also steam meat and vegetables, or even be used as a pan to cook other items. But sometimes being a Jack of all trades can mean ending up master of none. How masterful was this Argos rice cooker in our testing?
Size and weight: 22.5 x 27 x 24cm (H x W x D); 2.13kg
Capacity: Maximum 1,000ml/6 cups of rice; minimum 360ml/2 cups of rice
Cooking times: Approximately 16 minutes for two cups of basmati rice; 22 minutes for 2 cups of wholegrain rice
Other key features: Comes with plastic serving spoon, 180ml measuring cup and non-stick cooking pot, dishwasher-safe cooking pot, fill lines are labelled, two-year guarantee
This Asda rice cooker is the cheapest rice cooker we tested by some distance. It's a simple, no-frills appliance with only one button to get it cooking.
Size and weight: 25.4 x 29.6 x 29.4cm (H x W x D); 3.2kg
Capacity: Maximum 1,800ml/10 cups of rice; minimum 360ml/2 cups of rice
Cooking times: Approximately 12 minutes 30 seconds for 2 cups of basmati rice; 26 minutes for 2 cups of wholegrain rice
Other key features: Comes with plastic serving spoon, 180ml measuring cup, steaming tray and non-stick cooking pot, can be used to steam meat and vegetables, dishwasher-safe cooking pot and lid, fill lines are labelled, one-year guarantee
Both the lid and the cooking pot in Breville's ITP181 rice cooker are dishwasher-safe, so if you're looking for convenience in cleaning as well as cooking it might catch your eye. But how did it fare at the key task of cooking rice?
Size and weight: 24.8 x 31.2 x 30.8cm (H x W x D); 3.18kg
Capacity: Maximum 2,200ml/12 cups of rice; minimum 360ml/2 cups of rice
Cooking times: Approximately 16 minutes for 2 cups of basmati rice; 29 minutes for 2 cups of wholegrain rice
Other key features: Comes with plastic serving spoon, 180ml measuring cup and non-stick cooking pot, can be used as a pan/sauté pan to cook other items in (but you can't change the temperature), dishwasher-safe cooking pot and serving spoon, maximum fill lines present but not labelled, two-year guarantee
Crock-Pot's rice cooker can also cook pasta and it even has a sauté setting so you can use it to get your other dishes sizzling. But we ignored the frills and tested it purely on whether it answered the all-important question - does it cook great rice?
Size and weight: 19 x 16.5 x 14.5cm (H x W x D); 1.2kg
Capacity: Maximum 500ml/approximately 2.66 cups of rice; minimum capacity not stated
Cooking times: Approximately 33 minutes for 1 cup of basmati rice; 53 minutes for 1 cup of wholegrain rice
Other key features: Comes with plastic serving spoon, 135ml measuring cup and non-stick cooking pot, can be used to cook porridge, delay-start timer of up to 12 hours, not dishwasher-safe, fill lines are labelled, three-year guarantee
Not everyone has the kitchen space or mouths to feed to justify buying a large rice cooker, so we put a couple of small rice cookers through our tests, too. Lakeland's rice cooker can cook enough rice to feed around three people.
Size and weight: 24.5 x 28 x 32cm (H x W x D); 2.56kg
Capacity: Maximum 1,800ml/10 cups of rice; minimum capacity not stated
Cooking times: Approximately 13 minutes 30 seconds for 2 cups of basmati rice; 35 minutes for 2 cups of wholegrain rice
Other key features: Comes with plastic serving spoon, 160ml measuring cup, steamer tray and non-stick cooking pot, can be used to steam meat and vegetables, not dishwasher-safe, fill lines are labelled, two-year guarantee
Russell Hobbs is a household name when it comes to kitchen appliances. This rice cooker cooked basmati rice in a very fast 13 minutes 30 seconds in our tests, but was the rice we got fluffy and delicious or crunchy and underdone?
Size and weight 23.5 x 31 x 31.5cm (H x W x D); 2.4kg
Capacity Maximum 1,800ml/10 cups of rice; minimum 720ml/4 cups of rice
Cooking times Approximately 20 minutes for 4 cups of basmati rice; 34 minutes 30 seconds for 4 cups of wholegrain rice
Other key features Comes with plastic serving spoon, 160ml measuring cup, steamer tray and non-stick cooking pot, can be used to steam meat and vegetables, not dishwasher-safe, fill lines are labelled, two-year guarantee
This Tefal rice cooker cooks a minimum of four cups of rice in one go, which means it's a rice cooker for households with at least six mouths to feed (depending on how hungry those mouths are).
Size and weight 25.8 x 18 x 18cm (H x W x D); 1.53kg
Capacity Maximum 270ml/1.5 cups of rice; minimum 90ml/0.5 cups of rice
Cooking times Approximately 19 minutes for 1 cup of basmati rice; 34 minutes for 1 cup of wholegrain rice
Other key features Comes with plastic serving spoon, 135ml measuring cup and non-stick cooking pot, not dishwasher-safe, fill lines are labelled, two-year guarantee
VonShef's mini rice cooker was the smallest we tested, but with a capacity of one and a half cups of rice it should still be able to feed two or three people. If you want to be economical with your kitchen space this could be a great choice - provided it cooks rice properly.
We set up and used all eight of these rice cookers in a kitchen to find out which was the best cheap rice cooker.
We paid for every rice cooker we tested and don't accept freebies, so you can have confidence in the independence of our reviews.
Rice cookers are all about convenience, so it's important that any rice cooker you buy is straightforward to set up and program.
We assessed how simple each rice cooker was to set up for the first time, how helpful the instructions were for assembling it, and the advice it gives on capacities and water-to-rice ratios.
Advice on cooking times was also a plus for ease of use, as none of the cheap rice cookers we tested have timers that give a clear indication of when your rice is going to be ready.
Useful indicator lights for when the rice cooker is cooking or on the keep-warm setting were also a plus, and the more straightforward it was to switch on, the better.
It's striking how different we found the taste and texture of the same rice to be when cooked using different rice cookers.
Where rice-to-water ratios were absent in the instructions, we defaulted to using a 1:1 ratio for basmati rice and 1:2 ratio for wholegrain rice, as these were the most widely accepted ratios for these rice types that we could find. All of the rice we cooked was rinsed thoroughly before cooking.
We cooked the minimum required amounts of rice in each rice cooker in order to reduce the food waste from our tests. We also ate as much of the cooked rice as possible - lots of chilli and Thai green curry were consumed during testing.
In our assessments, we looked for rice that had flavour, a fluffy texture and that separated easily, and rated rice that was dry, mushy, clumped, crunchy or starchy poorly.
Rice cookers can get very hot during cooking, so it's important that they're stable, that they don't slide around on the kitchen counter, and that their handles and lids are easy to grip and remove.
We assessed each rice cooker on these before cooking. During cooking we also assessed how well each rice cooker controlled the steam and heat released. Rice cookers that got excessively hot on the outside, that billowed out steam uncontrollably or that spat during cooking were penalised.
Every rice cooker has a keep-warm setting that aims to keep your rice fresh if you aren't quite ready to eat it when it's finished cooking.
We left the lid on each rice cooker after cooking and left it for an hour on the keep-warm setting to see how well each model kept the rice.
The rice for the keep-warm assessment was cooked separately to the rice judged in the rice quality test, as removing the lid and inspecting the rice can affect how much moisture and heat is retained in the cooking pot.
The texture and flavour of the rice was assessed again once the hour was up and checked that the rice was kept at a safe temperature.
Bacteria thrives in temperatures between 40 and 60°C, so it's essential that rice cookers don't let rice drop below 60°C on their keep-warm settings. Fortunately, none of the rice cookers we tested let their rice slip into the danger zone.
To ensure uniform testing conditions, every rice cooker was thoroughly cleaned and dried after each use. We noted how easy it was to clean the cooking pot and lid of each rice cooker, looking for any stuck-on bits that needed some extra oomph with the sponge, or any nooks and crannies that were difficult to get into during cleaning.
For our tests, we chose rice cookers that cost less than £50 to buy, as search and demand for cheap models was higher among people than for more expensive rice cookers.
The cheap rice cookers we selected were widely available from major UK retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World and John Lewis & Partners.
We paid for all the rice cookers we tested. At Which? we don't accept freebies, so you can be sure that our test results are impartial and accurate.
If you're unsure about what to expect from using a rice cooker, we've listed some handy tips below that we discovered during our testing to help you cook your rice the way you like it:
That depends on which rice cooker you're using. All should at least be able to cook white rice, basmati rice and brown/wholegrain rice. But some (although not those we tested) can also cook other types, such as risotto or sushi rice.
Make sure to check the instructions before attempting to cook more challenging types of rice in your rice cooker, as simpler models especially are unlikely to be able to cook every type without issue.
It's also possible to use stock instead of water and to add nuts, raisins or peas to add extra flavour - although adding these extras will mean that you'll need extra water for cooking. Unless instructions are provided on how much more water will be needed, some experimentation will be required.
Some rice cookers can also be used to steam meat and vegetables. Those that can will come with a steamer tray that sits above where your rice and water sits during cooking. Plenty of rice cookers come with recipes for steamed meals you can enjoy with your rice. Other rice cookers can double up as pans or sauté pans.
Your cooking options in a rice cooker can really be expanded if you're able to set it to cook for specific times, though. There are plenty of recipes online for how to cook rice pudding in a rice cooker, for example, but you'll need to be able to program it to cook for a set time. If you can't, your rice cooker won't be smart enough to know that there's milk, sugar and other extra ingredients in there, so it won't be likely to cook for the right amount of time.
Lots of people search for answers to this question, but the rice cookers we tested all seemed safe after we used each one four times and followed the instructions.
Like other kitchen appliances that deal with heat and steam, such as kettles, ovens and hobs, it is always possible to burn yourself if you're not careful.
When using a rice cooker, take care to avoid steam vents and avoid touching any part of the cooking pot that might be exposed.
Among the cheap rice cookers we tested, we found that the lip at the top of the cooking pot was often exposed during cooking, and because it makes direct contact with the heating element, that part of the rice cooker is prone to getting very hot when cooking.
Treat the cooking pot like a baking tray that you've put in your oven and wear oven gloves before handling them.
If you have the kitchen counter space and rice is a staple that you struggle to get right on the hob, then absolutely. Rice cookers can be a very convenient and stress-free way to get rice the way you like it.
You'll have to be patient with them at first, though. Rice cookers are prescriptive appliances, so you'll have to experiment a little at first with your rice-to-water ratios before you get your rice the way you like it.
For rice cookers that don't have cooking timers, like the ones we tested, you'll also have to learn your rice cooker's cooking times through experimentation. Amounts of rice and water, and which rice cooker you have, all make a difference.