Rice cookers are a great way to get the basic backbone of your meal cooked without fussing over a saucepan or worrying about overflowing water.
The most common choice for these set-and-forget appliances is a cooker with a capacity of 1.8 liters and above. This works well for larger families but how about if you’re a single student living in cramped accommodation? How about if you’re a newlywed couple or you’ve only got 2 or 3 family members?
Well, the market is stuffed with small capacity rice cookers and we tested a great number in order to bring you 10 of the very best at your disposal. Before we look at why you should consider buying a small rice cooker, here’s a highlight of our 3 favorites by category…
Our #1 Pick: Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer
This fuzzy logic rice cooker from a highly reputable brand allows you to make from ½ cup to 3 cups of rice and won’t eat up too much room on the counter. Whether you want brown or white rice, sushi rice or even steel cut oatmeal, the intelligent cooker does all the hard work for you.
Upgrade Pick: Zojirushi Induction Heating System Rice Cooker and Warmer
If money is no object, this combined rice cooker and warmer, again from Zojirushi, is the obvious choice. A compact appliance, you can cook smaller batches of rice or as much as 5 ½ cups at the upper end giving you plenty of versatility from a manufacturer you can rely on.
Best Budget: Zojirushi 3-Cup Rice Cooker
Our budget pick also comes from Zojirushi since they dominate the rice cooker space so completely. Small but perfectly formed, this mini rice cooker capable of whipping up 3 cups gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t at a highly attractive price-point.
Table of Contents
I. Why Should You Buy a Small Rice Cooker?
Before we get down to business with our small rice cooker reviews, we’ll give you a snapshot of some of the main reasons you should consider one of these scaled-down units.
- Ideal for Small Families: All of the small rice cookers today work well for singles or anyone with a smaller family and you’ll be able to start out with as little as ½ cup or ramp things up to 3 cups for added versatility
- Fit Well With Student Lifestyles: If you’re operating on a limited budget, you probably understand how cheap and filling rice is. You might also be living in a small room without much room for cooking equipment. A standalone rice cooker is a great investment for students, these small models in particular
- Budget-Friendly: While some small rice cookers are fairly pricey, the bulk we tested fall firmly in budget territory so you can get a real bargain without compromising quality
- Range of Designs: If you’re tired of soulless black and gray appliances in the kitchen, plenty of the small rice cookers we review come in bright and colorful designs to liven things up
- User-Friendly: While you get great functionality and flexibility, small rice cookers are remarkably easy to use, often involving little more than pushing a single button
- Rapid Cooking Time: If you get frustrated waiting for water to boil then laboring over the saucepan and stove, get the job done quicker with a small capacity rice cooker
- Rugged and Durable: Build quality varies from brand to brand and you generally get what you pay for but don’t confuse small rice cookers with lightweight and flimsy appliances. The best of the bunch should give you years of faithful service
- Small Footprint: As you’d expect from a small appliance, you won’t need much room on the kitchen counter to accommodate a compact rice cooker. If you live in a smaller apartment or already have a kitchen overcrowded with appliances, this is an excellent bonus
Now you can see some of the manifold advantages small capacity rice cookers can bring about, it’s time for the main event with our top 10 models from a range of manufacturers and in varying sizes so there’s something for all tastes and budgets.
II. Top 10 Best Small Rice Cooker Reviews
1) Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer
First up in our small rice cooker reviews is one of a handful of Zojirushi models we tested out over the past week.
Thanks to fuzzy logic technology, the rice cooker will make adjustments so that whatever type you’re cooking is optimized according to type and volume. You’ll also get a neat interface that’s easy to navigate and lets you choose from white or brown rice through sushi rice and steel cut oatmeal.
A small capacity rice cooker, you’ll be able to cook just ½ cup if you want a quick snack without standing on ceremony and you can whip up as much as 3 cups if needs must.
You’ll get a decent batch of accessories thrown in and the design is ideal to ensure even heating throughout. There’s a neat steam vent cap so you won’t end up with rice and water all over the countertop and there’s even a carry handle and retractable cord showing magnificent attention to detail.
- Versatile: Broad spread of settings so you can optimize cooking for the whole spectrum of rice varieties
- Consistency: The triple heater makes sure your rice is evenly cooked throughout
- Compact: Cook as little as ½ cup of rice making this ideal for singles or small families since you can ramp thing up to 3 cups at the upper end
- Takes too long to cook brown rice although the end result is undeniably impressive
2) Zojirushi Induction Heating System Rice Cooker and Warmer
Next up we’ve got a much more expensive model, again from from Zojirushi, and this time with the robust functionality of an induction heating cooking system with an integrated warmer. It’s certainly not cheap but the best things in life rarely are. This model would have been our overall winner were it not for that ruthless price tag.
The potent induction technology underpinning this rice cooker gives you a quick and even heat that means you won’t be waiting for an eternity for your rice once your sauce is cooked.
And, once cooked, you won’t need to mess around with any settings as the Zojirushi maintains it at proper serving temperature saving you from the health risk of reheating room temperature rice.
The attractive orange screen is a cinch to read while you can pop the inner pan out to make clean-up a cakewalk.
If you’ve got a fluid budget and you’re looking for arguably the best small capacity rice cooker on the market, this model takes some beating.
- Capacity: You can use this rice cooker to make up smaller batches while also having the flexibility to cook up to 5 ½ cups making it ideal for singles and families alike
- Striking Design and Small Footprint: Finished in a coated stainless steel, this rice cooker looks great on the countertop and doesn’t take up too much space either
- Automatic Warming: When your rice is ready, the machine will automatically keep it at the optimum serving temperature for a seamless operating experience
- Not the cheapest small capacity rice cooker on the market but certainly one of the very best
3) Zojirushi 3-Cup Rice Cooker
Whether you live alone, have a smaller family or you just have limited kitchen real estate and too many appliances already, roll with the 3-cup Zojirushi and you’ll see that good things can come in small packages.
This is a user-friendly model where you literally just hit a switch and you’re good to go. It’s perfect for anyone not too comfortable with tech.
If you often need to move your rice cooker around, the stay-cool handles let you do so safely and easily.
The transparent lid allows you to keep an eye on proceedings without removing it and the cooking time is brisk so you’ll be chowing down in no time.
For a price-driven model that doesn’t stint in terms of overall quality, this 3-cup small capacity rice cooker was a no-brainer pick for our best budget model.
- Outstanding Value: The leading advantage of this model is its remarkably keen price without stiffing you on the performance front
- Small Capacity: You can choose from 3 sizes with the 3-cup model perfect for single people and smaller families or anyone living in an apartment with limited counter space
- Non-Stick Interior: If you hate the idea of sticky rice caked all over the inside of cheap rice cookers, you’ll get a non-stick coating on this small capacity model despite the cut-throat price tag
- A few questions raised about lifespan but you need to be realistic about your expectations at the budget end of the market
4) Tiger Rice Cooker and Warmer
Next up we’ve got a mid-range model from Tiger which functions as a cooker and warmer combined. You can choose from 5 different sizings to suit but the smaller 3-cup unit is inkeeping with our focus today on small capacity rice cookers.
If the sleek black and chrome finish is not to your taste, you’ve got a couple of florally embellished white designs to liven up the kitchen instead. This is a nice touch since rice cookers generally look pretty unappealing.
The only real downside is that this is a relatively bulky unit even though it’s only a 3-cup cooker. If you’ve got the space to accommodate it, though, it’s obviously a non-issue.
The steam vent slips off for easy cleaning and the cord retracts neatly to streamline storage. If you’re looking for a top-notch small capacity rice cooker that’s super-simple to use, we can’t recommend the Tiger strongly enough.
- Aesthetics: Choose from 3 striking designs to make a real statement in the kitchen
- Precision Measuring: Use the vessel provided to get exactly the amount of rice you need and eliminate waste completely
- Price/Performance Ratio: This model hits the sweetspot perfectly delivering style along with results at a keen price point
- A reasonably bulky rice cooker even though it’s got a smaller capacity
5) Tiger Micom Rice Cooker with Food Steamer and Slow Cooker
We’ve got another Tiger up next, this time a much more compact model tailor-made for anyone living in a smaller apartment with restricted space. The smaller model we tested is good for up to 5 ½ cups
One of the key selling points with this steamer/cooker combo is the way you can simultaneously whip up your main course and rice saving time and effort.
You’ll get a cooking plate and spatula thrown in along with a recipe book to help you with some ideas if you’re tired of the same old same old.
Whether you’ve got a smaller family or you live on your own, this excellent small capacity rice cooker is a great way to save space in the kitchen while also offering far more flexibility than a standalone rice cooker so what’s not to love?
- Small Footprint: This small capacity rice cooker measures just 10 ½ x 14 x 8 ½ inches so you can slip it almost anywhere with ease
- Multiple Settings: Despite its budget price, you’ll get robust functionality with 4 different settings
- User-Friendly: You’ll be able to take care of everything at the push of a button
- Some reported issues with the non-stick coating not standing the test of time
6) Cuckoo Electric Heating Rice Cooker
Another pocket-friendly small capacity rice cooker is up next, this time from Cuckoo.
Packing fuzzy logic, this simply means the rice cooker will fine-tune cooking so whatever type of rice you cook will be evenly finished. The only qualification we’d make here is that brown rice is something of a disappointment despite the marketing literature to the contrary. If this forms a staple part of your diet, we’d suggest you check out one of the other rice cookers we review instead.
The inner pot is Teflon-coated and will help ensure you don’t end up with grains stuck all over the inside when you’re done cooking.
For a colorful and no-nonsense rice cooker majestic in its simplicity, road test the Cuckoo and, as long as you favor white rice, you’re in safe hands.
- Neat Design: Finished with a brilliant flash of red, Cuckoo proves that rice cookers don’t need to be bland and boring
- Fuzzy Logic: Benefit from the intelligent algorithm that ensures all type of rice are cooked optimally with no user input required
- Smaller Capacity: Yielding 3 cups of rice, this slots in neatly to any kitchen and is a winner for students living alone or small families
- Brown rice doesn’t cook quite so well so think about your intended usage
7) Zojirushi 5 ½-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer
As we edge toward the end of our small capacity rice cooker reviews, we’ve got yet another model from the stellar Zojirushi. This brand has such a stranglehold on this space that we can’t help but choose a number of units from their truly impressive range and this 5 ½-cup cooker is another home run.
You’ll get far more than a rudimentary rice cooker with this 5 ½-cupper. You can steam while you cook your rice and there’s also both a warming and reheating cycle. You can even bake cakes in the Zojirushi and the best thing of all? The lid slips out so you can clean up in a flash, too.
If you’re looking for a truly versatile cooker from a brand you can rely on, we’d seriously suggest you pop this small capacity unit on your shortlist.
- Multipurpose: You’ll get a broad spread of settings along with a warming function giving you plenty of bang for your buck
- Excels With Brown Rice: Unlike some more limited rice cookers, if you prefer the healthier option of brown rice, you’ll get it cooked to a turn with this small capacity model
- Steam Basket: You can steam up some veggies at the same time you’re cooking your rice for a streamlined experience
- Relatively expensive if you opt for the larger model but the 5 ½-cup model we tested represents pretty good value
8) Zojirushi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker and Warmer
No prizes for guessing what brand is up next… That’s right, yet another Zojirushi classic! Be warned, this is not a budget model so if you’re looking for a cheap rice cooker, check out one of the more reasonably priced models we tested. If you have the cash to splash, though, you won’t regret investing in this hard-hitting induction model.
A wealth of settings give you the freedom to cook just about any type of rice with fuzzy logic so you can sit back and wait while the cooker does all the hard yards. Whether you want to dial back the steam or to scorch the bottom of the rice, the world’s your oyster with this awesome cooker.
Once you’re done, you can keep your rice warmed for over an hour, ideal for extended meal times.
- Intuitive Control Panel: Crisp and clear LCD lets you see everything you need at a glance and the menu is a cinch to navigate even if you’re not the biggest gadget fan
- Extended Cooking Time: Dedicated umami setting for better soaking and superior results
- Quick When You Need It: If you want regular rice in a hurry, you’ll get a brisk cooking time when called for
- Savagely expensive so absolutely not the rice cooker for everyone but if you have the budget, it represents decent overall value considering the functionality and flexibility
9) Instant Pot 6-in-1 Rice Cooker
As the name makes abundantly clear, you’ll get far more than just a rice cooker here with the Instant Pot. Along with a pressure cooker and slow cooker, you can steam and sauté your food as well as warming it through.
With the slow cooking side of things, you can program in a delay of up to 24 hours so you can stave off cooking then come home to a delicious meal leaving you to do nothing except whip up some rice in this superb small capacity cooker.
Heating is consistent and even and you’ll get a real fluffiness to the rice that puts many more expensive models to shame.
If you’re working to a limited budget but you’re not prepared to compromise quality, this is a first class rice cooker at a third class price so check out the Instant Pot at your earliest convenience.
- Value For Money: Robust functionality at a very keen price-point
- Heat Distribution: Designed to cook rice through evenly while also retaining heat perfectly
- Multipurpose Cooker: Get 6 cooking methods in a single appliance saving you space and money
- A few complaints about longevity
10) Panasonic Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker
To round out our small capacity rice cooker reviews, we’ve got a superb fuzzy logic Panasonic currently available at a steep discount so act quickly for a real steal and read on to see what this dinky unit does best…
To kick off with a negative, a few disgruntled users have moaned about rice that’s soggy in places and burned in others. This appears to happen when cooking a very small amount of rice so if you tend to cook just ½ cup on a regular basis, you might be better advised considering one of the other models we looked at.
The Ai underpinning this rice cooker gives you a very user-friendly experience and you’ll need to put in little effort to get well-cooked rice in fairly short order.
You’ll be able to deal with both white and brown rice but functionality is relatively limited. If you’re on the trail of a simple but effective small capacity rice cooker from a brand you can trust, the Panasonic is a smart choice.
- Brand Heritage: You’ll get the build quality and performance you’d expect from Panasonic without needing to dig too deep
- Intelligent Cooking: Rice cooker will adjust itself automatically according to the type and amount of rice ensuring a perfect plate every single time
- Space-Saver: Small in terms of both capacity and footprint, this makes perfect sense in a crowded kitchen where space is at a premium
- Some gripes about uneven cooking although we must say we didn’t experience this during our testing
1) What are the advantages of induction heating technology?
The manufacturers should make it abundantly clear if the rice cooker makes use of induction hearting technology and you can always look out for the IH Logo that will adorn models using this form of cooking. IH is a non-contact method of cooking with pulses of radio electricity sent through a conductive material. With rice cookers, you get that conductive zone built into the inner pot so it acts as an efficient heat conductor. This form of cooking allows for rapid changes to temperature and since the whole pot becomes a heating element, you’ll get the rice cooked more rapidly. Cooking is also more even with the end results tending to be fluffier and more appetizing so keep an eye out for that IH logo!
2) What is a fuzzy logic rice cooker?
Fuzzy logic is a type of AI. Rather than direct and precise logic, this sphere relates to approximation which is what makes it so useful with rice cookers. Depending on the type of rice you use and the amount you’re cooking along with how full the vessel is, rice cookers with fuzzy logic will make small adjustments on your behalf so everything is optimized. In essence, rice cookers with fuzzy logic are able to “think” to some extent and they can calculate temperature and cooking time based on the factors we outlined above. You’ll get even heat distribution and a great finish to your rice. Opinion is polarized as to whether this is the best method of cooking rice but what you should be interested in is this: Is it the best method for you? If you want an intelligent rice cooker that does all the hard work for you, the answer will be a resounding “Yes!”
3) What is inverter technology in a rice cooker?
With inverter technology, the cooking temperature is precisely adjusted according to the stage. While soaking, it’s kept at the right temperature to maximize absorption. The net result is an extremely efficient and accurate way of getting your rice perfect and fluffy every time with very little effort on your part.
4) How much water should you use with your rice cooker?
This varies according to the type of rice. With soft rice, go for 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. Use a ratio of 1-½ cups to 1 cup with firmer or Basmati rice. Ramp this up to just over 2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice when you’re opting for brown rice.
5) How long does it take to cook rice in a rice cooker?
This will also vary according to brand and model. Allow anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes depending on what rice cooker you have. Each model will clearly state cooking times so you know exactly where you stand.
6) When should you stir the rice?
The best time for stirring is directly before you plate it up.
7) How long should you soak your rice for before cooking?
As a rough guideline, soaking rice for 30 minutes gives best results so try to plan ahead so you don’t skip this stage.
8) Why do you even need to soak rice in the first place?
Not only will you shorten the cooking time, you’ll also end up with more flavorful rice if you take the time to soak it in advance. Beyond this, washing rice removes that thin layer of starch which tends to make the rice stick and clump together. For reasons of speed, taste and quality, soaking is a step you shouldn’t overlook.
9) Aren’t rice cookers an absolute nuisance to clean?
In a word, no. You’ll be able to remove the pan so you can rinse and soak them easily without needing to contort your hands inside. Compared to using a saucepan that tends to get covered with sticky grains of rice almost welded on, rice cookers are very low maintenance indeed. Also, all the best small capacity rice cookers come with non-stick coatings so you’ll get far less mess in the first place.
10) Is it essential to spend a lot to get a great rice cooker?
Absolutely not! We’ve included small rice cookers across all price-points and it’s perfectly possible to get a real bargain without being stiffed in terms of performance or build quality. If you think carefully about your intended usage, it’s possible to get a rice cooker that will give you years of faithful service without needing to spend a fortune.
We very much hope this study of small capacity rice cookers has clearly laid out why they work so well. We also hope you’ve seen the advantages of each type of cooker and you can also see that multipurpose models are readily available.
Whether you’re single or you have a small family, whether you’re a student or live in a small apartment, you don’t need to go all or nothing with a rice cooker and the market is stuffed with great compact models. Roll with any on our shortlist and you’re highly unlikely to be disappointed.
After all that cooking, you might need to stand up to aid digestion rather than sitting down on the couch. Luckily, we’re nearly done testing a staggering array of standing desks so you can do just that. Come back next week to see the results!