There are many models of electric rice cooker, some with very advanced features and others that specialize in making one type of rice very well. Depending on the intended uses for the machine, features such as a non-stick coating, automatic timer and heating functions might be very important. Some cookers also have settings that allow them to double as slow cookers, steamers or even small baking ovens. A few very advanced models contain special sensors inside the cooking area that rely on the level of heat, moisture or other factors to determine when the rice or other food has completed cooking, instead of just cooking for a preset amount of time. The best electric rice cooker will have all the features needed for a particular kitchen while remaining cost effective.
A basic consideration when choosing the best electric rice cooker is the construction of the unit. Factors such as the control panel and any display, if one is present, should be looked at to make sure the buttons and dials are easy to use and the display is readable. The type of lid also can make some difference. Lids that are attached to the unit are very durable but might limit access to the interior, while separate lids are easier to clean but do not make as tight of a seal and can get lost. The basket or chamber inside the machine can be coated in non-stick material so it is easy to remove the rice, or it could be made from stainless steel that lasts longer but might be more difficult to clean.
The cooking features of an electric rice cooker should be studied carefully. A very simple cooker could just have a single button to cook rice, while other units might have separate setting for brown rice and white rice. A warming feature can keep rice ready to eat for a long time. For safety, an automatic shutoff is desirable, because some models will instead run until they are unplugged. Similarly, a unit that has some type of audio signal when the rice is done cooking can be valuable in a busy kitchen.
In the event that the electric rice cooker will be expected to cook more than just rice, there are several additional features to look for in a unit. One is automatic heat settings for baking, cooking and steaming. Another feature is a sensor on the inside that will monitor the heat within the unit or the temperature of the food itself, shutting off the heating elements or increasing the heat as needed. A feature on some expensive electric rice cookers is a pressure cooking option, which cooks the rice or food under high pressure, dramatically reducing the cooking time.