The best rice cookers are made by people who have a heritage of rice as a staple food and have nutted out how to cook it perfectly. The Japanese know their rice and their experience coupled with their high standards means they make the best rice cookers on the market.
If you are thinking about buying a Japanese rice cooker, here are five I think are well worth considering:
WHY WOULD YOU NEED A RICE COOKER?
I have to admit that being so used to cooking rice the traditional way I wondered what all the fuss was about in using a rice cooker. Why would I bother? Well, I surprised myself by coming up with five advantages in using a rice cooker, and if you are going to use one, get a good Japanese one.
- 5-1/2-cup computerized rice cooker and warmer with advanced Neuro Fuzzy logic technology. Wall mountable
- Multi-menu selections; automatic keep-warm, extended keep-warm, and reheat cycles
- Spherical, nonstick inner pan allows for uniform heating; LCD clock and timer; retractable cord
- It keeps rice warm for hours, so I can go out and know that at least I’ll have something warm to come home to.
- It cooks rice perfectly every time.
- It’s just one less thing I have to watch on the stove while cooking other things, especially if I’m using the wok.
- It can cook other things besides rice so I can default to it for steaming vegetables, etc. if I’m short on time or my attention needs to be elsewhere.
- It allows me breathing space and opportunity to concentrate on other aspects of a dish.
If you cook rice regularly, and especially if you love sushi, a good quality appliance is worth the money. Japanese rice cookers are a bit more expensive, but the quality is certainly there.
HOW DOES A RICE COOKER WORK?
Induction Heating (IH)
The first rice cookers used an element under the cooking bowl to cook the rice, but in the 1980s some manufacturers introduced Induction Heating technology which is an alternating electric current heating the entire cooking bowl, thereby creating an even heating process resulting in better tasting rice.
Induction heating allows you to use a cheaper, lower quality rice and achieve a better result than using high quality rice in a conventional rice cooker.
Fuzzy Logic Technology
Have you wondered how a rice cooker manages to cook rice perfectly every time? It’s the Fuzzy Logic – an artificial intelligence in the rice cooker’s chip that adjusts the power and cooking time to each load of rice you put into it, optimising flavor and texture.
There are two types of Fuzzy Logic: Micom and Neuro. Micom Fuzzy Logic works out how to accurately cook the rice by guessing and measuring, and then adjusting the settings for that one cooking session. Neuro Fuzzy Logic can do all this as well as remember the data to refine future cooking sessions, giving better and more consistent results each time until it is perfect.
Rice cookers with Fuzzy Logic are optimised for cooking different kinds of rice and can produce different textures from sushi to porridge.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A JAPANESE RICE COOKER
Any decent rice cooker should have at least cook and keep warm controls, and the latter should keep the rice warm without it drying out.
A rice cooker must have the ability to cook all the different kinds of rice well: white, brown, multi grain, sushi, etc.
When deciding on the capacity you will need to think about how much rice you will eat in one meal, and also in one day. If you like to have cooked rice at the ready throughout the day, then get at least a 5 cup capacity cooker.
I find this size to be great for just my family, but if I want to cook for a crowd, which is often, I need a big one. It’s always good to have that option so you know you can extend your hospitality.
This is optional, but if you love rice, you will appreciate this extra feature and enjoy your rice more. We’re familiar with four main flavors which are detected on different parts of our tongue: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami, from the Japanese word for ‘good flavor,’ is considered the fifth flavor and describes the degree of savory flavor.
The Umami setting extracts the sugar from the rice into the surrounding water. The sugar then reattaches to the outside of the grain making the rice taste sweeter.
I love having a Umami setting because I know that good tasting rice improves Asian cooking and brings more complements to the chef!
As with most electronic appliances, there are often extra features that sound great and bump up the price, but in reality, most people rarely or never use them, or they are just not as good as a dedicated machine.
Another thing to think about is what else can the rice cooker cook? If you want to take advantage of the machine doing the work throw as much in as you can. Can it steam vegetables? Can it cook meat?
The last thing to ask yourself is ‘How easy is it to clean?’ Some Japanese rice cookers come with detachable lids making cleaning a breeze. You will want to check the machine for any crevices or spaces where water or residue might accumulate and how the machine deals with that.
With all that in mind, let’s move on to checking out some Japanese rice cookers.
1. Tiger JAX-T10U-K 5.5-Cup (Uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker
Although the Tiger JAX-T10U-K does not use induction heating, it has a good range of practical features making it highly useful on a day to day level.
Not only does it cook rice, the “tacook” Synchro-Cooking function allows you to cook other food in a separate bowl along with the rice, keeping the flavors separate and maintaining flavor integrity. This is a great feature for busy people or who are out most of the day. It is also a slow cooker, steamer and warmer.
The 5.5 cup capacity is big enough for everyday cooking for most families so if you eat a variety of meals and are busy, this Tiger rice cooker would be a good fit.
Removable inner lid and steam cap for easy cleaning
Inner pot thickness 1.5mm
Does not use induction heating
2. Zojirushi NP-NVC10 Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker
Whether you are a rice connoisseur or a cook who loves to explore new ways with rice, the many features of this Zojurushi rice cooker will keep you happy.
As well as Fuzzy Logic, it uses induction heating combined with pressure cooking. Those of you who use a pressure cooker understand its benefits. When combined with induction heating, the results are impressive.
While induction heating provides consistent all over heat, the pressure cooking feature allows the cooker to reach higher temperatures meaning the rice cooks better and stays softer for longer, which is an advantage if you are storing the cooked rice or keeping it warm. In a nutshell, the pressure cooking enhances the induction heating capabilities.
If you appreciate good rice and understand it’s different uses, textures, and flavors, then you will make good use of this rice cooker.
The multi menu cooking functions include settings for cooking white rice, mixed grain rice, sushi, porridge, brown rice and GABA brown rice. It also has a very handy quick cooking option. The Umami setting extends the soaking and steaming time producing richer flavoured rice.
Induction Heating, Pressure Cooking, and Fuzzy Logic
Multi menu cooking functions
Platinum infused non-stick surface on cooking bowl
May have too many functions for the average cook
3. Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer
It’s just as well that Zojirushi makes a rice cooker for the budget conscious. This one doesn’t use induction heating, however you can still experience a quality Japanese rice cooker with this model.
So, if you have been drooling over the Zojirushi above and are discouraged by the price tag, there is still an option for you!
The Neuro Fuzzy Logic means this Japanese rice cooker does a superior job than a standard Micom Fuzzy Logic rice cooker, so you are a getting good value for money compared to Micom machines in the same price bracket.
Of all five rice cookers reviewed here, this one is the smallest but still comes with the standard 5.5 cup capacity, so it suits people who have limited space.
Neuro Fuzzy Technology
Does not have heat induction
4. Panasonic SR-DF181 “Fuzzy Logic” Rice Cooker
The Fuzzy Logic feature of this rice cooker does not specify Micom or Neuro, so I guess it’s Micom. You’ve probably worked out by now that price reflects the level of sophistication with rice cookers, and so it is with the Panasonic.
If you just want to get your rice cooked and into the kids’ mouths or you aren’t fussy about your rice, then this cooker will probably do a good job for you. Its specs indicate it is reliable and ready for the long haul of cooking rice, but still gives you a variety of options to vary your menu.
Its non-stick pan is easy to clean, and the one-button operation is quick and easy enough to delegate to the kids. One nifty feature is the dome shaped lid preventing water accumulating and re-entering the contents of the cooking bowl.
Markings on cooking pan hard to read
Lid is not detachable
No carry handle
5. Aroma Housewares Professional Rice Cooker
Let’s change the subject. You want to cook a cake and leave rice for another day. Well, you can do that with this rice cooker. You can even make risotto and brown food with the Sauté-Then-Simmer function, and you can cook any grain you like. With those kinds of options, you will have all your meals covered.
The delay timer can be programmed up to 15 hours in advance, and then it can switch to the keep warm setting to lengthen that time even further. This feature teamed with the larger than standard capacity is a great plus for planning ahead for big meals.
The Teflon coated pan may be a plus to some due to its non-stick and easy-clean surface, and a drawback to others, depending on your priorities.
If you are concerned about the possibility of the Teflon coming off into your food, then you may be better going for a Japanese rice cooker with a platinum infused non-stick surface. Teflon is good for low-temperature cooking but does not stand up well to the high temperatures required to cook rice.
Large capacity for price
Cooks other things besides rice, including cakes
May not perform the extra functions of slow cooking, etc as well
Teflon coating may concern some people
Although all these rice cookers are good appliances, they each serve particular needs and budgets, and if you pick the one that suits your style and budget, you will be content. However, being a lover of rice and particular about its flavor, it’s an easy choice for me – I would choose the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5-1/2-Cup (Uncooked) Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker. Made in Japan, Zojirushi know what its customers are looking for and have come up with the best features to make the most of rice. It is more pricey than the others, but eating the amount of rice my family and I eat, we will easily get value out of a good quality machine like this one.
So if you are a lover of Asian food, you will appreciate the value of delicious tasting rice, and the difference it makes to an Asian meal.