My partner and I currently have a combination rice-cooker/vegetable steamer that, honestly, doesn’t do a good job at either, and definitely a better job as a vegetable steamer than rice cooker.
She talked to a friend who said that there are much easier to use models available that do a better, more consistent job; she said she bought one from Japan and likes it, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it because of some quirks it has (this was a conversation my partner had with a friend, so I wasn’t present to ask specifics).
That said, I’ve done a small amount of research into electric rice cookers and I’ve learned two things:
There are a lot of options. (Surely some are objectively better than others?)
I don’t know how to select an electric rice cooker.
Has anyone sweated the details recently? If so, would you offer any guidance?
I don’t think you can actually go wrong with a Japanese one, except maybe for the fact that all the buttons and menus will be in Japanese!
So, I’m not really in a position to know what might possibly be lacking from a rice cooker, because they all do the job. I suppose, if pressed, I would check:
Ease of cleaning. Aside from the removable bowl, there should be a removable “lid” that fits under the hinged lid and creates the seal over the bowl when closed. So the only two bits you need to clean are removable.
Speed, maybe? A slow one will take 50 mins to cook rice, with a 30 min “fast” setting. Maybe there are faster ones?
All the usual settings present: cook by time X, cook different kinds of rice, er, maybe some non-rice settings.
Diamond-coated(?) bowl or something similar to make it durable and scratch-proof.
Japan somehow ended up using 100V, with half the country 50hz and the other half 60hz. It’s much less of a problem than it used to be, because modern power supplies can detect and cope with whatever, but it used to be a big pain, apparently. It did cause issues after the earthquake in 2011, because the grids aren’t interconnected because of the difference of frequencies, and the loss of generating capacity was a problem in parts of the country.
Anyway: what do you want out of a rice cooker? For cooking plain white and brown rice, just about anything should work, assuming you get the water amount correct. The magic magnet does the work. (the secret of rice cookers is that there’s magnet holding a switch on. The magnet loses its magnetism right above 100C, which the pot reaches when all the water has been asorbed by the rice.) For fancier stuff, get a Zojirushi. Actually, just get a Zojirushi, basic, or fancy, depending on what you need.
Apparently the big difference between expensive and “normal” rice cookers is probably whether or not they use induction heating elements or not, and from there, how many induction heating elements are used (surrounding the bowl to a greater degree). No idea if they are worth the extra money, clearly we have never felt the need for one.
Apparently they increase movement and friction within the bowl, which leads to faster cooking times and a “better” result, with claims of bringing out the flavour.
Our current rice cooker has a Teflon coating which we would like to avoid. Stainless steel or ceramic vessel would be ideal.
Our current rice cooker also has it’s own instructions for each type of rice; and it seems neither the instructions that come with the rice, nor the instructions for the cooker work quite right… So something that… Makes rice… Correctly… When… Following the directions, I guess would be the ask?
All the ones I have used are simply put in water and rice and push a button. Not sure what instructions are involved? I suppose you do have to roughly measure the amount of rice and water, but there’s enough leeway for it to not be a big deal.
EDIT: I just realised there might be more of a distinction with all the different kinds of rice used elsewhere. Japanese rice cookers are all about Japanese rice, so I guess there is a possibility that long-grain non-sticky rice varieties might be a bit more finicky.
This may come down to just me and my partner not knowing enough about rice.
We’ve heard so many different suggestions on how to cook rice. And that’s before you consider the differences in rice varieties.
We usually add salt and a fat (used to be just salted butter; we are currently avoiding dairy as we work through an elimination diet for a health concern – we’ve tried avocado oil in its place and right now I think maybe best to just not add anything) during the cooking process; maybe that’s bad? I dunno. And the ratio of rice:water is either very sensitive or our rice cooker is very inconsistent; we think we get it dialed in and the next time we make rice it’s soup, or it’s only half cooked.
I’m thinking a better-quality rice cooker may solve a lot of our rice problems.
And, I would like to learn more about the rice varieties, but I feel like my grocery store aisles don’t ever carry the types of rice I read about when trying to learn more.
Long grain, not terribly sticky rice is what we eat. Works just fine in the cheap (literally the cheapest thing on offer at the department store I bought it) rice maker I’ve been using for years. The non-stick is wearing thin in a few spots, might be time for an upgrade…
Ah, yeah, Japanese requirements are simple: all the rice is basically the same, it just comes in “pre-washed” and “not” varieties (both are clean, but the latter retains more starch, so some washing before cooking is recommended). Apparently my wife can taste the difference between price tiers, I can’t. The only stuff we ever occasionally add other than rice and water is some barley, maybe. Sometimes eggs wrapped in foil to save on boiling them separately.
I’m pretty sure any halfway decent rice cooker will always cook your rice properly. I can’t imagine what might be going wrong with one that doesn’t. The whole point is convenience, just throw in rice and water and press a button and you are done.
We have never had a fancy rice maker, typically just the ones $20-30 ones with the glass lid you put on top. Accurate measurements of rice to water seem to be critical to get good rice out of them, and usually the rice at the very bottom of the pot is a bit scorched, so it ends up getting tossed.
We use what claims to be a sushi-grade rice sold at Costco, which we like, but you do have to rinse it pretty thoroughly or all the starch kind of bubbles and foams out the top, making a bit of a mess and usually leaving the rice a bit too moist. We typically make 4 cups of rice, and using the measuring lines in the pot, the water should be just below the 4 cup line for ideal rice.
I have a Zojirushi NS-YSQ10, which is a Japanese make with power setup for a european/british households. The buttons are in english as well as the instructions. They do sell an equivalent for American market for your power needs. Also the instructions and buttons will be in english if you get ab American market one.
Other brands do export models so there are options. An important thing to look for os the fuzzy logic chip I’d suggest. That’s an indicator that your buying a rice cooker and not a pot with it’s own kettle on the bottom.
I an so happy I spent the money. Rice is always perfect from it and is so low grit that it was worth every penny to me. Just being able to set it going and walk away with no keeping an eye is better than it sounds and the fact that it does any type of rice well. I’ve also had fun with the rice and other stuff for a whole meal setting and have congee now which can be delicious. I’d highly recommend one to the point I can get boring about them in normal conversation due to my enthusiasm.
Edit: I think the equivalent model for the states is the NP-NWC10XB