A rice cooker is a must for any modern cook who loves East Asian, Indian or Caribbean cuisine. Making rice on the stove top is fraught with risk. It’s hard to get the right temperature, rice-to-water ratio, and cooking time for perfect results.
How many times have you checked the pot too late, only to find your rice burnt and crusty?
Plenty, if you’re like most of us. That’s why it’s so important to find the best rice cooker for your kitchen. With a quality appliance, you can leave cooking the rice up to a machine, and spend your time and energy on better things.
Most good quality rice cookers also do more than just make rice, too. You’ll see devices that also steam vegetables, bake bread, pressure-cook beans, slow-cook stews, and even make cakes! Sounds good?
Then let’s take a look at some of the best Japanese rice cookers on the market!
How Does a Rice Cooker Work?
Many modern rice cookers add many more features and use a computer to track and adjust the temperature and moisture levels. These extra features help produce higher quality rice and increase the price of a rice cooker accordingly.
Some even include platinum-infused cooking vessels and special programs for sprouted rice or unusual grains. Under it all, however, they’re all still the same basic appliance.
Buying the Best Japanese Rice Cooker
It really all depends on how and what you cook. If your family loves rice at every meal and enjoys a variety of different kinds, the advanced features of a fuzzy logic-type cooker might fit the bill.
But what if that’s not like you at all?
If you eat rice along with a lot of other foods and don’t need special features, you’ll do better with a multi-cooker that also makes stews or bread. Some buyers won’t even want a Japanese rice cooker at all, preferring an American brand like Aroma.
With all the rice cookers on the market, how can anyone know where to start?
Let’s admit it: we’ve all felt that way.
Buying a rice cooker doesn’t have to feel like you’re lost, though. There are a few main features you can check out to make sure any potential appliance will do what you need. These include the capacity of the rice cooker, the thickness of the pot, the type of heat regulation, and whether the cooker is just meant for rice.
Big rice cookers are great for making a lot of rice at once, but they can be disappointing if you only need a serving or two. A small amount of rice spreads out over the bottom of the pot and gets dry and crusty. Try to buy a rice cooker sized for the amount you usually eat. It’s also a good idea to pick an appliance with a relatively thick pot. Thinner ones encourage uneven heating and poorly-cooked rice.
Which Japanese rice cooker is best for your kitchen?
Your rice cooker will generally use either a thermometer to determine when rice is done or a computerized control type called “fuzzy logic” or “micom”. Thermometer-controlled cookers usually work faster and cost less, but it comes at the expense of quality. A micom-type rice cooker takes longer, but it usually makes better rice.
Ask yourself if you want to cook just rice, or if you need your appliance to do more. Both rice-only and multi-function machines are common from Japanese manufacturers. The multi-function type can be more complicated to use, but are valuable in small kitchens.
Rice cooker designs run the gamut from older-style pot-shaped cookers to futuristic models that don’t look much like kitchen appliances. A few design elements stand out, however. Some of the best rice cookers have lots of removable pieces, so you can wash them all individually. This is especially handy if the pieces can be washed in the dishwasher.
The best designs also include large, easy-to-understand displays with simple menus. Oddly, some of the most costly rice cookers do poorly in this area. Look for a rice cooker that doesn’t require much-complicated programming, unless you absolutely need more control. Simpler appliances tend to get used more often, but overly-complex ones can make you feel like you’re in a never-ending battle just to schedule a cooking session.
How much difference can the bowl of a rice cooker make in the finished rice?
It turns out the answer is a lot! Thicker rice cooker pans heat more evenly, avoiding the hot spots that make rice stick to the bottom or overcook. In general, the thicker the pan, the better the rice.
Big rice cooker bowls aren’t necessarily better. In fact, some larger rice cookers don’t do a very good job at making small quantities of rice. Choose your appliance based on how much rice you normally make at any one time. Smaller appliances do tend to have more limited feature sets and are less likely to include options like cake mode.
If you know you don’t eat much rice at once, but you want a device with a larger bowl capacity, consider freezing the leftovers in individual portions. They reheat well and make great lunches!
Famous Japanese Rice Cooker Recipes
Almost any rice cooker can make more than just rice, but it might not be obvious right away.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could look up a whole series of recipes, just for your machine?
We thought so! It turns out that most Japanese rice cooker companies actually provide an online list of recipes. Some of them are even sorted according to which models or features they require. Check out the manufacturer’s website for your rice cooker today!
After all, you might get a defective model that needs repair or replacement. Rice cooker warranties vary a lot, but in general, you can expect a few things.
Most warranties are for six months to a year and cover material defects or problems with how the rice cooker is put together. They’ll usually require you to prove you bought the device, and you may have to ship it to an authorized repair center.
If you bought your rice cooker in the US, this is unlikely to be a problem. If you order directly from Japan, however, it’s a good idea to make sure you don’t need to mail your rice cooker back!
White rice can take as little as 10 minutes to cook in a thermometer-controlled rice cooker, or as long as an hour in some fuzzy logic devices.
Japanese rice cookers use a rice serving size of about ¾ US cup. This is a standard unit for measuring dry rice in Japan.
Which model is the best Japanese rice cooker for your home?
It all depends on what you need it to do. If you and your family eat a rice-heavy diet and want a really reliable appliance, you might choose a large, micom-equipped cooker with lots of functions. If you don’t eat much rice at a time or you prioritize space over features, you might try a basic three-cup model.
Our choice for the best all-round Japanese rice cooker is still the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10. At a 5.5-cup dry capacity, this rice cooker makes enough food to serve a crowd without requiring you to cook a banquet every time. It offers some extra functions like “Stay-cool” and “Neuro Fuzzy” technology, they’re easy to access and understand. Plus, most importantly of all, it makes fluffy, reliable rice!