How To Select A Rice Cooker

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Rice Cooker History

The first commercial rice cooker was produced by Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan.  It was a very basic aluminum pot fitted with a heating coil located on the bottom inside of the pan.  There was no auto on-off feature and required the user to closely watch the rice and turn the unit off when cooking was complete.

The first commercially available cooker was produced by Toshiba in 1956.  The unit had a double-chamber and used indirect heat (the coil was not inside the pan like the very earliest unit) and was able to turn off automatically when the rice was properly cooked.   Toshiba produced over 200,000 units per month; the rice cooker was well on its way to become as common in the Japanese kitchen as the toaster is in the American kitchen.  Click for more rice cooker history.

Rice Cooker Uses

A rice cooker can be used to cook rice, hot cereal, desserts and even steam vegetables and cook soups and stews. Not every rice cooker can perform every task so make sure you to select the right cooker for your needs.

The best quality rice cookers are still made in Japan. You can purchase less expensive machines made in other countries but you won't get the same amount of use out of them.

Basic Rice Cooker Features

Rice Cooker Size

Rice cookers measure capacity by the cup and range from 3 cups to 10 cups. Don't buy a large unit than you need because the rice cooker is designed to operate properly with a specific amount of rice and water. You also want to avoid overfilling your cooker because it will cause it to boil over which is quite messy.

Japanese vs US Cup Size

When you buy a rice cooker by Japanese manufactures, be aware that one Japanese cup is 200 ml in compared to one American cup is 240 ml. Save the plastic measure cup that comes with your rice cooker. If you use recipes that don't state if they are referring to "rice cooker cups", then you may need to adjust your recipes.

The average Japanese household uses a 5-cup capacity rice cooker.

Rice Cooker Yields

  • Yields - One cup of uncooked rice yields to about 1 1/2 cup of cooked rice.
  • Small 3 - 4 cup
  • Medium 5 - 6 cup
  • Large 8 - 10 cup
  • Larger - Jumbo 14+ cups

Types of Rice Cookers

Although there seem to be many options out there there are only a few basic types of cookers:

On/Off Cookers

Cook and turn off - The rice cooks and the unit shuts off automatically. This is the least expensive yet highly flexible machine. There is no light that indicates the rice is done. The on/off switch flips to the "off" position when the rice is done. These basic cookers don't normally offer non-stick pans or steamer units but if all you want is "rice" they do a very good job. You can find these cookers for as little as $20.00.

Cook and keep warm

The rice cooks, reduces the heat when the rice is done then maintains it at a "warm" temperature (duration varies). The way you shut these off is to unplug it. We find these cookers to be some of the most flexible at a reasonable price. Shop to find special features like non-stick pan, steamer baskets. Plan to spend $40 to $70.00.

Electronic Cook and Keep Warm

A sensor in the unit keeps rice warm for up to 12 hours. These machines are more expensive but if your household eats a lot of rice all day long it is a worthwhile investment. Priced at $100 and up.

Fuzzy Logic Cookers

Basic Fuzzy Logic

A very sophisticated machine with some great features like settings for soup or porridge, brown rice, rice texture (hard or soft) and even a sushi rice setting. These machines are great but very pricey and way more machine than the average US household would use. If you have a small budget then this is not the machine for you but if money is no object, get one! The least expensive model is about $170.00

Induction Heating

The most state of the art machine available. The induction system can actually compensate for you measuring errors and still deliver evenly, properly cooked rice. These are the best cookers do the best job with types of rice other than standard white rice. Prices start around $200.00

More Feature Basics

Pan

Choose one with a non-stick pan. My theory is if you don't like to take a lot of time to cook then I really doubt if you want to take a lot of time to clean.

Lid

If you don't have to pay a lot extra for it get a clear glass or clear plastic lid. Basic models come with a metal lid.

Steamer Trays

Some rice cookers are designed specifically for steaming vegetables. Steaming can either be done as the rice finishes, or you can use the pan in the steamer to do only vegetables. Depending on the model you may find units with multiple steamer baskets or perforated metal tray that sits above the rice so you can steam as the rice cooks. Other versions have a small tray that sits at the bottom of the rice cooker right about the cooking element. Although there units cost more than the very basic models if you are looking for a highly flexible, safe machine this is a good feature to look for.

Electronic Features

These features continue to advance with each generation of rice cooker.   You'll probably find some more useful to you than others.  Each feature may make a difference in the price of the unit so its best to familiarize yourself with each feature before choosing your cooker.

Fuzzy Logic Advantage

Just one press of the Menu Select key gets you started. Multiple cooking menu available such as white rice, mixed rice, glutinous rice, brown rice, and non-sticky rice, etc…

Porridge Cycle

This was designed for making a popular Asian breakfast rice. You can use for breakfast cereals and other slow cooking recipes.

Reheat Cycle

The reheat feature warms rice back to proper temperature in about 5 to 10 minutes and then maintains the heat.

Quick Cook Function

This function bypasses the soak time and goes right to the cook cycle. It's a good advanced feature if you find yourself always having to cook in a hurry.

Texture Setting

The more sophisticated machines allow you to select the rice texture you prefer such as regular, softer or firmer.

Basic Safety Features

Fuse protector

The fuse will trip and prevent possible fires. This is important for an appliance you may leave on unattended.

Auto cord reel

Keeps the cord out of the way so you or your pet or child does not accidentally yank the unit off the counter.

Fun Fact about How To Select A Rice Cooker

Nutrition Information For How To Select A Rice Cooker

Serving Size
1 cup
 
Calories
216
Calories from Fat
18
 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 10mg
0%
Potassium
84g
0%
Total Carbohydrate 45g
10%
Dietary Fiber 4g
10%
Sugars 1g
Protein 5g
10%
 
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Rice Cooker Manufacturers

Links to web sites of most major rice cooker manufacturing companies and customer service phone numbers where available.

Aroma Housewares Company
Aroma Housewares
6469 Flanders Drive
San Diego, CA 92121

Hitachi - Distributed by

Hitachi US
P.O. Box 185
Old Westbury, NY 11568
Tel: 1-800-829-0382
[email protected]

Sanyo
Sanyo Service Website
Tel: (800) 421-5013
8:30am- 5:00pm PST Mon.-Fri.
This site provides an overview of some of the Toshiba Rice Cookers. These have become hard to find in the U.S.

Zojirushi

This site provides in depth information about their line of rice cookers. You can also find links to find service parts and accessories. 

Rice Cooker Cookbook

Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann have written a "must have" cookbook if you have a rice cooker or are contemplating purchasing a rice cooker. The book has an invaluable section on the development of the rice cooker and 250 simple to follow recipes. The cookbook is packed with tips and uses for your rice cooker that go far beyond just rice.  You can read my review here:  Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook Review

 

Cooking Vegetables In Your Rice Steamer

Here is a quick guide to steaming vegetables in your rice cooker complete with a chart of common vegetables.

author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.