Are we experts on rice cookers? I don’t know if I am, but I have used a rice cooker for more than 40 years in both residential and commercial applications. In the old days, the rice cookers were very simple with an on/off switch. There were no digital displays, music, induction heating or a warm/hold feature. The inner container was made of some kind of aluminum like metal that took forever to scrub when it was time to clean. Making it even better we had no microwaves, so rice had to be washed and steamed every day.
It seems silly, but at present day, I actually own five rice cookers. I only use two of them on a regular basis for rice. The third is used strictly as a steamer. The other two are a bit larger, so I only use them for large get togethers. Why do I even use two cookers? I admit that design, color and technology got the better of me and I wanted that sleek modern version. They are both Zojirushi by the way. The original cooker is nine years old and still makes perfect rice.
The question that we see often is which rice cooker should I buy?
In the age old quest for small kitchen equipment and gadgets that make our lives easier what do you look for? Is it the price, reliability, durability, functions, available colors, reputation or design?
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What is the most important factor when distinguishing between rice cooker brands?
Having worked in professional kitchens and decades of cooking at home for family and friends, I can definitely say that no one brand makes a perfect everything. I have a $40 Cuisinart electric skillet that has served me well for 11 years and a $20 mini food processor that works fine. However, their blenders leave something to be desired. I would opt for the $450 Vitamix any day of the week. I have some Breville equipment which is not bad, but not overly impressive when it comes to price. Le Creuset makes beautiful cookware. My favorite is their enameled cast iron skillet.
What I look for is reputation, reliability and yes, design does play a factor as well. Everyone wants some level of aesthetics because we spend the most amount of time in our home kitchen. I weigh all of that against value and price. Once I figure out want I can afford to spend then I shop from there.
The rice cookers that we promote are opinions based on our own experience. A $350 rice cooker is not just a purchase, but an investment for the long term. If that rice cooker lasts for 10 years, then it cost you $.10 each day. That is one way to look at it.
What is fuzzy logic?
Zojirushi has a product line that uses their patented Neuro Fuzzy Logic technology. According to their website, this “allows the rice cooker to ‘think’ for itself and make fine adjustments to temperature and heating time to cook perfect rice every time.” Toshiba also uses “Fuzzy Logic” technology which is described as a 3D cooking machine for consistent fluffy rice.
There are a lot if manufacturers selling rice cookers today more than ever. I cannot really attest to the $30 or $80 rice cookers because I have never used any. The problem I see is the lack of reputation and long term reliability. It is unknown how these cookers will function eight to ten years from now or the quality of cooked rice. I believe that the technology and features between brands is fairly close while the price is not. My best advice is to purchase a cooker that can make great rice with reliability and a trusted reputation.
Over the years I have owned Tiger, Zojirushi, Toshiba, Tatung and Panasonic rice cookers. Tiger makes nice cookers with great options in size. The issue I have is that they break down after a short amount of time. It is possible they have made improvements over the years. I did like my Panasonic rice cookers, but they have a limited product line and in past years only slightly more durable than Tiger.
Which Rice Cookers are the Best?
1. Toshiba TRCS01 (6 cups) – $149.99
MADE IN CHINA
Toshiba does not have an extensive line of rice cookers, but they definitely focus on details. The Toshiba TRCS01 (1 year warranty) comes with a LCD which is standard these days. It has a timer and different settings: white, brown, sushi, crispy, mixed, soup, steam and cake. There is also a quick-cook and congee setting as well for rice porridge.
We like the fact that this cooker comes with a 4mm thick forged inner pot lined with a binchotan charcoal coating. In our experience the thicker pots seem to produce better rice. These thicker pot are more efficient with heat dispersion and the rice is more evenly cooked.
It also has two programmable timers for delayed cooking and the standard 24 hour warm feature. Top quality at a budget price.
2. Zojirushi NP-NWC18XB (5.5 or 10.5 cup) – $406.00 – $486.29
JANUARY 2021 MADE IN JAPAN
The latest in the top of line fuzzy logic technology. The Zojirushi NP-NWC18XB uses pressure induction and artificial intelligence to fine tune adjustments for perfect rice. The high pressure cooking converts the starches making the rice easier to digest. We like the extended warm and reheat functions. Zojirushi is a high recommendation because of the long term reliability.
It can make regular, soft or hard rice. For this who love to cross-utilize their cooking gadgets there are a variety of setting. Choose between Zojirushi signature Umami, mixed, sushi, Jasmine, porridge, congee, brown, GABA brown, steel cut oatmeal and quick-cook.
The only issue is that we prefer a thicker inner pot. The design is made out of non-stick platinum at 1.7mm thick. There are two available colors to match your kitchen. They come in stainless steel with black trim or stainless steel brown. Your order also comes with a 250 recipe book and stainless steel measuring spoons as a bonus.
3. Tiger JKT-D10U (5.5 cup) – $255.92 – $280.66
NOVEMBER 2020 MADE IN JAPAN
It is only fair to give Tiger an honorable mention. As I mentioned before, we have zero issue with the quality of rice. Perhaps, today’s models have a long shelf life. Tiger has an extensive line and a long history of manufacturing rice cookers.
The Tiger JKT-D10U uses patented Automatic Cooking Logic to monitor the cooking temperature. Rice cooks evenly through induction heating elements that surround the inner pot. It has a triple layer ceramic coated 1.5mm inner pot. We like the inner pot handles which makes it kid-friendly.
It does require a lithium ion batter, however one is included. The Express-Limited setting allows cooking a small amount of rice in 17 minutes. There are 2 timer settings and a warm/hold function. Standard cooking choices include multigrain rice, long-grain rice, brown rice, porridge, sushi rice, GABA brown rice, slow cook, and cake bake.
4. Zojirushi NS-ZCC10/18 (5.5 or 10 cup) – $179.48 – $188.95
OCTOBER 2001 MADE IN JAPAN
The Zojirushi NS-ZCC has been around for awhile. It is economical with all the basic settings for white rice: basic, soft, hard and sushi. There is the quick-cook option, timer, pre-washed rice warm/hold and a reset button that has saved me a few times.
This product represents the Zojirushi standard of reliability and longevity. As advertised it uses the patented Neuro Fuzzy Logic technology. A mini-computer inside makes all necessary adjustments to create the optimal end result.
We love the kid-friendly handles and the support feet at the bottom. Compact and light weight with a retractable cord, it is another highly recommended cooker. The only thing we would want to see changed is a slightly thicker inner pot.
5. Zojirushi NS-TSC10/18 Micom (5.5 or 10 cup) – $143.99 – $163.20
JANUARY 2012 MADE IN JAPAN
The Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is an older model, but well priced and affordable. It works off a computerized Fuzzy Logic technology. We like the steamer basket, interchangeable melody notification and the retractable cord.
There are some very nice features. It has warm/hold, extended warm and a reheating cycle. The basic settings are regular rice, sushi rice, mixed rice, porridge, sweet rice, quick-cook and brown rice. You can use it to make cakes and the steamer function works in cohesion with the steamer basket. This allows you to cook two dishes at once.
Zojirushi NS-LHC05 Micom (3 cup) – $131.81
APRIL 2016 MADE IN JAPAN
The Zojirushi NS-LHC05 Micom is very sleek with stainless steel and a black trim. It uses Advanced Fuzzy Logic technology for near perfect rice. The cooker triple heats from the bottom, sides and lid for even cooking.
Most rice cookers are portable these days. But, we love the fact that this model is small and light-weight. Pack a ziplock bag of rice and this cooker easily fits into the nook of your trunk for road trips to the mountains or down the coast. It can even cook 1/2 cup of rice or oatmeal.
There are a generous amount of settings with a timer and warm/hold feature. Choose from white or mixed rice, sushi rice, brown rice, long grain white rice, quick-cook, GABA brown rice and steel cut oatmeal.
Everything is first class for a bargain price. Again, our only wish is for a slightly thicker inner pot.
What size rice cooker should I purchase?
Single people or couples – 3 cup rice cooker
Families of three to four – 5.5 cup rice cooker
Families of five plus – 10 cup rice cooker
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter. It blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. With rice, GABA increases during the sprouting process when unpolished brown rice is allowed to germinate for an extended period. Medical studies are limited, but people use GABA supplementation to relieve stress, lower blood pressure and increase kidney function.
How long can I warm/hold cooked rice?
We have tested this out for years. Live is easier when you can make a large batch of rice to last for 2-3 days. However, the heat in the rice cooker no matter how subtle is slowing drawing moisture out. The edges will start to dry out first and you will notice a color change from pure white to a slight brown/yellow tinge. Over time your perfect batch of rice becomes the perfect ingredient for fried rice. Even with the technology these days, we recommend a maximum 24 hours hold time in the rice cooker. The good news is that you can make one batch to last two days.
5 TRUTHS REGARDING PERFECTLY COOKED RICE
- You can have the best of the best or the cheapest rice cooker, but the quality of the rice you buy makes a difference. See our recommendations at the end of the article.
- If your ratio of rice to water is incorrect, the end result will be less than perfect. This is when you have rice that is too dry or mushy.
- Rice needs to be washed. The quality of water that you use i.e. hard water, soft water, chlorinated water, alkaline water, filtered water does make a difference in texture and taste. Reverse osmosis filtered and softened tap water or alkaline water yield the best results.
- “New Crop” means better rice. This is the first harvested crop of the season which goes straight to market. It contains more moisture meaning less soaking and a little less water when cooking. Some believe that this is the best quality during a harvest cycle because the rice tends to be plumper and sweeter.
- Use the rice cup that comes with your rice cooker and follow the instructions. One cup of rice is not the same as a standard cup.
The Best Japanese White Rice
We have provided affiliate links for rice. However, to be honest, the top quality brands of rice are really expensive online and typically come in smaller bags. If you have access to any type of Asian market, that is going to be the most cost effective way to go. They often go on sale when new shipments arrive. Scroll to the bottom for our rice recommendations.
Super Premium Rice
From home cooked meals to Edomae sushi and everything in between, we favor the Hitomebore, Ubara and Koshihikari varieties of rice. They are considered super premium quality, produced in Japan. You can close your eyes and experience the difference in mouthfeel and flavor. Second best would be Tamanashiki, while California grown heirloom Kokuho Rose from Koda Farms is a close third. Also Shirakiku makes a regular Hitomebore which is not bad. The one we have listed as a favorite is “super premium”.