Japanese Rice Cookers

You just can’t separate rice and Asians. Many Asians eat rice daily and if we haven’t had rice for a few days, we sure do crave it.  In Hawaii, our family gatherings will often include pasta or potatoes, but regardless, we always have a pot of white rice.  That’s just how it goes, you gotta have rice and a rice cooker!

Electric rice cookers are an amazing little appliance. For basic Japanese white rice, all you do is wash the rice several times, add the right amount of water, which is indicated with lines on the inner pot and just push the button.  On average I’d say it takes about 30 – 60 minutes to cook, depending on the amount of rice in the pot.  Without fail, you have perfect rice every time.   Actually, to be honest, I think I’ve only made Japanese rice in a pot just several times in my life, when we were on holiday with no rice cooker.  And I have to admit it wasn’t very good either.  However, I have made basmati, wild and other types of rice in a pot.

Recently, some of my non-Asian friends have become interested in including more rice to their weekly menu and asked what rice cooker I would recommend. Also, some of my friends are not gluten intolerant and rice has become a big part of their diet. Because I am Japanese and grew up in Japan, I tend to favor Japanese rice cookers just because that’s what I know and have used.  So here are my thoughts.

Our family has moved several times and with the moves came the change in voltage. This meant that I’d had to buy a new rice cooker with every move, so I have had a few in my lifetime.  However, that being said, since these appliances seem to work forever, I have always found a good home for them, as my friends still make wonderful use out of them.

The rice cooker I currently own is the same one I bought when we moved back to the States ten years ago and it is still working wonderfully! Unfortunately, I didn’t use my own experience when I bought a rice cooker for my eldest son when he went off to college.  He’s a great kid, but when he was younger, he was the type who would lose, break or sit on anything electrical and break it.  So I thought I’d be clever and get him a cheap American rice cooker.  Big mistake!  It broke before the year was out.

$1500 rice cooker!

In Japanese, a rice cooker is called a suihanki and it’s a necessity, used on a daily basis. So it’s not unusual for a family to spend between $200-$300 on a machine.  Nowadays, they have such high tech rice cookers that I saw one on Amazon Japan for $1,500!  Yes, you read that right, not $150, but $1,500.  This is serious business, claiming  the newest technology to make your rice taste better!

The 10 year rice cooker I own is from a brand called Zojirushi and their logo is a little elephant.  It has a timer and this “fuzzy logic” technology, which I really don’t understand.  All I can say is that it has lasted me a long time and produces excellent rice every time without fail.  A very good investment.  I have also owned other brands as well:  Tiger and Panasonic, both Japanese and very reliable.  There are other reputable Japanese companies that make rice cookers:  Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Sanyo.   In the U.S. expect to spend at least $100 and upward for a Japanese brand.

I’ve had to buy rice cookers for my sons in college. Yes, being cheap, I ended up getting something for $50.00.  The brand is called Aroma and it has a warmer and timer, the two features that I find important.  I think its an American brand because I’ve never seen it in Asia.  But, so far so good.  The boys say it works great and they are happy, so I am too.  Let’s see how long these last.

All in all, points to remember.

  • Buy the rice cookers that look like a big plastic or stainless bubble.
  • Don’t buy the ones that have a very light weight lid and look like a pot.  This is the old style version and they don’t hold in enough moisture so the rice doesn’t steam well, leaving it hard and dry, not fluffy and moist like you want.
  • Having a warmer and timer is very useful.

As you probably can tell, I think the rice cooker is a worthy appliance for every kitchen and I hope to be posting more rice cooker recipes, as it’s one of my favorite kitchen appliances!

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