4 TIPS for Choosing the Right Rice Cooker

4 TIPS to Choose the Right Rice Cooker


How do you choose the right rice cooker to last a lifetime? You'll need to pinpoint your personal cooking habits and preferences.

 

1. Identify your Size Requirements

Firstly, understand how many cups of rice - the standardized cup that comes with rice cookers - you will cook on a daily basis, not on occasions when you have guests over (more on that later). This is important because rice cookers come in various sizes. A 3-cup rice cooker is the smallest capacity common for major brands such as Panasonic, Tiger, and Zojirushi to carry. The next common size up is a 5-cup and the biggest size (for household use) is 10 cups. For some brands, there are 4-cups and 8-cups available. Each cup of raw rice will yield two bowls of cooked rice:


  • 5-cup rice cooker = yields up to 10-bowls of cooked rice
  • 10-cup rice cooker = yields up to 20-bowls of cooked rice.

So here's our first tip. If you only cook about 1-2 cups of rice daily, a 3-cup rice cooker would be the most suitable size for you. If you cook around 2-5 cups of rice, a 5-cup cooker would be most suitable. And finally, if you cook any more than 5 cups, then a 10-cup cooker would be most suitable. 


A common concern that we often hear in the store is, "What if we have guests over?" If you have guests over and you need to cook MORE than the cooker's capacity, the most ideal way is to cook twice. Why shouldn't you buy a larger rice cooker (ex. 10-cup) so that when you have guests over, you don't have to cook twice? Well, you could buy a larger rice cooker, but because you would not cook that much daily, it would damage the inner pot of the rice cooker and shorten its lifespan. Furthermore, if you only cook a small amount of rice in a large rice cooker, the heat will not be evenly distributed and the rice will not come out as well.


BONUS TIP: Do not try to keep your rice warm in a rice cooker overnight, this will dry out your rice. They are only designed to keep warm for 4-5 hours. If you cook too much and want to have the leftover rice the next day, put the extra rice in a container and put it in your refrigerator. You can re-steam the rice in your rice cooker or microwave the next day.

 

2. Choose your desired rice cooker types and features


A second cooking practice that you have to be aware of is the kind of rice you usually cook, and the features you need for your rice cooker. There are four kinds of rice cookers: traditional, jar-o-mat, micro-computerized, and induction heated (IH)


Traditional Type

  • User-friendly and fast, auto-adjusts to "keep warm".
  • One-touch button for plain white rice.
  • Single heating element at the bottom produces crust on cooked rice.
  • Glass or plastic lid partially seals in heat.

Jar-o-mat Type

  • User-friendly and fast, auto-adjusts to "keep warm".
  • One-touch button for plain white rice.
  • Multiple heating elements on bottom, sides, and sometimes lid for even cooking and no crust on cooked rice.
  • Hinged lid and rubber gasket seal in heat.

 

Micro-computerized

  • Uses 'Fuzzy Logic' to warm your rice before cooking it, cook it at varying temperatures during the heating cycle, and then warm the rice before it is ready leading to fluffier, better-tasting rice.
  • Approx. 50 min cooking time - in a rush, you can override the fuzzy logic function with a 'quick cook' function, to make your multi-function rice cooker cook like a jar-o-mat rice cooker.
  • Features include a brown rice cooking function, which cooks with a different temperature, and amount of water and time, porridge cooking function, slow cooking function, and steaming function.

Induction Heating (IH)

  • The IH rice cooker uses electromagnetic power to heat up the internal pot itself. This type of rice cooker is the most advanced, heating the fastest and most evenly.
  • While the most expensive rice cooker option, it produces the fluffiest, best-tasting rice.

BONUS TIP: Porridge is different from 'congee'. If you have been to a Cantonese restaurant, you may have tried congee. This is a thick rice porridge, cooked at low heat for at least 3-hours. Do not try to make congee in a traditional or jar-o-mat rice cooker, as they do not have this function and will overheat the congee, causing the contents to spill over, potentially damaging your rice cooker. Tiger and Zojirushi micro-computerized rice cookers do not make congee as they are programmed for Japanese congee, which only cooks for one hour. If you want thick congee, choose one of the Panasonic micro-computerized models, which have the slow cook function which will allow you to cook for up to 4 hours.

 

All computerized rice cookers come with a timer that allows you to preset a cooking time for when you want your rice to be cooked and ready. Some models will have a count-down timer, so you would enter how many hours you would want to eat your rice. Other models have a built-in clock, and you set what time you want to eat your rice. For example, if you first have the rice and water ready inside your rice cooker, plug it in, and set it to 7:00 pm, the rice cooker will turn on to automatic mode and the rice will be cooked and ready to serve at 7:00 pm. If you work during the day and do not want to wait for the rice cooker when you get home, this feature can save you a lot of time.

 

Some brands and models of computerized rice cookers also have features for cooking sweet rice, rinse-free rice, sushi rice, and even baking cakes. This brings us to our second tip - if you never cook brown rice, sweet rice, porridge, and don't need a timer, you would probably be happy with a jar-o-mat rice cooker. If you don't cook rice very often and are not picky about the quality of your cooked rice, a traditional rice cooker may suit you. However, if you value special functions and would find a timer useful, then we recommend a micro-computerized or IH rice cooker. 

 

3. Understand the differences of inner pots


The inner pot of your rice cooker will not just determine the fluffiness and taste of your rice, but also the speed at which your rice will cook. Figure out what you value in inner pot types: Non-stick, stainless steel, and ceramic.


Non-stick

  • Easy to clean
  • Uses non-stick coating
  • Will need replacement upon damage and scratches

Stainless Steel

  • Scratch-resistant and dishwasher safe
  • Difficult to clean as rice sticks to inner pot
  • Cooking may be uneven

Ceramic

  • Easy to clean
  • Non-stick with no coating
  • Heavy inner pot, breakable material

 

4. Know your rice cooker brands

Are you starting to have an idea of what kind of rice cooker you want? Here's our fourth tip. When you choose a rice cooker, consider choosing a brand name that is reliable and well known to you. We carry many brands which are made from many different places: Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and China. Japanese brands (Panasonic, Tiger, Zojirushi) often have the best design, quality, and durability. Although many models from these brands are no longer made in Japan, they have been able to maintain their reputation for quality and efficiency. Just take Panasonic (known as "National" in Asia) - many customers that come into our store tell us that they have been using this brand of rice cooker for more than 10 years, and that their products still function properly. When these customers purchase a new rice cooker, it is because they want to upgrade to a rice cooker with new functions, and they tell us that they will not consider buying another brand.

 

We hope that at this time you have an idea of which rice cooker will fit you and your needs. Remember our question, "how to choose a rice cooker that would last a lifetime?" As a disclaimer, there are chances for rice cookers to breakdown, because they are electronic appliances. Please check out our FREE Extended Warranty on small appliances, and adopt the following practices, to maintain the longevity of your rice cooker:


  • Do not rinse your rice inside the inner pot of your rice cooker, as this will scratch the pot's non-stick coating. 
  • Do not add ingredients such as oil, salt, or other spices into the rice cooker, as this will also damage the non-stick coating.
  • Try not to use a rice cooker that is much larger than what you need (ex. using a 10-cup rice cooker to cook only 1-2 cups of rice regularly). 
  • Always keep the rice cooker clean. Ensure the heating element under the inner pot is clean and if you have a computerized rice cooker, make sure that the control panel is clean.

All the best in finding your most suitable rice cooker - a helping hand to share the joy at your dinner table!

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