It stands to reason that the subject of picking the best rice cooker and how to use it has to be covered at some point on a site about sushi.
And although we do have a page dedicated to making the perfect sushi rice, the choice of what implement you use to cook that rice has to be decided before you can do anything.
There are really only 3 choices when it comes to a picking a device to cook rice in: A pot, a simple rice cooker (with on/off button) and what I call a fancy rice cooker (with all the bells and whistles).
Look below to see my own personal cookers and favorite pot :-)
(do you have a favorite rice cooker? tell us about it here)
On this page we will talk about how to pick the best one for you based on your needs and later we will cover how to use it.
A rice cooker is not a magical machine that turns rice making into an art form or anything. Actually the process of making rice is remarkably simple once you get a few basics under your belt.
And simple is proven easily enough because with a little practice, you can make excellent rice with just a plain old pot. Although a rice cooker can make things a lot easier.
Before talking about how to use one though, let's first review the basic steps involved in making rice:
Basic Steps in Making Rice
1. Measuring an exact amount of rice
2. Combining it with an exact amount of water
3. Letting it soak till it turns "white" (if it is white rice)
4. Cooking the rice until all of the water is absorbed
5. Steaming the rice and finally
6. Fluffing the rice
The rice cooker just makes some of these tasks simpler, more consistent and more convenient.
Which one cooker you eventually select will come down to personal needs and/or wants like:
1. How much rice do you need to be able to cook at one time?
2. Do you have limited counter space?
The fancier ones in general are larger than most standard simple ones. Keep that in mind if you have limited space and got your eyeball on a big, fancy rice cooker. It might not fit.
Also, don't get a one that has a bigger capacity than you really need.
The main reason, besides the extra size, is that they all have a minimum amount of rice that must be cooked in order for them to work properly and the larger it is, the more the minimum amount will be.
For instance, my 10-cup Zojirushi has to cook a minimum of 2 cups. If you are single, you might want to normally cook 1 cup of rice. No dice with the 10-cup Zojirushi. You would need to cook 2 cups with this unit. Minimum.
To be able to cook a minimum of 1 cup, you will have to get a rice cooker like the Aroma ARC-914SBD.
3. Do you want extra bells and whistles like a warm feature? Or maybe settings for brown rice, sushi rice, porridge, softer, harder or to use as a steamer?
Even most standard simple ones have a warm function. Actually both of mine, the black and decker 3-cup and the Zojiroshi 6-cup both have a warm. So you should be able to find one of these at a reasonable price.
Beyond the standard one button though, there are ones that are very intelligent and do all the cooking and thinking for you.
Some examples of common settings for these fancier units are regular/sushi rice, softer, harder, quick cooking, mixed, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, and brown.
Basically all you have to do with these smart units is:
There are water lines for white, semi-brown, brown, porridge, and sushi rice on most models.
This helps takes the guesswork out of knowing what the rice to water ratio is for different types of rice.
Then you just push the button that tells the rice cooker what its going to be cooking like regular/sushi rice, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, or brown rice and then turn it on. It'll do the rest.
The thing I like about these smart cookers, is that you normally don't have to soak the rice before cooking, and you don't have to steam the rice at the end... they are smart enough to do it all for you. And there's also no risk of burning the bottom of the rice like there could be with using a pot either.
There are many advantages to using one of these advanced rice cookers. If you want to learn more about all the different types and models of the more advanced Zojirishi rice cookers, visit our review page here.
4. How much do you want to spend?
Ahh, but with convenience and consistency does come a cost. The smart ones can be pricey. Only you will be able to determine what you would be willing to spend for the features that you want.
And there is no shame in starting off smaller... and/or cheaper either. You may have noticed that I have 3.
One simple/standard unit I bought when I was single and scraping by (the smallest one)...
and then later I got a bigger standard unit when I got married and had kids and was scraping by...
and then later after I got divorced I got a big fancy rice cooker with all the bells and whistles (do you happen to see a pattern here? :-)
Since the standard units last forever, I still have them. They will probably become family heirlooms.
So if money is tight, you could start off with a standard one button unit with a warming feature and just upgrade later. There are nice ones on Amazon for a good price. And I can vouch for the quality and reliability of Panasonic and Zojirushi. I've had both. You almost can't go wrong with either one of those brands.
5. What is the best rice cooker on the market that I can get with the most features possible for around $30.00?
I have had so many people ask me this question I decided to add something here for it. Money is tight and $30.00 seems to be a common price point for those looking for a rice cooker in the lower price range but are still wanting as many "fancy" rice cooker bells and whistles as possible.
There is one rice cooker that I highly recommend that fills this bill. Although I am a huge Zojirushi fan, this unit is a wonderful rice cooker for the price. Some of of it's features include:
And all of this for less than $30.00. At this time, the Aroma ARC-914SBD looks to be the best value for the money in this price range. You can check it out here on Amazon.
If your price range is above $30.00 and you are opting for one of the fancier ones with all the bells and whistles, I love my Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 10 cup and wouldn't trade it for anything.
But I wouldn't buy that one for a family of four or even five. I would get the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5.5 cup for a family that size.
I'm sorry if you were expecting an endless list of cookers compared side by side with checkmarks for every feature under the sun, but I just didn't see the need.
If you are wanting an excellent rice cooker with big boy features for under $30.00 then you can't beat the Aroma ARC-914SBD.
If you want the very best then Zojirushi is the cadillac of rice cookers.
To learn more about them visit our Zojirushi page. Either way, get one of those and you will have top of the line. That's all you need to know. :-)
That's the K.I.S.S. method of rice cooker shopping...
(So... do you have a favorite rice cooker? tell us about it here!)
Now we will go over how to cook rice with both a standard one-button and a newer smart rice cooker. The process is slightly different between those two.
Using a standard cooker is similar to using a pot to cook your rice and the pictures below are of using a pot. Just substitute the rice cooker pot for the regular pot when following the instructions below.
There is a lot more information on our sushi rice recipe page on general things leading up to making your rice, like how to pick out your rice and other things. Check it out if you want to learn more.
With that, let's learn how to cook rice. And what better way than to follow a recipe for cooking Japanese white rice.
You will need the following ingredients on hand to cook white rice for this recipe:
1. Wash the Rice. Put the 2 cups of rice into the pot it is to be cooked in and cover with clear cool water. Swirl gently around with your hand in the pot to remove the "starch" that is on it.
The water will be somewhat "milky" looking in color. Drain the water using a sieve or by placing your hand or a lid on the top and turning the pot slowly sideways to drain the water. Repeat this process 4 to 6 times as necessary until the water is mostly clear. Drain this final rinse water thoroughly.
Here you can let the rice sit in a sieve and drain for 30 minutes or so before going to the next step. My mother swears by it. I promise that I can't tell a difference.The choice is yours, but at least you know...
2. Put the drained rice into your rice cooker pot or plain old pot, depending on which one you are using. Now, add 2 cups of water to the pot.
** Use bottled water to cook your rice with for the best taste, especially if your tap water is soft, hard, or tastes funky (like if you have sulfur well water). Your rice can be ruined by bad tasting water.
3. If you are using a "standard" rice cooker, set the pot to the side to let the rice soak. What we want is for the rice to turn "white". This is a very important step so don't get in a hurry or skip this step. This should take around 20 minutes give or take a few minutes. This results in a shinier rice with a better texture.
In the picture above, ignore the black looking Kombu (seaweed) in the water. That is used in the sushi rice recipe only.
If you are using a fancy cooker, check the instructions that came with it to make sure that soaking your rice is not necessary. If it is not then go on the step 4. If it is, then soak the rice per above.
This is one of the nice things about the fancy cookers. You don't have to worry about soaking the rice; it does it all for you.
4. If you are using a standard cooker, push the button to turn it on. If using a fancy cooker, press the button that tells it what you are cooking. In this case we are cooking white rice so push the white rice or regular/sushi rice button first and then push the button to start the cooking process.
With either the standard or the fancy rice cooker, when the cooking process is over the unit will either click off or beep at you.
Now. If you are using a standard cooker go to step 5 to let the rice steam. If using a fancy cooker and it says in your instruction manual that it steams the rice after the cooking time is over then go to step 6; otherwise better go to step 5 and let your rice steam.
5. Now, let the rice "steam" for 20 minutes. DO NOT take the lid off of the rice cooker during this time. This steaming process is critical for good rice.
6. Take the lid off and fluff the rice by turning it lightly over a few times using a wooden rice paddle. Replace the lid and wait 5 minutes after you fluff the rice before taking the lid back off.
Scoop out some rice and enjoy!
Do you have a Rice Cooker you'd like to tell everyone else about?
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