How to choose the best Japanese rice cooker
Cooking Japanese rice, the archipelago's staple food, can be done in many ways. After all, outside of Japan, there are some careless restaurants which serve their nigiri and maki with Thai or other type of rice, just because it is agglutinated. And yet, the success of sushi 🍣 rice results from several quality elements.
Apart from the correct ingredient, the key to a perfect preparation is also influenced by the choice of a rice cooker which will allow cooking it in the best conditions. It is obviously possible to use a boiler pot but it implies having time and especially vigilance, while the self-cooker will take care of everything for you.
In Japan, it is an essential accessory you will find in an overwhelming majority of households. Since the rice can be consumed several times a day, the cooker therefore stays constantly plugged in. We can find endless shelves of rice cookers in Yodobashi, BicCamera and other stores selling electronic gear. Among the best known brands, we can mention Panasonic/ Sanyo, Toshiba, Zojirushi, Hitachi, Sharp or also Tiger.
The specificity of Japanese rice cookers is set in their electronic functioning, difficult to find outside Asia. Like usual when purchasing goods, Japanese population will invest in an expensive but high quality product responding exactly to their needs. The most appreciated functions are the programming features and the perfect "keep warm" option.
Importing a Japanese rice cooker is not the best idea, for several reasons:
- prices are often extremely expensive (count up to several hundred dollars for some dedicated online shops or auction sites such as Ebay, shipping costs excluded);
- order remains risky (significant risk of customs fees, no guarantee, voltage differences);
- once received, the device may be not practical to use (full display and instructions in Japanese language, necessity to use a current transformer).
Buying one while traveling in Japan does not allow to avoid these drawbacks, not to mention the space such a souvenir takes in one's luggage. It's definitely wiser to purchase locally, as the options are not as limited as we could imagine.
Which rice cooker to purchase in Western countries?
It all depends on the need. For most Westerners, cooking Japanese rice remains a friendly or even a "festive" experience, done a few times a month at most. In this way, no need to invest a fortune into a very elaborated rice cooker, a simple one will also give good Japanese rice.
Note that a rice cooker doesn't only give the perfectly cooked grain: with it, cooking cakes, veggies and fruits, pasta, broth and even bread is possible! Some cookers are also delivered with recipe examples so the device does not take too much space in your kitchen only waiting for the sushi party.
In Western countries, the best-selling models, from entry-level to mid-range, are mechanical. Among the most famous brands, we will keep the big ones of kitchen appliances such as Aroma Housewares, Instant Pot or Hamilton Beach 🏖. Criteria to choose the best rice-cooker will mainly turn around:
- the automatic keep warm function (almost all of them can do it);
- the volume capacity (in liters or by the number of cup of cooked/uncooked rice);
- the various cooking functions depending on the sort of rice (white, brown, whole grain, some even having a "sushi rice" feature);
- the additional accessories such as the steamer basket or a removable inner bowl (for easy serving and dishwasher use).
Most of rice cookers function very simply: insert the ingredient and turn on the device, wait until the end of the cooking. For those who request "Made in Japan" devices, it's still possible to purchase a Zojirushi one (for at least one hundred dollars) whose "international" models insure electrical compatibility and shipping outside of Japan.
Anyway, mix a well-rinsed quality rice to the right amount of water, count about 20 to 30 minutes and enjoy your sushi rice!