Perfect Grains With Japanese Rice Cookers
Rice is a staple in most households, especially in Japan. In most of Asia, including Japan, rice cooking is considered a form of art. There is a lot of importance placed on the preparation, cooking, and serving of rice in the home.
Japanese people have perfected the art of creating perfectly fluffy rice and sticky rice often used in sushi. While many traditional cooks may boil the rice on the stove, modern cooks have turned to electronic aids.
Are Japanese Brands Reliable?
When it comes to rice cookers, Japanese brands are some of the best on the market. The importance of rice in the culture and the Japanese penchant for perfection leads to great craftsmanship and performance.
Several brands are popular in Japan and the worldwide market. Hitachi rice cookers and Panasonic rice stoves, for example, can be found in Japanese kitchens and Western kitchens in equal quantities.
Rice cookers have been around in Japan since the late 1930s. The Japanese Imperial Army was in need of a way to create a massive amount of rice for the troops in their mobile kitchens. The first iteration was actually a box made out of wood with electrodes attached to heat the water.
Mitsubishi Corporation later modernized this into a compact machine in the mid-1940s, but it was not automated. The Toshiba Corporation was able to automate the thermostat and shut down in 1956 and the world of personal rice cookers was born.
Rice Cooker Types
There are mainly two types of rice cookers on the market. The difference in these rice cookers is the way they utilize heat.
- The first heating method is the IH (induction heating) method. This warms the whole pot with electromagnetic power.
- The second method is the microcomputer method which uses an electric heater.
The most popular in Japan and most of Asia is the IH method as it creates a more perfectly cooked pot of rice.
The Microcomputer method rice cookers still remain popular however due to their lower price point. Most people will bring home this type from a visit to Japan or order them for export for commercial purposes.
Aside from the heating elements, the bodies of the rice cooker will vary depending on the brand. Ceramic rice cookers are among the best options, while metal and aluminum are also common body types.
Key Features on Rice Cookers
There are several key features of Japanese rice cookers that you should be aware of. Modern styles will have a removable bowl. This is most often made out of steel or ceramic, both of which can be washed by hand or in a dishwasher.
Ceramic rice cooker bowls also microwave safe. The sizes will range from 1.5 liters to 25 liters, the most popular size for home use being 3.5 liters.
Another feature is the cooking temperature ranges. Simple rice cookers will have a smaller range, while rice cookers with more settings will have a higher variety. Most temperatures fall between 50 and 90 degrees Celsius.
The coating and housing of the unit is usually stainless steel, but some lower-end models are mostly plastic. Rice cookers with higher temperature ranges will always have a stainless steel housing.
The most important features of a Japanese rice cooker are the cooking modes. Contrary to the name, rice cookers can be used for more than cooking rice. Some models have additional trays for steaming vegetables, mochi, dumplings, and more.
You can even make porridge and stews in a rice cooker as long as you have a model that supports those settings. Cooking modes may simply be temperature settings on lower-end models or timed recipe settings on more advanced rice cooker models.
Special cooking programs, timers, and automatic shut-off are the most important features of any rice cooker. The more features, the more the unit will cost. Common features in rice cookers regardless of cost are automatically winding cables, non-slip feet, and low thermal conductivity handles.
Very fancy rice cooker models are equipped with WiFi and can be connected to Smart House systems that allow for automated and remote cooking.
Top Japanese Rice Cooker Brands
Zojirushi is one of the most purchased brands for daily use in Japan. Their rice cookers are affordable, well built, and offer a couple of basic features that are suitable for most households. This brand also offers higher-end models, but they are most known for their budget picks.
Hitachi is one of Japan’s premier producers of technology, and it makes sense that this brand also offers rice cookers. Their models are in the mid-range and high end and offer a large variety of features.
Some features of their rice cookers include LCD displays, warming settings, delayed start timers, and multiple item cooking settings. You can find Hitachi rice cookers both in Asia and abroad.
Midea is a Japanese brand that offers reliable rice cooker models at an affordable price. A favorite among the locals, this brand has a range of smart rice cookers that allow you to create the perfect dish with little to no effort. Most of their models are 10 cup cookers but larger sizes are available.
Aroma Housewares is a lesser-known brand outside of Asia, but this Japanese company has some of the best rice cookers on the market. Made with the home cook in mind, this brand offers intuitive features that even the worse cook can’t bungle up.
No list would be complete without mentioning T-fal. This Japanese brand is a powerhouse in the cookware and home goods market. Along with premium cookware, T-fal also has cornered a generous part of the rice cooker market. Their models are as sturdy and reliable as their other products making them one of the go-to choices when looking for a commercial or personal rice cooker in Japan.
Perfect Rice Every Time You Cook
Most appliance stores in Japan feature a wide assortment of automatic rice cookers. Choosing the right one for your needs will depend on a variety of factors. With so many brands to choose from you are sure to find a model that fits the needs of your family and that will match the aesthetic of your kitchen.