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The battle to invent the automatic rice cooker (www.atlasobscura.com)
151 points by pseudolus 5 days ago | hide | past | web | 150 comments | favorite





The science behind a rice cooker is fascinatingly clever, yet painfully simple.

In short, boiling water temperature plateaus due to the latent heat of vaporization. When the water is gone the temperature of the pot starts to rise. The rice cooker uses this principle to control the switch. The switch is held by magnet. When the pot finishes boiling the heat rises and exceeds the curie point of the magnet, which means the magnet ceases to be magnetic, and the (no longer) magnetic switch is released turning the rice cooker off.

Here’s a great video explaining how it works.

https://youtu.be/RSTNhvDGbYI


> When the water is gone the temperature of the pot starts to rise.

Water-to-rice ratios are important. America's Test Kitchen has a good video on the topic, especially if you're using a pot and not a rice cooker:

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOOSikanIlI

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJFU7ezipbg

The rice actually only 'needs' a 1:1 ratio, but you need to put in extra to deal with evaporation; brown rice needs more-extra because it takes longer to cook (the bran slows absorption), and the longer cooking time leads to more evaporation.

TL;DR: ignore what's on the bag/box, and for every cup of rice add one cup of water (1:1, 2:2, 3:3), and then a fixed amount of extra overhead for evaporation.


The traditional method in a lot of Asia (per what I’ve read online) is to put a finger on top of the rice pointing down, so that your fingernail is touching the rice, and to fill water up to your knuckle.

Wouldn't this result in different amounts of water depending on the dimensions of the pot?

Evaporation rate should be proportional to surface area, so the volume of extra water you need to add to make up for that should also be proportional to the surface area too. Adding extra water to a fixed depth accomplishes that.

This is assuming a pot with straight sides, at least above the lowest water level during cooking.


> Evaporation rate should be proportional to surface area, so the volume of extra water you need to add to make up for that should also be proportional to the surface area too.

This would be accurate at room temperature, but under stovetop conditions wouldn't evaporation rate be determined mostly by the amount of heat energy added to the water?


Ah, I always wondered why that worked. I fought against it for a while, then started using that method out of laziness, but it works so well, I don’t use another method now.

Thanks for the explanation. As an Asian, I've never quite figured out how it seems to work out until now, and was confused when the BBC suggested a 1:2 ratio of rice and water [1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUgOz5emQ94


ATK recommends settling on one pot, which can perhaps accommodate various needed sizes, that way you have a consistent amount of evaporation.

If you use different pots, with lids of perhaps different levels of sealing, then your results will be all over the place. If you always use the same 2-3 qt/L pot, you'll always get the same evaporation.


That's covered in the first video link

Rinsing the rice and letting it sit for 30-60min absorbing some moisture then a 1:1.25 ratio is by far the best method I’ve used.

I also let it steam in its own heat for the last 10min or so of cooking since the temp won’t rise it won’t overcook the rice but it will prevent any rice from being undercooked or from the rice at the bottom form burning.

If I don’t have the tome to rinse I usually increase the ratio slightly and cook it for 5min longer and let it sit covered for 5 additional minutes but the result will also be a much more stickier and starchy rice.

People also for some reason stir rice which you should never do unless you are making glue or rice pudding (which tbh is the same recipe minus the sugar and flavorings).


Also, don't add salt until the process is finished, as that also makes it more starchy

That's not right. Jasmine rice for instance requires more like 1,5:1 water, at least (you can go up to 1,75 for extra softness). And for what it's worth, it's what is written on the bags I buy.

> Jasmine rice for instance requires more like 1,5:1 water, at least (you can go up to 1,75 for extra softness).

ATK mentions various types of rice that they experimented with; there doesn't seem to be anything special about jasmine:

> We gathered 17 different varieties of rice, including white and brown short-grain, medium-grain, long-grain, basmati, and jasmine [!!!!] rice plus two varieties of red and black rice. After rinsing the rice to remove excess surface starch, we placed 1 cup of each type with 1 cup of water in a vacuum bag and sealed them to ensure that no water could evaporate during cooking. […]

> To the surprise of our tasting panel, every variety of rice was properly cooked using the 1:1 ratio of rice to water. All of the rice types were tender throughout with no chalky or mushy grains. In addition, the water had been completely absorbed in each sample.

* https://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/1692-nailing-the-p...

You can easily re-create their experiment: buy a bunch of rice, put them in sealed bags with water, completely seal the bags, and cook them sous vide. Cook one bag of jasmine at 1:1, one at 1.5:1, 1.75:1, etc.

The statements are falsifiable / confirmable.

Again: long/medium grain rice has 1.5:1 recommended, and brown rice 2:1, because of longer cooking times—which allows for more evaporation to occur. The rice itself only needs 1:1, anything else is about factoring evaporation which is fixed regards of quantity being cooked.

So when measuring out: do 1:1 for the cups of rice, and then add the extra needed for your particular pot-stove combination.


It's not the magnet's curie point; it's the curie point of the metal the magnet sticks to.

And I guess it's not really the curie point, just the point where the force becomes weaker than the spring


That sounds wrong. From wiki "In physics and materials science, the Curie temperature (TC), or Curie point, is the temperature above which certain materials lose their permanent magnetic properties". What you're saying is that metals stop being attracted to magnets above a certain, rather low temperature. Possible but very hard for me to imagine.

If you take a permanent magnet, heat it above the Curie point, then cool it again, it’s no longer magnetized. So you would have a one-use rice cooker.

Magnets stick well to ferromagnetic materials. If you heat a ferromagnetic object, e.g. a piece of steel, above Tc, it stops being a ferromagnet and magnets will stick to it much less firmly. And, when you cool it, it will once again be ferromagnetic.


Thats exactly whats happening. If magnet was to loose its magnetic properties, you would have one time use cooker with permanent "non magnet" ofter first batch. Metal above certain temperature also is not attracted by magnet.

Thanks @amluto, @vincnetas. I really didn't know that.

I knew it would be a video from that channel, haha. I discovered it recently and it's a treasure trove of fascinating, "How It's Made"-on-crack technology videos. Link for the lazy: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy0tKL1T7wFoYcxCe0xjN6Q

They’re funny videos because you’re like “man I can’t stand this guy’s cheesy jokes” cut to 12 videos later “I CANT WAIT TO SEE WHAT HE DOES NEXT!!!”

It's basically the same physics involved in this toaster https://youtu.be/1OfxlSG6q5Y same channel.

Thing heats and deforms (change properties), when it reaches temperature n, thing deforms just a bit too much, cuts electrical contact.


These are both clever, but different physics. The toaster uses metallic elasticity (and a subsequent distortion) due to heat, and the rice cooker uses the heat-induced disappearance of magnetism to disengage a switch.

(I have one of those toasters, and they’re very pretty and charming to see work.)


>In short, boiling water temperature plateaus due to the latent heat of vaporization. When the water is gone the temperature of the pot starts to rise. The rice cooker uses this principle to control the switch.

This is true for a lot of appliances: water boiler, coffee percolator, drip coffee maker, etc. They have to be reliable enough that you can have a 1000W+ heater right next ABS plastic and not have problems with millions of units.


For people that regularly eat rice, buying a decent rice cooker is really a no-brainer. Cooking rice in a pan is possible and you can obtain good results if you're careful and turn the heat down at the right moment before the rice starts to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, it's easy to miss though. A rice cooker makes this process so much easier though: Put in the rice, the adequate amount of water, press a button, wait, eat (usually) perfectly cooked rice.

I started with a German brand a few years ago but finally mustered up the courage to buy a good Japanese one (Zojirushi seems to be the market leader these days). I imagine that it tastes a bit better now but honestly even most of the cheap rice cookers produce quite good results. Recently Xiaomi introduced a series of rice cookers which have really nice induction heating and a really heavy, solid cooking pan, unfortunately they have littered them with "smart" functionality, so it's nothing that I want in my kitchen.


>Zojirushi seems to be the market leader these days

They also make the best insulated bottles. It's completely besides the point but I felt compelled to talk about it, a good bottle is a game changer when you're drinking tea or coffee at your desk all day long.


I appreciate the comment and I’ll look into one.

confirmed... I have like 5 of them. easy to open the lid and keeps coffee warm for like 2 days

If you have an electric kettle, you can sidestep this problem -- add boiling water and keep the stovetop flame on low the whole time. Then it's just a matter of turning off the heat at 15 minutes and uncovering at 20.

I will admit, despite how trivial it may sound, that it is nice not having to worry about turning off the heat. It means you can walk away and get into some other task more deeply.

However, I don't think I'll ever buy another rice cooker, as a pressure cooker can do the same thing but is a more general tool.


I am a pressure cooker proselytizer. Seriously, they can cook dehydrated beans in 35 minutes-no soaking required.

However, rice does poorly with my model. The grains are too small and can become lodged in the safety features.


I have a Japanese pressure cooker slow cooker combo. Apart from a a fuze blowing the day of warranty expiration, I am very happy with it. It cooks white rice in 8 mins (+washing time and cool down time). If it wasn't always full with other stuff I would never use my rice cooker.

Your comment just inspired a flurry of research on my end which resulted in purchasing a $200 air-fryer pressure-cooker combo (highly unusual behavior for my scrupulous self). Expecting good things to come and ultra excited for it. Any tips on things to cook, favorites, etc? Thank you for your post. :)

Stock. If you don’t care about crystal clear stock then a pressure cooker can do it in like 10% of the time needed on the stove.

My mother has always cooked rice directly in pressure cooker without any issue. To ensure security, the water level should be no more than half the height of the cooker (same with every food, the pressure cooker must not be filled too much).

Do you put the rice directly into the pressure cooker? Using a separate vessel inside the cooker, with some additional water in the cooker works much better.

I’m not sure I really eat rice regularly enough to justify the “expense” of a rice cooker (it was a pretty cheap one, and the only feature is the curie point thing. Works like a charm tho!)

BUT, I’ve gotten a lot of ridicule and pushback from friends and family, as if it’s somehow “cheating“ not to cook your rice in a pot/pan..

These people are all northern europeans... what do they know about rice???

I try to point out how common these appliances are in (at least some) actual rice eating cultures, but they’re usually pretty skeptical about the whole idea.

I’m just happy to get great rice every time!


There are other forms of costs it introduces besides strictly the monetary cost of the device itself.

IMO the Korean brands are the market leaders. Check out Cuckoo

No affiliation, but I got a good (and now heavily used) rice cooker from this company; apparently it’s the same manufacturer as the Cuckoo models: https://www.yumasia.co.uk/sakura-multifunction-rice-cooker-w...

I was told by a rice cooker salesperson (in Asia) that Korean brands should be avoided if you plan to cook brown rice. Apparently brown rice isn’t eaten in Korea so the machines don’t have a brown rice setting.

I don’t know if the former is true but the latter seemed to be on the ones I saw.


Korea here. Brown rice is fairly common, and every rice cooker I've seen (except the very cheapest) has a setting for brown and/or mixed rice.

If the salesperson wasn't lying, he was probably referring to other cultivars of rice, not just brown rice. For example, long grain rice obviously requires different settings than short grain rice. Southeast and South Asia have much more diversity of rice than Northeast Asia.


Funny cause I got a cuckoo based on an Amazon review that said it cooked the best brown rice. YMMV I guess.

My Cuckoo definitely has a brown rice setting. It works pretty well fwiw

i’m no rice expert but i really don’t think you need a special cooker for brown rice in my experience. just a different ratio of water to rice. it isn’t special

Brown rice takes significantly longer to cook, so the rice cooker might not be programmed to do that.

Why would the rice cooker need to be programmed for it, though? For any given quantity of rice, the two variables during cooking is the amount of water and the power of the heating element[1].

It is known that brown rice requires a different ratio of water, but this is something that can be replicated with any method. Does the special brown rice setting change the heat output of the rice cooker?

[1]: Fancy rice cookers use non-constant power, or so I've heard. Not sure how much it influences the taste, though.


With the simplest rice cookers, there's no programming. When the water is gone, it is gone.

We have a cuckoo rice cooker in Sweden (purchased in Korea). It is great!

Our cuckoo is a preassure cooker, and the rice it makes is the best I’ve had.

We currently live in Tokyo, and the Panasonic we got here is not as good as the cuckoo. Maybe because the power here is weaker?


The Japanese Kamado referred to in the article is related to Korean Gamasot [1][2], with one crucial difference. The Korean version has a heavy, close-fitting, holeless iron lid that helps maintain a higher-than-atmospheric pressure inside the cooking vessel.

Higher pressure = higher boiling point = higher cooking temperature = different taste.

Korean rice cookers modeled after the Gamasot are basically autoclaves. The good ones maintain a pressure of about 2 atm and a cooking temperature of 120C. Unpressurized rice cookers are more common in Japan, and Japanese people are more used to the texture of rice cooked at 100C. Your sushi probably won't taste right if you cook the rice at 120C.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamado

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamasot


How would you describe the difference in taste?

It's subjective, but I'd say that rice cooked under pressure is more chewy and has a stronger flavor of its own. The higher temperature produces a more pronounced Maillard reaction, which not only increases flavor but also turns the rice slightly yellow as if it had been toasted. This is exactly what you want in a strongly flavored Korean dish like stone-bowl bibimbap.

Rice cooked without pressure comes out light and fluffy. This is more appropriate for sushi where you don't want the flavor of rice to overwhelm or collide with the subtle flavor of the other ingredients.


Good info! I didn’t know this :)

Panasonic makes good ones as well.

Going on twelve years here. One thing I can't make is Japanese pancakes though. If anybody knows what kind of pots are best for those, I'm interested.

Mine is a Panasonic and I’ve been using it for thirteen years now. It’s bulletproof and cooks rice like a champ.

>>For people that regularly eat rice, buying a decent rice cooker is really a no-brainer.

I use Instant Pot. It's not as good as a rice cooker, but most of the time the difference isn't noticeable, and the benefit is that you can cook a LOT more things in it than just rice. Great if you have limited counter space in your kitchen.


Xiaomi rice cooker is the best, I own a few and it really is great. The pot is not thin steel.

I miss my old Panasonic copper rice cooker that I had in Japan. :( Gave it away.


Which model did you get? I see three different ones on amazon ...

Electric rice cookers are pretty uncommon in South Asian countries. Reasons could have been due to the electricity availability and affordability initially.

But it has not caught on even now. I have seen electric rice cookers in minuscule number of households. Based on interactions, it’s more to do with people not liking the taste of the cooked rice. I always found this funny as older generation used to complain about the same about pressure cooked and stove top cooked rice instead of the wood fired stove cooked rice but everyone have accepted it now.


They are fairly common in urban South India.

This is just a story I heard when I was a kid, but I think HN might either like it or have some more details about it :

There's a marketing story about a western company that tried to introduce their product to the Japanese market with the slogan: "as easy as cooking rice" - which, according to the story managed to insult every Japanese woman as cooking rice was - according to the story - considered more or less an art form in Japan at the time.

Anyone has details about this story?


I vaguely recall this story as well, all I've been able to find so far is an excerpt in International Business that doesn't go too far into detail.

I don't quite get why people think that pot rice on the stove is somehow difficult. Measure your rice and water, and set up a timer. That's it.

We've been cooking rice for millennia in this way, a rice cooker is just plastic waste in the end.


It's a simple robot. Allows you to delegate and time-shift a set of tasks so you don't have to be interrupted while focusing on something else. For many of us, that is more than worth a bit of 'wasteful' product design, and can lead directly to increased productivity in several ways.

For a long time, I would have said something similar. For me, the big advantage of a rice cooker is timing. I can start it before the rest of the dish and no matter how long it takes to cook up everything else, the rice is ready to go. And it is ready to go if someone else in the household eats an hour or two later. And when I go to put leftover rice in the fridge, it's still palatable, so when it comes out of the fridge it's also palatable if properly stored.

It's about convenience and freeing up a burner on the cook top. I love the hold warm feature on mine in particular. It'a a zojirushi that's pushing 12 years now, and I've never had a single issue with it. It's far from being plastic waste for me, and I wouldn't be surprised if it lasts another decade.

100%. The proper measuring of ingredients and timing is all that's required.

Take a look at the first line of the article:

    Cooking rice on a stovetop can be fraught. Add too much water and you end up with porridge.
Then take a look at this line shortly afterwards:

    These devices can seem all-knowing. So long as you add water and rice in the right proportions, it’s nearly impossible to mess up
So in other words, the device doesn't actually solve the most important problem... The timing isn't particularly important, as long as you remember to turn down the heat as soon as it starts boiling.

> The timing isn't particularly important, as long as you remember to turn down the heat as soon as it starts boiling.

The timing is never important on anything as long as you always get it right.


You have to get the water and rice in the right proportion in both rice cookers and pots.

However, a rice cooker frees you from having to watch over it while it cooks. It'll stop cooking automatically once it's done. Not so for the pot, which you have to keep an eye on or time, and turn off when it's done.

This difference makes a rice cooker much more convenient for those of us who want to do other things while the rice cooks, and not have to worry about it.

Also, a rice cooker will keep your cooked rice warm for a long time after it's done, but a pot won't.


Most of the time that I cook rice, I also need to cook something to go with it. So after I turn on the rice, I then start preparing for the rest of the meal or just tidying up the kitchen a bit. Usually by the time the rice boils, I’m still around. Once you turn down the heat, it doesn’t really matter if you leave it on for 20 or 30 minutes. (40 minutes would be kind of crunchy, but if you’re going to forget about it that long you probably weren’t hungry and shouldn’t have put rice on)

Also I use a glass pot which will stay quite warm for at least an hour after turning it off.

I used to have a rice cooker. But I gave it away to free up counter space. My stove has 4 elements, but counter space is precious.

The original article describes rice cookers were invented because cooking rice over a wood fire is very difficult. I’ve no argument with that. But cooking rice with a generic pot on a modern stove is trivial, and most people buy rice cookers because they’ve been taught to.


For a family that eats a lot of rice, the keep warm function is essential. I routinely leave rice in the rice cooker on keep warm for up to 48-72 hours after cooking.

Note to those who already have an Instant Pot: they make fantastic rice.

The trick I found (maybe this is true of all rice cookers) is it's better if it has time to rest after cooking. I start the rice as the very first thing when cooking and it works well.

I have found that the perfect amount of wait time is, conveniently, how long it takes for the natural pressure release to complete after cooking. Normally that's another 10-15 mins or so, but whenever the pressure lock drops so that you can open the lid the rice should be good.

I always disable the Keep Warm setting though, not sure if that makes a difference.


> […] it's better if it has time to rest after cooking.

This is true of a lot of foods. Not enough people let meat rest for long enough after removing it from the heat.

* https://www.seriouseats.com/2009/12/how-to-have-juicy-meats-...


I tried cooking Indian basmati rice in mine. I followed a recipe exactly, and it came out mushy. Basmati is supposed to be fluffy, dry, and not sticky, with grains that tumble around if you fluff it with a fork.

I decided one day to experiment until I got the water-to-rice-to-time ratio correct, and I just couldn't find the right combination. It always came out overcooked. I'd love to hear what the secret is.


We have a rice cooker that we use at least once a week.

It has a single lever/switch - when pushed it cooks.

It is over a decade old and works perfectly.

Do yourself a favor - don't buy smart appliances.


I am amazed how well my Zojirushis make rice. One can make the same rice two different ways, consistently (white, umami). No burnt layer, no undercooked rice. I think the pressure/induction makes slightly better rice than the standard fuzzy logic; there's no restaurant near me whose rice I'd prefer over my p/i Zoji.

Been cooking rice in a microwave for years now. Jasmine, Thai or Himalayan. Use any rice. Seems to cone out pretty well every single time.

What container, rice and water quantities, lids, and timings do you use?

Do you have any tips for microwaving rice?


A good discussion of rice cookers, in my opinion, needs a link to Roger Ebert's (yes, of film fans) article on The Pot: https://www.rogerebert.com/roger-ebert/the-pot-and-how-to-us...

Owning and using a rice cooker is such a time saver that I am often surprised that it's not a staple in other peoples' houses (though much of that is a cultural thing,I eat rice basically every single day)

It's like Americans and not owning a kettle. Boggles the mind, but I suppose they don't drink as much tea as I do ...

On the topic of _which_ rice cooker to buy, the answer is simple: the rice cooker was perfected years ago, with its double pot single button (on-off switch) operation. Anything else is a gimmick and not worth paying extra for.


On the other hand rice is so trivial to cook on the hob why bother with a rice cooker?

FWIW, I'm Asian and I just use a pot on stove.

I am of Indian descent and basmati has also always been cooked on a pot on a stove. And once you get the basic things right, it's actually not difficult. I am not downplaying the effectiveness of the rice cookers, just that it's possible to cook good rice without them.

Most rice cookers are designed for East Asian rice and do middling with basmati. Some higher end models do have settings for it that work quite well though.

When I was a student the hobs were those ancient metal hotplates from the 70s/80s with nonexistent temperature control.

I tried to cook rice in a hob and the surface was still raw but the bottom inch had burnt black to practically charcoal.

I have never since tried to cook rice in a pan.

And yet I cook risotto in a pan /shrug


I cooked rice in a pot for decades, but eventually broke down and bought a rice cooker.

I love not having to pay any attention to it and focus on other things instead of having to time it or keep an eye on it. When I eventually get around to checking on the rice, it's perfectly done. It's almost as good as having a personal cook make the rice for me.

I'll never go back to a pot again, if I can help it.


Growing up I always assumed a rice cooker was one of those things I'd never be able to live without - for years my family used one almost every day.

When I moved out of home, I didn't buy a rice cooker initially, because you don't strictly need one to make rice. I was amazed at how convenient making decent quality rice on the stove was! It cooks faster, and there's less cleaning up afterwards.

Many years have past and I still don't own a rice cooker. I'm not sure I'll ever own one gain.


I've had the exact same experience.

Why not just use pressure cooker? Cheap, easy to use, durable and versatile.

I've read too many horror stories of pressure cookers accidentally exploding.

Just a warning about cheap rice cookers...

About six months ago I bought a tiny $20 model Dash[1].

I've often heard people say that cheap rice cookers are just as good as expensive ones, and since I'm poor, live alone, and this was my first rice cooker, I thought it would be enough.

It turns out this rice cooker had a number of problems.

First, the screw that held in the pot lid on this rice cooker wasn't made of stainless steel, so it quickly rusted.

I could have gone to the trouble of going to the hardware store and picking out a perfectly matching stainless steel screw (if they had one), but I never bothered, so to this day I still lift the pot lid with a paperclip that I insert in to the hole where the pot lid used to be each time I want to lift out the lid. It's a little annoying, but I can live with it. I'm sure for some people not dealing with this annoyance would be worth paying more for a decently made rice cooker.

The second issue is that this ultra cheap rice cooker only makes enough rice for me to eat at a single sitting. As a single person that only very rarely has people over, this is enough.. or so I thought until I found that I'd rather cook extra rice ahead of time that I could eat throughout the week (or at least one day in advance), so I don't have to even bother with the rice cooker ever day. As simple as the rice cooker is, it's still a bit of a hassle to rinse the rice out, and fill the cooker with rice and water. I'd rather just microwave leftover rice, which is a bit simpler.

Third, the markings for the water level and the instructions for this model are just plain wrong and take experimenting to get the optimal levels. After some months of experimentation, I managed to perfect my technique, but it would have still been a lot less hassle to just have the thing make perfect rice from the beginning rather than having to fiddle with it so much.

So, because of these issues, in retrospect I wish I'd gone for a larger, inevitably more expensive rice cooker... and hopefully it would have been less annoying and fiddly from the start.

[1] - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CHZP91L/


I think the actual message of 'Get a simple rice cooker' often gets heard as 'Get a cheap rice cooker' which is not quite correct.

You don't need a rice cooker that has two dozen different functions and some 'Neuro Fuzzy Logic' crap. But you do want a well-built rice cooker that wont break down and rust on you.

Your best bet for a decent cheap rice cooker is your local asian market. The bigger ones will likely have quite a selection, but even your dinky little chinatown grocery store will probably have something quite usable.


Alton Brown taught me: No single taskers in the kitchen, except for the fire extinguisher. I don't see what's so hard: put in rice, wash it, fill cold water to one finger joint above the rice, boil, cook slow 7 mins, turn off leaving covered, wait at least 5 more mins while finishing sauce (but up to 15!), fluff, serve.

Pots are for cooking. Machines are for other stuff.


Many believe the rice cooker to be an exception to this, especially when you're cooking rice for your family every single day. It's just easier, and when you do something constantly, even minor improvements help save time and effort.

I think you have to follow the no unitasker rule in moderation. If you eat salad every day for example, I don't think it's a bad idea to have a salad spinner, when you can "easily" rinse and drain by hand.


Effectively, your basic rice cooker is a metal pot on a hot plate with a clever thermal control to turn off the hot plate. That's a pretty versatile piece of kitchen equipment -- no more single-use than your stovetop is.

I have a multi-cooker which is basically a rice cooker with a microchip. I regularly cook rice, lentils, and stews in it, and have cooked bread and cakes in it in the past, although mostly as a stunt.

As mentioned in other comments. The 'keep warm' function is also key. It allows for having cooked rice 24x7 and is as important a feature as the auto-shutoff cooker for a daily consumption household.

Begin Japanology has an episode on rice cookers (of course):

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teCnG2ZVAxU

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I00uy0ssPP0

[Hello, I'm Peter Barakan.]


Try making black garlic in one. Just do it outside if you can

I just use boil-in-bag. Can't taste the difference from rice done in a rice cooker.

What about the size of the hand being used?

Finger length doesn't vary that strongly as the palm size. Any actual differences in output because of millimeters difference in water level could also due to eyeballing it in the first place.

I grew up cooking rice on the stove. My mother preferred it this way because she liked crisping the bottom. It's definitely an art. Even picking what kind of rice you want is an art. Even slight variations in your technique can yield wildly different results. How much you rinse the rice changes the gluten content and stickiness, how long you let it soak changes the texture and size. Things like water quality, pot material and heat source make a big difference for smaller amounts.

Being a minute late is too much sometimes. I used to have to "learn" how to cook a new bag because the grains are different sizes, sometimes it's not really brown or white but white-brown or brown-white. The best Japanese rice is in my opinion, from California. I like Koda Farms, their brown rice is just about as close as you can get to the flavor of white rice while having a decent amount of nutrition. Fun fact, the "flower name" for America is 米国. Means rice country. Nowadays people just say Amerika in Katakana which technically has a kanji representation as 亜米利加 but even that has the word rice in it. China calls us 美利坚合众国, which means beautiful country.

It's not difficult to eyeball what it takes to make good rice. Quick and dirty rule is having just enough water to cover the rice. I just stick my pinky in and measure up to the second phalange. You basically just heat until it boils, quickly escape the air, release to mid heat and then keep an eye on it for about 10-15 minutes without opening the lid. If your technique is good, you can kind of estimate how long it takes on a linear scale for cups to cooking time. A clear lid helps, it'll just look right. Key thing to do is take your rice spatula and just carve out the edges when it's done so you're getting a more consistent mix.

Later in life, I got the 1.8L Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker by Zojirushi. I fell in love with the name, which is apparently from artificial intelligence. Not sure how they come up with that.

Here's the thing: sure, it's easy to make one kind of rice and costs almost nothing to do. With a dedicated rice cooker though, I can make any kind of rice, in any amount, without having to think about it. The inside of the pot has markers for your rice quantity and water volume for each type. I have the larger cooker, so it kind of takes longer (it consistently takes one hour to cook about 3-4 cups, which is simple to plan around). There's a quick cook setting which makes no discernible difference in consistency. Every time I turn it on, it sings a cute little song and then sings another one when it's done. I find it utterly delightful.

Here's why you get a rice cooker. Sure, you can make rice in like 15 minutes on the stove. But then what do you do if you have leftovers? Put them in the fridge where it gets stale? With a rice cooker, I make 5-6 cups at the beginning of the week, and I can leave it there for at least 72 hours and it stays incredibly fresh. I wouldn't recommend it, but I've left it in there for 4 days. Constant heat kills any bacteria or mold that might take.

I don't have to worry about my rice technique. I don't have to worry about storing and heating leftovers. I can make as much rice as I want and save myself time and effort throughout the week. If I wanted to be even more efficient, I could let the rice soak overnight, and set a timer for it to start cooking right before I wake up. It's one less thing to worry about, and I can time all of my meals around it so that everything's ready at the same time.

You can also make other things besides rice such as pancakes or pasta in it. Pasta's a bit more difficult, but I've made perfect pancakes in this thing.

Highly recommend Zojirushi for their excellent insulation products.


72 hours? Doesn't it get dry. My brother bought a cheap Cuckoo one (isn't available in country) that can keep it for 12 hours I guess but it starts to dry up after a few. Not sure if it will be germ free for longer but not really edible. Is that a capability of high end cooker or there's some more secret to it?

They have a rubber seal that is supposed to keep all the moisture in. I still find it dries out or goes yellow after a while though.

Yeah I've used cheaper rice cookers and the main complaint is they don't insulate or seal properly. Mine was like $50 and made okay rice but it dries out almost immediately.

Re: Japanese rice brands, my personal recommendation is Tamaki Gold. Pricey but a fantastic product

you can also make zhou/congee with a rice cooker and steam foods. I often use mine to reheat leftovers like chicken legs while cooking rice


> the "flower name" for America is 米国. Means rice country

I think in this case 米 was used for ateji (as it also has a reading of "me") and not for the semantic meaning.


For the ateji case yes, but this is usually pronounced beikoku.

To this days national rice cooker is still confuse me. Is it Panasonic?

Deleted.

Mod, fix this attack on me.


As the article states, the challenge is already lower for you because you can turn the heat to low, unlike the old days.

Rice can vary, high starch to low starch, short-grain to long-grain, sticky, non-sticky, raw to parboiled. They're used as a base for other dishes including sushi, fried rice, pudding, biryani and porridge. All these require different amounts of consistency.

While cooking at home, if you just mess it up a little bit, the dish will still serve its purpose. But that's not true if you're cooking an Asian dish with perfectly good rice used just as a base.


The other factor that makes cooking rice today quite trivial (even without a rice cooker), is the quality of our rice. A typical bag of rice from the supermarket (even in most developing countries), will be of a much more consistent higher quality than you’d expect to have gotten 70 years ago.

>Cooking rice is difficult? Hmm ....

I didn't downvote your comment but your dismissive snark seems out of place since the _history_ of "tricky/difficult/labored" was explained in the article:

>It was painfully tricky. Cooking rice this way, says columnist and food writer Makiko Itoh, takes heat modulation: high heat until the water and rice boils, then low heat, then high heat again. “And that, with a wood-burning stove, is very difficult.” Each day, Japanese women rose at dawn and labored for several sweaty hours to make rice. (A contemporary restaurant in Nara, Japan, offers a kamado-cooking experience that starts with 15 minutes of pumping a bellows to fan the flames.)


The article makes general statements about cooking rice, but it is really about cooking rice Japanese style.

In some rice eating countries, automatic rice cookers never really took off because of the 'quality' of the product is obviously East Asia centric, which is considered 'mushy' rice in West Asia.

With some rice cooking approaches, the amount of water makes no difference as whatever is left is drained after a fixed period of time, and then it's simmer time.

"Burning" of the bottom is also locale dependent. In Persian Cuisine for example, the art of making 'Tah-Deeg' (lit. bottom of the pot) is one of the stepping stones of becoming a serious cook, and generally this is the bit of the rice that family fights over at the table.

Bottom line, OP is correct, imho.


+1, in countries like Turkey, Persia, India, Pakistan rice cookers are pretty uncommon. In my home country of Turkey where rice is eaten very commonly, I've never heard of a single person use it. Further, rice is typically first washed several times, fried with a bit of oil and perhaps some spices before being simmered. I don't know if it's possible to do this with a Japanese style rice-cooker.

I use a Japanese-style rice cooker and mine will do this I believe, and even has a specific tahdig setting, though as I have nothing to compare it to, I can't attest to its authenticity :) https://www.yumasia.co.uk/bamboo-induction-heating-ceramic-r...

The more basic models don't have features like that, however.


Then the article is wrong, wildly, overwhelmingly, brain-dead wrong. For the "hours" story, that must be wrong. Cooking rice is EASY, over any heat source with just a covered pot, iron, stainless steel, aluminum -- just a pot.

Your quote shows that the article is wrong.

I did NOTHING at all wrong. Instead I just explained how darned easy it is to cook rice. For anyone taken in by the article that there is a challenge to cooking rice, I did a good service.

What wrote is just what I got off the back of a plastic bag of rice decades ago. It was a good recipe then. It's a good recipe now. There is NOTHING wrong with what I wrote.

I will delete my post and let others struggle with the severe "challenge" of cooking rice.

The article was absurd -- cooking rice is EASY.

Enjoy your struggle of hours cooking rice.

Bye bye.


Good lord this is one of the saltiest posts I've ever seen on here, which is an accomplishment.

The simple lesson here is: what is easy for you is not necessarily easy for everyone else, and you should not get pissy if you state your opinion so miserably and everybody fights back.

Also, yes it's fairly easy to cook rice in a pan. I cook rice probably 4 days a week, and I now use a rice cooker. My rice cooker:

- Can be set up ahead of time

- Has different cooking profiles for different varieties of rice

- Can keep the rice warm, safely, for many hours after it's cooked

- Cooks the rice very well. It even has a special mode for cooking the rice longer in a specific way, which results in extremely nice-tasting rice

It means that I have rice ready and waiting when I finish cooking the rest of the meal, which no longer has to be timed alongside the rice, which means I can focus on cooking the interesting food and not the bloody rice.

Your experience is different from many others.

Fix your attitude.


What is the special mode you mention? I'm thinking of getting a rice cooker, is this mode standard in most models or is it specific to yours?

I'm not too sure what others models will do it, but this is the one I have and they call it "Yumami": https://www.yumasia.co.uk/bamboo-induction-heating-ceramic-r...

I originally went for it because there honestly aren't that many options in the UK, and this was the only Induction Heating model on the market here when I bought it, as most of the Japanese brands aren't CE marked I think?

I imagine the technology exists in other rice cookers under different names, as I would think it's pretty rare for there to be anything truly unique in this market.

I do highly rate that model though. I've had it about 1.5 years and use it at least 4 times a week. There is a notable difference in taste between its "Yumami" and "Short-grain" settings. Not that the standard mode tastes bad; it's just that the Yumami setting does have something a bit different about it that I really like.


Just get the Zoujirushi or Cuckoo described here and you can’t go wrong. Both have a good amount of settings and are excellent at making rice:

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/the-best-rice-coo...


The thing you did wrong was come across like a jerk in your writing. You can be correct and still look like an asshole. That’s a pretty common cause of downvotes since rude comments just hinder conversation.

I’m not sure how you could read the article and miss the historical context. In postwar Japan, many women were not cooking with saucepans on gas or electric ranges with high-quality, industrially processed rice:

>For centuries, most Japanese cooks made rice with a kamado, a box-shaped range topped with a heavy iron pot. It was painfully tricky. Cooking rice this way, says columnist and food writer Makiko Itoh, takes heat modulation: high heat until the water and rice boils, then low heat, then high heat again. “And that, with a wood-burning stove, is very difficult.” Each day, Japanese women rose at dawn and labored for several sweaty hours to make rice.

The engineer who made the first, widely successful design relied on his wife’s expertise in this traditional cooking method to perfect it.


It was painfully tricky

"Until now, this was the only way to get cooked rice from rice..."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viejY6UZ5Bk&t=42s

Okay, but in that case the best thing to invent would be a non-horrible stove. I've made rice, and even as an incompetent cook, it really is a non-issue.


Most Japanese houses postwar were not equipped to have good gas ranges. The article highlights that widespread electrification had occurred, which favored rice cookers, especially because cooking food on electric ranges is anathema for huge swathes of Japanese cuisine.

The standard to be measured against was also, again, Kamado rice, which most rice cookers today would struggle to meet and I guarantee few bachelors are measuring up to with their sauce pans.


We often use the timer in our rice cooker such that when you come back home the rice is ready, and it also maintains the temperature after it's done. I wouldn't want to leave a stove at high heat while not at home.

So measure water and rice, monitor boiling status, modify cooking temperature...

Yep, needs more automation and less human thought. We need single-serving-sized pouches of rice, and single-serving-sized bottles of water. Feeding four people? Use four packets and four bottles. The cooking device can monitor its own temperature and sing a ditty when it’s done.


Zoujirushi rice cookers already sing you a song when they’ve finished cooking:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CMN0jAENzIg


What you're describing is pretty close to a Zojirushi fuzzy logic cooker, which has a greater tolerance for mismatched rice/water ratios (and most importantly sings a tune when done!)

Ricero!

Jo Koy has a bit about cooking rice on his newest special that points out an even easier trick. Put as much rice as you want to cover the bottom of the pot, then put your index finger on the rice and fill the water up to the first knuckle.

...But for the next step I'm using my instapot while I do something else.


I was taught this method also, by a Japanese woman in the 80s. I think it works because the cooker cuts the heat exactly when it's all turned to steam, which is held at a minimum pressure by the lid. So the amount of water is very forgiving because there's those two automatic functions regulating the process.

I follow very similar steps. Two changes:

- I turn the heat off (but do not open the lid) at 15 minutes

- If I'm planning on making extra, sometimes I like to add some oil (usually coconut, sometimes olive or butter), which I find helps it keep better. Oil and rice added before water, to spread it evenly.


2:1?! That ratio is crazy and will certainly not produce good rice.

That's sort of a typical ratio for Basmati rice. Not good for East Asian varieties though.

What do you personally recommend instead?

1 cup rice 1.25 cups water is what I use as a ratio for short-to-medium grain white rice (I recommend kokuho rose extra fancy). That also is the one typically inscribed on the side of a rice cooker pot. You can go a little over water-wise for a mushier rice, or under for a chewier/drier rice - white rice is forgiving.



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