The amount of money you spend on a rice cooker does make a difference. But the good news is that you don’t have to buy the most expensive available. My personal recommendation is to choose a Zojirushi rice cooker (my favorite brand) that has Micom and IH technology. Below, I’ll also talk about why saving your money and not buying a rice cooker with the additional pressure cooking functionality might be advantageous.
The recipes found on my site rely on the best quality rice, cooked to perfection. That’s why I only recommend three rice cookers to those of you living outside Japan. In the U.S, there are simply less premium rice cookers available to choose from, so in many ways, deciding which machine to buy is actually easier than if you lived in Japan. As you would expect, the ones I recommend are produced by a Japanese manufacturer. Even though there are three different models listed below, they are almost identical, apart from their difference in size. There are some minor differences in the options between the 3 cup model and the larger machines but none that I consider to be of major significance.
Rice Cooker Reviews – My Top Picks
Obviously, you don’t have to take my word for it. There are plenty of other Zojirushi rice cookers to choose from as well as other brands including Tiger, Sanyo, Panasonic and then non-Japanese machines too. But if you’re after the best rice cooker, look no further than the three models above. They all feature Micom and Induction Heating (IH) technology; have tons of different cooking options; and above all, make great tasting rice. Read more rice cooker reviews of other machines I own.
What is Micom?
Micom is an abbreviation of Micro Computerized. Inside Micom rice cookers is a micro chip which controls the cooking cycle. It is able to make alterations to both the length of the cooking cycle and the heat at which the rice is cooked. This ensures that the rice is cooked to perfection and doesn’t get burnt. The Micom controller bases its “decisions” on the data it receives from the rice cooker’s internal thermal sensor. When the water has mostly boiled off, the temperature inside the cooking bowl gets even hotter, so the Micom component knows exactly when to switch from cooking mode to keep warm mode.
Micom rice cookers, such as the three Zojirushi models mentioned above, can be recognized by their with digital controls on the front. They have lots of different cooking options as well as timer and the ability to keep rice warm for extended periods of time.
Image from: Zojirushi Rice Cooker Chart
What is Induction Heating?
As you can see from the chart above, Induction Heating rice cookers are also Micom rice cookers. You can get a Micom unit without IH. However you cannot buy an IH machine without Micom.
Induction Heating offers one major advantage over standard Micom models. That is, the way the heating system works. Unlike the standard Micom rice cookers which make use of a heating element beneath the cooking bowl, Induction Heating uses a newer kind of induction technology that turns the cooking bowl itself into the heat source. Not only does this heat your rice more evenly but it also gives the machine a greater degree of control over the temperature at which the rice is cooked.
What About Pressure Rice Cookers?
The Zojirushi NP-HTC10/18 range has been available in the U.S. for some time now. There’s another model that has recently been released, the Zojirushi NP-NVC10/18 which also features Micom, IH and Pressure cooking.
So is that better than the Zojirushi NP-HBC10/18 rice cookers? In a technological sense, I suppose the answer would be ‘yes’. Pressure cooking does reduce the time it takes to make a dish. The new NP-NVC models come with an even greater range of menu options, including and umami setting, a steam reduction setting and a scortch setting. Does that mean I’d be prepared to spend over $600 on one? I somehow doubt it, don’t you?
But it’s not just the cost that makes me wary of the pressure cooking models. I’ve got a Sanyo ECJ-JG10W which is a pressure rice cooker and to be honest, I don’t think that it makes rice that is tastier.
The main reason I’m not a fan of the pressure cooking models is that I like to be able to take a peek inside and give things a stir if necessary. If you’re making plain rice, then there’s no need to go poking about while the rice is cooking. However if you’re using your rice cooker for soups or stews, then being able to open the lid at will (without a pressure explosion) is really handy.
One Size Does Not Fit All
The three different sizes of rice cooker available are 3, 5 ½ and 10 cup. These are not U.S. measuring cups, but Japanese rice measuring cups (180 ml). The 3 cup rice cooker is good if you live alone. But if you’re into cooking batches of food and want to make a big rice cooker chili stew for instance, you might be better off with the Zojirushi NP-HBC10. The 5 ½ cup machine is good for families of 2 to 5 people. Then for any more than 5 people, I’d suggest the 10 cup model.
It’s good to have a bit of extra capacity but not too much. If you’re not cooking large quantities of rice, I feel you get better results with smaller machines.
What Does it Cost?
If you’re in the market for the best rice cooker then I’m sure you realize, they’re not going to be budget machines. At the same time, they do offer great value for money. A high quality Japanese rice cooker is an investment that can be expected to last for many years. The three models I recommend all cost over $200. As I said, there are more expensive rice cookers you can purchase. On a personal level though, I don’t feel the extra cost of a “pressure” rice cooker is justified, or actually desirable.