Even though I was using a Zojirushi rice cooker when I first arrived in Japan in 2003, it was much harder to clean thoroughly than the models sold today. The inner cooking bowl was removable but the lid wasn’t. My old rice cooker always needed a wipe down as soon as I took the rice out…needless to say, that didn’t always happen. Once the ‘rice water’ dried, it became much more of a task to sort it out. Now-a-days, things are so much easier now because inner lids are removable!
The best rice cooker (e.g. the Zojirushi NP-GBC05 and Zojirushi NP-HBC10) can make all the difference between cooking edible and cooking delicious rice dishes. These particular models are really easy to clean up after use. The diagram below shows all the parts that need washed can easily be removed from the cooker. In fact, you can even take the inner lid out before it’s even cooled down. Just be careful to only touch the plastic parts and you should be okay. If you touch the metal though, I’ll take no responsibility for burnt fingers!
When you cook dishes without a sauce, e.g. plain white rice, rice with mushrooms, etc. One tip for you is to leave the lid open once you’ve scooped out all your rice. This allows the inner cooking bowl to dry out thoroughly. Doing this definitely helps when it comes to cleaning. If you leave it for a few hours, a dry skin of rice paper forms on the inner surface of the bowl and can be wiped off with some kitchen paper. Or even better for the environment, just use your hand! Then I put it in the sink to soak for 10 minutes or so before I wash it.
The inner lid which is the only other part of the rice cooker that comes into contact with your rice also cleans up easily. I like to soak it for a little while and then clean it with warm soapy water. Make sure you rinse it properly. You don’t want to eat soapy tasting rice!
After I’ve made something like rice chili stew, the inner lid of my rice cooker definitely smells. Even after washing, the smell is still noticable. But to be honest, it never seems to affect the taste of the next dish I make. Perhaps I’ve just gotten used to it…That said, occasionally, I soak the inner lid in water with a little bit of bleach. Obviously I give it a good cleaning after that. Bleach rice isn’t something I want to try any time soon.