Making rice is an art that traditionally requires patience, know-how, and keeping a close watch on the pot. Today, many Japanese companies offer an alternative with state of the art rice cookers that take the guess work out of making rice. These models showcase Japan’s technological innovation and the country’s love of perfectly cooked rice. Some use vacuum pumps, and multiple temperature sensors that give rice a sweeter flavor with just the right touch of stickiness.
After careful research and finding rice cookers from Japan that go beyond those that fail to produce rice that makes the grade, I’ve come up with a list of the best Japanese rice cookers for your kitchen.
Toshiba Vacuum Pressure IH Rice Cooker
The top imported rice cooker from Japan, the Toshiba vacuum pressure rice cooker is the result of hundreds of hours of testing. The cooker uses a combination of vacuum and pressure techniques to infuse the rice with flavor, and can keep rice warm for up to 32 hours in a vacuum to avoid drying out.
The Best of the Old and New
The high end model from Toshiba combines the traditional elements of cooking rice in an iron pot with the latest innovations in cooking. A vacuum helps to soak the rice quickly, a process that used to take hours; after the cycle is done, pressure is used to heat water to a temperature beyond boiling that infuses the grains with flavor. The IH in the name means induction heating, circulating air around the cast iron pot to evenly cook and heat instead of coils.
Perfectly Cooked Rice
The result of the blend of cooking methods is rice that beats the heat. The Toshiba’s rice is fluffy, shinny, sweet, and fragrant. Keeping its form and not mushy, a common complaint about rice makers. After being put through its paces, the Toshiba vacuum rice cooker takes the top spot for its ability to produce rice that captures the subtle flavors and textures of Japanese rice that others fail to deliver.
The main downside to the Toshiba IH rice cooker is its price. Unlike previous models from the company, this model is high-end; it stands out for the quality of the rice it produces and the amount that it costs. While the price has dropped significantly since being introduced in 2007, expect to pay for the technology it uses.
The Final Word
Overall, the Toshiba hybrid comes in at the top of the heap for high-end rice makers. The machine simply outshines the competition as its design, and the results that it yields, produce rice that makes the staple food stand out. Using the traditional Japanese methods of cooking rice using an iron pot and a food fed furnace to work from; Toshiba has added a vacuum seal to easily soak and store the rice, a pressure system for quick cooking, and an induction system for even heating.
First Runner Up – Zojirushi Umami Micom Rice Cooker
A close second to the Toshiba model, the Umami keeps Zojirushi’s hallmarks of giving home cooks a variety of custom settings to choose from. Two that stand out are the Umami and GABA settings. The word “Umami” in Japanese refers to a fifth taste, going beyond sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. The Zojirushi delivers on its promise to give you rice that goes beyond the ordinary, but some find that rice cooked with the preset is a bit drier than that cooked with other settings. The GABA function is for long grained brown rice. The machine slow cooks the rice at a low temperature for two hours to activate it before cooking. The process is intended to bring out the flavor of the rice. The main complaint about the Umami is that it lacks the induction heating that other models from the company use for even cooking. Despite this, the quality of Zojirushi comes through.
Second Runner Up – Tiger Clay Ceramic Rice Cooker
A good all-around option, the induction heated model from Tiger has a clay coated cooking pot that adds another element to ensure even cooking. The rice cooker has 11 different functions, ranging from those that cook basic white rice to an “ultra” setting that gives you sticky rice for sushi. A contender for the top spot because of its versatility, the Tiger Ceramic will cook rice and steam meats or vegetables at the same time. It also has functions for making bread and stews. Users who have problems with the rice maker from Tiger often point to the differences in the translations of words from Japanese to English in the settings. But once the kinks are worked out, the Tiger pulls its weight for multiple functions in the kitchen.
Third Runner Up – Zojirushi Induction System Rice Cooker
Finishing the list is the induction system rice cooker from Zojirushi. The high-end machine has a lot of features, and is designed for everyday use. A delay timer and warming function make it easy to use, and its high-tech induction system makes burned or dry rice a thing of the past. Like the Tobisha, it uses a pressure system; and like the Zojirushi Umami, it has a setting for GABA brown rice. Its smart sensors adjust the cooking time and temperature during cooking, and its multiple presets make it a must have for demanding chefs. The major drawback is its price, but for those looking for a quality rice maker that delivers daily, the Zujirushi NP-NVC10 is an excellent choice.
The Final Word
When it comes to rice, Japan has more varieties than almost anywhere else in the world. When it comes to cooking rice, the Toshiba Vacuum Pressure IH Rice Cooker has perfected the practice. The machine’s multiple design features using the ideas of the past and the technology of the present make it the best Japanese rice cooker available today.