Friday, October 19, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Rice Cookers

     I only recently discovered the magic appliance that is the rice cooker. Up to that point, I had made my rice in one of two ways. I either cooked it on the stove top, where I burned it, or I cooked in the microwave, where it foamed over and made a huge mess.  The rice cooker is a simple and elegant appliance. Once you get the hang of it, you can even use it to make entire meals.  Much like any other appliance, rice cookers vary wildly in price and features. I'll give you examples at the low, middle and high end.

Aroma 8-Cup Rice Cooker and Steamer $19.96 at Wal-Mart
     This is what I have in my kitchen. It's about as easy as can be to use. Put in the rice and water, hit the button, and wait. In about 20 minutes you have cooked rice. Virtually idiot proof. Fair warning, it does occasionally overcook the rice on the bottom of the pan.

Zojirushi NHS-18 10-Cup Rice Cooker/Steamer/Warmer $64.52 at Amazon
     In the mid-range there is this Zojirushi. Some models from this company are much costlier, so a mid-range model is a really good value. There are lots of people who swear by Zojirushi and would never consider another model. It has a large capacity, a steamer tray and warms for up to five hours.

Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker $233.00 at ThinkGeek
    As I mentioned, Zojirushi makes more expensive models. This is one of them. In the high-end, we have the Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker. It does not cook fuzzy rice. Fuzzy is referring to the logic used by the machine to cook your rice. This machine will more or less take all the guess work out of rice cooking. White, brown, sushi, it doesn't matter. The machine will make sure it's perfect. 

    If there is any one resource you pick up for making the most of your rice cooker, it is Roger Ebert's book,  The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker.  This is like a manifesto on the wonders of this device and has a lot of recipes and ideas. If you get a rice cooker, get this book.  And if Roger Ebert should find out I am plugging his book, an autographed picture or copy of the book would be outstanding.

Good times!

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