We had a friend over (Gigi its you – remember) who was asking about rice makers and I put this together for you; let me say modern day technology has significantly improved the performance of a simple electrical rice maker.
In the basement of Bic Camera Akihabara in Tokyo, I discovered the same sales person who sold me a hitachi rice maker five years ago. Since it is discontinued, my Hitachi rice maker doesn’t have replacement parts so I was now on the hunt for a new rice maker.
My request was simple, I was searching any rice maker to keep the rice warm for a minimum of 12 hours and the Tiger salesmen said, “I cannot recommend Tiger”. I was surprised but honesty is the best policy and customer loyalty counts in Japan.
Before getting into rice cooking and cooker imagine the evolution and so sushi chefs still work with the 1955 version which is still made.
Until the mid-1960s, most Japanese households cooked rice using a Kamado, a type of firewood fueled oven. The polished rice is washed in water, left to stand for a while, then heated in an iron pot (hagama) with a wooden lid and is ready within the hour.
“The heat is low at first, then it gets hotter. When steam blows out, turn down the heat. Don’t remove the lid, even if the baby cries.”
That isn’t a myth, you should let the rice absorb the water at low heat in the first step and then cook it at high heat in the second step, followed by a gradual lowering of the temperature and finally a constant temperature for steaming. This is the Japanese way of cooking delicious rice. The part saying “Don’t remove the lid, even if the baby cries” reflects the wisdom that you won’t get lustrous rice unless the steaming is done properly.
For those seeking performance, Tiger technology is top for cooking and eating rice the same day. The technology begins with high heat, a pot such as ceramic and not the simple carbon fluorine coating (2.3mm thick) that conducts heat much better.
Before getting into rice makers, consider a “Donabe”, a clay pot in Japanese, and it’s one of Japan’s oldest cooking vessels, focused on authentic Japanese clay-pot order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donabe
Donabe originating in Japan’s Iga province these earthenware pots are made out of clay with properties ideal for operating at high temperatures, including in kilns and during high-heat cooking. This kind of clay from Iga is very porous, which means it builds heat slowly and is similar to a slow-cooker, initialy building up heat. But it keeps heat effectively once it’s at peak temperature and every Japanese household has at least one Donabe in its kitchen, and it’s an important part of group meals, since a portable burner turns it into nabe.
The Tiger’s Earthen pot IH rice cooker (Induction Heat) is made in Japan, it is fantastic and expensive as hell, priced at $1500 using a ceramic pot that conducts heat more evenly and maintains the temperature cooking at 140°C.
While Hitachi, a brand not well known for rice makers if compared with others is a reputable and widely used brand priced accordingly. They use what they call advanced ‘Pressure and Steam Induction Heating’ (IH) a proprietary technology. Its unique IH technology helps retain the original quality and taste of the grain, so they say. It comes with specially-made pot for high heat transfer and improves heat induction and retention. And, they have a ‘Vapor Cut Technology’, the rice cooker can be conveniently placed anywhere – thats cool.
In the end, Zojirushi has the technology in rice makers is using high pressure and vacuumed which is pressure induction heating that uses Ai (Artificial Intelligence) to cook the rice perfectly. This one could say is the best of both worlds. Many claims are made such as: the coating enhances the far-infrared radiation effect, causing the rice and water to boil with fine bubbles as if the rice was cooked in a clay pot – not sure if thats proven but it could be true.
Tiger has in addition to the ceramic inner pot material coating, hollow glass beads are used to improve the heat storage performance. The far-infrared thick inner pot is also composed of five layers of stainless steel and aluminum quickly and fully transmits heat to rice to cook the rice evenly fluffy and plump to the core.
Pressure cooking helps turn beta starch into alpha starch for softer and easier to digest rice. It is good for digestion. Pressure-cooked rice has lots of macronutrients like protein, starch and fiber. It is said with high pressure used to cook rice, fungi and a lot of other bacteria are killed.
Then there is Toshiba, their vacuum rice cooking can be started immediately after washing the rice as the vacuum pump draws out the air of the inner pot to automatically soak the rice. Rice cooking can be started immediately after washing the rice as the vacuum pump draws out the air of the inner pot to automatically soak the rice. They claim, with the help of vacuum pump removing air from the Inner Pot of the IH Vacuum & Pressure Rice Cooker, water replaces air to permeate the core of rice grains, making each puffed.
Don’t forget washing your rice and reduce the particles clinging to the rice after it is milled. But if you think about it a little more, washing is key as it “gives the cooked, finished product a fluffy texture with separate rice grains”. Otherwise, without rinsing, the excess starch will remain on the rice, potentially yielding gummy or overly sticky rice once cooked.
“Pressure cooking with the ceramic inner pot for springy and firm textures”
Tiger and other rice makers use pressure but Tiger boasts (1.25 atm) is applied during cooking to raise the temperature inside the inner pot to bring out the stickiness and sweetness of the rice, but sounds like an oxymoron if you wash it to eliminate stickiness. Not exactly, as the rice should be cleaned and the starch removed to avoid cooking the rice in its own starch. Actually the residual starch will gelatinize in the hot cooking water and make the cooked grains of rice stick to each other. In some instances, such as sticky rice varieties like glutinous rice and arborio rice, this can lead to a very gummy appearance and thats the aim in risotto to have a creamy finish.
The vacuum-preserving method capable of improving quality of cooked rice by maximizing preservation efficiency for cooked rice by combining two steps, that is, cooling the cooked rice in a non-heating manner and decompressing the cooled cooked rice by high vacuum, as well as reducing water-swelling time for rice before cooking and minimizing damage of the rice caused by the water-swelling, and an electronic rice cooker using the same.
The rice cooking and vacuum-preserving method according to the present invention, generates a vacuum by vacuum-decompressing inside the electronic rice cooker holding the cooked rice, preserves the cooked rice maintaining the vacuum state in a non-heating manner, and essentially comprises a cooling step that cools the cooked rice in a non-heating manner before the vacuum-decompression.
In principal five relevant different types of rice makers, mostly distinguish themselves by rice volume., i.e. 1-6 cups. The internal container used is either metal, ceramic or metal covered with ceramic and depending on the thickness and material high temperature is used up to 280°C. This is Tigers top end model and it has a ceramic container and cooks at high temperature.
A large rice maker is not good for 1-2 cups of rice so you have to go to a smaller size rice cooker but if you’re cooking 2-6 cups and you should always optimize by using 80% and not more. So if you’re cooking 6 cups, it should be 80% of 6 cups which is 4.8 cups but from my experience with cooking it never works out perfectly when you cook too much rice because the size and volume are not proportionate to the rice makers cavity.
My choice was Zojirushi and it is a good system and I find a balance between cooking and holding the rice so it can be eaten throughout the day without compromising the texture and taste. If you want top notch cook and eat, buy Tiger otherwise you are stuck with making your own choice.