Even though I am ethnically Chinese and I grew up eating rice every night, I’m married to someone whose diet does not include rice. My small daughter loves rice, but my son could take it or leave it. This means that our household does not eat a lot of rice and I have been cooking our rice on our stove in our one small pot. This has started to annoy me, as I would like to use that pot for something other than cooking rice and I have had repeated boilovers when I’ve stepped away (I boil and then turn it down to a bare simmer, then when it is done cooking you just turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes to release from the pot – the secret to not having rice stick to stainless steel pots is to turn off the heat and let it rest).
So my criteria for the rice cooker:
- It must be a small 3-5 cup rice cooker. We just don’t eat enough to warrant a large one taking up space. I already have a One-Pot pressure cooker that can handle large amounts of cooking rice if necessary with a stainless steel inner pot. I want something small so I don’t have to pull out my large One-Pot just for a cup and a half of rice.
- I do not want a non-stick teflon bowl. I have seen many scraped up teflon flaking rice cooker bowls. I prefer a stainless steel bowl, but I have also seen ceramic. I think I’d prefer stainless steel.
- It needs to be easy to clean. I want a removable top plate so you can clean behind it. I don’t want mold growing from the remnants of boiled on starch. One of the myths is that stainless steel will stick. The fact is if you let the rice sit for about 5 minutes after it is finished cooking and not on “keep warm”, it will naturally relax and release from the pot bottom.
- I’d like the lid to not spit and splatter while cooking. Some of the more basic stainless steel bowled rice cookers just have a top that rests on the bowl. While the rice is cooking it spits and splatters and can make some what of a mess on the counter. I’m looking for something a little more advanced than that.
So with those criteria in mind, these are the rice cookers I have come up with:
- Tatung 3-Cup multifunction Cooker TAC-03DW – this one is a 3 cup small indirect heat cooker. What that means is that it is essentially a steamer. You have an inner stainless steel pot that rests in some water and you cook your rice and whatever else you put in those pots. I was watching an interesting Youtube video where it shows that when the handle is up, the top won’t come off, it is easy to clean, and the inner pot comes with a lid, making it a potentially portable “bento” style lunch pail. With the indirect method, you will likely have to “descale” the outer pot occasionally, much like you have to descale the water boiler appliances or humidifiers. Another interesting thing in the video was that you can use the Tatung little outer pot like a shabu shabu pot (@ 9:11).
- Oyama 1000 5-Cup Rice Cooker – this rice cooker is a direct heat method cooker but with a stainless steel inner bowl. 5 and 6 cup cookers are getting up there in size already. I might as well use the One-Pot multi cooker I have. One thing people have complained about is that the cook button stops working, the top seems to want to fall on people while they spoon out the rice, or the cooker starts to smell. I’m not sure why that would be unless they forgot to pull off the top and clean the stainless steel lid. This one does come with a steamer insert.
- Buffalo 6-Cup Smart Cooker II – My parents have a large Buffalo 10-cup cooker and seem to really like it over having to replace the non-stick bowls. I was looking at the smaller 5-cup version 1 of the smart cooker, but it looks like version 1 does not have a removable lid which is a killer for me. The smart cooker II only has a 6 cup version with a removable top. But again, the size implies I should just use the One-pot.
- Narita 4-cup Rice Cooker – I was at Marina grocery the other day and spotted a 4-cup rice cooker with a stainless steel bowl! The price was also really great – $29.99 (although at this Amazon listing it’s double that price). The Amazon listing says there is a steam tray, but I didn’t see that on the box at the store. The 10-cup Narita did have a steam tray listed, so I am assuming that is an error on the Amazon listing. One thing to note is that reviews say you need to unplug the unit to turn off the “keep warm” feature to keep the rice from sticking and getting crispy. The top lid is also not stainless steel which is a negative for me.
- City Star 4-cup Rice Cooker – I saw this rice cooker at my local 99Ranch asian grocery store. Price was also low – $30.99. It comes with a plastic steamer insert and the one review from Amazon says that the bowl is really thin and requires that you also unplug the unit to keep it from continuing to cook.
I am not including the really basic cookers that spit and splatter under the top as there are a number of cheap ones out there like the Aroma or Miracle.
I found a couple of other cookers with different pot types.
- Tiger JKU-A550W – a Japan only product that could possibly be used in the US. Not sure how the electrical variance between standards would affect the machine. The pot is ceramic coated rather than Teflon. Size wise, it is perfect size and has advanced features like induction heating.
- VitaClay VM7900-6 – I’m not sold on cooking with porous materials. I’d think that the pot could absorb minerals or other things and retain them.
So what will I end up getting? I’m seriously considering the Tatung 3-cup multifunction cooker. It’s the most pricey of the bunch, but I like the indirect heating method, the size, and ability to use it for different things like hot pot or as a steam cooker. Unfortunately, at the Marina and 99Ranch I have only seen the Tatung TAC-3ASF which is the older version.