Recently, I received a rice cooker from a company called Zojirushi which happens to be the #1 rice cooker manufacturer in Japan. I know that because the P.R. e-mail said so and it also assured me that even though I didn’t think I needed a rice cooker, I did in fact need one: “Now that I’ve been using one consistently for 4 years,” said the e-mail, “I can’t imagine cooking rice without one.”
Needless to say, I was dubious.
For years, I’ve been cooking rice according to the package directions using my sturdy old metal pot: I add the rice, the water, a pinch of salt, a pat of butter, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover, cook 20 minutes, take off the heat, let it sit, and voila: rice.
When the rice cooker came, I took it out of the box and immediately worried about that most precious New York kitchen commodity: counter space.
Where would I keep this? Is this worth relegating another appliance to the land under the sink? How often would I use it, anyway?
I decided to take it for a spin. I added 1 cup of rice (using the cup measure that came with the cooker), poured water in up to the “One Cup” level, closed the lid and pushed the “Cooking” button.
The machine beeped and that was that. I didn’t know how long it would take so I prepped the rest of that night’s dinner (a chicken dish I was testing for my cookbook).
About 20 to 25 minutes later (this isn’t an instant rice cooker) a little melody sounded indicating the rice was done. The apartment smelled ricey and good and when I opened up the lid I saw this:
Perfectly cooked rice. I spooned out a spoonful to see how it tasted:
Really examine that picture and you’ll see the rice looks different than rice you cook in a pot. I used basmati rice here (probably not the ideal rice for a rice cooker) but after cooking for 25 minutes in the rice cooker it had a fluffiness and nuttiness unlike any basmati I’ve cooked before. And it was certainly easier to cook than the pot method.
So the next night, when I cooked catfish, I didn’t have to think long about a side: I just poured rice into the rice cooker, filled with water, pushed the button and waited for the little song.
I hate to admit it, but the P.R. e-mail was right: I can’t imagine cooking rice the old way again.