Best Rice Cooker

Rice has been a staple food for longer than any other crop.  The earliest known crop of rice dates back about 10,000 – 14,000 years ago and was a domesticated wild grass.  As one may guess it began in China and the surrounding areas. There is archeological evidence of areas around the Yangtze and upper Huai Rivers as the two earliest places of cultivation of rice in the country.  Quickly the cultivation spread to Sri Lanka and India. Rice was a staple in Sri Lanka as long ago as 1000 B.C. Alexander the Great brought rice back to Greece and the Mediterranean from his expedition to India.  Southern Europe and North Africa naturally were the next to inherit rice into their diet.  Thanks to the great European Age of Exploration, rice was introduced to the New World by its settlers. The Portuguese carried rice to Brazil where the Spanish introduced it to Central and South America. The first record of rice in America was in 1965 in the lowlands of what is now South Carolina. By the 20th century, rice was produced in California’s Sacramento Valley.  92% of today’s rice production is found Asia; China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, and Japan.

Rice Around The World

Africa

African rice, while not nearly as old as Asian rice, has been cultivated for 3500 years.  It was originally centered along the Niger River delta and extended to Senegal.  Over time, though, the cultivation of African rice declined and Asian species spread westward from East Africa.  African rice did help Africa to conquer famine in 1203.

Middle East

Some areas of southern Iraq grew rice and spread with the rise of Islam.  With water sources limited, most rice growing regions in the Middle East are around river deltas.  In Egypt, rice is grown in the Nile Delta.  The Jordan Valley is a great source of water for rice in Palestine.  Rice farming can also be found in Yemen.

Europe

Asiatic rice was brought to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th Century by the Moors.  Records indicate it was grown in Valencia and Majorca.  After the Christian conquest, it is believed, but historians are not certain, that rice cultivation in Majorca stopped.

Sicily saw the introduction of rice by Muslims.  It was found in the plain of Pisa,1468, and the Lombard plain, 1475, where the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, had model farms demonstrating the process.  From Italy, the cultivation or rice spread to France.  Later rice was carried to other continents during the age of European exploration.

The Caribbean and Latin America

Rice was introduced to Latin America and the Caribbean by European colonizers.  The Spanish introduced rice to Mexico around 1520 while the Portuguese introduced Colonial Brazil to rice by bringing slaves in from Africa.  African slaves played an important role in introducing rice to the New World.

United States

Rice was introduced to colonial South Carolina and Georgia as large plantations reaped the wealth through slave labor.  Most of these slaves came from Africa where rice was a necessary staple. The African slaves taught plantation owners how to dike marshes and periodically flood fields. Rice mills were introduced, increasing profitability while water powering the mills sped up production. After the Civil War, when slavery was abolished, rice production lost its profitability and eventually died out in South Carolina and Georgia.  The southern states, Cajun territory, held on to rice farming in wet marshes and low lying prairies.  They would add crayfish to the fields when they were flooded as well to multi-task the fields. Recently, rice production is on the rise and returning especially along the Mississippi River Delta.

On the west coast of America, rice cultivation began during the California Gold Rush.  With Chinese laborers immigrating to the state, they brought this crop and grew it in small amounts for their own consumption.  Only in 1912 did commercial production begin.  California has grown to have the second largest rice crop in the United States.  Arkansas is the number one producer of rice in the United States.

The United States produces rice in primarily six states, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and California, and actually exports half of the $1.9 billion crop.  The United States provides 12% of the world rice.  While the majority of the remaining rice is used purely as rice, 16% of the United States produced rice is used in processed foods and beer.  Pet food takes up 10% of the United States rice production.

Australia

One of the earliest crops planted in Australia was rice.  It was brought to Australia by British settlers who already had experience with rice plantations in the United States, Central, and South America.  Rice crops have not been successful in the North ofAustralia because the soil is full of iron and manganese. In temperate Australia, Californian varieties of rice have been very popular.

 

Rice exports to Japan have become a major source of foreign currency.  The area of Riverina saw a boom with above-average rainfall between 1950’s and the middle of the 1990’s.  In recent years Australia has been experiencing severe drought forcing areas of planting to migrate from season to season depending on water.

Evolution of How Rice is Cooked

Traditionally, rice required constant attention to prevent burning.  Electric rice cookers take the guessing game and need to hover over the rice pot out of the equation.  A rice cooker does not necessarily speed up the time it takes to cook rice. It does free up the cooks time allowing them to focus on other portions of the meal or other chores.  Not all rice dishes can be prepared in a rice cooker, for example, risotto.  It requires hand stirring and constant attention to get the expected result.

Brands Aroma Housewares – founded in 1977 is based in San Diego CA and a privately held company building high-quality appliances

Fagor America, Inc. – a subsidiary of Fagor Electrodomesticos. Since 1992, Fagor has become synonymous with high-quality stainless steel pressure cookers.  Currently, Fagor is a top ranked cookware brand.

Instant Pot – a Canadian company pressure cookers.  It is a first generation product that has a mechanical timer to adjust pressure and temperature.

Oster – is a trademark of Sunbeam Products.  It was founded in 1924 by John Oster who sold manually powered hair clippers and in 4 years he introduced motor-driven clippers.

Panasonic – made up of business domain companies ranging from AV to home appliances, to industrial solutions and other consumer electronic products. Each company has a separate R & D, production, and sales.

Tiger – Tiger Corporation USA is in Torrance, CA and is a division of Tiger Corporation based in Osaka, Japan that was founded in 1923. It all started with a glass vacuum bottle and expanded next into rice cookers and other cooking appliances. They are known for their vacuum insulation technology.

VitaClay – Bases their cookware on ancient clay pot cooking. Started in the early 2000’s they produce the highest quality green cookware using unglazed clay.

Zojirushi – The Ichikawa Brother Trading Company was established in 1918 in Osaka, Japan (after several name changes finally to Zojirushi).  Zojirushi has set an industry standard of vacuum insulation technology in everyday household products.

Reviews of The Best Rice Cookers 

     1. Instant Pot IP-LUX60 6-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6-Quart 1000-Watt

Best Rice Cooker for Versatility $$$

Instant Pot IP-LUX is a smart electric pressure cooker that is easy to use, clean and safe. The benefit of using a pressure cooker as a rice cooker is you can use it to cook so much more than just rice.  Baby carrots and sweet corn is steamed within 4-7 minutes. No need to boil potatoes anymore in order to mash. By steaming the potatoes in the Instant Pot, you will keep the nutrients in the potato and they cook within 15 minutes.

     2. Aroma Housewares 6-Cup Pot-Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer

Best Rice Cooker for Ease of Use $

Aroma Housewares’ 6-cup Pot Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer is so super easy to use.  To set it to on you simply push one button.  You can cook the rice and steam food simultaneously.  The steam is strong enough to cook meats and vegetables at the same time as well.  Great for cooking other grains such as oatmeal and quinoa with the easiest clean up ever.  The inner pot and steamer are both dishwasher safe.

     3. Aroma Housewares 20 Cup Cooked (10 cup uncooked) Digital Rice Cooker, Slow Cooker, Food Steamer

Best Rice Cooker for On-The-Go Lives $$

Aroma Housewares’ 20 Cup Cooked Digital Rice Cooker, Slow Cooker, and Food Steamer will cook enough for a fiesta.  You can program this cooker to start later in the day.  There is nothing better after a long busy day then to come home and have dinner almost ready to go on the table,

     4. Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5-1/2-Cup (Uncooked) Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer

Best Rice Cooker for Serious Rice Cooking $$$

Zojirushi’s Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer has a brain known as Fuzzy Logic technology.  It cooks perfect rice every time by fine-tuning temperature and heating time.  Making 10 cups of cooked rice no one will go hungry in your family.  There is a programmable melody or beep alarm to alert when the cooking cycle has ended.  Not only does the Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker have an extended keep warm cycle but an added feature for reheat.  There will be no need to just add leftover rice to the top of new rice when it is cooking in order to reheat.

     5. Zojirushi NS-TSC10 5-1/2-Cup (Uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer

Best Rice Cooker for Every Day Use $$$

Zojjirushi earns a second spot in our top 5 Rice Cookers with the Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer.  It not only cooks rice but also has a steaming basket that doubles as a steamer and you can even bake cakes!  Another improvement to the cooker over the one above is the addition of a delay timer with two settings and a built-in retractable power cord.  Menu Settings include white/sushi, mixed, porridge, sweet, brown, cake, steam and quick cooking.

Honorable Mentions

Rice Cooker Buyers Guide

As with many kitchen appliances today, rice cookers come in different sizes and with so many bells and whistles you first need to look at you and what your  needs really are.  If you do not it is easy to over buy or even under buy by not knowing the versatility of today’s rice cookers.

How much rice is in your life?  Do you live on rice as a staple in 3 meals a day or are you someone who enjoys rice but only occasionally? Daily rice cookers or rice connoisseurs might want to consider buying a rice cooker with an induction heating or micro compressor and a variety of rice settings.

Will you want to cook more than rice? The rice cookers’ cooking style of “set it and forget it” makes cooking many things much easier.  Many are very versatile and you can downsize to one machine instead of many.  Many rice cookers today can take the place of steamers and slow cookers.

Rice for 1 or the masses? If it is just you there is no need for a massive machine.  There are smaller 3 cup machines with versatility as well as simple rice cooking machines.  If on the other hand you cook often for the masses, more than one or two, there are rice cookers to accommodate all sizes all the way up to restaurant grade.  Always remember to note if it is cooked or uncooked measurements since rice expands at least 1.25 x’s to the uncooked measurement.

Easy to Clean – Top of the list for many people is how easy to clean the product is.  The inner bowl and steamer (if included) should have a non-stick finish.  Many may require hand washing only but more are coming with dishwasher compatibility. Try to stay away from stainless steel innards.  They are harder to clean.

Stay-cool Exterior – Having a safe exterior can be very important if you intend to use this at parties where smaller people or even just many people will be serving themselves from the rice cooker.

Digital Timer – Having a digital time or digital controls makes it so much easier to set your rice cooker as well as know how much longer your rice needs to cook.

Easy to Use – Some rice cookers are just add rice and water, put on the lid and go while others may require you to learn how to use them.

Variety of Settings – Will your rice cooker keep your rice warm for a time after cooking is complete?  Some rice cookers even have the ability to change their heat and cooking time based on the type of rice you are cooking.  Also having a quick-cook setting can be very convenient when time is limited.

Accessories – measuring cups, spatulas, and spatula holders are all great additions especially if you are intending to use this at parties.  Having a steamer basket is nice to have if you want to cook meat or vegetables at the same time as your rice.

Removable or retractable power cord – again having the power cord out of the way or unattached is great if you plan to take your rice cooker to the table or to parties.

Conclusion

It has been said once you cook rice with a rice cooker you will never be able to cook rice in a pot again.  Correct!  Rice cookers take the risk of burning your rice off the table.  Rice is still the largest and longest eaten food source in the world.  There are rice cookers for every price point and every capacity.  Clear your counters of additional cookers and invest in a rice cooker or pressure cooker that will cook rice as well as other foods in a flash.  You can even bake bread and cakes in some.  Discover the joy of rice cookers!  

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