With the enhanced health consciousness and awareness these days, more and more people are switching to eating brown rice instead of white rice. But the biggest challenge many people face is how to cook brown rice perfectly so it comes out with the right texture and the right aroma. I have to say that I have had my fair share of trials and errors in cooking brown rice in rice cooker as well as on stove-top. If you are serious about eating brown rice on a consistent basis, it might pay to invest in a high quality rice cooker with a specific menu setting for cooking brown rice.
Before we look into the best brown rice cookers on the market, let’s digress a bit on brown rice. Despite all the misconceptions, brown rice is just unmilled rice like a whole natural grain. In Chinese, brown rice is literally called “rough rice”. Brown rice is nutty in flavor, chewier in texture, and packed with vitamins and nutrients.
The rice producing process is similar to peel an onion. The more layers are peeled, the refined the rice is and the less nutritious it is. There are three layers in a grain of rice. The outmost layer is called husk. By removing the husk, brown rice is produced. The next two layers are bran and germ. White rice is produced by removing these two layers and going through a polishing process.
In the removing and polishing process, several vitamins such as vitamin B1, B3, iron and minerals are lost. Required by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., some of these vitamins are added to the white rice marketed as “enriched” white rice. Unfortunately, one of the minerals, “magnesium” is not added back to the enriched rice. The loss is significant. For example, one cup of cooked long-grain brown rice has 84 mg of magnesium as opposed to 19 mg in a cup of white rice. In addition to the loss of magnesium, rice bran oil, fatty acids and fiber are also depleted from the bran removal process.
That’s why that the current trend is towards consuming brown rice to reap the health benefits. I have to confess that it’s still a minor struggle for me to make such a switch as I have been eating white rice all my life. It takes time to get used to the texture and even the flavor of brown rice.
So let’s go back to shop for a rice cooker that’s designed for brown rice. In fact, you don’t have to get a rice cooker just for brown rice. Instead, you should look for a rice cooker that has a menu-setting for brown rice.
As you may have experienced, cooking brown rice can be unpredictable. One of the most important factors is the rice-to-water ratio besides at what temperature the brown rice is cooked and for how long.
There are several major players in the rice cooker category, some of which are Japanese manufacturers. In fact, the best rated Japanese rice cookers all have brown rice setting in their lines of rice cookers. For example, Zojirushi NS-ZCC10/18 (5.5 cup or 10 cup), Zojirushi NS-YAC10/18 (5.5 cup or 10 cup), Sanyo ECJ-HC55/100S (5.5 cup or 10 cup) and Panasonic SR-MS103/183 (5 cup or 10 cup) are all top rated rice cookers for cooking perfect brown rice.
Some of the rice cookers have multi-functional features such as a steamer and a slow cooker in the case of Sanyo ECJ-HC55/100S. Others only have a slow cooker function besides a rice cooker (Zojirushi NS-YAC10/18).
The questions you should ask yourself are:
1. Do you have any brand affinity towards one vs another?
2. Are you looking to get a multi-functional cooker for cooking all types of rice (including brown) as well as cooking other meals?
3. How many people are you feeding in your family?
3 cup is considered a small sized rice cooker in the U.S. market, which is good for singles and small families (2-3 people). 5 to 5.5 cup is a step up in size ideal for 2-5 people. Then comes the 10 cup ones great for a large family of 6-8 people. Bear in mind that the cup is referred to as uncooked rice. Also the cups that come with these Japanese rice cookers are smaller, approximately 6 oz in comparison to the U.S.’s 8 oz.
4. Do you have any aesthetic preference in the design and form of the rice cooker besides the quality factor?
Do you like more modern design with minimalistic appeal and more fluidity or you prefer a sturdy and traditional appliance that will match well with the other appliances in your kitchen? What about color? The good news is that most of the rice cookers all have some shades of white or stainless steel.
5. How much are you planning on spending?
Most of the brands mentioned above run between $100 to $200 range. Yes, it’s a little steep for a rice cooker. But if you are going to use it several times a week to cook brown rice, it might be worth it due to the ease of use and the consistent quality it produces.
Feel free to look around on our site. A good place to get some basic knowledge on the rice cooker is the Buying Guide. You can get a “bird’s eye view” of the creme of the crop rice cookers from our Best Rice Cookers chart where you can click on the rice cooker model # to read our in-depth review or click on the price range to check out the current price and stock availability.