How to Buy a Best Rice Cooker

how-to-buy-a-rice-cooker

how-to-buy-a-rice-cooker

I’d like to share with you my thought process on how to buy a best rice cooker. The picture above depicts the major steps.

I want to apologize upfront for this very lengthy post. Please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to pick and choose which section is more important to you.

First of all, I need to define my major selection criteria:

  • 10 cup in capacity size
  • Best for cooking white, sushi and brown rice
  • A Zojirushi brand rice cooker with fuzzy logic technology
  • A budget of $200

Table of Contents

Primary Use | # of People | How Often | What Brand | Types of Rice | Heating Technology | Menu Options | Ease of Use and Cleaning | Color & Dimensions | Accessories | Warranty | Price | Narrow Down My Decision | Compare Menu Options | Customer Reviews | My Final Decision |

What Do I Use the Rice Cooker for?

The first question I ask myself, in this case I don’t necessarily have to ask myself, is what I would use the rice cooker for. Do I use it for cooking rice 90% of the times or do I use it as a multi-task cooker for steaming veggies, making stews and baking cakes? In my situation, I use it mainly for cooking restaurant quality rice. I don’t really care that much for the other functions a rice cooker may provide. I have other types of cookware that will do each of the jobs more proficiently.

I answer this question first so I can narrow down on the types of rice cookers I would be looking for. In my case, I wouldn’t be spending a ton of time in evaluating a rice cooker that is also used for steaming, simmering or baking. I would concentrate on rice cookers that handle rice very well.

How Many People Am I Feeding?

There are three people in my immediate family. So 95% of the time I would cook 2 cups of dry rice, yielding 4 cups of cooked rice for the meal and a little bit for leftover during the week. I do, however, entertain quite a bit for 6 to 8 people at a time. So I would choose a 10-cup (uncooked) rice cooker in lieu of a smaller size. I like the flexibility that a bigger cooker offers me and I don’t mind that it takes up more counter or cupboard space. The price difference is so miniscule. Oftentimes, the bigger rice cooker may be cheaper because the smaller size tends to be more popular.

How Often Do I Use It?

The next question is how often I use the rice cooker during a week. Since I am Chinese, I have an ultimate affinity for Chinese and Asian foods in general. I use my rice cooker about three times a week on an average.

This is an important question in terms of the wear and tear on a rice cooker. This also helps me justify the expense if I use it quite often.

What Brand of Rice Cooker?

I’ve owned two American brands of rice cookers that are just the run-of-the-mill kind, nothing special or fancy. They get the job done, but not super well. I bought them because they were cheap and I didn’t know there was a whole world of rice cookers out there with so many bells and whistles.

Now that I review rice cookers for all of you, I am going to choose a Japanese brand, Zojirushi rice cooker, to be specific. My rationale is that Zojirushi is a formidable player in the household kitchen appliances, especially in the rice cooker space. It has an impressive array of rice cookers to choose from with cutting-edge technology and design. It has a solid reputation in quality as well. Plus, I have the uttermost respect for Japanese brands.

What Types of Rice Would I Cook?

The next question is what types of rice I cook most often. I would like to use the rice cooker for white rice, sushi rice and brown rice. These are must-have menu options.

I grew up eating white rice, but I am slowly transitioning to eating more brown rice due to the health benefits. The reality is that I cook white and brown rice 50/50. I would hope to be more like 20/80 for white and brown rice in the near future. So when I shop for a rice cooker, I would pay special attention to the brown rice setting and how well the rice cooker cooks brown rice.

Like all things in life, there is more to just plain brown rice. Lately, the craze is on how to cook GABA rice and the added health benefit. A short explanation of what GABA brown rice is that it is sprouted brown rice that enhances the nutrients by 10 x comparing to that in white rice. So if that’s important to you, then be sure to jot down rice cookers with GABA brown rice setting.

What Is the Heating Technology?

As you may be aware, there are different types of heating technologies in rice cookers. In ascending order, they are:

  • Conventional/traditional
  • Micom (micro-computerized chip)
  • Fuzzy logic/neuro fuzzy logic
  • Induction heating
  • Pressurized heating

I’ve covered this topic in a rice cooker buying guide if you are interested to learn more about each technology.

I’ve used two conventional rice cookers in the past 20 years. I would like to try a more advanced rice cooker with fuzzy logic this time. The reason I choose the “middle of the road” is that fuzzy logic technology has been around for quite some time. Most of the manufacturers of rice cookers have had the opportunity to test and perfect the technology. In addition, I can read lots of actual customer reviews of what they liked and didn’t like about a fuzzy logic rice cooker.

I shy away from choosing the most advanced technology such as induction and pressurized heating because:

  1. It’s relatively new. It may take more time to fix all the kinks and bugs in the technology.
  2. The benefit is incremental at best as far as I can tell. As “picky” as I am about my food, I doubt if I would be able to discern the subtle difference of rice cooked in a fuzzy logic vs. in an induction heating rice cooker.
  3. There are not too many customer reviews due to its newness.
  4. I don’t want to pay so much more to get the latest and the greatest rice cooker for my vanity. I would rather buy a solid rice cooker and use the money to buy something else. I am all about getting the biggest bang for my buck.

What Menu Options Do I Want?

As I mentioned earlier, I definitely would like to have white, sushi and brown rice setting. I didn’t use the delayed timer that much in the past and it is not that critical for me now still. But this may change if I get a Zojirushi rice cooker as it takes longer to cook rice than my one-touch rice cooker. I may use the delayed timer so I don’t have to be bogged down with waiting for the rice to be cooked.

Some of the nice-to-have menu options for me are: Sweet rice, porridge, and GABA brown rice. I don’t care for the “Extended Keep Warm” function as I can’t see myself keep the rice in the cooker for longer than 12 hours, in winter or summer. I don’t think I’ve ever bought the rinse-free rice in my life. So rinse-free option is no use for me.

Ease of Use and Cleaning

Most of the rice cookers are either non-stick or stainless steel. I am not too terribly concerned about the potential harm a Teflon-coated inner pot may do to my health because a rice cooker will never reach to 500 F degrees to be an issue. If I chose a Zojirushi rice cooker, it wouldn’t have a stainless steel inner pot anyway. Cleaning a non-stick inner pot and an inner lid are not a big deal for me. I clean them after each use, including the steam vent.

As far as use, I am sure it’s going to take a few runs to get used to the menu options and the cooking time. I am not too concerned about it at all even though I am very mechanically challenged.

Color and Dimensions

The Zojirushi rice cookers are either white, stainless steel or stainless brown. So they are pretty generic and neutral in color. Also I don’t leave the rice cooker on my kitchen counter to show off. I stow my rice cooker in a sideboard away from the immediate cabinets in the kitchen. So the size of the rice cooker is not going to be a huge concern, either.

Accessories

Most of the rice cookers provide a measuring cup, sometimes 2, a rice spatula and a spatula holder in the case of a Zojirushi rice cooker. It is just standard and I don’t waste much time on this.

Warranty

Again, a standard one-year limited warranty is offered for all Zojirushi rice cookers purchased through its authorized retailers. I didn’t read this “fine-print” until recently. This is critical for people to know. Sometimes I’ve read people who shopped around and purchased one at a cheaper price, possibly from an unauthorized retailer. I wouldn’t want to take that chance just to save $10. Two of the authorized retailers for Zojirushi are Amazon.com and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Price

I’ve set my budget to be under $200 on this rice cooker. Let’s see how well I will stick to it.

How to Narrow Down on My Decision?

The best place to do a comparison shopping is Amazon. Here are the steps to narrow down the choices:

  1. I sign into my Amazon account
  2. Type in “rice cooker” in the top search area to make sure it’s set in “All Departments”
  3. On the top left hand side, click on “Rice Cookers” as a sub-category under “Department”.
  4. Since I know I want to buy a 10 cup rice cooker, so I find “Capacity” on the left hand column and check the “10 Cup” box.
  5. I do the same for “Zojirushi” under “Brand”.
  6. Then I click on the “4-star & up” rating filter under “Avg Customer Review”.
  7. I click on “$100 to 200” under “Price” to narrow down my choice to 6. Please note from Steps # 3 through # 7, you can only check one box at a time. Then the “search engine” will refresh to reflect your filter. That’s just how Amazon database works.
  8. Then I select “Popularity” in the upper right hand corner within “Sort by”.

6 Finalists from Most to Less Popular


6-zojirushi-rice-cookers

6-zojirushi-rice-cookers

  1. Zojirushi NS-ZCC18 10 Cup: This is the most popular among the 6 finalists. It received a 4.5 star rating by 73 reviewers. It’s priced at $178.68 at the time of the rating. From the first blush, this one fits into my criteria. I need to compare the features side-by-side with the other choices.
  2. Zojirushi NS-TSC18 10 Cup: This rice cooker is rated 5 stars, but only by 1 customer. Its price tag is $172.15, slightly cheaper than the NS-ZCC18, but I am not going to be swayed by a few bucks.
  3. Zojirushi NS-TGC18 10 Cup: Again, this is rated 4.5 stars by 25 customers. It’s a bit cheaper ($169.00) than # 1 and # 2, it also has stainless steel exterior.
  4. Zojirushi NS-YAC18 Umami 10 Cup: From the get-go, this rice cooker stands out as one of a kind in the umami feature. “Umami” is the fifth taste as in savory after salty, sweet, spicy and bitter. Please refer to my post on umami if you care to know more. It is rated as 4.5 stars like all others so far.The price is $227.07 on Amazon and $205.00 by a third-party merchant.
    • Who has lower price than Amazon: I am curious to find out the $205.00 price. So I click on “8 new from $205.00” on this rice cooker page and am shown a different page with all the third-party merchants. I find two merchants with their list price lower than Amazon as $205.00 by Zora’s Place and another $207.90 by Superco Electronics and Appliances. Both Zora’s Place and Superco charge a separate Shipping and Handling fee, $10.99 for Zora’s and $14.74 for Superco. If you add up the total price for Zora’s, it would be $215.99 and $222.64 for Superco.
    • Customer rating of third-party merchants: I also glance at the customer rating for Zora’s as 89% positive and 95% positive for Superco. I notice if I bought it from Amazon, this rice cooker would be eligible for “Prime” which I have a membership of. What it means is that I’ll get this rice cooker within two days and S & H is free.
    • Potential savings from third-party merchants: If I bought it from Amazon, I’d be paying $227.07 as opposed to $215.99 from Zora’s and $222.64 from Superco. The net savings for me from Zora’s is $11.08 and $4.43 from Superco.
    • Warranty by third-party merchants: My other concern is that I am not sure if either Zora’s Place or Superco is Zojirushi’s authorized distributor. I don’t want to risk my one-year limited warranty in case something goes wrong. Try not to be penny wise and pound foolish here. The reason why I am sharing my mental chatter is for you to see how I make my buying decision, not only based on price, but also on many other factors, some of which are qualitative considerations.
  5. Zojirushi NH-VBC18 10 Cup: I would have given this rice cooker some serious thought if I hadn’t seen it listed as “used”. It is priced at $199.99 as “used” and it has induction heating system. As I am intimately familiar with Zojirushi’s rice cookers, I haven’t seen it on Zojirushi’s website. So I am not sure where this rice cooker comes from.
    • Is it still available? It is rated as 4.5 stars by 83 customers. It really pique my interest to find out more. I click on the product title and come to the product page. I scroll down to the customer review area and notice the date on the customer reviews are from 2005 and 2006. The most recent review was on May 7, 2010. I am totally confused why this rice cooker seems to be obsolete if customers loved it so much. Oh well, I am going to move on and eliminate this one from my list.
  6. Zojirushi 10-Cup Automatic Rice Cooker & Warmer: I know that I don’t want to buy a simple electric rice cooker. So this one is off my list. By the way, it has a 4.5 star as well and priced at $109.99. I don’t really care for the flower and the design element. It looks outdated and boxy-looking.

Side-by-Side Comparison on Menu Options

Navigating through Zojirushi website to compare features and menu options: So now it leaves me with 4 rice cookers after the first round of elimination. I want to compare the menu options of the 4 products. I type in “zojirushi.com” into my search bar and land on Zojirushi’s home page. Under “Cooking Products” in the top navigation, I choose “Rice Cookers”. Then I scroll down to find “Micom” line in the middle of the page. I click on Umami Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NS-YAC10/18 and come to another page.

On the top right hand side, there is a compare function. I click on it and am shown another page where I click on 3 out of the 4 rice cooker models on my list: NS-TSC10/18, NS-YAC10/18 and NS-ZCC10/18. For some reason, Zojirushi NS-TGC18 10 Cup is not available on the site. I move to the bottom of the page and click on the “compare” button.

3 rice cookers side-by-side: Now I come to a comparison table with the 3 products side by side. I can see that all of them has the same heating technology, the same capacity size option with different colors. NS-TSC18 has stainless brown color, NS-YAC18 pearl white and NS-ZCC18 premium white. It’s really hard to differentiate the pearl white from the premium white. It appears that the pearl white has some silver specs to it vs. the premium white more of a milky white.

Let’s take a look at the features and menu options.

Menu SettingZojirushi-NS-TSC18Zojirushi-NS-YAC18Zojirushi-NS-ZCC18My Preference
Product Image
zojirushi-ns-tsc18-10-cup-rice-cooker

zojirushi-ns-tsc18-10-cup-rice-cooker

zojirushi-ns-yac10-18-umami-rice-cooker

zojirushi-ns-yac10-18-umami-rice-cooker

zojirushi-ns-zcc-18-10-cup-rice-cooker

zojirushi-ns-zcc-18-10-cup-rice-cooker

White Rice Regularyesyesyesmust have
White Rice Softernonoyesnice to have
White Rice Hardernonoyesmust have
Quick Cookingyesyesyesindifferent
Mixed Riceyesyesyesnice to have
Sushi Ricecombined with white riceyescombined with white ricemust have
Porridgeyesyesyesnice to have
Sweet Riceyesyesyesnice to have
Semi Brown Ricenonoyesindifferent
Brown Riceyesyesyesmust have
GABA Brown Ricenoyesnonice to have
Umaminoyesnonice to have
Cakeyesnonoindifferent
Steam Cookyesnononice to have
Slow Cooknoyesnoindifferent
Rinse-Free Ricenoyesyesindifferent
Read ReviewZojirushi-NS-TSC10/18 ReviewZojirushi-NS-YAC18 ReviewZojirushi-NS-ZCC18 Review
PriceCheck Latest PriceCheck Latest PriceCheck Latest Price
Best Rice Cooker Menu Comparison

From the side-by-side comparison, I’m getting one-step closer to making a decision. My #1 choice would be NS-YAC18 barring that there are no very negative customer reviews.

Customer Reviews

I hop back on Amazon where I left on the 6 rice cookers. I click on Zojirushi NS-YAC18 Rice Cooker and scroll down to the Customer Reviews section. There I notice out of 27 customer reviews, 10 of them commented how they liked the cooked rice. 8 of them highly recommended this rice cooker and another 6 said it was very easy to use. There were two people who rated it as 2 and 1 star.

I go to the bottom of the page and click on “See all 27 customer review” to a new page where I can see the most favorable and the most critical review side-by-side. From that point on, I peruse the date of the reviews to see when the last review was written. In this case, it was on June 20, 2012.

Dig Deeper into the Negative Reviews

I read through a few positive reviews to see what they liked about the rice cooker the most. Then I read the negative reviews. One customer talked about the bottom of the inner cooking pot melted with the heating plate. Sounded like a cross-wire issue. In fact, there was a heated discussion on Amazon between this customer and another customer defending Zojirushi’s rice cooker.

Another person complained about there wasn’t a screen to see how much time remaining until the rice was cooked. I am amazed at some of legitimate and idiosyncratic complaints.

My Final Decision

I decide NS-YAC18 Umami Rice Cooker would be the best choice for me even though it exceeds my budget about $27. It has everything I want and more. The reviews were very positive for the most part. I am going to get it from Amazon despite there are two merchants with cheaper prices.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in what factors I considered in selecting a best rice cooker. Even though your criteria may be different from mine, the thought process would still apply.

  1. Marty Isozaki says:

    Thanks for walking us through your decision-making process and your spot-on comparative reviews of the products I was looking for: Panasonic DE103 vs MS103, Panasonic MS183 vs MS103. Your requirements were very similar to mine, so making the choice was easy after reading your articles. Really like your writing style, too!

  2. Rice Queen says:

    Marty,

    Thanks for stopping by. Glad you’ve found this post helpful. Good luck with your buying decision.

  3. John says:

    Thanks so much for your breakdown. Very insightful. I am just getting into making my own sushi and do not have a cooker. In your chart above, in the ‘Sushi Rice’ row, you show some cookers as doing sushi rice ‘combined with white rice’. What does that mean? Thanks again.

    • Rice Queen says:

      John,

      Thanks for your kind words. What it means is that the rice cooker doesn’t have a designated menu setting for “sushi rice”. When you need to cook sushi rice, you may use the setting for white rice. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is a link (http://sacredrice.com/best-rice-cookers) to the Best Rice Cookers page with many of the rice cookers I’ve reviewed on this site. Look at the Menu Setting column to see which rice cooker has sushi rice menu option. For the most part, the white rice is fine for cooking sushi rice. Hope this helps. Let me know with any further questions. Good luck with your experiment. I am a sushi/sashimi lover myself. Lei

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