Zojirushi vs Panasonic Rice Cookers

If you are in the market for a rice cooker, you might have done enough fact-finding to know that are so many brands such as Zojirushi, Panasonic, Sanyo, Tiger, Aroma and Cuisnart, just to name a few. But one burning question still remains is that which one you should buy if you are narrowing it down to Zojirushi vs Panasonic. I hope I can shed some light on the two well-known Japanese brands to help you inch your way into making a wise decision.

Zojirushi and Panasonic are both quality brands in the consumer appliance market. Zojirushi focuses more on the kitchen appliance while Panasonic covers a wider spectrum from consumer electronics, audio/video, home appliances, personal and healthcare, etc. For this purpose, I am going to focus on a comparison of rice cookers between the two.

zojirushi  ns zcc10 5.5-cup rice cooker

zojirushi ns zcc10 5.5-cup rice cooker

Zojirushi Rice Cookers

It’s hard to dispute that Zojirushi is perhaps the biggest name in town in the rice cooker market. Its market share is global in reach and product offering extensive.

Zojirushi’s strength is exhibited in its ability to integrate the best industrial design elements, cutting-edge heating technologies with a user-friendly interface (menu options). Zojirushi’s unrelenting focus is to cook the best rice. It doesn’t seem to divest into trying to be everything to everybody such as to be a slow cooker or a bread baker. Obviously, this is not an absolute statement on my part as Zojirushi does have a few rice cookers with multi-functional features such as baking cakes or steaming.

Design Characteristics

Many of Zojirushi’s rice cookers are artworks as much as serving a utilitarian purpose of cooking great rice. The rice cookers have clean lines, modern and minimalistic appeal. Colors tend to be neutral from different shades of white to varying colors of stainless steel.

The LCD control panel is either in gray or in color. The panel is powered by a lithium battery with a life span of 4 to 5 years. A minor editorial comment here: you’ll have to send your rice cooker in one of the Zojirushi service centers to replace the battery. There are some nominal costs associated with the replacement battery and the Shipping and Handling fee.

It is quite common that people leave their rice cookers on the kitchen counter to showcase the design besides for the convenience of using it often.

Capacity Size

Zojirushi rice cookers come with different capacity sizes from 3 cups to 10 cups in uncooked rice. The size of the cup is only about 3/4 of the U.S. sized cup. So keep this in mind when you buy. Also a rule of thumb of the ratio between the uncooked and cooked rice is 1:2. Unless, you are serving rice as a main dish, one cup of uncooked rice is plenty for one person. All Zojirushi rice cookers are for consumers, not intended for commercial use due to the size.

Types of Rice Cookers

Zojirushi carries an impressive collection of rice cookers from simple conventional heating, micom (micro-computerized), Fuzzy Logic/Neuro Fuzzy Logic, induction heating all the way to pressurized cooking. The different types of heating technologies were covered in the Rice Cooker Buying Guide if you are interested in learning more.

With each advancement in the heating technology, the temperature and cooking time control gets more precise and spontaneous. As a result, the rice is cooked better so are the taste and flavor of the rice.

Design and Material of the Inner Cooking Pot

One of the most integral components in the construction of the rice cooker is the inner cooking pot. Much effort and investment have been on the material and design of the inner cooking pot. How the inner pot is shaped makes big difference to the outcome of the cooked rice.

Zojirushi’s flagship design is the spherical heating as opposed to flat heating. The spherical heating allows the heat to circulate and distribute from many sides while flat heating is only from one direction or in one dimension, the bottom of the cooker. The advantage of the multi-dimensional heating is that the rice will be cooked more evenly.

Menu Options

Along the similar path of heating is the sophistication of menu selections. Zojirushi excels in this regard. The menu settings are one of the most refined in the entire industry. On the higher end of the spectrum, there are as many as 11 menu settings to choose from. Not only does the menu addresses the common needs such as white rice, brown rice, sticky rice and porridge (big for Asians), it is also designed to please the most discerning palate such as the different types of brown rice and umami flavor.

Customer Reviews

Most customers swear by Zojirushi rice cookers and they call it “Zo” or “Zoji” endearingly. Customer loyalty is unwavering for Zojirushi rice cookers. Very rarely would you be able to find a rice cooker with less than 4-star rating (unless it’s a new model without customer reviews). People love Zojirushi for the one simple reason that it cooks rice to perfection along with quality and beautiful design.

Pricing

It’s undeniable that Zojirushi is priced as high-end rice cookers. While a few less expensive models are available between $50 to $100, the majority of them are priced between $100 to $200. The real high-end ones go beyond $200 mark with more advanced heating element such as induction or pressurized heating or both.

panasonic sr ms183 10 cup rice cooker

panasonic-sr-ms183-10-cup-rice-cooker

Panasonic

Where Panasonic rice cookers beat Zojirushi is in the multi-functionality and affordability. Some of the Panasonic rice cookers are designed to be a rice cooker, a steamer, a slow cooker and a cake baker all at the same time.

Design Elements

Panasonic rice cookers are well designed in terms of exterior appearance and mechanical construction. However, where it falls a bit short is in the refinement and sophistication.

The shape of Panasonic rice cookers are boxier with more of a masculine air to it as compared to Zojirushi’s fluid and feminine design.

The colors of Panasonic rice cookers fall into either white or chrome with white trim.

Capacity

Panasonic carries mostly consumer-sized rice cookers with a few models for commercial use. The size contrast between the consumer and commercial is quite substantial. The commercial rice cookers are measured as 23 cups vs. 10 cups of uncooked rice for consumer rice.

The consumer sizes are from 3.3 cups to 10 cups uncooked rice. One word of caution is that some of the Panasonic rice cookers listed on Amazon are ¬†cooked rice sizes such as 20 cups. In reality, it’s only 10 cups uncooked rice. So pay special attention to the size when you shop there.

Types of Rice Cookers

Panasonic rice cookers are categorized into two types in terms of heating technology, the automatic and the fuzzy logic rice cookers. The automatic is just another way of saying “conventional”. The conventional rice cooker is the most primitive in the heating element. Please refer to my post on this subject for more details. The fuzzy logic rice cookers are those with artificial intelligence built in the rice cooker to self-adjust the temperature and cooking duration depending of the types of rice and the quantity.

In Panasonic’s rice cooker portfolio, there are no induction and pressure heating rice cookers yet.

Design and Material of the Inner Cooking Pot

One of the most distinguishing characteristics in the inner pot is the use of Binchotan which is white charcoal from wood burned over very long periods of time. The benefit of using Binchotan is to enhance the natural aroma of rice while minimizing the undesirable smell from tap water. All in all, the rice tastes better, aroma more intense and color more vibrant.

A lot of people look into the Binchotan type of inner pot as a heathier alternative to the Teflon-coated non-stick pot.

The other unique feature in Panasonic’s inner pot is the dimpled pot. It is said by having the dimples in the inner pot, the heat is distributed more easily and more evenly. Therefore, the rice is cooked better.

Menu Options

What sets Panasonic apart from Zojirushi is the opposite design approach. Panasonic rice cookers tend to have multiple functions besides cooking rice. For example, it can also use as a steamer, a slow cooker and even as a cake-baker.

The opposite to this design strength is that it doesn’t have as many elaborated menu options as Zojirushi. The menu settings in the Panasonic rice cookers are more generic or common in nature. For instance, the choices would be for white and brown rice, but not much delineated into GABA brown rice and semi-brown rice. There aren’t selections for different textures in white rice such as regular, softer or firmer. If you’d like your white rice to be a little bit firmer, you’ll have to tweak the rice and water ratio to get the “doneness” right for you.

Customer Reviews

The reason why some of the Panasonic rice cookers are neck-to-neck with Zojirushi’s is due to the positive reception by many customers. The bestselling Panasonic rice cookers are rated as well if not better than the Zojirushi counterparts. One model in particular, the Panasonic SR-MS183 has received a 4.8 star out of 5. It tells you how much it was appreciated by the customers.

Pricing

What Panasonic outshines Zojirushi is in its pricing. For a comparable rice cooker, Panasonic is priced about $50 cheaper than Zojirushi.

I would venture to guess that the customer base for Panasonic rice cookers is not as “discriminating” as that for Zojirushi rice cookers. These customers want to have a solid rice cooker and they don’t care so much about the fancy bells and whistles. They are also more practical and want to get the maximum value out of their money.

If you look at the entire rice cooker market, Panasonic is in the middle while Zojirushi is on the higher end.

Conclusion

I hope this post has given you a birds-eye view and comparison between Zojirushi and Panasonic rice cookers. Which one should you buy?

While I can’t make a buying decision without knowing your needs and budget constraint, what I can offer is these simple guidelines:

If you like the best-in-class rice cooker and are able to afford a Zojirushi rice cooker, splurge! You will be buying the best designed, highly engineered and most customized menu options in a rice cooker. Tasting the first bite of rice from a Zojirushi rice cooker is the best return on your investment.

If you are Mr. or Mrs. Practical and want to spend minimum to get the maximum, then consider a Panasonic rice cooker. You’ll get the value out of a good rice cooker. In addition, you can take advantage of the multi-features to simmer a pot of soup, bake a sponge cake or to steam a batch of fresh vegetables harvested from your own backyard.

I’ve done in-depth reviews of many Zojirushi and Panasonic rice cookers. The two bestsellers are Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 and Panasonic SR-MS 183. Click on the links to find out why have taken the first two spots.

If you want to find out more about real customer reviews, head over to Amazon.

 

  1. Lisa says:

    Very illuminating. Still can’t make up my mind but thanks! :)

    • Rice Queen says:

      Lisa,

      Thanks for stopping by. If there is anything I can help you, please do not hesitate to let me know. Good luck!

      Lei

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