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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 

Rice Cookers

Note: Rather than putting all the food articles from the week in one big post, I'm going to try to spread them out a little more and post on a daily basis here.

For every kitchen, a rice cooker

I used to think that having a rice cooker was a waste. After all, you can make perfectly good rice on the stovetop right? Sure, except for that layer that always burns and sticks to the bottom, or when you try to cook brown or wild rice.

I tried one of those plastic ones that you use in the microwave. It worked great. For white rice. The first time I tried to cook brown rice in it, I managed to melt the thing.

In the Los Angeles Times today Judy Yao and company test out a series of rice cookers on the market, let you know how they worked out, and give you a glimpse into the future.

We followed each manufacturer's instructions, testing each cooker with three types of rice: long-grain jasmine, medium-grain white and medium-grain brown. Some of the cookers had special brown rice settings; others didn't. The brown rice results in those that didn't have a special setting were dismal: The rice was overcooked and gummy, and there was a lot of spattering and overflow from the steam vents, creating a starchy mess.

The best rice came from the two priciest models. Zojirushi's Neuro Fuzzy ($170) and IH ($260) produced equally excellent rice: tender-firm with a hint of sweetness.

But the Sanyo, at $110, offered better value. It performed almost as well and included features found on the more costly Zojirushi models. (Pictured above)

For a basic rice cooker, the Oster is a bargain at $30. It performed well, but it doesn't have all the bells and whistles.

With preset timers and fuzzy logic, rice cookers have certainly come a long way since 1956, when the first automatic electric cookers were introduced in Japan. And it's likely to go even further.

One company, LG Electronics, is working on a cooker that will automatically measure, dispense and cook rice. It will have a built-in intelligence system that can be controlled by text-messaging, voice activation or a call from a cellphone, so you'll have hot rice ready when you get home even if you forgot to preset the cooker in the morning.