Pros: Perfect results, minimal work
Cons: Somewhat wordy operating instructions
Review: Zojirushi Rice Cooker – NP-KAC10
By Jim Berman
Apparently, I know nothing about cooking rice. I have been making pilaf, risotto, fried rice and various incarnations of rice blends going back to my first turn in the kitchen. And, up until about three weeks ago, I was erroneously under the impression that what I was doing had been technically sound and doing justice to this staple.
Preparing rice is bedrock cooking; it is one of those core techniques that just become part of every cook’s way of thinking. So, a rice cooker never seemed like an option, necessary or otherwise. Sure, I have employed the “on/off” variety capable of doing an adequate job to a vat of rice for sushi and stir-fry. But, the less sophisticated model yields predictable results and employs the minimal amount of attendance; it cooks the rice, nothing more.
So enters the Zojirushi 10-cup induction rice cooker. A rice cooker is to Japanese households what a toaster or microwave is to American households. Generally regarded as requisite and matter-of-fact, a rice cooker really does make the preparation of the grain a non-event. The average household cooker employed in a Japanese home kitchen is usually the 5-cup variety. Hoping to circumvent the “we’re out of rice, how about some leftover mac ‘n cheese” scenario, I opted for the ten-cup version. I understand, now, why rice cookers are so common. Rice is consumed in vast quantities, some domestically, but more so in great quantities in Zojirushi’s birthplace of Japan. As such, Zojirushi has perfected the technology to the point of making the cooker novel with its multifarious applications, whimsical whistles and bells and well polished décor to hold a permanent spot on the most discriminating of appliance owners’ countertops. This is serious rice cooking.
My first discovery with the Zojirushi 10-cup cooker was that the tool does not hasten the process. Misconception: Rice cookers speed the process of cooking rice. Quite the contrary; the rice cooker, rather, ensures perfectly cooked rice with virtually no attention by the cook paid to the product at hand. The, say, fifty-minutes invested in wait time yields an end product far more worthy than the effort of manually producing a pot of rice. Seriously! I have been doing it all wrong for years! The Zojirushi eliminates the timing aspect of tending to a pot of rice. It also eliminates the guess work in determining doneness. And, in the case of preparing really great tasting food, produces rice unlike anything I have prepared in my home kitchen. So, what’s the fuss?
Conveniently packaged with a measuring cups and a cute little rice ‘fluffer,’ the NP-KAC10 is sleek, well-designed and all business. The nonstick surface of the removable cooking pan makes the package perfect for rice eaters. There are etched graduations in the cooking pan handily included to remove any guess work of the water-to-rice ratio. And, as if the engravings on the interior of the bowl are not enough, the NASA-like display and integrated cooking circuitry will ensure some pretty amazing product. In my trials with the Zojirushi 10-cup cooker, I shorted the water by as much as 20% and over did the hydration by as much as 20% as well, and still managed to get some pretty good product. Try doing that on top of a burner and, well, you will probably will be serving hearty portions of rice pudding with incorrectly cooked rice instead of light and (trite as it may sound) fluffy rice. The digital display conveniently includes a menu for selecting rice varieties to ensure optimal cooking. Oh, and did I mention the warming mode that can hold temperature for up to 24 hours? The nature of induction technology makes hot-holding a reality without fearing a mushy rice outcome. Coupled with a programmable timer, you can stroll in the door after an unanticipated traffic snarl and still have tasty, perfectly cooked rice to serve with your now well-chilled take-out order of Szechuan Beef.
Any quibble with the cooker would only be the girth of the operator’s manual. It is all-inclusive; recipes, cleaning instructions, two pages of cautions and operational guidelines. Maybe just a bit too much information, but perhaps more information is better than not enough, I suppose.
Zojirushi is a well-known producer of many kitchen electronics. And, judging by the performance of the rice cooker under the care of this novice rice cooker user, has held its ground remarkably well. The NP-KAC10 is easy to operate once tackling the verbiage of the well-constructed if not wordy manual, a flash to clean up and, most importantly, yields rice far better than what I had ever prepared the old fashioned way.
Available from EverythingKitchens.com $274.99