I have owned a grand total of 4 rice cookers in my life. At the time I owned them, I really liked each of them in turn and each has been part of a steady progression towards attempted perfection in rice preparation. I guess it is some bizarre, psychological thing for me; the rice I can cook in a simple sauce pan on the stove is perfectly acceptable. It should really be good enough, but each time I improve the quality of my cooked rice, it makes me happy. It is hard to exactly explain why, but properly cooked rice is a real treat and is generally worth the effort in my book.
After my faithful Hitachi Chime-Omatic bit the dust, I spent about a year in limbo, cooking rice on the stove top; no worries…things were fine. As time wore on, I started cooking quite a bit of rice for sushi and really needed something to streamline the process. Enter the Zojirushi NS-LAC05XA 3-Cup Rice Cooker. After much research and agonizing, this is what I settled on and have not been disappointed.
When choosing a new appliance for the kitchen, I am generally pretty picky. I firmly believe that a good tool should be easy to use, durable, and fit in well with the way the kitchen is arranged and match with the type of cooking for which it is purposed. And since you are buying something you are going to have for a long time, it shouldn’t piss you off when you use it.
So here are some of the things that I really like about the Zojirushi:
- This is a very well thought out and well constructed piece of equipment. The exterior is a combination of smooth, hard plastic and stainless steel, making it easy to wipe down and quite durable. The interior pot is heavy and treated with a very durable Teflon coating that doesn’t look like it is going to wear out any time soon. Buttons on the front are sealed and easy to clean and the latch, inner seal, and hinges are high quality. It even has the nice added feature of a self-retracting cord. All of these features combine to make for an elegant and easy to use piece of equipment that I believe will last for a very long time.
- I purchased the 3 cup model and feel that it is about perfect for households ranging from 2 to 4 people. One of the reasons that I like this size is that it small enough to cook 1 to 2 cups of rice well, so I tend to waste less. In addition, it is compact enough to live right on my kitchen counter full-time, making it really convenient.
- The cooker has 5 operating modes (sushi rice, brown rice, white/mixed rice, porridge, and quick cook). I have tried each of them and they produce reliable, consistent quality, with the quick cook setting predictably ending up a little lackluster compared to the others. I think that the consistency that this unit can produce is due to the temperature control from its microprocessor, its relatively insulated body, and the thick metal of the bowl.
I have really nothing negative to say about this rice cooker at all. Hell, even the price is pretty good considering what you are buying and how long it will likely last. In fact, some of the material that I have read suggests that going to the next cheaper model is a mistake given the drop in cooking quality.
The last thing I think is worth talking about is the timer and the warming mode. I initially didn’t think that I would use the timer but was wrong. I think that I had a bias against such features as my previous rice cookers tended to beat the rice up pretty badly in “warm mode”. This is not a problem with the Zojirushi. I can program it in the morning and not think about it again, enjoying well-cooked rice when meal time comes around. The timer is easily adjusted and is also perfect for those mornings when you want to wake up to some high quality steel-cut oats.
I am quite happy with the way my choice worked out and would likely buy something similar if I needed a replacement in the (distant) future. I just had a co-worker order one of these, so I will probably update this post with his perceptions once he has had time to check it out. I believe he mostly cooks brown rice, so I look forward to what he has to say.