Can we talk about how this Zojirushi rice cooker changed my life?

The Zojirushi NS-TSC10 rice cooker aka my Rice Robot
This is embarrassing, but I've only just discovered the secret that millions (billions?) of people worldwide already know: RICE COOKERS ARE FREAKING AWESOME.

Do any of you remember me rambling about bentos a while back, explaining about how back in the mid-'00s I was so obsessed with the Mr. Bento lunch container that I started a whole online community dedicated to collecting pictures of people's lunches? Yeah. Obsessed.

Zojirushi, the same company that makes Mr. Bento (and a whole dang family of bento lunch jars) recently sent me this rice cooker to test out, and now I'm just like… you know how obsessed I was with my Mr. Bento? I might be even more obsessed with this rice cooker, which I lovingly refer to as my Rice Robot.

Again, I fully recognize that I'm one of the last people on the planet to discover rice cookers. I'm also fully aware that cooking rice shouldn't be hard, right? It's just a pan with water. IT'S JUST A PAN WITH WATER. So why can't I ever make rice without burning it? Why is it always undercooked or burnt and blackened at the bottom of the pan? The answer is simple: I'm stupid and I suck at cooking. I mean, I'm no Megan (sorry, bitch!) but I'm just not very proficient in the kitchen.

Enter the Rice Robot. One reviewer on Amazon described it as the "Mercedes Benz of rice cookers," and yeah. They're not wrong there. It's got all these different settings for different rices, and seems to magically make every single one perfectly, I think thanks to something they call "micro computerized fuzzy logic technology." It's got a timer you can set so that your rice is waiting for you at just the right time. It's got a steamer tray for veggies or animal protein (if that's your jam). It can make oatmeal (I like setting it up the night before, with the timer set to have the oatmeal waiting for me at 7am). It can make cake! I think it sings lullabyes to me at night while I'm sleeping.

Ok, ok. It's just a freaking rice cooker, right? But here's the thing: when I have warm, perfectly cooked rice waiting for me at 6pm, it makes it really hard for me to justify eating something stupid like cheese microwaved to a plate (that I then lovingly scrape off with my fingernails). You think I'm kidding, but seriously, when I get hungry I get HANGRY and I lose all ability to make rational, healthy eating choices. When I have rice waiting for me each evening, it's much easier for me to chop up three vegetables and drop them in a pan to slap on a blob of rice and top with soy sauce (or cheese, if I'm feeling like I need my fix). Again, here's what billions of people in Asia already know: rice is cheap and filling. Since the rice robot came into the house, not only have I been eating better… but I've been saving a fortune on food.

Since I fully understand that I'm the last to get on this rice cooking fandom/bandwagon, I'd love to ask y'all: what are your favorite one-pot rice cooker recipes?

  1. I love making ginger rice, which is basically just rice with minced ginger and a little more salt than usual added. Powdered ginger works on nights when grating/mincing seems like too much effort, but you have to add the dried stuff after the rice is done cooking or it gets lost. It's pretty amazing anytime, but especially if you're sick (and it's easy on the stomach, esp. with ginger).

    Top with wok fried tofu, seasoned with soy sauce and some chiles or spice, cooked slowly until the tofu is crispy and you've got my go-to I'm-starving-what-can-I-do meal.

    5 agree
  2. I don't have a rice cooker but I do tend to keep some of the microwaveable rice pouches on hand for those times I walk in from work and am all "NEED FOOD NOW!!!!!". I also tend to do once-a-month cooking so I've always got chilli or curry or stew or something in the freezer that just needs zapping in the microwave. Make sure you label things clearly though if you do that. While you *can* easily eat bolognese with rice, there's something about it that just doesn't quite work for me ;)

    1 agrees
  3. Oh, I've loved rice cookers since I was a kid. I was actually dorky enough to ask for one as a birthday gift when I was all of 20 or so.

    I make lentils, grains like bulgur/quinoa/barley, etc. in addition to rice. And speaking of rice, get beyond white and brown. My co-op sells stuff like volcano rice, red rice, black rice, etc. that really have great flavor.

    My quick recipe is usually something like lentils, rice, and a bullion cube all tossed in the cooker. Mix with some veggies (or chicken, for meat-eaters) and you've got a cheap and easy dinner with leftovers!

    3 agree
  4. I like the think I'm a pretty good cook, but I still want one of these. My dream house has a HUGE kitchen, filled with "unnecessary" appliances like this, that will be my robotic servants and make it soooo much easier to make big, tasty meals.

    10 agree
  5. I've been looking for a good rice cooker (roomie with it last year moved out :( ) and I might invest in this. Thanks for the recommend!

    2 agree
  6. So much this! I bought myself a Rice Robot (totally stealing that name, BTW) as a wedding present from me to me last year. It has rapidly become my favorite kitchen appliance ever, and even my skeptical fella has come around to adoring it almost as much as I do.

    I make bento at least once or twice a week, and having hot fresh rice for that is splendid. Especially for something like onigiri, wherein you absolutely must have fresh rice. And hey, make a double batch, toss the rest into the fridge, and voila! Fried rice later in the week.

    Like was mentioned in this post, I also adore using it for oatmeal (steel-cut). Toss the oats and water in (anywhere from a 1:2 to 1:3 ratio seems to come out fine; it's kind of creepy how forgiving it is), add random spices and fruit, set the timer, and go. Toss in a splash of milk and some almonds in the morning, and there ya go. The super critical important thing: put the raisins in the night before. There's something magical about the flavor and sweetness that gets extracted by soaking and cooking 'em in. I forgot once, and it was rather disappointing.

    Of course I've used it for white rice and brown rice and sushi rice and lentils and quinoa and beans… but I recently discovered the #1 most amazing use for this thing ever.

    Polenta.

    No, I'm not kidding. No, it doesn't lump. Yes, it's creamy and delicious. Took me forever to get it right, and I scoured the internet for all sorts of tips before I perfected the technique. One rice-cooker cup of polenta (or cornmeal, whatever), water to the two-cup brown rice line (yeah, lots of water), cooked on the white rice setting. Stir it occasionally if you happen to remember (seriously, just once or twice at random. Whenever you think about it).

    It's a slightly complicated setup, but so worth it! Toss in a pinch of salt, a pat of butter, and if you 're really looking for the good stuff throw in a leftover rind from a hunk of parmesan. When it's cooked and you fish the rind out, it'll be all squooshy, and will have given an amazing flavor to the polenta. Delish.

    Welcome to the Rice Cooker Revolution!

    9 agree
    • Hello, could you suggest a good recipe site for this rice cooker? there a so many things other than rice that this device can be used for (like baking) so i would like to explore.

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    • I want to try and make polenta in my Zo, and will give your method a try tonight. My only concern is opening the lid during the cook cycle… Wasn't sure I could do that with the induction heat rice cooker.

      I'm curious if you ever tried the porridge setting for polenta and what the results were like? I've read you can for his without stirring during the cook cycle.

      0 agree
  7. i don't have any recipes to share (my husband's a chef so he's in charge of all meals; i just eat them.) but i will say to anyone considering this cooker – Ariel's right. this thing is amazing. one of my mothers-in-law is taiwanese and recommended it when my husband was looking for a cooker. it's fantastic – even i eat rice now and i hated rice before. it's so convenient. and it sings a little song to you when your rice is ready ;)

    1 agrees
    • THE LITTLE SONG! I love the little song. :)

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      • Sigh. I now have rice-cooker envy. I WANT MY RICE COOKER TO SING ME A SONG!

        (That being said, my cheap thrift-store rice cooker works splendidly — although currently I've traded my BIG rice cooker out to my brother's farm in exchange for his SMALL rice cooker, since our apartment is tiny… And his works fine, too. But it doesn't sing a song…)

        8 agree
        • I love my rice cooker because it's red…. but it doesn't sing a song. :-(

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  8. My rice cooker is the ONLY one-purpose item I have in my kitchen (a rule I implemented to reduce clutter – if it can only be used to make one thing, I don't need it).

    Instead of just one pot meals: Pair it with a crockpot – and you are in delicious, healthy meal heaven. Saag paneer, any vegetable curry (Indian, North African, Caribbean), veggie and tempeh gumbo, chocolate mole chili, or tofu fesanjan are all great crockpot meals yummiest served over rice!

    4 agree
  9. I love love love making foil packets with my rice. A piece of fish or some chopped up chicken plus some veggies and a little salt and pepper. Seal it all in a little foil packet and stick it right on top of your rice and water. The rice will still cook perfectly and in the meantime all the rest of your foods will steam in their little foil packet.

    I do this in the morning and bring it in for lunch. It's perfect, healthy (no oils or fats) and super tasty!

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    • That's an awesome idea, I have to try it- and I mean TONIGHT!

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  10. I have this exact same rice cooker, and I agree that it is incredible. It totally justifies its place in my kitchen, despite being a single-purpose device.

    I previously had a cheap $30 rice cooker and couldn't figure out what the rice cooker hype was about. It's because I had a garbage rice cooker. Don't bother with the cheap ones, go straight for the good stuff.

    6 agree
    • While I'm sure that this rice cooker does things like can't even imagine (like allow me to insert foil packets or cook polenta), my cheap rice cooker is still amazing. I can cook brown or white rice or quinoa easily and relatively quickly. It is still way worth it (for me, at least)!

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      • Me too! My cheap rice cooker is going strong after 5 years of frequent use and hauling around. I brag about it in my comment below.

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      • Your cheap rice cooker may be better than mine was, or perhaps I was using it wrong. Or maybe both! All I ever got out of it was mush. :(

        Cheap or fancy, YAY RICE COOKERS!

        1 agrees
      • Totally. Buying a $10 rice cooker at Walgreen's changed my life. Not even exaggerating.

        3 agree
  11. Can this robot be used for quinoa also? I substitute it for rice in EVERYTHING, not only because it just tastes better to me, but because it has aaaaall the proteinz.

    2 agree
    • Yes, even my cheap rice cooker is awesome at quinoa!

      1 agrees
  12. For those of you who aren't ready to drop the bucks on a Zoujirushi, I can HARDCORE RECOMMEND this Aroma 8-Cup Rice Cooker. (Link is to Target, but you can order online if you don't have a Target near you.)

    I lived in Japan for two years and grew very dependent on my rice cooker, so when I moved back to the States, I wanted to look for one close to the model I had there. The Zoji has too many options for me, but the Aroma is PERFECT, and almost exactly like my little cooker in Japan. The options are: Cook the Rice Now, Set Timer To Cook the Rice Later, Keep The Rice Warm, Turn Off. THAT IS IT. It's foolproof, and has been a many-times-a-week workhorse for over five years. This little thing does not quit.

    I am picky about which products I will shill for, but this is hands-down one of them; the combo of affordability, simplicity, and durability is almost too good to be true.

    2 agree
    • Aroma FTW! An Aroma 8 Cup rice cooker was the first appliance I bought, when I rented my very first house, right out of high school. I bought the one I have in 1999 (because it was shilled by Yan Can Cook!) because it was a very simple, one button thingy like the one I grew up with. It cost $19.99. IT STILL MAKES PERFECT RICE.

      1 agrees
      • OMG! I have that cooker, and Martin Yan still grins at me from the side when I cook my rice! While I do have Rice Robot envy, Yan can cook my rice/quinoa/steamed potstickers in the basket/etc. perfectly. My carnivore hubby throws brats in with saffron rice and Hello, Instant dinner!

        0 agree
  13. ZOMG rice cooker!!! Mine is a little 8-cupper that I got at a flea market for FIVE DOLLARS about 7 years ago. It is my bestestestest friend. Stir-fry (remember, it's a category, not a dish) is my favorite thing to make and eat, and having a rice cooker do the paying-attention part for me is WONDERFUL!!! ALso, semi-on topic, I HEART ZOJIRUSHI THINGIES!!! They make beautiful water boilers, which are ultra-fabulous if you're a tea-a-holic, or if you eat a lot of ramen or pasta or… you know what? Anything that invlves boiling water. *AHEM* Recipes: MAke Jasmine rice according to standard directions. I know that you['e not supposed to put non-rice things in your rice cooker, but, hey, it's YOUR cooker. Toss in a handful each of frozen peas, chopped raw bell peppers and carrots. Stir in 2 cloves minced garlic and ginger. Add seasonings of your choice. (Soy sauce? a bouillion cube or 2? Barbecue sauce?) Cook. Eat.

    1 agrees
  14. I think there must be a gene that controls cooking rice, because a certain percentage of people are like, "Rice is so easy! A baby can make rice!" and the rest of us cherish our ricemakers above all other appliances.

    7 agree
  15. Dude! Did you know that at your local oriental market, they sell just bottles and bottles of this tasty stuff you sprinkle on your rice? It can be shrimp, or nori, or even sweet egg. It pretty much assured I did not starve in college as long as I had my trusty rice cooker and some can of rice topping.

    2 agree
    • That's furikake! (At least in Japan.) For people without local Asian markets, you can get it online too.

      3 agree
  16. I'm fairly certain I'm the only person who hates rice cookers. We are not friends. Every time I use a rice cooker the rice burns or doesn't cook or whatever else can go wrong. EVERY. TIME.

    I understand how to cook things with fire. Once you put electrics in the mix it all goes wrong.

    2 agree
  17. Have you tried their coffee mugs? Seriously after having one of those i'd buy amost anything of theirs if i had the extra money.

    1 agrees
  18. ZOMFG I NEED A RICE ROBOT! My hubby has been listening to me drone on for MONTHS about wanting a rice cooker, but now I don't JUST want one, I NEEEEEEEED ONE! THIS ONE! NOW! I can whip up a batch of 5 minute insta-rice no prob, but sushi rice is the bane of my existence… must have rice robot…

    1 agrees
    • As a warning, a rice cooker may ruin you for 5 minute rice. I can't stand the stuff now.

      But sushi rice comes out perfect every time. Mmmm sushi rice.

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      • Oh I much prefer sushi rice to 5 minute rice, but 5 minute rice is so much more… 5 minutes-er… ooohhh I need my rice robot!!

        1 agrees
  19. Oh, so much want! So very, very much want. My little rice cooker is okay (although we're having some brown rice teething issues – it would probably help if I actually checked the instructions!), but this looks incredible!

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  20. I have no good recipe recommendations, but I DO have a great excuse for requiring a rice cooker in the house at all times.

    I'm Asian. I'm from a middle class, Japanese American family. I can make rice without a rice cooker about as well as my whitey mcwhiterson hubby can make toast without a toaster. In theory, I'm sure it could happen on the stove, or maybe in the oven? But it would not be pretty the first time. Probably the first dozen times.

    I'm sure there are millions of Asians who can make perfect rice without a rice cooker. I'm sure there are plenty of white people who can make toast on a gas burner. I just don't know that many of either. I just know that I am not either of those, and I love my rice cooker with an irrational love born of utter, abject, middle class dependence dependence.

    *shame*

    4 agree
    • My fiance is Chinese (I am not Asian), and when we cooked at my house I had to make the rice because he had no idea how to make rice in a pot.. on a fire… Hehe. Now he and the cat have moved in withe the rice cooker, and one day I may wake up and realize I've forgotten how to make rice on a stove. :-D

      2 agree
  21. Rice cooker envy! Rice cookers are the only single-purpose gadget (apart from maybe a garlic crusher) I will have in my kitchen. I eat a ton of rice (Asian grocery stores do giant bags of rice so cheaply, and over here in the UK where all our rice is imported it's the cheapest place to get it), and cold cooked rice makes perfect fried rice. I have a question though – can you make congee in a rice cooker? I am allergic to oats and have turned to congee as an oatmeal substitute.

    1 agrees
    • Yes! Some even come with a setting for it.

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  22. My generic Asian stir fry recipe- Include some fresh ginger when you cook up your veggies/protein. You can even get minced ginger paste in a squeeze tube at the grocery store. After the veggies/protein are pretty much cooked, add equal amounts of soy sauce and rice vinegar, with a couple Tb of brown sugar. Toss in some peanuts, raw or roasted doesn't matter too much- both will be tasty. Insta homemade takeout.

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  23. After reading all these comments the word rice looks Sooo weird.

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  24. We got a rice cooker as a wedding present 13 years ago, and my initial reaction was kind of a confused "thank you?" as I mentally wondered "WTF?" and planned to unload it ASAP.
    But then we actually used it, and it was like the heavens opened and angels sang. The same cooker is still going strong after all this time, and we love it with a love that's true.

    1 agrees
  25. Ariel, thank you so much for the recommendation! I've been wanting a rice cooker for so long but there are so many different kinds I had no idea what to get. This Rice Robot sounds life changing!

    1 agrees

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