Review by mark S. R. Williams for Zojirushi NP-HBC10 5-1/2-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer with Induction Heating System, Stainless Steel
We purchased this rice cooker last week, and have used it twice for brown rice. The rice came out better (and with less effort on our part) than any other cooking method we’ve ever used. It was, in short, the best brown rice we’d ever had anywhere.
We also tried out the warming function, in which the machine keeps rice warm for up to 12 hours on normal warm mode–there’s also an extended warm mode for up to 48 hours. after about 8 hours on warming mode, the rice was virtually the same as when it had just been cooked.
The machine could not be easier to use. Build and material quality appear first rate. The rice pan is heavy duty–same for the non-stick coating. very quiet in operation, very easy to clean. All sorts of little details that suggest many cycles of refinement in the design. Aesthetics are delightfully Japanese. The stainless steel side and top panels appear as an afterthought designed to fit Western tastes.
One thing I haven’t seen anyone else mention about Zojirushi rice cookers. On the last page in the owner’s manual there’s a footnote which suggests vaguely that this rice cooker may not function well at high altitude. Since I live in Santa Fe at 7,000 feet, I called Zojirushi USA and asked about this. They told me that their rice machines do not function well above 3,000 feet, and that I should return the machine I purchased. well, instead, we tried it at better than double its supposed elevation limit, and as mentioned above, it worked perfectly–so it’s hard to imagine that it might work MORE perfectly below 3,000 feet. Suffice it to say that if you live in Denver, Albuquerque or Santa Fe, you can ignore Zojirushi’s disclaimers about poor function at higher elevation.
All in all, this is a superb product that combines the otherwise mutually exclusive benefits of perfect rice with set and forget automation. The folks at Zojirushi USA (aside from their apparent ignorance about cooking rice at altitude) are informative and friendly. we tend to buy the best kitchen equipment we can find just to avoid the hassles of unreliability. Accordingly, we’re difficult to please, and this machine meets our (very high) standards.
LONG TERM USE UPDATE (January, 2009):
This machine has continued to function flawlessly. Apparently Zojirushi induction rice cookers aren’t well known in northern new Mexico, since whenever we have a dinner party and rice is on the menu, our guests are always intrigued by this thing, and regularly end up buying one of their own.
One clarification: the cooking bowl is stainless steel, as is the inside cooking bowl cover. Apparently these parts tend to be aluminum on the vast majority of computerized rice cookers, even those from Zojirushi. The bowl is coated in some sort of very heavy duty anti-stick coating–after a year or two of use, the coating still looks new–it hasn’t started flaking off at all. I would guess that boiling water (which is basically what rice cookers do) isn’t too hard on the coating, and we’re probably not poisoning ourselves, the way we might be if we used non-stick pans (which we don’t).
Reference my comments above about Zojirushi rice cookers working perfectly at high elevation (which was news even to Zojirushi), I’ve since heard that high elevation performance may be better with induction rice cookers than with computerized rice cookers with standard heating elements. Who knows. What is definite, however, is that as of this writing this machine has functioned perfectly at 7,000 feet for almost two years.