I have always pooh-poohed ricer makers. “Pooh!” I would say to the aisle of kitchen appliances at Costco, instead eyeing the slow cooker or vacuum food sealer. “Pooh Pooh!” I’d say at Brandsmart, looking over the list of features such as auxiliary vegetable steaming, timers, and rice warming mode. “Feh”, I might sometimes add disdainfully, if the spirit was really moving through me.
Who would need such a thing? Who would spend money on such a frivolous device, when they are countless electronic gewgaws, gadgets, and gizmos still in an unsold state? Why in the world would I spent my hard-earned gold on something that does not add another glowing rectangle for me to stare at?
I fancy myself a fair cook. I’m not a chef, but I’m a good cook. And I cook a lot of rice. At least three times a week, I’m making a pot of white, fluffy rice to go along with a stir fry. Or whipping up a batch of sticky rice to accompany a Cuban or Thai themed meal. Not disgusting Minute Rice, mind you, but plain old Rice Rice, just like God intended us to cook it.
Rice is easy. I follow the America’s Test Kitchen method: 1 cup of rice to 1 and a half cups of water. Add a dash of salt. Uncovered, bring it to a boil, and boil for 3 to 4 minutes, until the water subsides and you see little airholes in the rice, bubbling like clams on the beach as the waves roll out. Then clap a cover on, turn the heat down to the lowest setting, and let it steam for exactly 15 minutes. Viola! Delicious rice.
Alright. So, maybe one day out of three I’ll forget and boil it for too long. Maybe once every other week the rice boils over, coating my stove with a thin layer of rice glue that even Goo Gone has a hard time with. So what if once or twice a month I leave it on for twenty or thirty minutes by accident, burn half of the rice to the bottom, and have to start all over again? Minor inconveniences. Rice is cheap. As I said – I know how to cook it, dammit!
Such is my thinking. Such is my faith. Such I have always believed.
But then, one day, I was at work. My co-worker in the neighboring cube, Lata Kumar, was flipping through a coupon book for Best Buy. “A new rice cooker. Perfect!” she said with glee. Or gleefully. Or in a gleeful manor. At any rate, she was smiling when she said, of that much I’m sure.
I gave her my meticulously thought out, reasoned analysis of why such a purchase was a waste of her hard-earned cash. I believe I used the words “stupid”, “foolish”, and “pointless” as part of my carefully constructed argument. She nodded thoughtfully. “You’re an idiot”, she said, and clipped the coupon.
Somewhat steamed, I kept the rest of my opinions on her shopping to myself.
After her lunch break, Lata came back with a new rice cooker, for which she had paid about $25.00. I decided to try to repair my image with her. “So, how do you know that’s a good one?” I asked with a chipper air. She held up the box. “It’s Black and Decker”, she said, nodding. “So how can you go wrong with that?”
I had no response.
The idea of the rice cooker possessed me that afternoon. The following weekend, I was at Costco, and I looked over the two rice cookers they had there. There was a 10 cup and a 12 cup model. One for $90 and one for $30. I looked inside. 10 cups of rice is a lot of rice. There’s just me and Frank. Didn’t anyone make a smaller version for us no kid households?
Letting my fingers do the walking next, I was soon at Amazon.com, my faithful purveyor of all that is electronic and thus good. Sure enough, there were a number of small rice cookers in the 3 to 5 cup range. There was even a snazzy looking one from Zojirushi, who make the fantastic bread machine that I’ve used at least three or four times over the past decade, since it makes such wonderful bread. But man… expensive. And I’m still not completely sold on the rice cooker idea… yet.
What’s this? A simple little one from Panasonic, for just under $30? That sounds about right. No extra features. No warming mode. Just a single button that says “Cook”. Comes with a half-cup measure for the rice. Makes anywhere from a half cup to three cups of rice. The pan is removable, so you can put it right on the table and scoop rice from it.
Seems like a good choice. I’m an Amazon Prime member, so shipping is free. I’ll take a chance!
Today, the Panasonic Panasonic SRG06FG 3.3-Cup Automatic Rice Cooker arrived, with two day shipping exactly as promised. The cooker is a simple affair. It consists of a pot, a lid, and a housing with a conductor at the bottom. There is only one switch: It says “Cook”. It snaps up like a toaster lever. It pops back down when it’s done. And that is it.
Could such a simple, plain, no frills machine make rice that could compare with the delicious stove top rice I make so often? A pork stir fry will answer that question, my friends!
Using the enclosed plastic cup, I measured out one cup of dry rice, dumping it into the pot. I then filled the pot up to the 2 cup line with water. I placed the pot inside the cooker. I plugged it in. I put the lid on top. And I flipped the switch on the front to the Cook position.
And that was it. I forgot about it, and prepared my stir fry. Then I remembered the rice. I took off the lid. The rice smell steamed up out of the pot, revealing a clean expanse of white. Using a small hot pad, I removed the pan from the cooker and placed it on the table.
We dove into our meal. “Wow”, Frank said. “What did you do to the rice tonight? It tastes really good!” I scooped out my own scoops of rice, and dumped a healthy portion of pork cooked with red bell peppers and scallions and onions and ginger and garlic and hoison sauce and sesame oil and corn starch and red pepper flakes and chicken broth (or, if you prefer, “pork stir fry”).
Frank was right. The rice was perfect. Absolutely perfect. In fact, I would almost swear that somehow, the cooker turned that cup of rice into more rice that a cup of rice can be. Because, when I make the rice the old way, there was never any leftover rice. Now, miraculously, there was. It was like our own little micro version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Cleanup was shockingly easy. Basically, there wasn’t any to speak of. The pan, although not technically a non-stick pan, didn’t stick. Or rather, the rice didn’t stick to it. Nothing was cooked on, nothing was burnt. The pan practically wiped clean with a sponge. Ready for another round of making rice.
So, that’s my experience. That’s my story of the Panasonic SRG06FG 3.3-Cup Automatic Rice Cooker, and I’m sticking to it. I can’t speak to how reliable this remarkable little wonder is, because I’ve had for one day and have used it once. I can’t tell you anything about the warranty terms or its electrical load or how recyclable it is. I can’t tell you those things, because I do not know those things.
What I do know is this: It makes great rice. It is small, easy to clean, and practical. And it is as easy to use as a toaster. It is, in fact, the simplest appliance in my kitchen.
I require nothing more. I am a happy camper, and my camp is filled with happiness and wistful memories of fluffy rice drenched in scrumptious sauce. More rice will be made tomorrow night. Rice may be made over the weekend. Rice might even be made in the morning to go with me to work.
The Panasonic SRG06FG 3.3-Cup Automatic Rice Cooker has freed my love of rice. Rice is no longer trapped in my pantry, to be released only when it can be contained within a pot on my stove. My rice has been emancipated.
Let me close with this: If you are a member of a small household, let’s say of between one and three people, and if you like rice… then you cannot go wrong with the Panasonic SRG06FG 3.3-Cup Automatic Rice Cooker.
I never heard a report from Lata about the Black and Decker, however, so I have nothing to say about that.