Rice has become a staple in the diets of many cultures, not just in Asian cooking, so rice cookers of many varieties have appeared in kitchens all over the world. There are two main types: a one-button rice cooker and the programmable type. This review covers the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 rice cooker, which is programmable. The review is based on four months of continued use.
- Programmable cooking menu: The biggest difference between the conventional one-button rice cookers is the ability to program different types of rice grains for cooking. For instance, the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 will cook white rice differently from brown rice, or sticky rice, or rice porridge. This is really helpful in trying to get the best result out of different menus. The water levels are adjusted according to the grain, and the cooking cycle heats appropriately to each type of rice. Other grains like quinoa and steel cut oats can be substituted for similar rice grains in the menu.
- Fuzzy Logic cooking: The NS-TSC10 uses the 'Micom' cooking function available in all the programmable Zojirushi rice cookers. This means that the heating element does not heat at one constant temperature the entire cooking cycle. It is designed to gradually raise the temperature and cook at different levels to obtain optimum rice results. As a nice side effect, the steam output is considerably less than what you find on one-button models
- Other heating functions: This unit will automatically keep rice fresh inside the pot for hours, literally up to eight or even more. This is especially nice if meals are divided between people with different schedules, since the rice will remain fresh, hot, and soft for hours in between servings. The NS-TSC10 will also reheat leftover rice with the Reheat function, making yesterday's rice edible again. Additionally, the rice cooker can double as a steamer for vegetables and small cuts of meat, and it can even 'bake' a light cake in the pot.
- Structure: The Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is designed with convenience in mind. The inner pot lid detaches for easy cleaning. The pot itself is a heavy-duty nonstick pan. The power cord retracts, and the rice paddle can easily switch from the left side to the right, depending on where you put the unit on the counter. An added bonus is the 'Twinkle Twinkle' melody whenever you press the cook button, and a separate melody to indicate the cooker has finished steaming rice.
- Timer: One of the best functions of the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is the timer function. You can set the rice to cook at a given time after you've loaded the grains and water. This is especially nice if you want a porridge for breakfast, like steel cut oats. You can toss them inside with water (2.5 times water to oats ratio), and set them to be ready at 6am in the morning. Likewise, dinner rice can be ready to go at 5pm. The NS-TSC10 offers two separate program times, so you wouldn't need to reset for breakfast and dinner every day.
In practice, the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is an excellent addition to the kitchen appliance lineup. It has worked flawlessly for me for over four months. It really does make excellent, fluffy rice, without lots of brown gunk sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cleanup is very easy with the nonstick surface. And the timer function is a fantastic convenience to simplify logistics. Breakfast is a favorite: you can set it the night before, and wake up to it ready in the pot (right next to the automatic coffee maker).
There are some things to note about this unit:
- The Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is the 5 1/2 cup model, but these aren't English cups. They are about 6 oz. cups, so really this model is designed to feed about four grown appetites. The Zojirushi NS-TSC18 10-Cup is the bigger model with the same features, only it has a 1.8 liter pot, versus the NS-TSC10's 1 liter pot. The bigger one may be overkill for households with less than five people.
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- Cooking cycle time: The standard cooking cycle takes 60 minutes, so if you are in a hurry for dinner, you may be disappointed. But, there is a Quick Cook function that cuts the time down by at least 20 minutes. Results are still good, but not as optimal as the full cycle length.
- The LCD display has a separate interior battery, which means after a given lifespan it will go out. This can mean a return to a Zojirushi service center for a replacement. Costs can vary.
- This model does not use the Induction Heating technology of some other Zojirushi models. Induction heating uses a different heating element to spread the heat over the entire pot evenly. Even so, I haven't noticed any drawbacks to the Micom heating technology of the NS-TSC10.
- This isn't an oven, so don't expect a lot out of the 'cake' baking function. It's really more like a steam-cake; rice flour may be a good alternative base for making cakes in the pot since it's a lot lighter than wheat flour.
- Small amounts of rice may not cook as evenly as medium to full amounts in the pot. The Zojirushi NS-TSC10 does recommend a minimum of two (6 oz.) cups of uncooked rice per batch, whereas the NS-TSC18 has an even higher minimum. Don't buy a model that's too big for your everyday needs.
- Other rice grains than the ones supported on the menu (quinoa, basmati, etc.) will take a little experimentation to see what the best water/rice ratio should be. But this is no different than cooking conventionally on a stove, where you still have to go through a little trial and error.
NS-TSC10 on Amazon:
Amazon Price: $192.00 $136.76 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 1, 2016)
In all, this Zojirushi rice cooker stands up well in the tradition of excellent rice pots from the Japanese 'Elephant-brand' company. Even for the non-Asian home cook, the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 will fit seamlessly into the kitchen repertoire.