In 2009, I lived in a crowded Brooklyn apartment, and for Christmas I asked for a rice cooker to free up stovetop space I shared with my roommates. My mom, the most determinedly online Christmas shopper I know, skipped the $40 domestic options and imported a Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker from Japan. It offered something called “fuzzy logic” cooking, it could make five different kinds of rice plus porridge, and it sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” every time you turned it on. To be honest, I thought it was a bit much.
Ten years later, I still use this perfect machine at least once a week. The fuzzy logic system, which allows the cooker to make small adjustments based on moisture and other variables, makes extremely good white rice of all kinds, especially sushi rice. The brown rice setting makes rice a bit too wet for my preferences, but this Healthyish method of cooking brown rice on the white rice setting, which better suits American tastes, works great.
What I really adore about this rice cooker, however, is the porridge setting. If I have an excess of chicken stock, I’ll make a golden, rich congee; if I’m making meatballs, I’ll make big batches of a cheater polenta. And most mornings in the winter start with a creamy oatmeal cooked on the porridge setting. The only downside is it’s not particularly fast — about an hour. If I really had my shit together, I’d put oatmeal in the night before and set a timer, because the rice cooker can do that, too. It’s relatively simple to make rice (or polenta) on a stovetop, but I find having a little machine I trust to make part of the meal frees up my brain and makes dinner more possible.
Over the past 10 years, home cooking culture in the U.S. has become grain-obsessed, and the Neuro Fuzzy is now big in America. (I remember the disappointment in my mom’s voice when she saw it at Williams-Sonoma.) I love this rice cooker so much I thought about buying another Zojirushi rice cooker duty-free in the Tokyo airport, as if two would double my happiness. But there’s no need. After a decade of use, it might finally be time to get a new nonstick bowl; but everything else about it, from the buttons to the little nubby rice paddle, works just as well as the day it arrived.