Wow! Do I really need one more appliance? Another gadget for my kitchen? The first word out of my mouth is always, “no.” You know how I am about “stuff” on my counter. Well, Zojirushi has convinced me that there is just one more that makes sense in my kitchen. It’s their new Umami™ Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer and I ♥ this machine!
You all know I’m a bulk-/ freezer-cooking fan and when I make rice it is usually in a quantity to provide at least two or three meals. This takes up time, and my one and only large burner on the stove top, or occasionally, some counter space in my crockpot. Both are workable options, but they have some obvious drawbacks. The number one issue being they require my attention. If cooking on the stove top, I definitely have to be aware of the time, the liquid level, the temperature. A little too hot, too little liquid, a little undercooked or overcooked and my groceries and time are wasted. Not to mention, I’m unable to use the main burner on my range until the rice is complete. In the crockpot, it’s a pretty simple process to cook rice, but I still need to be very aware of time and liquid levels. The crockpot doesn’t adjust it’s heat or “know” when the rice is done, if I wander off and get busy folding a load of laundry. It will keep cooking (and eventually, burning) the rice until I get there to check it and shut it off.
Enter my new best friend! Zojirushi sent me the Umami™Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer to test for a review. It should just be hitting the shelves in stores, right now, so be watching for them in your area. I’ll never cook rice any other way, after using this ingenious kitchen tool. The other fantastic bonus about this rice cooker? (You did want a bonus, right?) It is for SOOO much more than just rice! The second fantastic bonus? (You knew there was another one, didn’t you?) It can make short, medium or long grain white rice, as well as brown rice, sweet rice, wild rice or sushi rice, whatever your type or style of rice, this machine will intuitively cook it to perfection. You simply fill it according to the directions and let the rice cooker do the thinking. When the rice is perfect, the Umami™Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer uses it’s fuzzy logic technology to automatically switch over to the warmer and keep your rice ready to serve without burning and overcooking it. Extraordinary!
But, wait! There’s more! –lol– Infomercials aside, there really is so much more to this appliance, than the average rice cooker. You can cook grains, pastas and one-pot meals. It doubles as a slow cooker and all of those features benefit from that wonderful fuzzy logic.
So, there are probably three words in the title of this appliance that you’re wondering about. The first one is Zojirushi. That’s a brand name you’ll want to get familiar with. They have a reputation for making really fantastic kitchen appliances. They make a bread machine that I would LOVE to try, too. So, next time you see that adorable little elephant logo, you’ll know exactly what it means.
And the second new word? What’s umami (pronounced oooo-mommy), anyway? Umami is considered the 5th flavor, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It is also described as “savoriness”, and comes from the Japanese word meaning “good flavor” or “deliciousness”. Any of you food network addicts, like me, have probably heard it used during Iron Chef. In relation to this versatile rice cooker, umami refers to a setting which enables you to soak the rice before cooking it. During this extended soaking time, the sugar contained within the rice is slowly released out into the water. Once the rice cooker begins to cook the rice, the sugar that was released into the water reattaches itself onto the surface of the rice, making the cooked rice taste sweeter. The Umami setting also extends the steaming time at the end of the cooking cycle. The umami setting is to be used with white rice, but there is a similar setting for brown.
The GABA brown rice setting activates brown rice to further increase its nutritional value. When you choose this setting, the Umami™ Micom Rice Cooker begins by activating the rice and then goes straight into the cooking time. During activation, the temperature is kept at about 104° F, for two hours. Cooking will add up to an additional one and a half hours, for a total prep time of about three and a half hours. By activating brown rice, GABA (gamm-aminobutyric acid) increases to 150% of the amount in unactivated brown rice. GABA is a naturally occurring nutrient in brown rice that is said to lower blood pressure and relieve stress. The rice will cook up softer than unactivated and the extended soaking time will allow even more flavor to be absorbed.
The third word is micom, which had me stumped for a minute, but it’s actually quite logical. It’s short for micro-computer which is what operates that wonderful fuzzy logic technology.
The Umami™ Micom Rice Cooker is available in two sizes, 5.5 cup capacity and 10 cup capacity. I’m testing the smaller one and am still pleased with the quantity I can produce in one batch. Some other features that are going to be of interest to you are:
- Micro computerized Fuzzy logic technology
- Zojirushi’s exclusive Umami setting soaks and steams rice longer for enhanced flavor
- Versatile slow cook function to cook soups and other menus
- Automatic keep warm, extended keep warm and reheating cycle
- Spherical inner cooking pan and heating system ( I love this non-stick cooking pan. It has markings, right in the pan, for making sure you fill just the perfect amount of liquid.)
- Delay timer (2 settings)
- Easy-to-read LCD control panel with Clock and Timer functions
- Detachable and washable inner lid
- Detachable power cord for easy storage
- Menu settings include: white, Umami, mixed, sushi, porridge, sweet, brown, GABA brown, rinse-free, quick cooking and slow cook
If there was anything I would say I wish they had designed differently, it would be the clock. It is set to operate in military, as opposed to standard time. It’s not a huge deal, but my personal preference would have been standard. On a positive note, the clock was easy to set and the instructions for doing so, very clear. So, of all the features I have tested, this far, my suggestion for future models is a traditional 12-hour clock.
Simple Brown Rice in the Zojirushi Umami™ Micom Rice Cooker
Now, on to the cooking, which is the most important part! My first test was straight-up, plain, brown rice. It’s a family favorite, as a side dish or a lunch. I used medium grain and my own homemade chicken stock, instead of water. I didn’t add any other seasonings at all. I made the maximum size batch, which for medium grain brown rice was 4 cups of dry rice, in my 5.5 cup capacity cooker.
- 4 cups medium grain brown rice
- water or stock up to 4 cup fill line in the inner cooking pan
Remove the inner cooking pan from the cooker to fill it. If you have any spills, the clean-up will be simple. Add the dry rice in the bottom of the inner pan.
Pour whichever liquid you have selected (I used homemade chicken stock.) over the rice until you reach the appropriate fill line marked on the inside of the pan. I noticed that the picture I took, which shows the liquid in the pan, was snapped form the wrong side, but I’m including one of the pan empty with the brown rice markings showing, as well.
Close the lid and then push the menu button, pressing multiple times until you reach the setting for the dish you are preparing. I set mine for Brown Rice. Then, simply depress the START button (Make sure the warmer light is not on. If it is, just press Keep Warm once, to shut it off.) and walk away. Brown rice takes anywhere from an hour and 25 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes. The fuzzy logic will determine the moisture levels and stop cooking when your particular batch of rice is “mmmmwwwaaaaa” – perfecto!
I originally set my kitchen timer for 1 hour and 25 minutes, to see how long this batch would take to cook. When the timer went off, I noted that my rice cooker was letting me know that it would be done cooking in just seven more minutes. Cool!
The rice cooker signaled me with a little melody to let me know the rice was done. You can change it to beep 5 times or have no sound at all. Instructions for doing that are included in the detailed operating instructions manual. I didn’t have the rest of our meal completely cooked and so I left it for just a few more minutes. The rice cooker immediately switched to Regular Keep Warm and the indicator light on the control panel came on to let me know it had. Once the rest of my meal was ready, I opened the rice cooker and used the handy spatula/spoon included, to fluff the rice and then to serve it.
As you can see, it made way more rice than we could eat at one meal. After supper, I put the leftover, cooled rice into a gallon-sized ziptop bag and put it in the fridge for the next night’s supper. How beautiful it was to have already cooked rice, ready to throw together a last minute, one-dish chicken and rice casserole.
I dumped the leftover rice, three diced chicken breasts, a minced red bell pepper, 4 minced green onions, two stalks of diced celery and about 2 cups of finely chopped kale into a 9×13 pan. I poured about 3 cups of my homemade chicken stock over the ingredients and mixed everything in the baking dish. I baked it in a 350° oven for about 30-35 minutes, just until all the chicken stock had been absorbed by the rice. There was only a small amount of stock left in the pan when I pulled it out, adding the perfect moisture to the dish.
This made enough casserole for supper and for our lunch the next day. That’s three meals from a single batch of rice! I love when throw-together, last-minute meal ideas turn out to be SO good. This is going to be an official recipe in our family cookbook. Delish AND healthy! We served it with some fresh green beans and homemade hot buttered pretzels! Yum!
So, what’s next with my Zojirushi Rice Cooker? Just wait until you see what’s for breakfast!!! You won’t want to miss the next post, because you’ll also get the chance to enter a giveaway for your very own Zojirushi Umami™ Micom Rice Cooker! Isn’t that awesome?!!! What’re you going to cook?
I received a Zojirushi Umami™ Micom Rice Cooker, in order to test it and conduct this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required. Zojirushi supplied technical info and specs, but as with all Busy-at-Home reviews, all opinions and views expressed are wholly my own.
This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday.