How a conventional (non-Micom Fuzzy Logic) Rice Cooker works
Rice cooker models available in the UK are usually non-Micom Fuzzy Logic models and if you take out the inner cooking pan and look inside the main body of the rice cooker, you will see a small round disk, about 1½" in diameter, in the centre of the heating plate. This is a thermal sensing device, known as a magnetic thermostat, and it sits on a small spring. When rice and water is placed into the inner cooking pan and then put into the main body of the rice cooker, the weight of the inner cooking pan depresses the thermal sensor. With the rice cooker plugged in and the cooking switch turned on, the heating plate begins to heat up bringing the liquid in the cooking pan to a boil. Water boils at 212°F and no higher, so as long as there is water in the pan the rice cooker will continue to cook. When the rice absorbs all the water, the temperature will begin to rise since there isn't any water left in the pan. When the thermal sensor senses that the temperature has risen above 212°F, the machine turns off the heater automatically.
So what is unique and different about Micom Fuzzy Logic rice cookers?
In more advanced models, such as Sakura YUM-EN15 and the Zojirushi NS-LAQ05, NL-BGQ05, NS-TSQ10, NS-TSQ18, NL-AAQ10, NL-AAQ18, NS-YSQ10 and NS-YSQ18 computer chip technology is introduced and the rice cooker automatically makes adjustments in temperature and cooking time depending upon the programme entered by the user. These cookers are called micom rice cookers because they are fitted with a micro-computer chip.
All of the rice cookers we sell utilise "fuzzy logic" through a micro computer chip to cook rice. This computer chip is the brains of the unit, making the cooking of rice foolproof. Instead of the cooker simply switching on and off reacting to temperature, the rice cooker now makes small adjustments in temperature and cooking time according to what the thermal sensor senses. With fuzzy logic it means you can also have different programmes for the rice cooker which include cooking white, sweet (glutinous), brown rice and porridge (both rice and oat varieties of porridge). Additional features available with fuzzy logic models include cake baking (on the NS-TSQ10/18, Sakura), steaming function (on the NS-TSQ10/18, NL-AAQ10/18 and Sakura YUM-EN15) and slow cook (NS-YSQ10/18, Sakura YUM-EN15), GABA brown rice, 'premium' taste for white rice (on the NS-YSQ10/18). On our own branded rice cooker, Sakura we have added additional features of soup, crust (for Persian Tahdig style rice) and yoghurt.
What about Induction Heating models - how do they work?
The heating method known as Induction Heating (IH) occurs when a magnetic material is placed in a magnetic field. For example, coils within the bottom of the rice cooker create the magnetic field. When the aluminum non-stick inner cooking pan with stainless steel outer lining is placed into the rice cooker and the unit is activated, a magnetic field is generated to create instant heat. Through this technology, the inner cooking pan itself rather than the heating element becomes the heat source utilizing both high heat and fine heat adjustments to control the cooking process. Induction Heating models use a lot more power than fuzzy logic models - for example, a 5½ cup fuzzy logic is a 570 - 610W machine whereas the same size Induction model is typically 1200W or more.
Hatsuga genmai (or germinated brown rice) is unpolished brown japonica (Japanese) rice, that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavour and also to increase levels of nutrients such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a nuttier flavour. Germinated (GABA) rice an emerging health food where brown rice is soaked in warm water prior to cooking; the warm bath induces germination, or sprouting, which stimulates rice enzymes to produce more nutrients. One of these nutrients is the important brain chemical GABA (which is why germinated brown rice is referred to as "GABA rice"), and some scientific studies have shown that a germinated brown rice rich diet can improve cognitive function and other studies have found that it could also act as an anti-diabetic. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an essential amino acid and was "discovered" in 2004 as part of the United Nation's Year of Rice research. By germinating the brown rice prior to cooking, GABA, lysine (another amino acid), tocotrienols, magnesium and zinc are all significantly increased. To make GABA rice, you need to start with brown rice - this is because white rice has had the hull removed, which means that it is no longer capable of germinating. The brown rice is rinsed, then soaked in water for an extended period of time before cooking. As the rice germinates the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid increases. Take a look at the pictures below - on the tip of each grain of rice is an embryo; this is the part of the seed that will germinate. The rice is soaked until the embryo become fuller and larger or a sprout starts to emerge. This means the rice has germinated. Since water is naturally absorbed during the germination process, GABA rice will cook faster and need less cooking liquid, than other forms of rice.
Fans of GABA rice say that it's less irritating to the digestive tract and less likely to promote allergic reactions than regular rice and believe that its nutrients are better absorbed. However, all rice is generally considered a non-irritating food and is unlikely to produce allergic reactions in most people. Emerging research suggests that sprouted brown rice may contain compounds that promote blood sugar control. However, the studies showing an advantage for diabetes are generally comparing sprouted brown rice to refined white rice; there's usually no difference compared to regular brown rice. Whether or not it's actually healthier than regular brown rice is unknown, but some people prefer it simply for its softer texture and mildly nutty flavour. People who have trouble making the move from white to brown rice may find the taste and texture of sprouted brown rice a good mid-point between the two.
'GABA' brown setting on Zojirushi NS-YSQ10 and NS-YSQ18
The GABA brown rice setting on the Zojirushi NS-YSQ10 and NS-YSQ18 makes it easier to cook GABA brown rice - usually it involves soaking rice for up to 3 days at a temperature of 30-40° celcius, with numerous water changes. When you select the GABA brown setting on the YSQ10/18, the rice cooker will begin activating the brown rice, after which it will start the cooking process automatically. In the YSQ10/18, during the brown rice activation process, the temperature in the inner bowl is kept at about 40° celcius for 2 hours which enables the brown rice to 'sprout'. The full cooking time, including the additional activation period, may take between 3 hours and 15 mintues and 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete.