I was wondering if a rice cooker was that useful at all. Update: I bought a Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 for $156 CDN at Newegg. One of those using fuzzy logic. I figured that since the mean product of Zojirushi are rice cooekrs, they could not afford to make crappy ones that would break after 2 years. If Panasonic puts out a crappy rice cooker, they can sell more TVs.
Tiger (the ones made in Japan) and Zojirushi (all made in Japan perhaps - this one is) are the main two rice cookers companies that owns the market in Japan.
We eat mostly brown rice and it cooks it quite nice. Short, medium and long grain, on the 'brown rice' cycle. It cooks it so it can be easily picked up with chopsticks, eg. the basic cooking does not produce a rice with all grains dryly distinct. We don't use chopsticks, but that's to give an idea of the result.
And so I got a 15kg bag of new crop genmai rice at the Japanese grocery store. This is certainly not the cheapest rice around. It is, if I'm not mistaken, a semi-brown rice. Anyways, I cook it on the 'semi-brown' cycle and it yields a rice that is sooo good just by itself. No need to add anything else. Each spoonful is so tasty. But it is expensive and we do not cook that rice regularly.
Brown rice congee (porridge) is more involved. The 'porridge' cycle by itself will not do it as it is meant for white rice. So what I've done so far is to put the rice into two 'porridge' cycle in the evning, and then add stuff to it and program the timer to have it ready the next morning, still on the 'porridge' cycle. Makes for a nice breakfast. And beats monitoring for hours rice cooking in a pan on the stove (and the corollary scrubbing of the pan whent it's done).
But the most amazing and interesting thing that I'm only starting to explore, is that this little fuzzy machine can do a lot of other stuff. I did some Jewish varshinkes (kasha and small noodles with onions) as well as an apple sauce (*). The apple sauce is basically chop 8 apples, and put them in there, add a bit of sugar, a bit of water, some cinnamon, close the cover and throw the fuzzy machine on the 'porridge' cycle. After some time when the machine emits its little ring tone (when will they offer downloadable ringtones for rice cookers ???
) the apple sauce is ready.
To somewhat answer my previous question, no a rice cooker is not only for cooking rice. Cooks great rice, but also does a lot more.
(*) See at your favorite bookstore: 'The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook' - most recipes are for both standard and fuzzy klogic rice cookers.