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La-Cook Microwave Rice Cooker

Last week I finally succumbed to the family cold, so while at home I’ve been wanting to eat a lot of ochazuke. This made for the perfect opportunity to try out a new bento related item.

My next product review is for a microwave rice cooker, which I’ve been wanting to try for some time due to my constant frustrations with my big rice cooker/warmer because it tends to dehydrate my rice very quickly when I cook small amounts of rice. This particular rice cooker can be found on J-List.

The La-cook microwave rice cooker comes with a steamer tray and matching shamoji (rice paddle). I must admit I was disappointed by the instructions being completely in Japanese, so I had a couple of friends look at pictures for me to tell me what I was supposed to do. Had I bothered to read the J-List site I’d have seen those very same instructions on the product description…

This bit of idiocy of mine aside, there was still the matter of the little steamer grid thingie.

The steamer plate is in the middle. In my first try, I had the steamer plate floating in the water with the rice, which looked rather stupid now that I think back, but I didn’t know what it was for. According to Erika, the steamer plate goes in for veggies, with water underneath it. The white lid is not used and the orange lid is snapped on for steaming.

I’ve plowed through about three cups of rice experimenting with this thing, so it’s a good thing rice is cheap. On the side of the cooker there are lines showing you where to fill up to.

I’m told the left side is for white rice, the middle for brown, the right for rice porridge. Since the white and brown rice lines are in exactly the same places, I have no idea why they’re on the side separately. (Reader comment: For reference, the middle is not for brown – it’s for “musenmai,” or a type of rice that doesn’t need to be washed before cooking.) The bottom two dots indicate where the rice should go up to. Using 1/2 of the cup I usually use to scoop rice brought me right up to the 1/2 cup line, which was nice. The lines above the dots are where the water level should be for 1/2 cup and 1 cup of rice.

The instructions indicate that this is for a 500 watt microwave oven and mine is a 700 watt one. Having no clue as to what that means, I decided to try my first batch at 70% power. Unfortunately, this was also the batch I had the steamer plate floating around. When Erika messaged me mid-experiment to tell me that doesn’t go in there for cooking rice, I stopped it to take it out, not wanting to hurt the cooking process somehow, which is what I did anyway by opening the cooker up. *slaps self*

The first batch resulted in undercooked rice. The outside was soft, but the inside of the grains was crunchy, which is pretty gross. I decided that I ruined it by stopping it mid-cook, so I tried again at the same power. Sadly, I got the same result. You’re supposed to let it steam for about 20 minutes, but it didn’t seem to make much difference in my next two trials I did, which was now at full power. I still got the undercooked, crunchy rice. Microwaving all of the half-crunchy rice in a bowl with a wet paper towel over it finished the cooking while I tried to do it again in the cooker.

Today I tried cooking it longer at 10 minutes, but all this really did was kill the rice by drying it up and making it inedible. I tried one more batch, this time cooking it for 9 minutes. It was just about ready, but still had a slightly hard middle. After stirring it up (the rice is wetter on bottom, drier on top) for a bit and letting it steam (covers back on) for about 10 minutes, I checked it again and when nothing much had changed, I added a little bit more water and cooked it again for 2 minutes. This time, when the rice came out, it was cooked just right.

I’m not a big fan of really sticky rice, so I was very happy with the result after the additional 2 minutes and another stirring and steaming. The grains were cooked all the way through and had just the right consistency of fluffiness. Overall, it wasn’t as easy as I’d been hoping it would be, but I have a pretty cheap microwave oven so the cooker can’t be all to blame. The biggest appeal to me is being able to cook just a 1/2 cup of rice without having to use my full blown rice cooker. The cooker makes a nice, convenient size for storing rice in the fridge as is. For reheating the rice, I simply added a splash of water and cooked it again for 2 minutes.

And so, the verdict is that as frustrating as the experimentation was I’ll definitely be using this to cook small batches of rice for my bento. I’m not big on freezing rice since I always forget it and it doesn’t heat up all that well when I do anyway. I also hate washing my big rice cooker for 1 cup of rice. I think it would be safe to say that if you choose to get one, due to microwave differences (and rice types) you’ll have to do some experimenting of your own to get the timing down right. Just remember that if it isn’t cooked all the way through, a tiny bit more water and a couple more minutes should fix things right up.

J-List also has a Hello Kitty version for those of you who want to try a pink one.