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Rice Cookers

The Invention of IH Cookers


An IH rice cooker (Panasonic)

The next big turning point for electric rice cookers came in 1988, when home appliance maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., a longtime leader in the development of rice cookers, created the first induction heating (IH) rice cooker.

Until then, electric rice cookers had used direct heating, a method in which the heat is delivered to the inner pot by thermal conduction. The heat applied to the rice was weak compared to that of gas-powered products, and it was said that gas cookers were better than electric cookers. The IH system was invented in the hope of making electric cookers better than gas ones.

Here's how an IH cooker works. An electric current is passed through coils around the pot. This produces a magnetic field, which in turn produces an electric current in the pot's metal. Metal heats up when an electric current runs through it, so the entire pot quickly rises to a high temperature and cooks the rice evenly.

At first it was thought that IH rice cookers may not sell very well, because the IH system was rather expensive and consumed a lot of electricity. But they actually proved very popular; many people wanted cookers that could make rice tastier, even if they cost a little extra. Other manufacturers soon released their own IH models, and today more than half of the rice cookers sold across Japan are of the IH variety.

Unlike other types of cookers, with an IH cooker there is no need to soak the rice in water before cooking it. All you need to do is add the right amount of water, using the lines inside the pot as your guide, and choose the settings you want (such as how firm you want the rice to be). The final trick for making the rice as tasty as possible is to gently mix it around as soon as it's done to let any extra moisture evaporate.