Rice has been a staple food of mankind across thousands of civilizations for almost as long as recorded history. As such, the cooking of rice dates back almost as far, which in essence requires the same basic principle steps today as it ever has. In short, the rice itself, hot water or steam and something in which to cook it.
Of course, never content with doing things the old fashioned way, manufacturers have moved away from tradition methods of cooking rice in favor of modern alternatives which offer both convenience and quality of end product. However, that state of the art rice cooker which takes pride of place in a huge number of modern kitchens may not in fact be as modern as many would think.
Using electrical heating to cook rice is fairly old concept, dating back to the first half of the 20th century. In fact, it is known that as far back as 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army created something of a primitive electric rice cooker in the form of a wooden box with a pair of electrodes attached at opposite ends. In order to cook the rice, the wooden box would be filled with water and washed rice, to which an electrical current was subsequently applied. The electricity would then heat the water to boiling point and cook the rice exactly as would be done conventionally. The first japanese rice cooker.
Upon completion, the electrodes were removed and ambient heat of the box coupled with the evaporation of most of the water provided a wonderfully effective and natural keep-warm facility for the cooked rice, which is one of the most essential features found on the modern equivalent. The main downsides of the initial invention were that the quantities of water and rice could not be adjusted, and that the presence of a live electric current posed the very real danger of electrocution to those operating the cooker.
1945 saw the Japanese Mitsubishi Corporation become the very first manufacturer to produce a electric commercial rice cooker suitable for general use with a moderate level of safety. The engineering principals were fairly simple, featuring no specific components for the regulation of the cooking process. As such, the aluminum container with a heated coil inside required constant attention throughout the cooking process.
During the early stages of their development, rice cookers were incredibly basic appliances whose purpose was to simply heat up water and rice to a desired temperature and remove power to the heater when said temperature was met. However, the temperature readings were heavily influenced by the environment in which they were placed, therefore seasonal changes and general differences in ambient temperature could cause inaccurate temperature reading and therefore result in improperly cooked rice. The idea was almost foolproof, though inherently flawed.
December 1956 saw the world’s first commercially successful rice cooker hit the shelves courtesy of the Toshiba Corporation. The device used a twin-pot cooking process which featured advanced thermostats and safety devices which ensured the cooker was automatically turned off before rice could spoil or burn. As such, it wasn’t long before Toshiba was producing and selling upwards of 200,000 such units every month for the Japanese market alone. Within the space of four years, at least 50% of Japanese homes featured one of Toshiba’s rice cookers and the rest, as they say, is history!