I'm a rice purist. When I say that, I mean to say that I avoid buying any box of rice that guarantees ready-to-eat rice in one or five minutes. This isn't because I think that the rice will end up tasting bad: I just have come to terms with the fact that rice, in its raw and natural state, just takes a little bit of TLC and time.
My attitude toward the multifunctional grain has presented me with some problems in the past. For a dish that requires constant supervision, like risotto, I can be assured that my pans will be safe and sound while working their rice-related magic. But when it comes to the more conventional methods like steaming, I've had a much...ahem...broader range of success in rice cooking.
One of the more traumatic events in my rice past is when I attempted to steam a particularly robust type of brown rice. I followed the directions on the box verbatim, but before the recommended cooking time was up, I hurtled into the kitchen, following a plume of smoke and a smell that resembled something between burnt popcorn and roasted peanuts. The bottom of the pan was caked with a sooty brown tar, and the rice that was left on top was horribly underdone and nasty. It took the better part of an hour to clean the pan, and I vowed never to buy the rice again.
I've considered buying a rice steamer, but my limited cabinet space can't afford a square foot that accomplishes only one cooking task. Mercifully, Sanyo has developed a rice cooker that has enough other functions to justify its place in a Brooklyn apartment-sized kitchen.
Meet the Micro-Computerized Rice Cooker/Slow Cooker. It's programmed to automatically cook a huge range of rices, including sushi, brown, Haiga, rinse-free, and plain white rice, and it can also steam vegetables and tofu, or slow cook at high and low temperatures.
The cooker also has a preset timer that you can set up to 24 hours ahead, so you can make sure your rice is ready when you want it. If it finishes early, then the Keep Warm function will keep your rice warm and fluffy, and you can eat it when you're ready. The pan is also nonstick, which may have come in handy during my earlier escapades, and it has an LCD clock, just in case you don't have enough of those on your other kitchen appliances.
Using this machine would take some of the pressure off of you the next time you host a sushi party, but rice-related gadgets aren't always as convincing: I'm having trouble believing in this automatic sushi roller.