National Rice Cooker & Steamer

This rice cooker was used for 35 years by a Smithsonian curator, an avid cook, whose father and his Chinese wife brought the cooker to her from Singapore in the early 1970’s. In the United States, such cookers came to be introduced in the mid-1970’s, and were quickly adopted by older rice-centric communities in South Carolina and Louisiana and by newer countercultural Americans who were increasingly interested in alternate cuisines and culinary practices. Increased interest in Asian foods, accompanied by interest in alternative foods and health practice, brought both new cooking tools and methods to American cooks interested in food that went beyond their conventional boundaries.
Electric rice cookers were developed in Japan after World War I, and by the late 1950’s, such cookers were a standard appliance in Japanese homes. Their manufacture and use spread throughout the rest of Asia where rice was the dietary mainstay, and then to the rest of the world where rice-eating continued to grow over the next years of global contact, trade, and culinary exchange. The rice cookers, which, unlike cooking over a flame or electric coil, guarantee perfectly cooked, non-burnt rice every time. The early rice cookers operated via a double chamber with a thermostat-controlled cooking temperature that shut off the heat when the rice was done. Later cookers like this one incorporated increasingly user-friendly technologies, such as a non-stick inner chamber and a stay-warm function. Later cooking processes were governed by microprocessors.
date made
ca 1970
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 10 1/2 in x 13 in x 10 1/2 in; 26.67 cm x 33.02 cm x 26.67 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Rayna Green
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History