Not since a roommate in college had a rice maker have I played around with one. If I remember correctly, that one singed the bottom layer of rice and then broke before Thanksgiving break.
Not much of a gadget-cook myself, I usually avoid appliances like these. But I've been playing around with Zojirushi's latest model, the Rizo, and recently took their suggestion in the instruction manual to make risotto using the machine's intriguing risotto setting.
Whereas risotto cooked the traditional way has you standing over the stove, stirring and fussing with different vessels of liquids, constantly adjusting, the rice cooker you only have to do the sautéeing of the onion and rice part on the stove top then literally you dump almost everything else (in this case, 2 1/4 cups broth and wine to my 1.5 cups of rice plus some dried mushrooms), into the rice cooker and press "risotto." Twenty minutes later, you stir in salt, pepper and grated Parmesan. What could be easier?
Surprisingly, it worked pretty well. I still say nothing quite compares to a gently, slowly simmered and stirred risotto, where hot stock and wine and gradually added every so often, but the texture came close.
Here's the thing: in order to justify spending $188 on this machine, most people would have to possess the odd combination of wanting to make risotto often, but also lacking the confidence in their ability to make it on the stove top.
However, if you were in the market for a rice maker and didn't want the cheapster version I had taking up room on my shelf in college because it was broken, this is my top pick. It not only works well and is well-built, but it is beautiful, as far as rice-cookers go.
• Buy the Zojirushi Rizo 3-cup Rice Cooker at Amazon ($165)
• Good Question: What's the Deal with Rice Cookers, a post from 2005 with some great reviews in the comments on other Zojirushi models.