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Under Pressure
April 8, 2012 10:46 AM   Subscribe

The Pressure Cooker Makes A Comeback. "Pressure cookers are exploding—in a good way—into home and restaurant kitchens. I discovered the joys of pressure cooking last year while reviewing Modernist Cuisine, the 2,348-page encyclopedia of avant-garde cuisine by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold. He argues that pressure cookers are the perfect vessel for making stock, and he's right. Pressure cooking extracts more flavors from the primary materials and keeps them in the pot, where they condense back into a rich, full-bodied liquid. I was blown away by the chicken stock I made the first time I used a pressure cooker. But I didn't stop there. I followed a few of Myhrvold's other suggestions and soon discovered that pressure cookers make superior, stir-free risotto—cooked through, but with a pleasant hint of resistance—after just five-and-a-half minutes at pressure. Braised short ribs are similarly sublime, fork tender without being mushy, and bathed in a broth with an intense, concentrated beef flavor. They went from being a Sunday afternoon project to a supper I could prepare after work on weeknights. Emboldened by success, I even went so far as to pressure cook a surprisingly moist lemon-mascarpone cheesecake."

How to Buy the Best Pressure Cooker

Instructions for the Novice.

Good Housekeeping's Guide to Best Pressure Cookers.

Nathan Mhryvold's Pressure Cooking Tips and one or two of his pressure cooking recipes.
posted by storybored (94 comments total) 203 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just sold my All-American on Ebay for $150. I bought it 8 years ago for $150. There were over 20 bids. Now I want back.
posted by stbalbach at 10:55 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Modern kitchens are full of dangerous, potentially fatal instruments, not least of which is the nuclear device that helped render the pressure cooker obsolete several decades ago."
posted by Edogy at 10:56 AM on April 8, 2012


They've known this in India forever -- the pressure cooker is a primary kitchen tool there, used to make all sorts of awesome recipes. Nothing better than a warm bowl of dal makhani straight from the pressure cooker, drizzled with a bit of fresh raita...
posted by vorfeed at 11:00 AM on April 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Huh. My heavily used, old, pitted, submarine-hatch interlocking classic Hawkins cookers are ... back in style?
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:02 AM on April 8, 2012


I love my pressure cooker. It does some things better than anything else. Want to make a beef stew and have it ready 10 minutes after you're done cutting everything up? Pressure cooker. Have a recipe which calls for 2 cups of cooked chicken and all you have are frozen thighs? Pressure cooker.

I've tried quite a few of the recipes in the book which came with it over the years, and they all seem to work passably if not wonderfully.

I certainly use my pressure cooker more than a lot of other supposedly specialty objects in my kitchen. Crock pot? Not so much. Ice cream maker? Hardly at all. Pressure cooker? At least once a month if not a lot more.

Odd thing: I was staying in a kitchenette hotel room in Seattle a while back, and while it didn't have a can opener, it did for some reason have a pressure cooker. Not sure what they were thinking with that one.
posted by hippybear at 11:02 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


So weird, my sister and brother-in-law (who is Indian) just left after visiting for the weekend, and they spent about an hour telling me about how I needed a pressure cooker. Dal in 30 minutes is a pretty good reason alone.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:08 AM on April 8, 2012


I've always had a pressure cooker. How do you even think about making peawack without a pressure cooker?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:08 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


All I can ever do with a pressure cooker is burn the shit out of things in new and interesting ways.

Unsure why. Normal chili, no problem. Pressure cooker chili, burnt as all hell.
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:17 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am half wondering whether this is an attempt to prime the cooking industry to optimize Intellectual Ventures' pressure cooker patent portfolio.
posted by ardgedee at 11:20 AM on April 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


What, your grandma isn't paying her licensing fee for those patented single-pot dinners?
posted by Nelson at 11:21 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dal in 30 minutes? I resist a slow cooker because it doesn't work with my scheduling, but I think a pressure cooker might be in my future.
posted by jeather at 11:30 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nathan Myhrvold. He argues that pressure cookers are the perfect vessel for making stock

Ok so I happen to have access to this fabulous tomb. It recommends the Kuhn Rikon brand pressure cooker. The section on making stock is too long and complex to get into here but is incredibly exact and varied with many tables and charts. The key is to grind up meat and bones into small pieces as possible, veggies in very thin slices; get to high temp but don't allow it to boil as that emulsifies food bits into the stock and makes it murky (it's boiling if it's blowing off steam); don't open the lid until pressure drops to zero after removing from heat (otherwise causes instant boil from pressure change). Liquid stock should be totally clear and free of fat.
posted by stbalbach at 11:34 AM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


All I can ever do with a pressure cooker is burn the shit out of things in new and interesting ways.

Once it comes up to pressure you do turn the heat way, way down, right?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:36 AM on April 8, 2012


They've known this in India forever

Yes -- Traditional Indian dishes (beans, chickpeas, daals, eggplant dishes) are made 10 times easier with a pressure cooker. My mom uses it all the time -- the sound of the pressure cooker going off is an oddly calming and comforting sound.

Plus, chili comes out fantastic -- the way it blends flavors so quickly is fantastic.

Lord_Pall -- you probably need more water/broth and slightly lower temperature. Once the pressure builds up, reduce heat to low-medium and let it cook a bit longer.
posted by spiderskull at 11:36 AM on April 8, 2012


My 15-year-old Presto just finally died. After hundreds and hundreds of pots of beans, lentils, dal, and chili, and corresponding runs through the dishwasher, eventually the handle just got too loose to hold pressure. I know Cook's Illustrated recommends Fagor, but I'll probably just buy another Presto. I like the gentle noise of the rocker type better than the constant hiss. Besides, I already know the Prestos are practically bulletproof - there's hardly anything on them to break - and because there are so many out there, replacement gaskets and overpressure plugs are easy to get.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:37 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back in the day a friend of ours got a deluxe stainless steel presto pressure cooker from his parents as a college graduation gift. One of his first triumphant discoveries was figuring out that he could cook dried beans in a jiffy without having to soak them for hours. The beans were tasty indeed and all was well until about an hour after the meal when we all found ourselves doubled up on the floor suffering from excruciating gas pains. Kids - learn from our mistake and please soak and rinse your beans before cooking them the old fashioned way.
posted by squalor at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


(If only Nathan Myhrvold could be excised from this otherwise most interesting and excellent post.)

I finally use my pressure cooker - an old-style rocker type - after having it sit around for a year after receiving it as a gift. I had a huge irrational (rational?) fear of the thing, esp. when the rocker went a-rocking - my Grandma has a huge scar on her arm from when hers had exploded many decades ago. Anyway... chickpeas made in it are just amazingly delicious (having just made a batch).
posted by Auden at 11:40 AM on April 8, 2012


My Mom has an old Presto pressure cooker from 1969, still in great working order. That pot always made the best stew. I may borrow it from her. Hmmm....
posted by LN at 11:47 AM on April 8, 2012


I read the article and I still don't really care about pressure-cooked risotto. It's a promising alternative, but from a learning standpoint, I prefer to understand what is broken about the old methods. To that end, the casual exultations/dismissals being made by the author and Myhrvold regarding risotto, aren't that compelling. Also, if I'm cooking with friends or family, their kitchen might not have a pressure cooker, so the old techniques are here to stay.
posted by polymodus at 11:48 AM on April 8, 2012


The hissing always scares me, but some of the best food I've ever eaten has come out of pressure cookers, so maybe I should follow these links and do some shopping?
posted by Forktine at 11:48 AM on April 8, 2012


Huh. My heavily used, old, pitted, submarine-hatch interlocking classic Hawkins cookers are ... back in style?

When did it ever go?

I brought my 1 litre (I have two) Hawkins with me for this 3 month sojourn in Kenya - as someone said above, nothing like a steady rumble of a head of steam building to a whistle (even if its only potatoes) to make you feel instantly at home.

Various AskMes on pressure cooker recipes and use.
posted by infini at 11:57 AM on April 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


My husband convinced me to buy a pressure cooker because I could do pinto beans in it. :) I love it!

Maybe tonight I'll try making stew. Just gotta look up a couple recipes. :)
posted by luckynerd at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2012


Pressure-cooked goat meat is the best "lamb" I've ever eaten, at home or in a restaurant. At 1 atmosphere, goat never gets tender (for me, anyway) even after literally hours of simmering, but 45 minutes in a pressure cooker and it's perfect. I'll have to look into that risotto method, since I love risotto but usually don't have the patience to cook it the traditional way.

The only hair-raising incident with a pressure cooker in my kitchen was a batch of dal that, ironically, was being made by an Indian friend who was a superb cook. She'd come over to show me and some friends how to make a few Indian dishes and she got distracted by all the activity, forgot to turn the heat down when it came up to pressure, and the main vent clogged with the thick starchy dal. Nobody noticed the ominous silence from the pressure cooker until the safety vent blew dal all over the walls. Nobody got hurt but my goodness, was she ever embarrassed! I was finding dal splats in the weirdest places for weeks afterwards. I now have a policy to not use the pressure cooker if lots of other stuff is going on around the house - I hate cleaning slightly more than I love eating, it seems.
posted by Quietgal at 12:16 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


It was Graham Kerr who first got me into pressure cooking. His "comeback" show in the mid-90s, where was big on lo-cal and fast, was all about compressing cooking times with pressure.

I was big on pressure cooker beans in the early part of last decade, but I haven't touched the Fagor since the last move. Guess I need to pick up a new gasket and join the trendy kids.

I'm saving my money for Modernist Cuisine. Everyone I know who's read it says it's expensive and worth (almost) every page.
posted by dw at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If only there were something in this thread worth overthinking...
posted by 7segment at 12:58 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


A pressure cooker is a great way to substitute shredded meat for hamburger. Rather than use fat and pink slime laden mystery meat, I use tough, lean cuts (shin, heart, any venison cuts covered with tendon) that have been pressure cooked till the tendons have been converted to delicious jelly.
posted by 445supermag at 1:04 PM on April 8, 2012


As a cooking novice (by which I mean, I can make some basic stuff but don't enjoy cooking), the pressure cooker sounds like a pretty good thing. The problem with the crock pot is that by the time the food is done simmering, I've been smelling it for hours and want something else to eat.
posted by immlass at 1:05 PM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pressure cookers make me think of this.
posted by jonmc at 1:07 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


dw: "I'm saving my money for Modernist Cuisine. Everyone I know who's read it says it's expensive and worth (almost) every page."

Auden: "(If only Nathan Myhrvold could be excised from this otherwise most interesting and excellent post.)"

World's collide. I'm in the art trumps the artist camp, on this one. Myhrvold may be * (professionally) but he is no Thomas Kinkade.
posted by stbalbach at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, you can do a lot of these tricks with a slow cooker, too. I have a whole cookbook on slow cooker use that has recipes for lasagna, braised short ribs, soups, etc. In what way is the pressure cooker's new popularity not similarly faddish?
posted by indubitable at 1:15 PM on April 8, 2012


I'm afraid of pressure cookers since something went wrong when my aunt was using hers and she got scalding hot water on her and ended up in the burn unit. Are they any safer now?
posted by kanata at 1:20 PM on April 8, 2012


I absolutely promise that I was just finishing off my last mouthfuls of 30-min urad dal (actually it was more like 20) as I came across this post this evening, after an Easter lunch earlier today in which I used the pressure cooker to make a 40-min Sussex Pond Pudding.

2 things:

1) I love my pressure cooker with the absolute zeal of a convert. You know all those times when well-meaning relatives have said 'what you really need is a slow-cooker' and you've nodded your head but known all the time that you will never never be organised enough to prepare your food the night before, and then what if you're later coming home and so on and so on? What you need is a pressure cooker. As long as you don't use it to try to cook stuff that would take you less than 30 mins anyway, you're laughing. Chilli, Boeuf Carbonnade, Lamb tagines, that sort of thing.

2) Many people reading this are likely resistant to the idea that anything that could be described as 'English cooking' could be something you'd like to put in your mouth, but I promise you, the Sussex Pond Pudding is MAZIN. I used a recipe that replaced the suet with butter. Not all that healthy, but I don't get to do big lunches often.
posted by calico at 1:26 PM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, how is a pressure cooker different from a rice cooker? I love my rice cooker and I assume they are somehow related, but the workings are a bit of a mystery to me.
posted by Tesseractive at 2:06 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


They aren't related at all.

A pressure cooker uses a sealed container with liquid in it to achieve higher temperatures than cooking by boiling alone, along with using pressure created by the superheated liquid to drive the cooking to deep within the food so it all cooks much faster.

A rice cooker is simply a temperature-controlled boiling device which has a sensor which detects when the liquid to be absorbed by the cooking rice has been absorbed (I believe this works by a sudden rise in temperature because the now-wet solid heats up as opposed to liquid which holds at its simmer temperature), and then shifts out of hot to warm mode.
posted by hippybear at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Living in a trailer in the 80's with limited access to AC but lots of propane, we called the pressure cooker the "poor man's microwave."
posted by tspae at 2:25 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grew up at altitude and still live at altitude. My parents used the pressure cooker just about every night, and it always filled the kitchen with a delicious and comforting bit of steam in the winter. Fogged up the windows and had an oddly soothing hiss. That, along with All Things Considered playing in the background, is enough to take me back to the pleasant parts of my childhood.

In short, if you're at altitude and don't have a pressure cooker you don't know what you're missing. They're lovely, lovely implements.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


If anyone is interested in an easy way to make risotto without a pressure cooker, I found this one-stir skillet based recipe works well.
posted by Candleman at 2:31 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok so I happen to have access to this fabulous tomb.

Achievement unlocked!

Are they any safer now?

When I was a kid, my grandmother wouldn't allow me in the kitchen when she had the pressure cooker on.

But today, they have more safety features, so supposedly yes.
posted by dhartung at 2:31 PM on April 8, 2012


That's why my mother always insists on the "submarine hatch" Hawkins rather than the over the top lock and load of the Prestige - its apparently safer. Also, keeping all the vents clear of old stuck dal (by blowing through them) and ensuring your safety valve and rubber gasket are uptodate are important regular maintenance.

oddly taken aback at unexpected brand loyalty
posted by infini at 2:39 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


With regards to beef short ribs, I've found that they cook very nicely in a slow cooker with prepped carrots, herbs, beef broth and wine. The advantage being that in the morning, I do 15 minutes of prep and then leave them in the slow cooker all day. When I get home the house is redolent with fall-apart delicious ribs and the veggies and broth become a luscious gravy.

I might look into a pressure cooker at some point, but holy cow, I love the slow cooker.
posted by plinth at 2:57 PM on April 8, 2012


In short, if you're at altitude and don't have a pressure cooker you don't know what you're missing. They're lovely, lovely implements.

Is this basically a way to simulate living at sea level?

(I live at 190 feet above sea level and this is the highest I've ever lived in my life. Go here to get your altitude.)
posted by madcaptenor at 3:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there some reason to choose electric vs stovetop? (My oven is electric, fwiw.)
posted by jeather at 3:37 PM on April 8, 2012


i too was wondering about the electric vs stovetop
posted by robbyrobs at 3:45 PM on April 8, 2012


Man, I want Modernist Cuisine so badly but can't bear the thought of giving Myhrvold my money.

Excellent post, thanks.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:01 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


/Is there some reason to choose electric vs stovetop? (My oven is electric, fwiw.)/

My guess would be for a situation like a barracks or dorm room where a stovetop might not be available.
posted by hamida2242 at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2012


Nathan Myhrvold is a scumbag, from whom I would never take advice.
posted by colinshark at 4:32 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Candleman, thank you! Bookmarked for a rainy day! I actually don't love using the pressure cooker for most things, since you can't add stuff or stir once it's at pressure, plus you can't check for doneness so I usually overcook things. But easy risotto in a skillet sounds wonderful!
posted by Quietgal at 4:38 PM on April 8, 2012


I might look into a pressure cooker at some point, but holy cow, I love the slow cooker.

I have and use both, but the magic of a pressure cooker is that it does the work of a slow cooker in less than an hour. You want to turn that leftover roast beef into stew but it is after work on a weeknight? Cut it up, brown it with a little flour and bacon grease in your pressure cooker, throw in some liquid and fresh or frozen vegetables, season as you like and let 'er rip for 30-45 minutes and you have stew that tastes like it simmered all day. Less flour, more liquid, and cut the ingredients more finely and you have soup. Not quite as good as if you spent all day watching a pot but very close and very convenient.

Make sure everything is clean and fits properly, and pay attention to things like maximum and minimum amounts of liquid and how to cool it before opening, and these things are perfectly safe. Probably safer than the car most of you use daily.
posted by TedW at 4:39 PM on April 8, 2012


let 'er rip for 30-45 minutes

Wait, what?

My pressure cooker stew recipe has cooking happening (including using raw beef) for 12 minutes, plus natural temperature drop and release of pressure. The recipe book which came with the cooker has most soups and stews being done in 15 minutes.

A quick flip-through of said recipe book doesn't seem to have a single recipe for any genre of food which takes more than 20 minutes except for those which start with dried beans or peas.

If you're cooking stews in your pressure cooker for over a half-hour, I suspect you're doing it wrong.
posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on April 8, 2012


One other, no two other things: dried legumes are dirt cheap, tasty, and take forever to soak and cook. Pressure cooking dried beans and such makes them a practical alternative for anyone who doesn't have all day. Among many cooks in this part of the South, pressure cookers are the only way to cook fresh green beans. Two minutes, then cool rapidly and they will be cooked, but still bright green and with texture, unlike the cooked to mush green beans that are all too common.
posted by TedW at 4:47 PM on April 8, 2012


And corn on the cob. Prepare it, put it in the cooker with a bit of water, bring it up to pressure, then immediately take it off the heat and put it under cold water to drop the temperature and pressure nearly instantly. You'll have perfect corn on the cob every time.
posted by hippybear at 4:52 PM on April 8, 2012


That "how to buy" site claims there is no one best brand of pressure cooker. Which is total crap. Pro-Select is the best brand of pressure cooker.

They come to pressure faster, cook at higher pressure, have much better heat distribution, and are multiples safer and more rugged than pretty much any other cooker you can find. Knock it off he stove at full pressure and roll it down there stairs: it will not pop open. Cook with it thousands of times over the course of two decades, not a single part will wear out or need replacement. Open it at full pressure, the escaping steam will not touch your body. It's the pressure cooker you can will to your grandkids, and expect them to teach their grandkids how to cook with.

And even though it's stainless steel, in the Jetson's future when those great great grandkids are using magnetic induction stoves it will still work splendidly.
posted by clarknova at 4:53 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The stuff it is best at making is the stuff I prefer not to eat.
posted by Postroad at 5:28 PM on April 8, 2012


I am also on Team Never Used A Pressure Cooker Because I Am Terrified It Would Explode At Me, though I did once know an apartment full of physicists who pressure-cooked everything except waffles. Which they did in the waffle iron, as God intended.

Will it really not explode at me? Because I am afraid it will explode at me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Veal with Forty Cloves of Garlic.

There. I said it. I cooked veal. In the pressure cooker. And it was delicious.

And I love love love my pressure cooker.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2012


Will it really not explode at me? Because I am afraid it will explode at me.

Read the directions and follow them, and it will not explode at you.
posted by hippybear at 6:07 PM on April 8, 2012


Can we please focus on the Sussex Pond pudding recipe? How do you make it in a pressure cooker, and can this technique be applied to other puddings? Also, are steamed puddings great or what?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm reading a lot about meaty meals, but beyond beans, corn, and peas does a pressure cooker make sense for a wanna-be vegan?
posted by khedron at 6:33 PM on April 8, 2012


Hey, guys.

I was really hoping we could have a fight about what is the best pressure cooker because I've wanted to buy one for a while, but have no idea how to choose a good one. A flame war full of strong opinions is just what I need.

So far we have a single voice in favor of Pro-Select. But I've heard that Pro-Select brand pressure cookers are more vulnerable to malware than other brands. Nudge, nudge.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:52 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I submit that if you're a wannabe vegan, there's no such thing as "beyond" beans - you're gonna want to get real cosy with legumes and a pressure cooker makes using them infinitely easier, imho.
posted by smoke at 6:54 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


khedron: pressure cookers are also boss at making seitan.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:54 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The pressure cooker is an icon of my childhood.

That sound! Chick-a-chick-a-chick-a-chick-a! And the aroma of stew meat (or maybe a ham on the bone), potatoes (or maybe great northern beans (Don't you dare call them navy beans!)), and string beans cooking for hours and hours . . . . All signs of the eventual arrival of one of the best suppers we'd ever get in those days.

My grandmother bought that pressure cooker from a traveling salesman in the 1930s. She and my mother together, and later my mother alone used it constantly for the next fifty years and more. My sister-in-law has it now.

Tell you what: the thing still works.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:08 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I lived in Tacoma, the tastiest local dish I found was pressure-cooked baking potato wedges, called jojos. They were so good I named a cat after them. This tempts me to get a pressure cooker and try to recreate them.
posted by notashroom at 7:11 PM on April 8, 2012


Like it or not - Mr. Peacock has a point - the metal-to-metal seal of the All-American will last unlike the gasket models.

If you get a bigger All-American you can stick a smaller pot on the inside - thus something that would react with the Al becomes like cooking in a stainless steel pressure cooker and should not burn. Make or add weight to the pressure release and it can be used as a autoclave for whatever you may need to autoclave. (25 lbs as I remember - you may need to buy the autoclave safety plug)

Presto BTW used to be an ammunition maker - so keep working on the bomb references.

(my best pressure cooker find - $10 for a 1916 Presto)
posted by rough ashlar at 7:12 PM on April 8, 2012


My parents still have the Presto they got as a wedding gift nearly 50 years ago. When I moved out on my own, they asked if there was one thing I wanted, and I asked for a pressure cooker. I still have that one nearly 25 years later. I had to replace the gasket once about 10 years ago, when a dullard that was living with me put the lid in the dishwasher.

I don't have experience with other pressure cookers, but I can stay without a doubt that Presto pressure cookers work great and don't explode.
posted by hippybear at 7:20 PM on April 8, 2012


Pressure cooker killer app: ARTICHOKES. 12 minutes and they're perfectly done, soft all the way to the core, and even long stems are tasty a la cardoons. I have two; a late 70s 12qt and a 1943 4qt (for my VW Westfalia camper to minimize LP use) aluminum Prestos. Local Seattle hardware chain McClendons has all parts in stock.

Also, steel-cut oats 6 mins, eggs hameen 30 mins (instead of 24 hrs), corned beef (same as brisket, better w/gin in the braise), pho broth (same as Mhyrvold stock), matzoh balls or dumplins....
posted by Dreidl at 8:07 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nathan Myhrvold is a scumbag, from whom I would never take advice.

More info here, if anyone's interested in where the hate is coming from.
posted by mediareport at 8:44 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Practical Sailor tested four pressure cookers: Presto, Fagor Futur, Pro-Selection's Pressure Magic and Kun Rikon Duromatic. Pressure Magic (made by Fagor) ranked lowest, Kuhn Rikon the highest.

The Pressure magic only reaches 10psi, not the 15psi norm. Apart from operating at sub-standard pressure, it is not so easy to close, according to Practical Sailor's review. The quality of being able to get knocked off he stove at full pressure, roll it down there stairs and not pop open, does not seem to outweigh its drawbacks.

Pressure magic has the same elegant shape as Fagor's Futura model but has a different lid. It is also more than twice the price.

Practical Sailor agrees with Modernist Cuisine choice that the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic is the best. Apparently the NYT calls it the Mercedez-Benz of pressure cookers. The 12 quart Kuhn Rikon is slightly more expensive than the 10 quart Pressure Magic.

IMO, itis best to get the largest pressure cooker you can afford, as you can put smaller pots, jars inside. I have a 20 something quart All American aluminum pressure cooker, that I found on the street, but I am tempted to get a Fagor future, because it looks so beautiful, or a Kuhn Rikon because it constantly gets top reviews.
posted by snaparapans at 8:48 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great for fried chicken.

OMG YOU CAN'T FRY IN A PRESSU...

Can't hear you. Eating chicken.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


That "how to buy" site claims there is no one best brand of pressure cooker. Which is total crap. Pro-Select is the best brand of pressure cooker.

Meh.

Those Pro-Select pressure cookers are like, $300-500. The high domed six litre Prestige costs about £36. Are they really ten to fifteen times better?

As for all the people worried about safety -- I'm a complete moron who is on his second in thirty years because I fell asleep and left my first on full heat -- for hours.

The bottom of the pan got distorted, but it didn't explode or anything. They're made so that there's a safety valve that blows out rather than letting the whole thing explode.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:44 AM on April 9, 2012


There was a season when I was in my early teens when my mother decided to figure out how to turn the recipe for making rasogollas from backbreaking and delicate labour to pressure cooker goodness. Every other day we'd try chewy ones, rubbery ones, flaky ones and weird pink ones until the day it all worked out perfectly. That recipe made her 'internet famous' among her social network in the late 1970s.
posted by infini at 2:04 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I put my faith in German engineering, and have a WMF model. I think it's six litres, but that doesn't seem to match that well to any of the quart sizes given. Still, it's one of those. I love it, seems safe (had it a year) but I think all of them are probably safe as long as you hang around for the boring bit while it's getting to pressure and then turn the heat down straight away, set a timer and walk away.

On the matter of Sussex Pond Puddings and other steamed puddings (about which Joe in Australia is entirely correct):

1) first find a recipe for Sussex Pond Pudding. Note that it says 'steam for 3-4 hours' and smirk to yourself.

2) do all of the preparation bit for the pudding - roll out the pastry, put in the lemon, sugar and butter, put on the pastry lid, fiddle about with the greaseproof paper and string and so on.

3) either find the steamer stand that came with your pressure cooker or improvise something. put water in to a depth of at least 5cm and bring to boil.

4) place the pudding bowl on the steamer stand, put the lid over and without bringing to pressure steam for 10 minutes.

5) now clamp the lid on, bring to pressure and steam for 30 mins.

6) take out and enjoy life-shortening lemony goodness.

This is the first one I have tried, but I can't imagine that other steamed puddings wouldn't work as well.

On the matter of timing and whether it can ever be right to cook something for more than 30 mins - yeah, unsoaked larger beans are 30 mins. Pork shoulder, shin of beef, goat and those sorts of fibrous meats are 30 mins for the equivalent of putting them in the oven for 2-2.5 hours.
posted by calico at 2:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the article read a little like product placement. I like to cook and regularly will cook stews and beans and other time consuming things for 2 + hours. But I have always been suspicious of the Pressure Cooker.

Generally I think of it as more of Microwave novelty device that is not really needed in a real kitchen.

Also having just read McGee's On Food and Cooking I"m doubtful that you will get great results with a cooking temperature above 100C. I cooked some Lamb's tongues recently where I was fastidious about keeping it just below the boil. and they were so tender.

Often for slow cooking things ideally you don't want the cooking liquid to get too hot as the proteins in the meat will compact too much. Doesn't cooking in a pressure cooker kill the meat? and leave it with that 'dry' over-heated tendency?
posted by mary8nne at 2:52 AM on April 9, 2012


Well I bought mine 20 years ago. It cost about $70. No single item of cookware is worth $300. On that basis I retract my recommendation.

At the time I purchased it, 7 PSI was the standard, which the Pro-Selection models were well above. If it's all about 15 PSI now... sadly, we can't compete with that. Times have changed and obviously my cooker and I have not changed with them. Yea, I mourn our partnered passage into obsolescence.

That said, I don't know how much stock (GET IT?) I can put in a review from a nautical mag which doesn't think reliably not-exploding when dropped is a top priority for cookware. Galleys tend to be small, cramped spaces with unstable surfaces. Are they really that practical? Are they even sailors?

That review makes two other dubious statements:
Despite reading and re-reading the directions several times, and multiple testers conducting more than a half-dozen trial-runs on two different stoves, it took a conversation with Pro-Selections before testers were successful in getting the cooker to reach and maintain pressure.
There is absolutely nothing mysterious nor complicated about the lid mechanism. Tying off to a cleat is far trickier but presumably they can manage that. I can't read the above without the phrase "ship of fools" coming to mind.
According to Pro-Selections’ Barbara Niemi, most women users tend to under-tighten the lid, and that, apparently, had been one of testers’ problems.
My wife is 5'4", 120 pounds, and can do it with her broken hand. If you don't have the strength to tighten its lid screw you don't have what it takes to paddle a flat-bottom canoe, much less raise a sail.

The thing is still a tank, still incredibly safe, and will still outlast my body and the bodies of the generation to follow us. Unless those extra 5 PSI are required for the transmutation of base elements into solar metals I won't be buying a newer one.
posted by clarknova at 2:55 AM on April 9, 2012


Ah - I warned you all above that I have the zeal of a convert so the defensiveness that follows shouldn't come as a surprise...

mary8nne - I don't own a microwave because I always cook from scratch and so haven't ever seen the point in one taking up surface space in my kitchen. The reheating I do can be done on a hob or in the oven, so I've never missed it. The pressure cooker really has been an eye-opener though. It does depend on sticking to the strengths of the device - but stews really are good when done in one, and no, I haven't found that it kills the meat at all. Where you are looking for that soft, easily pulled-apart texture that you get from long, slow cooking, the pressure cooker is excellent at that.
posted by calico at 3:00 AM on April 9, 2012


Generally I think of it as more of Microwave novelty device that is not really needed in a real kitchen.

Depends on the cuisine. A wok is part of a real Chinese kitchen as much as a pressure cooker is part of the young bride's dowry in India.
posted by infini at 3:46 AM on April 9, 2012


My wife and I have been married for more than 15 years, when we got married, her mother (IIRC), made sure we had a pressure cooker for one reason. BBQ Brisket. Toss the brisket in the pressure cooker for about 30 minutes, cool the pot, take out the meat, cut it to shreds, throw it in the crock pot (another necessary device in a kitchen IMHO) with your favorite BBQ sauce(s) and serve with small hamburger buns or rolls.

Grand...now I'm hungry for brisket and it's not even 7am.
posted by ZureaL at 4:00 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


snaparapans: "Practical Sailor tested four pressure cookers: Presto, Fagor Futur, Pro-Selection's Pressure Magic and Kun Rikon Duromatic. Pressure Magic (made by Fagor) ranked lowest, Kuhn Rikon the highest. "

For those not aware: Practical Sailor is a publication that reviews sailing and sailing-related equipment (like pressure cookers, useful in sailboat galleys), and accepts no advertisement or sponsor money, period. (It's entirely subscriber-supported.) It's the Consumer Reports of the sailing world.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:00 AM on April 9, 2012


At the time I purchased it, 7 PSI was the standard, which the Pro-Selection models were well above. If it's all about 15 PSI now...

As I said, I bought my first one thirty years ago. That one came with three weights as concentric rings. You could take off the outside one or the outside and the middle one. Being a lazy bastard, I never ever used it at anything less than 15 PSI, but I'm pretty sure the only difference it made was that stuff cooked in 5 mins as opposed to 7 mins or 10 mins.

I also don't own a microwave -- when I had one, I only ever used it to warm up cups of tea that were going cold -- but I wouldn't think of being without a pressure cooker.

Often for slow cooking things ideally you don't want the cooking liquid to get too hot as the proteins in the meat will compact too much. Doesn't cooking in a pressure cooker kill the meat? and leave it with that 'dry' over-heated tendency?

It's all about technique -- same as any other kitchen tool. You're not going to put your expensive, lean cuts of meat into a pressure cooker, but for meat that has lots of fat and connective tissue, pressure cooking is perfect. It breaks down all that stuff that would take hours in a slow cooker, without having to wait all day for it to happen.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:06 AM on April 9, 2012


You can cook up a batch of fresh corn on the cob in less than five minutes with very little water in a pressure cooker. Ours would see plenty of service if I used it for that purpose alone. It's a great tool if you know how to use it properly. I'm always amazed at the horrified reactions of friends when I casually mention fixing a great beef stew or stock with it. New ones have safety features and rarely if ever "blow up."

A very sound and healthy method for preparing lots of tasty dishes quickly. Alongside my cast iron skillet my pressure cooker is my favorite time-tested cooking tool.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:52 AM on April 9, 2012


...the rediscovery of a kitchen staple within my lifetime.
posted by rmmcclay at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: "though I did once know an apartment full of physicists who pressure-cooked everything except waffles"

Challenge Accepted.
posted by schmod at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, while we're suggesting Presto, are we suggesting stainless steel or aluminum? The price difference is substantial (in Canada).
posted by jeather at 12:37 PM on April 9, 2012


They aren't related at all.

There are some rice cookers that are also pressure cookers, of which mine is one. I haven't used it as a non-rice pressure cooker, but it allows for that, as well as using the pressure for quick cooking rice..
posted by flaterik at 1:20 PM on April 9, 2012


I grew up with the sound of the pressure cooker hissing and rattling in the kitchen. It always lent a great deal of drama, intrigue, and terror to what were otherwise very ordinary, boring, one-note, midwestern-inspired dishes. And yes, it exploded once. Beans dripping down from the popcorn ceiling. A permanent bean stain up there, right over the stove, and a bald spot in the texture from where my mom tried so hard, teetering on a kitchen stool, to erase the evidence before anyone got home and laughed at her.

I bought a huge pressure canner last year so that I could put up tomatoes. It's too big for really cooking in -- although I did try a corned beef last St. Patrick's Day. (I don't really know how it turned out because I forgot that the vision of a cooked, untrimmed brisket, makes me lose my appetite tout de suite with its, like, veins and stuff.)

Anyway, my mom gave me a more normal sized, 6-quart Presto for Christmas. I wasn't too excited about it. When I cook, I like to COOK. I like to have something simmering on the stove for hours, for the smell of beef or chicken stock to find its way down the hallways and to the back rooms of the house. So initially I tried cooking a pot of beans. So fast! Even unsoaked! Only takes 25-30 minutes, depending on the bean! [And incidentally, you don't really need to worry about pressure cookers exploding anymore -- unless you're cooking beans. Because they foam up when they cook, they can leave residue in the vent pipe, leading to a catastrophic build-up of pressure. The remedy for this is to add a teaspoon or two of oil to the water before you close the lid. It reduces the surface tension and prevents the foam forming (I think).] Dried chickpeas cooked in the pressure cooker? SO. MUCH. BETTER. THAN. CANNED. Quick soak them and they can be done in an hour -- not 12-24, like the old-school way.

But the day I really became convinced was on Pot Roast Day. (It will forever be in caps. Pot Roast Day.) Like I said, if I'm going to cook, I want to be involved. I want to stir and scrape and feel like I contributed to the dish. But that Pot Roast? Holy wow, was it good.

I forget how long the meat cooked, but it was under 30 minutes. The recipe I used directed you to remove the pot from the heat, reduce the pressure, add the vegetables, and then cook it all again for one minute. Vegetables in one minute. And they were a little overcooked! (Which doesn't matter in a Pot Roast, but still. You can super-cook potatoes in one minute in a pressure cooker!)

It was so tasty. So moist -- unlike any other pot roast I've ever made. So quick. And I did it all after I got home from work on a weeknight.

I'm a convert. They're not scary. They don't take the intimacy or intricacy out of cooking your meal. They're just damn convenient and fast and they make awesome food that you usually have to wait until Saturday to fix for yourself. It's not the same meditative sort of experience as cooking for hours, no, but sometimes you just want the meal without the meditation that goes into preparing it.

Pressure cookers are awesome.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:37 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


>when a dullard that was living with me put the lid in the dishwasher

Whoopsy. Well, that explains why my gasket started leaking after a year.

Thanks hippybear sadly, wanders dully into the gloom.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 7:02 PM on April 9, 2012


Pressure Magic (made by Fagor) ranked lowest, Kuhn Rikon the highest. "

Fagor's Duo 8-quart (which they didn't test) is Cook's Illustrated's favorite. They have literally never steered me wrong in equipment reviews, FWIW, and the thing's less than half the price of a Kuhn Rikon.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:23 PM on April 9, 2012


So, while we're suggesting Presto, are we suggesting stainless steel or aluminum?

According to Miss Vickie, stainless steel is better in terms of durability, stainlessness and even heating.
posted by storybored at 9:15 PM on April 9, 2012


p.s. the Presto stainless steel 6 qt cooker is available at Amazon.com for $47 and may ship to Canada. Don't know how much the shipping charges would be though.
posted by storybored at 9:31 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I bought mine 20 years ago. It cost about $70. No single item of cookware is worth $300.

So that's...$115 today.

Carry on.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:11 AM on April 10, 2012


...the rediscovery of a kitchen staple within my lifetime.

Assuming that this really is a rediscovery (as compared to one or two articles to be followed by next week's urgent news about panini presses), this is the second rediscovery in my lifetime. I can remember as a child in the 70s my parents and all their hippyish friends getting pressure cookers to cook those tasteless bean dishes in Laurel's Kitchen and similar cookbooks, and maybe for canning projects, too. (I have a lot of affection for and happy memories of that era, but not for the bean mush.)

And the pressure cookers of my childhood were a rediscovery, too -- I know my mother got her pressure cooker from my grandmother, who had bought it sometime after WWII. In each case, I don't think the pressure cookers got a lot of use in the intervening decades.
posted by Forktine at 4:47 AM on April 10, 2012


Nigella seems quite fond of pressure cookers in How To Eat but none of her more recent books make any mention of them.

No single item of cookware is worth $300

Really? I'm sure there a lot of people with kitchenaid mixers, magimix food processors or le cruset casseroles that would take objection to that statement.
posted by oxford blue at 3:06 AM on April 12, 2012


So about 8L (8 Quart) seems to be the recommended size. - but that seems just huge to me. Amazon.co.uk has a lot in the 6L size actually.

I will investigate, as it might be useful for cooking more beans and pulses. (which I might be doing more of soon due to unemployment).
posted by mary8nne at 5:52 AM on April 13, 2012


I will investigate, as it might be useful for cooking more beans and pulses.

One of the things we always try to do is keep a supply of cooked beans on hand. We'll buy dry in bulk, cook up a big pot, parcel them out into bags and freeze them. When a recipe calls for a can of beans, or we just want to make a salad or whatever, we throw a bag in the fridge the night before (or in a cold skillet on the stove earlier in the day) so it'll be thawed and ready to use.

That means no more canned beans, so less sodium, no preservatives or BPA or anything like that. Cheaper too, if you buy bulk.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:25 AM on April 13, 2012


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