four of my pressure cookers and a steamer basket photo by vsimon
I know you want to. But it is scary. What if it does not like me back? What if it blows a gasket? Not to worry, modern pressure cookers have many safety features. You will not decorate your ceiling with the contents. And this will be the start of a satisfying, long lasting relationship.
Start with a first date.
Set a date, set aside some time. A half an hour of undivided attention is a great start. First, touch, feel and inspect your cooker. Remove the gasket, put it in again. Fiddle with the pressure gauge. Lock the lid, and feel the secure closure.
Take that first step. Cook water, just water. You cannot ruin water.
Get to know how your cooker handles pressure. Does a skinny column on the top pop up? Does a purple or yellow button raise? The directions will tell you, and you will know it when you see it.
Find out how little heat is needed to maintain pressure. Try different settings on your burner and see. Once it is at pressure, you may be surprised how little energy is required to keep it going.
Try several ways to relieve pressure. Turn off the burner, and let it go slowly. Or run cold water over the cooker to drop the pressure quickly. Is there a quick release button? (This is pretty drastic, I avoid these.)
Think about all the things you can create with your pressure cooker. Look below to see a partial list of what I make.
Is there potential here? Was it a great first date?
What are you looking for in a pressure cooker?
Assess your situation and desires. Are you a family of 1 or 10? Do you want to cook beans? Do you want the option of a quick release of pressure?
Based on 10 years of pressure cooking, hundreds of recipes, with 6 different pressure cookers, I have some favorites. A 6 quart, stovetop, thick bottomed, stainless steel cooker is the place to start.
For most, a 6 quart cooker is the best size. I have one 8 quart size, that I use when making a big batch of bean soup. But the 6 quart size works just fine with 1 pound of dry beans or spilt peas. Or up to 4 pounds of meat. A 4 quart cooker is too limiting as the only cooker in a household.
I prefer stove top cookers because they can go to the sink and get a bath of cold water. Pressure drops in just a few seconds.
Electric cookers have their place, and I use one. They can be programmed to cook for a certain time. You load, lock the top, and set the timer. On their own, they come to pressure, cook for the allotted time, then stop cooking. Admittedly, that is easy.
But they cannot take a bath, a serious draw back for me. That means I cannot cook things that take just a few minutes, then need to cool down quickly. Like potato salad. The potatoes would get way overdone, way too mushy.
Now to the thick bottomed part of the recommendations. I started with an inexpensive Presto cooker. And burned lots of stuff in it. You cannot stir things in a locked cooker. And a thick bottom makes all the difference.
And invest in a stainless steel model. It can be used on any cook top, including induction. Aluminum cannot. And cooking in aluminum is no fun, sometimes your food turns out gray.
I have short handles and long handled cookers (see the picture above). Long handled ones are a lot easier to open.
Presto cookers have a noisy, rattley top. It is annoying to listen to when it is up to pressure.
Some cookers come as a set. Additional non-pressure lids are useful, so you can use the cooker as a traditional pot. Even after all these years, I don’t use the little steamer baskets some sets have. I do like a bigger pasta insert though. Not for pressure cooking, but when using the pot unpressured. And I like having several sizes of cookers. But these are not necessary.
You might be able to find pressure cookers locally. Often you cannot. I have a few listed in our Kitchen Store.
I have been happy with Fagor, T-fal, Cooks Essentials, and Kuhn Rikon brands. I have not reviewed specific models available now because they are different than my older versions.
Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers are pricy. But they have great customer service. They come with a 10 year guarantee. After almost 10 years of nearly daily use in our personal chef business, the bottom of my cooker separated. I was not sure I could produce the receipt, and maybe I registered the cooker when I bought it. Kuhn Rikon replaced the whole pot (not the lid) without any difficulty.
And I have replaced gaskets for numerous cookers over the years. They wear out and the cooker won’t hold pressure as well. I order them over the internet.
What do I make in my pressure cookers?
Here is a just a small listing:
Greek Lemon Chicken Soup
White Chicken Chili
Mexican Beef Stew
Peninsula Cranberry Pot Roast
BBQ Country Ribs
Pork Chops with Herb Gravy
Pork Chops Marsala
Green Bean and Potato Salad
Fruited Wild Rice
Split Pea Soup
And many more dishes, you get the idea. I use my pressure cookers nearly every day. You will too when you fall in love with them.
Please tell us what you make, or would like to make in a pressure cooker. See the poll in the right side bar. Or please leave a comment.