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Pressure Cooker Question

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Let me start by saying that I'm not interested in getting one, but that I'm just curious: what's the value of a pressure cooker besides cooking foods faster?  Are there any foods that are better suited to a pressure cooker than others?  If some foods are best cooked with a long, slow process (like brisket or a pot roast), what does the quicker, higher heat do to them?  Are results comparable?  Thanks!
Schmoozer
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Schmoozer
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post #2 of 8
My interest in the pressure cooker was for some Indian foods that are often cooked in a PC for convenience. Works well. The time saving with beans is great and a 15 minute risotto start to finish is fantastic.

Besides time, I think the PC does a better job with cooking tamales. I think the masa comes out better in the PC particularly the tamales in the middle as they often don't get as properly cooked in normal steaming.

While not exactly the same as a standard PC, there are some foods that can only be canned safely under pressure. But Pressure Canners are a somewhat different animal.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 8

Pressure cooking offers a number of advantages over other methods.
 
There is the obvious saving in time.  Schmoozer mentions brisket,  so we'll go with that for an example.  A 3 to 4 pound corned beef brisket will be done in about 35 minutes + the time it takes for the pressure to drop (about 10 min).  On stovetop or by oven,  the same cut of meat would require 2 to 3 hours for the same doneness.  However,  the pressure cooked meat is every bit as succulent and flavorful--or even more so--as if it had been cooked by a conventional method.
 

You also save energy.  Pressure cooking concentrates heat and energy to just the pan on the burner.  And at 15 psi (pounds per square inch),  the internal temperature of the cooker is raised to 250 degrees.  If you are boiling a brisket by normal stovetop cooking,  the maximum temperature of the water would be 212 degrees at sea level,  even lower at higher altitudes.  Therefore,  cooking times would need to be extended four-fold or more.  

Fewer nutrients are lost.  Because the foods are cooked under pressure, only a little moisture is lost to evaporation,  which also takes valuable nutrients with it.  I typically pressure steam potatoes, for instance.  With only about 1 cup of water in the pan,  I place the potatoes into a steamer basket so they are suspended above the water, salt them, lock on the lid,  and bring to pressure over high heat.  Once pressure is reached,  I reduce the heat to only what is needed to maintain pressure, and time them from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size and type of potato.  Then remove from the heat and let the pressure drop naturally.  The nutrients remain in the potato, rather than going down the drain as when you strain boiled potatoes. 

Schmoozer asked if some foods are better suited to pressure cooking than others:

Yes.  Generally speaking,  more delicate foods such as seafoods for instance,  do not do as well under pressure.  Some people have said that vegetables turn to "mush".  This is only true if one does not know how to use the PC properly for veggies. 
Soups and stews turn out fantastic,  as do any meats that would be braised.  The first time I did sauerbraten in the PC,  I vowed never to do it any other way again!  Steam-roasted chicken is fast and healthy,  and falling-off-the-bone tender and juicy. 

I do desserts:  Steamed puddings, cheesecake, chocolate brownies, rice pudding, apple dumplings, and many others, without running the oven.  This is especially nice in the summertime. 

Schmoozer,  if you have more questions,  just ask. 
 

"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #4 of 8
 In addition to the sharing above. I would like to impart my knowledge about pressure cooker. The disadvantage about pressure cooker is depending on usage and care, the gasket will need replacing every now and then, and occasionally some new manufacturers will come and go, leaving the consumer with no options. The old style hissing models of the past are gone; today's new, modern pressure cookers are very quiet, totally safe and reliable

The modern pressure cooker has many new features that were not available on the older model, and now the cooking cycle can be safely interrupted to add additional ingredients, or stopped at anytime. 

post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeMadeCook View Post

 In addition to the sharing above. I would like to impart my knowledge about pressure cooker. The disadvantage about pressure cooker is depending on usage and care, the gasket will need replacing every now and then, and occasionally some new manufacturers will come and go, leaving the consumer with no options. The old style hissing models of the past are gone; today's new, modern pressure cookers are very quiet, totally safe and reliable

The modern pressure cooker has many new features that were not available on the older model, and now the cooking cycle can be safely interrupted to add additional ingredients, or stopped at anytime. 


Yes, gaskets do need to be replaced occasionally.  However I have not found them to be to costly,  at least for my PC models.  It's just something that has to be done from time to time,  like putting new tires on my car.  Consumers do have to be savvy shoppers when it comes to choosing a pressure cooker.  It is best to stick with well-known brands with good track records. 

Three that I recommend are Presto, Fagor and Kuhn-Rikon.  The first two are in the economy class.  The K-R is more expensive.  The Presto cookers are the old-fashioned "jiggler" type, with the weighted pressure regulator.  Fagor and K-R are called "new generation",  with spring-loaded operating valves.  All three of these come to 15 psi,  which is the standard for which pressure cooker recipe books are written. 

In years past pressure cookers lacked safety features,  and this gave rise to the horror stories about them "exploding" or "redecorating" the kitchen ceiling.  Today's cookers all have integrated safety features that make them almost "idiot-proof".  I say almost,  because it is possible to override the safeties and open the cooker while it is still under pressure...although I don't know why anyone would want to do such a stupid thing. 

There may be a few low pressure pots, that allow the cooking cycle to easily be interrupted at any time,  however, as in times past, with true pressure cookers -- those that come to 10psi or above -- the pressure must first be reduced to zero in order for the lid to safely be removed.  This can be accomplished with some foods, using the rapid release valve or the cold water pressure reduction method.  However,  with foods that foam,  neither of these methods is advised because the foam will be carried by the steam into operating valve,  or the pressure stem,  clogging the pressure regulator.  Grains, chicken and beans are a few examples of foods that foam. 

Even with the (so-called) disadvantages,  pressure cookers deliver big on saving time, energy and nutrients.  The key to using one successfully is to become thoroughly acquainted with the appliance,  use common sense,  and be aware of it's capabilities and limitations. 
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #6 of 8
I have three PC's.  Two are at home and one is on the boat.  Besides all the arguments presented above, I think it enfuses the flavor of the ingredients a bit more into the dish but there is one really important consideration on the boat.  If I take a wave bad or some jerk hits me with a really bad wake the pots and pans on the stove go flying.  With the pressure cooker top on, even if not being used for pressure cooking, I don't have a big mess to clean up, it stays in the pot. 
post #7 of 8

 

I need of advice:

I have been told that I must overcome my PC phobia. Thirty yrs ago, one exploded - beans on the ceiling. Everyone assures me that won't happen now, with the modern design features.

 

So what I would like is opinions as to (a) aluminum vs (b) stainless steel or "other". I think stainless steel is better, health-wise. I don't mind paying more for the best, most durable, PC that will optimize on maintaining food nutrients. Then again, I really don't want a lot of complexity (bells, whistles, gauges, etc).

post #8 of 8

I have a Kuhn-Rikon 7 qt which I am still learning to use, but already find indispensable.  Being able to time-warp 4 hours of cooking into <1 hour is a remarkably useful thing.  You can come home, decide to make a pot roast or stew or oxtails or similar long-cooking dish, and have it on the table in an hour.  Similarly, you can come home with a chicken, piece it up and toss the carcass into the pressure cooker, and have stock in 40 minutes. 

 

There have been a few minor 'learning curve'' things, which are easily worked around but I'll still mention them.  First, it is slightly inconvenient to add faster-cooking foods to the pot midway through cooking (but not terribly so - release pressure, add ingredient, and return to heat, takes 5 minutes).  Second, if you're cooking meat in a liquid, the liquid won't reduce during cooking as it would in an uncovered pot (so when I add ingredients to the cooker midway through, I will sometimes take out some of the liquid, then reduce that in a conventional pot while the pressure cooker keeps working away).  Third, the Kuhn-Rikon has a disc bottom so when browning meat before commencing the pressure cooking, there's sometimes scorching at the edges of the pot's bottom).  Finally, I really should have two cookers.  When one dish is cooking in time-warp mode, the other dishes start to become the bottleneck.

 

Get the largest pressure cooker you can handle - at least 7 to 8 qt.  You can always place a small steamer or workbowl inside it, if you want to cook in a smaller container.  Or stack two such small bowls inside a large cooker. 

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