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Pressure cooker recommendations? (Moved from Home Cooking)

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I'd always associated pressure cookers with 1950s gadgetry (and the risk of exploding beef stew) until a professional chef told me that that they're a great convenience and make the toughest cuts of meats meltingly tender and full of flavor. Any recommendations for a model that is not too large/costly/elaborate?

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  1. I have a 4 qt Kuhn Rikon. It works great.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Caviar

      I had a ROTTEN experience with a Kuhn Rikon that jammed and would not open had to whack it open with a wrench.

      When I contacted the US distributor they were horrible and rude. I would never buy anything from Kuhn Rikon again.

      Now I have a Presto 8 quart Pressure Cooker that works like a charm and I love it.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        I also have the Presto 8 Quart. Excellent machine. Much better than the Fabor it replaced (the plastic handle detached after a year of use). The Presto's are bolted to the cooker, so I don't see this happening soon.

        1. re: monkeyrotica

          Two years later and the Presto is still going strong. My Fagor broke around the same time.

      2. Go with the Kunh Rikon. It may be a tad more expensive, but with pressure cookers, economy is not where you want to go.

        1. c
          ChowFun (derek)

          Cooks Illustrated recommends the Fagor Duo. (Amazon.com)
          The Kuhn Ricon is recommended "with reservations"

          1. Love my 6L Fagor MultiRapid. Highly recommended. I have every piece of kitchen equipment (useless or not) that I'll ever need and it is hands down my favorite piece of real kitchen equipment. It's easy to use, quiet, easy to clean and it's the perfect shape to use as a pasta cooking pot for 2 or 3 portions.

            I looked at several: Fagor, Kuhn Rikon, Magnafesa (?sp), and a couple of others.

            The only reason to get the Kuhn Rikon, that I can determine, is if you would like to pressure fry chicken (broasting). Since I prefer pan-fried chicken as opposed to deep-fried chicken, broasted or not, that one advantage was out the window.

            I also use my Fagor on occasion for canning no- or low-acid foods (chicken, fish, meat, sausage, vegetables, other) and the controllability of the pressure (5#, 10# and 15#) is a definite advantage.

            1. I have a Fagor Multirapid 6-liter (allows 3 pressure levels, but may be out of production now) and a Kuhn Rikon 5-liter (two levels, like all K-Rs). One of the few important distinctions between them, in my opinion, is that the Kuhn Rikon lets you quickly release the pressure without having to place the pot under cold running water--an advantage in my small kitchen if the single sink happens to be filled with dishes at the crucial moment. Newer Fagor models may also offer this feature; you'd have to check the instructions. Both the Kuhn Rikon and the Fagor Multirapid have clear visual indicators of the pressure level; but on some Fagor models you have to get a sense of when the "right" amount of steam is coming out of the valve. On others, a pin pops up when pressure is reached. If you'll be doing a lot of cooking at low pressure (rarely necessary, in my experience), a multi-level Fagor may better suit your needs; it's a little tricky to maintain consistent low pressure with a Kuhn Rikon. (Obviously, there are other brands to choose from; these are just the ones I'm familiar with.) Finally, since you can only fill a pressure cooker two-thirds full (or half full when you're cooking stuff that foams, like certain grains), but can always cook small amounts in a large pot, it's probably best to go with a model that holds 5 liters or more. If you go into a well-stocked bookstore and read the introductions to a few good pressure-cooker cookbooks (e.g., Lorna Sass's), you'll get quite a bit of information that will help you decide what to buy.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Miss Priss
                ChowFun (derek)

                The Fagor Duo is a newer model and allows all those things and apparently MORE according to Cooks Illustrated

                1. re: ChowFun (derek)

                  The Fagor Duo is certainly a good pressure cooker, and a lot less expensive than the Kuhn Rikon. For what it's worth, though, the Cooks Illustrated article contained several significant inaccuracies about the Kuhn Rikon. Just one example: they claimed the only way to quickly depressurize the Kuhn Rikon is to run it under cold water, even though the instruction manual for that model clearly states that you can do so by depressing the pressure valve. (There's even a picture of it!) If the descriptions of the other cookers were as careless--and not being as familiar with them, I can't judge--I wouldn't put much faith in them.

              2. Yikes. I was going to recommend my Cuisinart, but nobody even mentioned it as a possibility. I got it about 10 years ago, so maybe they don't make them anymore (or they're no good anymore).

                I've always like the Cuis. easy to use and results are fine.

                3 Replies
                1. re: oakjoan

                  Don't feel bad oakjoan, after reading your post I just googled MirroMatic, and found that at best I may be able to get parts for it. I've had it for over 20 years, don't know how I would cook artichokes without it.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    I have an electric Cuisinart that I just got last summer and I really like it. Like others, when I'd think of pressure cookers, I'd think of those mid-century contraptions with their scary rattling regulators. But the new generation pressure cooker is completely safe and actually fun to use. The Cuisinar comes with some really great recipes that I've used quite a few times.

                    1. re: oakjoan


                      I have a cuisinart pressure cooker, but have lost the manual. Would you please tell me what pressures the 3 circles indicate on the pressure stem? This is for a stovetop model -- not he electric version.

                      Or, if you are able to, could you scan the user guide and email it to me? I believe the same manual was used for the 3 sizes they produced for their "quiet" pressure cookers. I have the C89.24 model. BTW, replacement gaskets can still be ordered from Cuisinart -- just not the manuals.


                    2. I managed to get an Amazon.com sale on the Fagor Duo 8qt/4qt kit (two same-diameter pots, one pressure cooker lid, one glass lid, one steamer basket) - think I spent $100, but I think that includes the extra gasket I threw in just in case. Haven't used the 4qt bottom yet, but the 8qt is ample for Alton Brown's chili (search for it on foodtv.com - it's quite good but I think better reheated the second day), which is all I've used it for so far. I recommend it. Very safe (Read Your Manual!), quiet, confidence-inspiring, and 2/3 the price of Kuhn-Rikon (which I think is the source for CI's bias).

                      Also think Lorna Sass's "Pressure Perfect" is probably worth buying - haven't done so yet - but am wondering about Spanish and/or Mexican recipes in the pressure cooker. Fagor's a Spanish brand, and apparently pressure cookers are much used there, but maybe I need to learn Spanish to find some yummy recipes?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tcd

                        tcd ... I have modified a tamale recipe, found at http://www.sonofthesouth.net/tamales/, and use an old "American" canner style so that I can put about 100-120 tamales at a time. I cook at pressure for about 45 min, and let cook "thermally" after removed from heat for about 1.5-2 hours more. Great flavor and I only heat for that 45 min or so. Family LOVES them. Not spanish but great stuff and shortens the forever boiling that you do traditionally. Enjoy.

                        1. re: deadelvis

                          Ooo. I'm most intrigued. I assume you pressure cook the wrapped tamales, not the pork roast? How do you cook the roast? (I've only skimmed the recipe so far...)

                      2. There's nothing wrong with a stainless steel Presto. At Amazon the 6 qt is 50 bucks and the 8 qt is 75 bucks and for a few dollars more you get the book, too. I'm not knockin' the more expensive ones or the way more expensive ones because I don't know what they do that's better than what the Presto does. On soup day, my Presto has a little bobber on top that rocks back and forth with a little ssst, ssst, ssst sound. When the windows are foggin' up and the Steelers are on the tube, that's a comforting sound.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: yayadave

                          I've had a Presto since '88 and it has been great. With that brand it has never been difficult to find new seals either, usually local hardware store will carry them.

                          If you are just getting started with pressure cooking locate a copy of 'Cooking Under Pressure' by Lorna Sass. Procedures explained in such a way that you will feel very comfortable modifying/creating your own in no time.

                          These things are great in the summer when you crave an oven type dish & don't want to heat up the whole house.

                        2. I recently purchased a 6 qt Fagor Elite. This is my first PC purchase and I am a fan of slow cooking but some times there is not a lot of time to prepare dinner. I love cooking beans and tough cuts of meat that would take a couple of hours or more. The Fagor has really been wonderful. Made well with a lot of safety features. I came home the other day and wanted black beans for dinner. In less than 30 min they were done. Amazing. A PC is a wonderful tool for the home cook with less time on their hands. I have a lot of experimenting to do with different cuts of meat. I had made a leg of lamb on the grill and used the left overs to make a lamb curry. The left over lamb was cooked to an ultra tender state in around 8 min with a natural cool down. The ultimate fast food.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            wow...and things like bean's are the ones I'm a bit wary of. I really need to learn how to use mine more/better

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              Did you start with canned black beans, or dried?

                              I have a recipe from Cooks Illustrated (their Family Cookbook) involving pressure cookers and black beans, but it insists on an overnight soak - which kinda ignores the whole purpose of pressure cookers as far as I can tell.

                              1. re: tcd

                                I used dried. I later tried some rainbow beans found at a Mexican market. I cooked those with a beef shank to give some added flavor and also tossed in a dried ancho and chipotle pepper that I split and seeded for some more flavor. I cooked them for around 30 min and let it cool naturally to release which added another 15 to 20 min to the cooking time. The beans were cooked and the meat was tender. I just picked up some short ribs at the market. I really like doing these in the oven but need to give it a whirl in the PC. I'll brown them first as I would before oven braising. Let's see how they turn out.

                                  1. re: bear

                                    No, just rinsed them to make sure they were clean.

                            2. Have any of you also used your pressure cookers for canning quarts of things like green beans?
                              I have an old and trusted Presto, but it's too small for the size glass jars I'd like to use.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: shallots

                                Everything I've read on the subject of canning says you need the extra capacity of canning-specific pressure cookers (which I think start at 10qt). I dimly recall my Fagor Duo 8qt manual saying "don't even think about it." It also says don't even think about pressure cooking steel-cut oats, though - and yet McCann's apparently has a recipe for pressure-cooking their oatmeal. Maybe I'd need to get a different-make cooker for that; I don't know (and I've spent enough, thanks). The usual gospel w/r/t pressure cookers is "Read Your Manual!"

                                1. re: tcd

                                  I think you have to know this site if you are using a pressure cooker.

                              2. Russell Hobbs electric pressure cooker available on ebay recently for $50-search by model # brings up more than searching by name although I'm not seeing any cheap ones tonight

                                RUSSELL HOBBS 8 QT. NUTRITIONIST PRESSURE COOKER - RHNPC800P

                                1. Go to an Indian store and get a Hawkins - they are cheap compared to all the fancy models. Almost every Indian household uses one on a regular basis, and no, they don't explode.

                                  1. I have a Presto I've had since 1979 - still works like it did out of the box. Gaskets and washers are all available at the local hardware store. And when I accidentally dropped the regulator into the garbage disposal, it still held up.

                                    Several years ago, I bought an electric pressure cooker (also works as a regular cooker for soups and things) from one of the home shopping shows. I like them both for different reasons. The Presto, you need to adjust your heat as it comes up to pressure and then set a timer and stick around for the cooking to finish. When I feel lazy, I just plug in the electric. They cook the foods the same, in my experience, but the electric times itself after it comes up to pressure and then shuts itself off and puts itself on "warm" until you can come and tend to it.

                                    So, two different ones with two different ways I like to use them. Love them both.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: k_d

                                      Stainless steel
                                      Presto only for me. Been using them since 1972. You don't have to get the expensive imports that you won't find spare parts for. As far as safety the Presto is safe if you are an adult and have an adult IQ

                                      Cooked some chickpeas in it the other day and navy beans before that
                                      I also like to steam vegetables in it using a steamer basket, under light pressure

                                      Cooked a lamb shank in it last week

                                      1. re: gafferx

                                        My first pressure cooker, in the early 1990's, was a stainless steel Presto. The bottom of the pot was the same thickness as the sides--no aluminum disc--and I had difficulty with food scorching as the pot was coming up to pressure. After using it a few times, I returned it to the (very understanding) retailer and bought a Fagor, which cost a little more but did have a disc bottom. This resolved my scorching problem. Now that Prestos have this feature too, I would certainly consider one. However, Fagor is distributed widely in the US and I have never had any difficulty obtaining replacement parts.

                                        1. re: Miss Priss

                                          I see your point
                                          What was scorching? A pot roast?

                                          I have older stainless Prestos. 2 each of 4qt and 6qt

                                          If I had that scorching problem I would buy a flame tamer. It adds that extra level of thickness to bottom

                                          1. re: gafferx

                                            Sorry, I don't recall exactly what got scorched--after all, it was 15 years ago! A flame tamer certainly might have helped, but I've used them on occasion, and I still prefer a disc bottom. Anyway, I ended up with a cooker that worked (and still works) very well for me, as yours does for you. So we're both happy!

                                    2. Edit: looks like this is another one of those old posts that got bumped to the top. Ah, well, given that this is already written...

                                      I love my pressure cookers; they get near-daily use. Any cooker that is made of heavy stainless steel with an aluminum clad bottom, achieves 15psi, and uses second-generation technology will work well for you.

                                      Stainless steel is important because aluminum, while cheaper, will react with acidic foods. You don't want your tomato- or wine-based stews to taste like metal; go stainless. The aluminum clad bottom will eliminate hot spots, which you'll really appreciate when you're browning ingredients as part of a pressure braise.

                                      15psi is the standard for pressure cooking, but many electrics max out at 10-12 psi. Which is better than cooking at atmospheric pressure, but doesn't deliver the full benefit of pressure cooking. And it can cause difficulties with recipes, which assume the 15psi standard. If you have a lower-pressure cooker, you will have to adjust all cooking times or your food will be undercooked.

                                      Finally, do yourself a favor and buy a second generation cooker. First-generation cookers have a weight that holds steam in until it exceeds 15 psi, whereupon the weight lifts slightly, jiggling violently while steam escapes and the pressure drops. There's no indication other than the noise that you're cooking at pressure. Second-generation cookers use spring-loaded valve. They're quieter, maintain pressure more precisely, require less fiddling, usually provide a visual indicator of the amount of pressure in the pot, and lose less moisture in the cooking process. You can pressure-steam in a second-generation cooker with just a few tablespoons of water; that isn't an option with an old jiggle-top.

                                      Also, the first-generation safety mechanism is a plug that blows out in the event of overpressure (leading to the beef stew on the ceiling that everybody has stories about). Second generation cookers have a higher-pressure spring valve as a safety mechanism, so overpressure releases less explosively. They also usually have a failsafe in the form of a gasket that will push out from the lid if the main valve and the safety valve get plugged.

                                      Size-wise, get one that's bigger than you think you'll need. You can only use fill the container half full when you're cooking things like beans, so a 4-quart may well be too small. 6-quart is a good starter size, and if you have room to store an 8-quart, it probably isn't too big.

                                      As far as brand names go, Kuhn-Rikon, Magefesa, and Fagor all make good cookers. IMHO, though, the brand is less important than functionality. And if you get one that has all the features described above, you'll be at the peak of functionality.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        I had presto blow on me and it wasn't such a big deal.
                                        Just checked ebay and I see 4qt stainless ones going for $20 delivered

                                        I encourage people to get a 4qt and a larger 6 or 8 qt.
                                        4qt models come to pressure quicker and really are better for cooking smaller amounts of food rather than the 6 or 8qt

                                        Some beans are soaking, I will cook them tomorrow. Pressure cook of course. Pressure cooking is so useful no matter which brand you get. Just avoid that damn aluminum

                                        Chickpeas can be difficult sometimes. A pressure cooker is indispensable for them

                                        I'm amazed at how people still fear pressure cookers. Even with the better "send generation" technology you mention

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          Pressure cooking is great. I'm steaming some soybeans under pressure to make natto. Pressure steaming really cuts down cooking time

                                          Many commercial cooking operations are done under pressure

                                        2. Gee, this is an old thread. For my 2 cents worth I'd go with Fagor. I actually own 2. The Kuhn Rikon maybe the "Rolls Royce" of PCs but is much to fiddly to make it convenient. My Fagors are almost mindless to use and and used they are, even in the most steamiest, hottest weather. Cooking is fast and efficient and my kitchen stays cool. I will admit bias and I do sell them, but I got my first before going back to work. I have become queen of the pressure cookers. It is amazing what you can pull of in one with little to no effort.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Candy

                                            I have a Kuhn-Rikon Duromatic and two Fagors: an old Multirapid and a much newer Elite. Personally I find the K-R the simplest to use--doesn't seem fiddly at all to me! The locking mechanism is completely automatic, it's easy to tell when full pressure has been reached, almost no steam escapes so very little water is needed (though the Fagors lose much less water than jiggle-top models do), and I feel like I have more control over the quick-release feature. But I got my K-R as a gift. I don't think it's necessary to spend the big bucks when Fagor makes a fine product that sells for half the price.

                                            1. re: Miss Priss

                                              I too have a Fagor Multirapid, but I'm about to trash it. There is a thin rubber gasket on the pressure indicator that split. I called Fagor to order a new pressure indicator and was told that the cooker is discontinued and parts are no longer available. In other words, throw out the otherwise perfectly good pot.

                                              I just bought a new 8 qt. Presto stainless steel cooker. I'll never buy Fagor again. I have a 6 qt. aluminum Presto that is 45 years old and still going. Guess what - Presto still sells all the parts for it..

                                              1. re: mcshruboak

                                                I'm really sorry to hear that Fagor isn't suporting the Multirapid any more! Mine isn't available at the moment, so I can't check on that little rubber gasket or washer, but I think I remember what it looks like and where it goes. Does the hardware store carry anything that could be used as a substitute (without blowing the pot up, of course)? Very frustrating to lose such a nice piece of equipment when nothing is actually broken.

                                                1. re: Miss Priss

                                                  It's a very thin, tiny gasket. Even if I could find a substitute, I doubt it could be put in place without tearing the new gasket. That's why I tried to get the whole pressure indicator from Fagor.

                                                  I still might try the hardware store. Otherwise, my Fagor becomes just another regular pot.

                                                  1. re: mcshruboak

                                                    Good luck at the hardware store. If you do find a substitute gasket, please let me know what works ... because eventually, I'm going to need one too!

                                                    1. re: Miss Priss

                                                      Just used my Presto again last night. Thing is a tank and parts are always available. Just to reiterate I had a terrible experience with Kuhn Rikon. Thing broke and basically ended up in the trash.

                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                        Glad your Presto continues to give satisfaction! It's a shame you had such a lousy experience with Kuhn-Rikon. Mine has been just the opposite. Over the five+ (!!) years since I first posted on this thread, my Kuhn-Rikons (I now own two) have seen frequent use and have always performed beautifully. On the few occasions when I've contacted K-R Customer Service--never about anything that directly affected the performance of the unit--the responses have been prompt, friendly, and helpful. You (understandably) vowed never again to buy a K-R pressure cooker; I only wish I had a good excuse to buy a third one!

                                          2. I have a 5 litre Kuhn Rikon and it's transformed my cooking. I haven't used other makes but when I was looking around the KR had the best looking specs and best base.

                                            I would stay away from the 1st generation/jiggler models - they may be cheap but the 2nd gen. ones are certainly far easier to use from a timing point of view.

                                            Things to watch out for: you want the max. pressure to be 15psi. This is the "high" pressure that 99% of pressure cooker recipes are made for; some cheaper models max out at 12psi, which means you're cooking for longer and defeating the purpose of a pressure cooker.

                                            I see someone here said they had a problem with the KR; I've never met anyone who's had anything other than great things to say about them. I have no hesitation recommending the KR.

                                            Although mine was pricey, it's more than paid for itself already with the savings in gas. I usually steam Christmas puddings for 8 hours - they're done in 2 in a pressure cooker. Same with beans - after soaking you're looking at 12 mins max for kidney beans, versus hours and a kitchen full of steam.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: serah

                                              My Kuhn Rikon was a nightmare, broke the 3rd time I used it and the manufacturer would NOT supply a new one. Actually spoke to the president of USA operations on the phone and he basically said there was nothing wrong with my broken and worthless pot. The USA brand, which I now own, Presto is 1/2 the price and MUCH more robust. I would not buy any Kuhn Rikon product again.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                Kuhn Rikon is generally considered to be the best pressure cooker made. My experiences lead me to concur with that consensus.

                                                That's not to say that it's impossible for KR to have made a lemon. It's just that you're less likely to get one from them than from pretty much any other company.

                                                I especially like the fact that the pressure valve, safety valve, handles, etc. are replaceable, so if anything other than the retort or the lid does break it can be fixed. What broke on yours?

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  I'd be interested to hear what exactly broke on your KR.

                                                  1. re: serah

                                                    It got stuck half closed to the point that I had to whack it with a hammer to get it open at the time it was only 6 months old. I sent the now badly dented pot back to Kuhn Rikon. They return it to me and said that there was nothing wrong with it. I spoke to the President of US operations on the phone and he basically told me to jump in the lake.

                                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                                      I suspect they attributed the sticking to user error, and the denting to user abuse. I can imagine, for example, if the lid was not seated correctly to being with, that it could jam as you turned (with some tabs under the pot lip, others still above). In effect the lid may have been cross-threaded.

                                                      The subsequent hammering may have loosened the lid and caused cosmetic damage, but not functional damage.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        I think you meant to say "if the lid was not seated correctly to begin with." When seated correctly, the lid turns freely. If it doesn't, trying to force it closed is a recipe for disaster. And that's true whether we're talking about a $10 Hawkins cooker or a $200 Kuhn Rikon.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          yes that's what I meant (and now corrected). I wish they'd come up with a 'missing word' checker!

                                                        2. re: paulj

                                                          Your point being?

                                                          The lid was seated correctly.

                                                          Mightn't it be possible that I got a defective cooker that just jammed? Cause that is in fact what was the case.

                                                          Their product was poor, their customer service was worse.

                                                  2. re: serah

                                                    The distinction between jiggler/1st gen and 2nd gen is somewhat arbitrary. For a couple of decades everyone has had multiple safety features, both safety valves and lid interlocks. As for timing, I don't know why that should be any more difficult with a Presto 'jiggler' than a with a KR. OK, I don't have KR, but do have a Fagor.

                                                    As to pressure, 12 psi still shortens cooking times. I think the 12 v 15 psi difference has more to do with regional standards than with cost. In the US, 15 psi has been the norm, even with the relatively (cf to European) inexpensive Presto models. 12psi is more common in Europe.

                                                    Here, for example, are the technical details from a UK sourced KR pressure cooker. Note that stage 2 is 12 psi. I suspect that this pressure can be changed by just changing the valve.

                                                    "Stage 1: 0.4bar / 5.8psi (Low cooking pressure)
                                                    Stage 2: 0.8bar / 11.6psi (Rapid cooking pressure)
                                                    Maximum: 1.2bar / 17.4psi (Indicated by hissing sound and escape of steam. Reduce heat to maintain stage 2 cooking pressure)"

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      I should add, though, that if you are browsing pressure cookers at BBB or Macys, look at the pressure ratings on the bottom of the pan. The lower cost models may have the lower pressure, probably because they can't (or just haven't) been fitted with US 15psi valves.

                                                      Just being lower pressure does not make these models bad. You would need to allow for some extra cooking time when working from recipes that assume 15psi. But you always have to be adaptable when using a PC, learning from worked or didn't the last time. Cooking times in Denver will be different than LA, regardless of whether you are using a 15psi cooker or not.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Points well taken, Paulj. Though the US standard is 15 psi, many (if not most) European cookers, including high-end models from WMF, Silit, and Fissler, are designed to operate at a top pressure of somewhere between 11 and 13 psi. It seems to be just a cultural preference. I think Fissler's Blue Point model, which is distributed in the US, does reach 15 psi, but it appears that the various Vitavit models do not.