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Hurrah for Pressure Cookers

I have now made peace with mine, and I enjoy using it on a regular basis.

I can cook:
chicken curry in 10 minutes, not 1 hour
boston butt or chuck roast in 45 minutes, not 3-4 hours
chicken or turkey stock in 30 minutes, not 2-3 hours
chili or stew in 20 minutes, not 2 hours
hey, do not forget about braised short ribs...

One word of warning: get a big one. I got mine from Fagor, and it is only 4 quarts. That sounds like a lot, but you can only fill it 1/2 full, so you get 2 quarts or about 4# of food, which comes to 3# of meat and 1 pint of obligatory water. An 8 or 10 quart one is just about right for family. My small one is more suitable for feeding 2 people.

I conciously tried to avoid this thing for most of my adult life, but now I enjoy it on a regular basis and recommend it highly to all you skeptics out there, since I used to be one.

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  1. I don't mean to sound contrary, but I actually enjoy the time it takes to cook stuff. I enjoy the way the house smells when I've got a braise in the oven. I enjoy putting things away to let them do their own thing while I go and read a book/watch a movie/go for a walk with my wife. I enjoy taking two days to make a proper Ragu Bolognese, I enjoy having a beef stock on the simmer overnight.

    Maybe I'll change my mind once we've got kids.

    1 Reply
    1. re: andreas

      I feel the same way, but reserve that extra cooking time for the weekend. Coming home after work, I just brown some meat in the pot, add the ingredients and cooking liquid, lock the cooker, and go about my business. That 3-hour stew or braise is done in a half hour. And you will definitely change your mind once you have kids. They have a habit of taking up your spare cooking time. The good thing is that you can teach them to help make the bolognese.

    2. I enjoy the long cooking process on the weekends too but on weekdays when I have 30 minutes to get food on the table, the pressure cooker sometimes comes in very handy. Soups and stews are done in a quarter of the time! Of course there's a lot of satisfaction in simmering or braising for hours and adjusting the seasoning til you get it just right, but sometimes, you just need to get something quick on the table. So hurrah for pressure cookers, and hurrah for stock pots and braising pots and cast iron. In fact, it's an all around hurrah for a well stocked and well equipped kitchen!

      1. I like both - long, slow braises and the ability to cook dry beans in the pressure cooker in as little as 1/2 hour! Sometimes I just mess around too long and have to get something ready quickly - that pressure cooker is just waiting for me and my procrastination... I agree totally with the advice to get a larger one than you might think you want or need. I too have the smaller Fagor - not much in the way of left overs.

        1. Sbouldn't you be able to fill it 2/3 full except for beans and rice and stuff like that expands a lot?

          1 Reply
          1. re: MikeG

            I find that if I overload it, it can't develop the necessary pressure...

          2. Are they scary in some way, really?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cinnamon

              When they first became available--my Mom had one in the early 50's--they had a reputation for exploding; hers never did, but there was always a certain amount of nervous laughter when she hauled it out in November to make the annual batch of fruitcake. I gather this problem (if it existed) has been solved, but it seems the old worries still linger.

              1. re: Cinnamon

                Back in the ole days, they used to have a metal plug in the top instead of a rubber one (or a pressure relief valve) like the ones on the market today.

                One day, my Grandmother was using hers with the metal plug and evidently, the exhaust pipe got plugged. The metal plug shot out and actually imbedded in the ceiling. Grandma never used the pressure cooker again.

                I like using mine but a disadvantage for me is that you can't just conveniently open the thing to check to see if things are done.

              2. My mother had one for years. Worked wonderfully. She made incredible Korean stews and soups with it.

                1. What I've read, and it makes sense, is that even the old ones weren't really all that inherently dangerous, but needed more attention than one would normally expect from cookware, which lead to accidents. Things like stuck valves and old gaskets could be a real problem if you weren't paying close enough attention. The newer ones are designed with 2 and 3 safety features, making explosions rare, even for those of us who occasionally leave pots over high heat when they go to answer the phone. ;) Plus it's more reassuring, to my mind anyway, that they don't puff steam, wheeze and/or whistle while they're working, even if those things don't actually signify impending disaster.

                  1. The best pressure cooker cookbook is Pressure Perfect by lorna Sass. If nothing else, the reference section on cooking times for various cuts of meats and legumes, etc. is worth it's cover price. From there, you can adapt your recipes. I never have to soak and slow cook beans. Nor do I have to wait umpteen hours for a delicious bowl of chicken soup. BTW, the best value for pressure cookers is the Magafesa brand (made in spain)You get a Kuhn Rikon quality for a third of the price.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gourmetwannabe

                      Just did some quick Googling on Magefesa - does anyone have a good source for them retail - perhaps in the San Francisco area? I have a Fagor that is fine but I'd like something larger and from what I read about Magefesa it's tops.

                    2. As I grew up my mom had a pressure cooker. Seems most of my friends' moms had one. (That dates me.)

                      We used it heavily We had different weights to put on the pressure valve at top. I never felt unsafe with it. When I was married, we got a small one as a gift. It never sealed properly, and was a pain to fiddle with 'til it finally worked each time.

                      A GOOD pressure cooker has been on my Cmas gift list for about 10 years and I think of getting one regularly (whenever I need beans cooked in a hurry, a roast cooked in a hurry, etc., essentially at least once or twice a week, "I need a pressure cooker") but did not want to buy the wrong one.

                      I wonder if it's wise to go ahead and acquire one big enough to pressure can as well. But I'd like the convenience of a smaller one.

                      I had decided last week to ask again for one or just buy myself one.

                      More talk on different pressure cookers and some holiday deals would be welcome!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: HolidayBaker

                        Have been wanting a pressure cooker for a long time and when I saw the 5L Kuhn Rikon on sale at Zabars in Manhattan ($99), I jumped on it.

                        Sure I had all the trepidation about using it, but with some careful attention to the heat, using it was not a problem when I prepared my first dish--an old fashioned pot roast. Boy did that bring back memories. Meat came out perfectly cooked with an excellent broth.

                      2. Pressure cookers have changed a lot since the 1950's. I use mine almost daily. If you haven't come across this site ( http://fastcooking.ca ) already, it has loads of info on pressure cookers and especially the Fagor Duo.