How Do You Use Your Pressure Cooker?
I've never owned a pressure cooker, or even known anyone who uses one. But over the past few days I've seen a couple of recipes for corned beef that suggest cooking it using a pressure cooker. A bit of online research indicates there are many uses for a pressure cooker, but it's hard to know from what I've read whether there's a noticeable advantage to using one.
To buy, or not to buy -- that is the question. If the primary advantage of a PC is as a time-saver, I'll probably opt out. But if a pressure cooker yields a better result than traditional cooking methods, I'll consider getting one.
So -- how do you use your pressure cooker? For what dishes is it indispensable? And, if I do go for it, what brand should I buy, and what size makes the most sense?
I don't know if you did any "searching" before you posted but there have been many, many threads on Pressure Cookers on the Home Cooking board. Here's a link to just one of them: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/279133
After a CH friend told me she uses a pressure cooker all the time, I decided to get one. It's a relatively inexpensive Fagor that I find to be a very helpful kitchen addition, especially when I can't decide what to cook until about 4:30 pm with a pantry full of dried beans and meat/chicken in the freezer...
I use my PC probably more for dried beans than anything. I can have garbanzos ready from dry without any presoaking in about 35-45 min or less depending on how old they are and they are much better than the canned product. Conventional cooking can be 3 hours or so...
You say that if it's just a time-saver you'd opt out - so maybe a PC isn't for you. However, I find the results to be equal to most traditional method preps for many things. I've made osso buco in my PC that is at least as good as the traditional method.
I'd suggest that you take a look at Lorna Sass' PC cookbook(s) and Victoria Wise has a great one too. I found these at my local public library and experimented with them and ultimately bought them via Amazon.
Hope this helps...
I'm a strong partisan of the pressure cooker, but I certainly don't think it's indispensible. For me, its value is in the time savings, and in the flexibility of being able to prepare certain things (like dried beans or frozen fish) without planning ahead. If those aren't advantages for you, a pressure cooker may just be a waste of your money and storage space. If you decide to get one, the Fagors are moderately priced and reputedly reliable. I recently saw a 6-liter Fagor with two pressure settings (8 and 15 psi) for $80 at Whole Foods. Six to 8 liters/quarts is a useful size, since you can't fill the pot more than 2/3 full. I wholeheartedly endorse RWCFoodie's recommendation of Lorna Sass's 4 pressure cooker cookbooks. Victoria Wise's book is OK too, and there are plenty of others out there. There are also many websites devoted to pressure cooker recipes, and with a little experience it's pretty easy to adapt almost any recipe that uses moist heat. But again--if you have time to do things the traditional way, this may not be the most useful kitchen tool for you.
re: Miss Priss
Your post is right-on regarding the time savings. I teach pressure cooking and when I ask who thinks ahead of time what they are going to make for dinner, I can pretty much rule those people out when it comes to pressure cooking, except that you do get better results in the pressure cooker as far as flavor goes for many dishes, especially stocki. But the people, like me, who are thinking about dinner at 5 p.m., are big pressure cooker fans. I can always get dinner on the table in an hour because I have my pantry and freezer stocked with what I need (including plenty of wonderful frozen stock).
When I was working full-time I used mine a lot for time saving. Same when I was working as a personal chef.
Now I mostly use it for stock. I have to say I find it to be really useful for this purpose. While I have time now to make stock without the pressure cooker I prefer to use. I'm not sure of the science but it seems to me at least to pull more collagen out of the bones when I use the pressure cooker.
I have a 7 litre uhn Rikon. It's pretty big but I only have the one so I wanted it on the big size. Again, handy to have the capacity for stock making.
I use it to make beef stew. You can get a tough cut of stew meat really tender in about 20 minute - where normally you'd need to cook it for at least 2 1/2 hours.
I also use it cook dry beans. You can get chick peas ready in like 20 minutes where noramlly you'd need to soak them overnight and then boil them for hours.
If you can afford it--Kuhn Rikon is the way to go--at least in my opinion.
Not cheap, but great; eventually, years later, the rubber gasket will need replacing. Some will probably say Fagor...but whatever you do, do get a PC
of recent vintage--not your grandmother's or one from a garage sale circa 1973.
The new ones (since the early 90's at least) have safety features and
are designed with torture tests so that they should not explode, etc.
And by all means make a PC risotto--find a recipe in Lorna Sass's book; six minutes and it will be outstanding.
re: Warren Goodman
So here's a question: can you add the "love" to risotto in only six minutes? That sounds funny, I know, but I think there is some psychological element that enters into the picture when you stir, and add liquid, and stir, and watch the heat carefully, and stir, and taste... until you've arrived at the perfect consistency. Somehow, there seems to be a correlation between the amount of time and care that goes into the preparation of a delicious dish and the love for the people who will share that food with you. Or is that just my own crazy notion?