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May 19, 2008 04:18 AM

Multi-course meals in a pressure cooker?

I've decided to take the plunge and buy a pressure cooker. I've heard that pressure cookers were marketed early in the 20th century as a way to make multi-course meals at one time, by stacking steamer type trays in the PC. I've also heard stories about how you can do, say, meatloaf and potatoes side by side in the pressure cooker. I've got Lorna Sass' Cooking Under Pressure and have flipped through a couple of her other books (notes from an ecological kitchen, for one) and done a few searches here on chowhound but haven't seen much about two dishes in the PC at the same time.

Anyone have any experiences with this or any good resources to recommend for this?

Thank you!


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  1. You could probably do a Jig's Dinner, typical Nfld meal, in a pressure cooker. It is a meal in a pot layered.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sarah galvin

      Thanks. I'm not familiar with a Jig's dinner, but I shall investigate!


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Here's a recipe for jigs dinner
        It reminds me of the Spanish 'cocido', and other 'big pot' meals:
        salt beef cooked in water with legumes (split peas in this case - in a bag), with vegetables added later on.

        Earlier versions of this type of meal involved a pot set by the fire, or in an oven, that cooked all day. In newer recipes the items are often cooked separately, giving more control over their texture, and combined at the end.

        I was going to say that this isn't a multi course meal, however, Spanish cocido is often served that way - the meat served separate from the broth separate from the vegetables, etc.


    2. The book that came with my Hawkins PC has a few pages describing 'separator cooking'. There doesn't seem to be anything difficult about it - if you have a large enough PC and the separator set, which would either be a divided bowl, or a stackable set of bowls.

      It makes the point that you need to choose items that require similar cooking times.

      It has examples for a 6.5 L PC,
      steamed cauliflower, bouillabaisse, apple compote (4 min)
      Masala cauliflower, matar panir, vegetable pulao (4 min)

      It doesn't seem all that practical, unless you only have one burner.

      Years ago a relative gave us a large steamer set, with 3 or 4 bowls. Using all pieces it was about 2' tall. It must have been sold as a healthy way of cooking. It's been in storage for the last 17 years.


      5 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        HA! Very funny (about the items in storage for 17 years.) I think the idea is that it was marketed as a time efficient, energy efficient way of cooking. (I've been told that, initially, pressure cookers were introduced and marketed to women right after emancipation who suddenly found themselves "short" on household labor and were looking for labor saving devices...) and I think it was also something women considered using during wartime during rationing, etc. And yes, I've heard some of the "healthy", claims, too.

        But you've really answered the fundamental question I had which is, how can you cook a multicourse meal in a single pot unless said items all have similar cooking times? I've heard that you stack the courses with the most dense (meat) course on the bottom, but I just don't see how you can feel like your chicken is adequately cooked without turning, say, your broccoli to mush.

        Maybe my pressure cooker will come with a booklet that describes separator cooking. Or, perhaps, now that I know what it's called I can try to do some googling.

        As for me, I don't know how much I buy into the marketing claims, but my goals are several-fold.

        1. I'm trying to eat more legumes/whole grains and I'd like to speed up the cooking time for those items. There's really no reason to buy canned legumes or par-cooked rice to save time if you use a pressure cooker.

        2. I am always looking for low-energy ways to cook, partly because I'm trying to save the planet and lower my energy costs, but, also, I live in a place that gets unsufferably hot two months out of every year. With summer nearly upon us, I need ways to cook whole grains and rice that aren't going to heat up my kitchen. My aircon can't keep up as it is...

        3. I'm lazy/extraordinarily busy and am occasionally willing to sacrifice SOME taste (not all) for a little convenience, so the multi-course meal thing appeals to me from that front, if it really works. Plus, a pressure-cooker is somewhat "unattended"--yes, you have to pay attention to what's going on with it, but, in the meantime you can be setting the table and dressing your salad, etc. Sadly, I'm a giant fan of multi-tasking.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          It may not meet your needs, but I recently tried the Lorna Sass recipe called (I think) Chuckwagon Beef Stew and Smashed Potatoes (it is on her website). It was very simple, and amazingly good, given that the meat wasn't browned and the gravy isn't thickened. Would definitely make again, and am considering adding whole carrots and parsnips (below the potatoes and above the meat) to make it a "one-pot" meal. This is not low fat cooking, but was simple to prepare, and was worth the calories, IMO. Not the greatest stew I have ever made, but certainly the fastest and easiest. From start to table was less than an hour, and much of it unattended so that I could read the paper and relax before dinner.

          I am routinely making beans and grains in the pressure cooker for the same reasons you mentioned. Once again, I can come home from work and have beans on the table in less than an hour, no pre-soaking, no hassle. It has more than quadrupled the bean consumption at our house, and we have always enjoyed beans.

          Another thing I really like the pressure cooker for during artichoke season is for cooking artichokes. Much faster, and I think less watery results than standard methods. I am using the Cook's Illustrated recipe, but usually find I can cook the chokes a few minutes less than they can. Maybe because they are fresher here in CA than back east.

          1. re: dkenworthy

            I use my pressure cooker almost all the time. You can cook with more than one vessel in the cooker but it's true that whatever you are cooking needs to take about the same amount of time.

            Just tonight I made thin sliced pork chops with rice for my husband. It took just 6 minutes at pressure with a natural pressure release. I put some carrot pieces and snow peas in at the end for another minute at pressure. My husband really liked it.

            I am more into vegetables and beans. There are a number of ways to cook them together but I tend to do them separately as it gives me more flexibility in how I use them.

            So I might cook up a batch of quinoa (1 cup quiinoa to 1 1/.4 cups water at high pressure for 5 minutes, natural pressure release) and then a batch of black beans. Separately I might make some 1 minute vegetables such as broccoli, summer squash or peas.

            You can cook beans and rice together if you can get the liquid right which isn't always easy since each batch of beans and/or grains is different. But garbanzos and brown rice ought to work well.

            I am sure that I couldn't live without my pressure cooker, and I hope that more people will continue to buy them.

            I teach pressure cooking and I'm open to answering questions.

            Jill Nussinow,

            1. re: The Veggie Queen

              Hi Veggie Queen--so, just so I understand, you cooked pork chops and rice simulataneously, then took those out and put carrots and snow peas in?

              And y ou'll do the quinoa and black beans at the same time, then take those out and do the broccoli and other veggies?


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                No, I cooked the pork chops and rice, and after 6 minutes cooking and when the pressure came down, I added the vegetables and brought it back up to pressure for 1 minute and quick released it.

                For the quinoa and black beans, I would do the same.

                A lot depends upon the vegetables. Potatoes, winter squash, celery root take 3 minutes. Most other vegetables are just a minute or 1 1/2. I usually do it all in the same cooker if I can.

                I hope that helps.


      2. Living at a high altitude, I find the pressure cooker indispensable. I put black beans in
        in an open jar, cook for a while, open the cooker and put in a open jar of carrots, cook
        all a little longer. Allow pressure to decline. Open cooker, make a carrot and ginger
        soup with the carrots. Serve the black beans with enchiladas and Spanish rice. I
        suppose the key is to have the right size jars around so you can fit 3 into the cooker
        at the same time.

        4 Replies
        1. re: paul balbin

          Ah, okay, so you're cooking in jars instead of stacking steamer trays. Great tip!


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Paul nailed it. Longer cooking things go in first.

            Get a set of pint mason jars, made for home canning.

            Paul, are pint masons what you use, or do you find that thinner-walled glass will also take the pressure? I've never done anything but Masons, also branded as Ball.

            (Hungrily eyeing that cabinet wall of various jars, saved and sequested despite objections from SO...)

          2. re: paul balbin

            Paul, great tips, thank you!

            I do have a quick question though about cooking with the jars. Do you put the jars on the bottom of the pressure cooker and then add water to about halfway up the jars? Or, do you rest the jars on something? Thanks!

            1. re: sourmango

              This canning jar idea for cooking is great and I'll have to try it.

              In answer to your question, Sourmango, yes, you need to put a rack under the jars. You risk cracking the bottoms out if the jars sit directly in the pot. I do pressure canning and a bottom rack is always used.