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Jan 21, 2011 09:34 AM

Pressure Cooker Recipe Translation Help

Hey folks,

I enjoy making Indian-style foods at home, especially with a pressure cooker as it save time and energy. However, I have a bit of a problem…

Many of my pressure cooker recipes don't call out the pressure and time but, instead, say something about 1, 2 or 3 "whistles." As an example, in a recipe from for chana w/coconut, it states:

Whistles: High 3, Low 3

Could someone please translate this into pressure and time?!

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thank you Robert!

      I was, in fact, convinced “…that there is some whistling pressure cooker conspiracy afoot.” Now I know better. Miss Vickie rocks!

      1. re: omasciarotte

        While timing by whistles may be common in India, the manufacturer's don't actually encourage it. The recipe book that came with my little Hawkins PC gives times, never '2 whistles'. Under general instructions:

        'Continue on high heat until steam escapes from the vent weight. This is a sign that full cooking pressure has been reached ...' (this is equivalent to a Presto weight starting to rock).

        'Now lower the heat. [if you don't lower the heat] the vent weight will automatically lift to allow excess pressure to escape' (this is a whistle).

        'frequent "letting off" of steam or continued loud hissing inidcates that the heat is too high. The food will not cook any faster and fuel is merely being wasted.'

        Cooking by whistles is like waiting till the Presto weight rocks vigorously, or the Fagor control knob lifts and 'whistles'.

        1. re: paulj

          The article I linked to says that pressure cookers in India have a whistle that serves as a timer. If you waited for a whistle-less pressure cooker to whistle, I think you'd eventually hear the safety valve pop.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Hawkins is one of the major Indian pressure cooker companies. The 'letting off steam' that my booklet describes is the same 'lifting of the weight' that Vicki mentions. It is not like a whistling tea kettle.

            The weight has 2 spring loaded ballbearings that clip on to the valve stem. They let the weight lift without coming off. A modest lift releases steam like a gentle rocking of a Presto weight. Lifting the full extent releases a burst of steam, dropping the pressure below 15 psi. If you don't reduce heat, the pressure will again build and release a burst. Vickie timed this cycle to about 3 minutes, though that may vary with heat and cooker size.


    2. The Hawkins recipe for Channa Masala (chickpeas) calls for overnight soaking, then cooking at full pressure and medium heat for 15min.

      For most Indian dishes you should be able to use times for similar items in the cookbook that came with your own pressure cooker. If it uses beans, follow the times for that type or size of bean. Similarly for meats (timing for lamb will be fine if cooking goat). If the recipe calls for potatoes, use the potato times for your PC.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Great advice Paul. I don't use a whistling pressure cooker either yet I know how long chickpeas take and cook them for that amount of time which is 12 to 14 minutes if they are soaked.

        Most hard vegetables such as potatoes and winter squash cut into small pieces take no more than 3 minutes at pressure.

        I much prefer to use a modern pressure cooker with a spring valve and leave the whistling type in India.