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Pressure Cooker questions

I have been watching Masterchef and on the finale last night they cooked beef short ribs in a pressure cooker. I remember growing up my parents had one but didn't really use it. Came with a large, bought at home cook-o-matic pot and pan set.
Now, because I have been watching Masterchef and they have used it over and over, my curiosity is being rekindled.
Do you use it at home? For what?
What are the benefits of cooking with it and what can you not use it for?

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  1. Two excellent websites that should answer many (if not most) of your questions are http://missvickie.com and http://www.hippressurecooking.com. Both include lots of recipes and photographs along with comprehensive information about how to select and use a pressure cooker.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Miss Priss

      Will check out the first link; second one isn't working.

      1. re: itryalot

        Sorry about that! I think the problem is that the period at the end of my sentence carried over into the web address. If you remove the period, the address should work (just tried it). You can also just search for "Hip Pressure Cooking."

    2. i use it for stews, beans, and anything long cooking in a liquid, like a braise.

      works like a charm, i love using mine

      1. Beans and soups (not stocks though; IMHO a pressure cooked stock just doesn't have the flavor of a long-simmered one). We tried veggies in it but were not impressed, except for cabbage. Being vegetarians we have never done meat or poultry in it.

        It is great for beans though.

        I noticed the PC on last night's MasterChef, am not sure what brand it was other than it was definitely not a Kuhn Rikon. It might well have been the Silit (Sicomatic) though.

        http://www.silit.com/pressure-cooker/...

        8 Replies
        1. re: skyline

          Agreed that the PC is great for beans, as well as brown rice and other whole grains. There are certainly many vegetables that don't do well in it, but I've had good results (or at least, they suited my taste) when steaming corn on the cob, cauliflower, beets, and potatoes, and when braising carrots, okra, and long-cooking greens. I'm not a vegetarian, but probably use the PC for vegetables as often as for meat or poultry.

          1. re: skyline

            IMHO a pressure cooked stock just doesn't have the flavor of a long-simmered one).
            ______
            If you find that to be the case, your problem might be that you're letting too much steam out of the pressure cooker - too much venting while cooking. That's flavor you're losing - you want the stockmaking smell to be barely detectable in your kitchen. Be careful to cook at just low enough temperature to avoid much venting. Newer types of PCs make this easier, but even older styles can do it if you monitor closely.

            The other factor might be that long-simmered stocks tend to be more reduced. You can always reduce a pressure cooked stock after making it, still taking less time than the full traditional stock making process. Also important is to make sure you have just barely enough water to cover your bones/etc in the pressure cooker so that your stock isn't overly diluted.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              I wonder if the disappointment I have with PC-made stock is that we only do veggie stocks and the occasional chicken stock during flu season. ;-) Our stocks are light, with no overly strong flavors -- can't even use any members of the onion family due to an intolerance. So yes you are right, my stock has to start out large and then get seriously reduced to concentrate the flavor. We have the smaller (3.75 qt) Kuhn Rikon and so it's physically not possible to start out a batch with the same amount of liquid and ingredients that I initially put into the stovetop stockpot.

              1. re: skyline

                http://www.cookingissues.com/2009/11/...
                These guys claim pressure cooked stocks are more flavorful, especially if you minimize venting. At least part of it is that the higher temperature (around 250F) develops more flavor. However this is for chicken and veal stocks, not straight vegetable ones.

                An important issue when comparing longed cook v pressure cooked stocks is the reduction factor. Even with the venting of a Presto, pressure cooking usually leaves me with more liquid that I started with, because it includes liquid forced from the solids. Fortunately in a pressure cooker you don't need to cover the solids with water at the start; half way up is plenty - unless, of course you are cooking something that absorbs water (beans, grains).

                1. re: skyline

                  I see no reason to think that a veg stock should be bad coming out of a PC, but I haven't actually made any. I would think overcooking could be a problem, especially if you use any potato - even traditional recipes typically don't call for a very long simmer for veg stock. I'll give it a try sometime soon and report back.

                  Worth experimenting more with, IMO. If you get it right, it is really a huge time saver, with great results, at least for meat stocks.

              2. re: skyline

                Skyline, just to add to my earlier reply: I only watch MasterChef occasionally, but whenever I see a pressure cooker on that show, it looks like a Fagor.

                1. re: Miss Priss

                  K-R with the conical top seem most common in Kitchen Stadium.

                  1. re: paulj

                    Each show's production company doubtless has product placement agreements with the manufacturers of everything used on the show, so it wouldn't surprise me if one show used exclusively Fagor PCs, another exclusively Kuhn-Rikons, and so on.

              3. Why do you use it? I assume it's to speed up the cooking process, is that correct?

                3 Replies
                1. re: itryalot

                  Yes, mainly for speed. I often work long hours, so this encourages me to make weeknight meals that I wouldn't otherwise bother with. Nothing fancy--in fact, mostly improvised--but healthy and tasty. For example, braising chicken parts with vegetables usually takes me about half an hour from start (raw chicken still in the package, vegetables not washed, peeled, or chopped) to finish. And for some things, like corn on the cob, the PC also seems to boost the flavor.

                  1. re: itryalot

                    "Why do you use it?"

                    If you cook an artichoke any other way, it comes out the color of World War II Infantry yellowish green and is mushy -- unless you undercook it, then the leaf is too hard to bite into. If you cook an artichoke in a pressure cooker, it comes out dark green, as nature intended, and tender, but al dente. Same with asparagus: only a vertical-hold steamer insert (which most of use do not have) is as capable as a pressure cooker for cooking asparagus.

                    In preparing to mash potatoes, there is no better way than pressure cooking to get the potatoes soft enough to mash without overcooking and losing a lot of flavor.

                    In making risotto, you save no time with a pressure cooker compared to the pan-stir method, but novices or infrequent risotto makers get more consistent and more predictable results in the pressure cooker.

                    Without the pressure lid, most pressure cookers -- certainly, the Kuhn-Rikon Duromatics -- make excellent weapons, durable and massive; a Duromatic will stop almost any handgun bullet and is easier to hold as a shield than a cast iron skillet, which anyway probably would shatter at the impact of the first round.

                    1. re: Politeness

                      As a Duromatic owner, I am LOL in total agreement with your last paragraph! :-D

                      That puppy sure is one serious piece of stainless. ;-)

                  2. I use it for: various braising meats if I don't have much time, beans, artichokes, (sometimes) risotto, greens (collards, mustard, kale - again, sometimes).

                    Far and away, my favorite use - stock-making. IMO it is better than traditional methods in nearly every way.