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Do I need a pressure cooker?

IndyGirl Jan 8, 2012 11:31 AM

Recently I've realized I eat 6-7 cans of beans per week (I'm vegetarian). I realize thsi is not really healthy, with the BPAs in can linings and the sodium in the beans. So I want to start cooking them from scratch more regularly.

Do I really need a pressure cooker for this? I dont' have a lot of time, which is why I end up using canned beans, but I also don't have a lot of storage space. Also ,what else would a vegetarian use a pressure cooker for?

  1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 8, 2012 12:22 PM

    Are you talking about fresh beans or dried beans? I don't have a pressure cooker. Fresh beans cook up fairly fast, so you may not gain much there. Dried beans, sure, but you will need to learn your way. You will need to learn when to stop without the ability to check the progress every 2 minutes.

    A pressure cooker is good for spending up any item requires long cooking duration. For example, I cook turnup green for at least 2 hours and often 3-4 hours in regular cooking vessels, so I can imagine an advantage there. On the other hand, I blanch my Chinese broccoli for 2 minute in regular cookware. I don't see any real advantage there.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
      IndyGirl Jan 8, 2012 12:31 PM

      oh, I meant dried beans of course!!

      Hmm, ok, so you cannot check the progress? I have never used or even been around a pressure cooker, so I'm truly unfamiliar.

      1. re: IndyGirl
        Chemicalkinetics Jan 8, 2012 12:47 PM

        Well, a good pressure cooker (a safe one) will not allow you to open the pressure cooker while it is pressurized. It is dangerous. So for you to check the progress, you will need to depressurized the cookware. You can imagine it is not very practical to depressurize and pressurize your cooker just to check the progress. You can, but it is not realistic.

        Skip to 3:40 min for this following video and you will know what I mean:

        http://youtu.be/U9v2S49sHeQ

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
          Candy Jan 8, 2012 12:58 PM

          Actually it is a UL requirement that they not be able to open until all pressure is removed. IndyGirl you can also use a PC to make all sorts of dishes that usually require an investment in time you don't have to give. A risotto only takes 7.5 mins. An artichoke about 3. Veggie stocks are quick and simple, Bread puddings are transformed into a heavenly cloud, cheese cakes are also doable. Check out Lorna Sass' cookbooks for PCs and her website, and missvickie.com is a good source.

          I recommend Fagor PCs. Kuhn Rikon are good too but are a bit more fiddly to use. I've only seen one in recent history that scared me to death. It was a PC for the microwave.

          1. re: Candy
            IndyGirl Jan 8, 2012 01:04 PM

            Wow, extremely helpful. Thank you!!

            1. re: Candy
              Chemicalkinetics Jan 8, 2012 01:08 PM

              But UL requirement is not required.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                Candy Jan 9, 2012 01:09 PM

                from the information I have received from my suppliers it is a UL requirement.

                1. re: Candy
                  g
                  GH1618 Jan 9, 2012 01:29 PM

                  What he means is that UL approval is not required by law in order to sell a product.

                  1. re: Candy
                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2012 01:56 PM

                    Thanks, Candy. So you reommend Kuhn Rikon? Any specific model? Thanks.

                    Yeah, I originally meant what GH1618 said, but it is not important. The important point I really want to tell IndyGirl (original poster) is that one cannot constantly check on the cooking progress with a pressure cooker -- let it be because it is unsafe to open a pressurized pot or because it is impossible to open a pressurized pot. The bottomline is the same.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      Candy Jan 13, 2012 05:54 PM

                      No I actually recommend Fagor.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                s
                sueatmo Jan 9, 2012 08:45 AM

                What sort of PC is made today that allows this? Older PCs did, although why anyone would do this is beyond me. Doing this might be a good way to get scalded, or worse. But a new PC should be totally safe. Actually the older PCs were safe as well, if used appropriately.

          2. s
            sueatmo Jan 8, 2012 12:31 PM

            If you want to cook your beans from dried, then a pressure cooker will help you out with this. I suggest you find Lorna Sass's cookbook, Pressure Perfect, either at a bookstore to peruse, or at the library to check out, and read her first chapter or two. She does an excellent job of explaining the different sorts of cookers, and she also explains how a cooker works.

            I think information like this is helpful, especially if you haven't done pressure cooking before.

            I use my cooker for dried beans and for making broths. You should be able to make a nice vegetable broth using the cooker.And I've just discovered how super it is to cook brown rice. But like any new tool, you should decide how you would use it first, buy it, and then use it enough to master it. So buying one is more than an investment of money, but also personal time. They aren't that hard to use though, especially the newer ones.

            Good luck!

            2 Replies
            1. re: sueatmo
              IndyGirl Jan 8, 2012 12:36 PM

              oh, the idea that cooking brown rice in it would be better is helpful. thank you!

              1. re: IndyGirl
                s
                sedimental Jan 8, 2012 12:45 PM

                Also pressure cookers are excellent for making things like split pea soup....and they make quick work of lentils and barley. I was a veggie for many years and used mine more then-than I do now!

            2. g
              GH1618 Jan 8, 2012 01:00 PM

              A slow cooker works well for beans.

              7 Replies
              1. re: GH1618
                s
                sueatmo Jan 9, 2012 08:46 AM

                Yes but a slow cooker, is, well, slow. I think the OP is needing a faster method of cooking beans, if I understand the question. And there is this, a well-cooked pot of beans in the PC is very, very good.

                1. re: sueatmo
                  g
                  GH1618 Jan 9, 2012 09:14 AM

                  A slow cooker is slow, but you can leave it unattended to do other things. I would never leave a pressure cooker on the stove unattended (if I had one). Slow cookers are a time saver for this reason. Which method produces the better result, I don't know.

                  1. re: GH1618
                    AmyH Jan 9, 2012 09:25 AM

                    An electric pressure cooker can be left unattended! I love my Fagor 3-in-1. It's a pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker, but I really only use it for the pressure cooker function. Put your stuff in, seal the lid, set the number of minutes you want to cook for and walk away. It beeps when the time is up.

                    1. re: GH1618
                      scubadoo97 Jan 9, 2012 03:06 PM

                      I walk away from my Fagor Elite 6 qt PC when set to a low simmer just to maintain pressure once reached. I don't go far but can be doing other things around the house while making stock.

                      1. re: scubadoo97
                        s
                        sueatmo Jan 9, 2012 03:14 PM

                        Agreed.

                    2. re: sueatmo
                      q
                      Querencia Jan 13, 2012 05:21 PM

                      Regarding slow cookers being slow, I will tell you about the man who was told not to bother to plant a nut tree because it would not bear for five years. He responded that the five years would pass anyway and if he did not plant the tree he would never have nuts from it. A slow cooker is slow but the time will pass anyway. All you need to do is start your beans before you go to work in the morning rather than after you come home. And you can check them as often as you wish, something you certain can't do with a pressure cooker. Also you can turn your back on a slow cooker: don't try that with a pressure cooker.

                      1. re: Querencia
                        s
                        sueatmo Jan 13, 2012 05:26 PM

                        I like my slow cooker, but I don't use it for beans. I got started making beans in a pressure cooker, and I've just not changed, because the PC works so well for them. You can check your beans in a PC. I often do. It only takes a few minutes to test the beans for doneness. If you need more cooking time, the cooker will heat right up again. I am sure that slow cooked beans are good. But so are pressure cooked beans. And so are beans cooked over a stove top burner, or baked in an oven.

                  2. e
                    ellabee Jan 9, 2012 09:15 AM

                    Lorna Sass, all of whose pressure cooking books are worthwhile, wrote one specifically for vegetarians: Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.

                    The beauty of many pressure cookers is that they're great pots even when not being used for pressure cooking. The Fagor Futuro set are 4-qt and 6-qt pots that nest for storage and share lids (pressure and non-pressure, that come with the set). I use the 4-qt for pasta, soups, and vegetables all the time. At least once a week, I use the PC for either beans, brown rice, or a non-vegetarian stock or stew.

                    1. b
                      brianl999 Jan 9, 2012 12:48 PM

                      We cook dried black beans in our Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker on a regular basis. About 22 minutes at 15psi. We also do chicken stock and a few soups as well. As others have pointed out, that's just scratching the surface, although I have tried making carnitas in it of late (Hispanic fried pork dish), with improving results - it's better the regular way, but I'm still working out the kinks, and it takes about 1/4 the time.

                      I think if you do cook beans on a regular basis, you'll get your moneys worth - canned beans really are a pale imitation, in my opinion. I'd have to be awful desperate to use them now that we have the pressure cooker.

                      I mentioned we have the Kuhn Rikon, they're very nice pots, but definitely expensive. They really don't do anything different than the more reasonably priced Fagor pots.

                      Hope that helps

                      Thanks

                      Brian

                      1. greygarious Jan 9, 2012 02:51 PM

                        Not sure where, but I found an online chart of cooking times for soaked dried beans with a natural release, and copied down the pertinent info. It's 10-12 minutes for most varieties. I like to have different colors for salads. I soak a half cup or so of 3-4 varieties, each in its own empty 28oz tomato can. Then I put the cans on a flat rack in my PC and add a half-inch water to the PC.

                        The beans are still in their soaking liquid (or drain and add fresh water to cover by at least an inch.) Nothing boils over, and the PC does not need washing. I use the same procedure for making rice, except the rice is covered in water, in a pyrex casserole dish. Again, no cleanup.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: greygarious
                          k
                          kcward Jan 9, 2012 03:23 PM

                          I recently replaced a 30+ y/o PC with a Magefesa--love it. Kuhn Rikon and Fagor get a lot of mentions here, I chose Magefesa since it's the underdog against Kuhn Rikon (Swiss) and Fagor (also Spanish, but doing quite well.) I don't really see that much difference among them in general terms.

                        2. m
                          mdgolfbum Jan 9, 2012 04:05 PM

                          Love our Kuhn Rikon for quick cooking. It also is induction compatible much to our surprise.

                          jim

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mdgolfbum
                            s
                            sueatmo Jan 9, 2012 07:25 PM

                            I was shocked to discover than my decade old Fagor is induction ready. If I ever decide to buy an induction burner, I can use my PC. In fact I identified several pans that would work on induction burners. I doubt I'll ever be able to afford an induction cooktop.

                          2. Bada Bing Jan 9, 2012 07:43 PM

                            If you are short of time and cooking dried beans in a crockpot or stovetop is challenging, then a pressure cooker can definitely help. PCs are excellent for cooking beans and also brown rice, artichokes, all manner of veggies. They are prized in Indian (Asian) cooking, which is very veggie intensive.

                            What Chemical notes about not being able to check up frequently and casually on the cooking is true but not really an obstacle once you get your basic recipes down, and even if you do take the pressure down and open the dish up for inspection, you can use the pot like a regular pot thereafter or reseal and repressurize.

                            I have a Kuhn Rikon 7 liter PC, but I also use stock pots, crock pots, etc. My choice of equipment depends on the day's schedule. If it's a football Saturday and I'm around for hours on end, I make chicken stock in an open pot. But the PC comes in useful when I'm rushed. For example: it's 2pm and I decide I'd like some chick peas for hummus as a dinner appetizer. Nothing but a PC can do that.

                            As for brands, I hear that Kuhn Rikon is tops, but that Fagor makes excellent and cheaper models.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Bada Bing
                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2012 07:45 PM

                              "What Chemical notes about not being able to check up frequently and casually on the cooking is true but not really an obstacle once you get your basic recipes down, and even if you do take the pressure down and open the dish up for inspection, you can use the pot like a regular pot thereafter or reseal and repressurize. "

                              I agree. I just don't IndyGirl thinks she can check the progress every 30 seconds or so.

                              Does Kuhn Rikon have several lines of pressure cooker? I mean Fagor certainly does. So which line of Kuhn Rikon do you have or do you recommend?

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                Bada Bing Jan 10, 2012 05:41 AM

                                I have this model:

                                http://www.amazon.com/Kuhn-Rikon-Duromatic-Pressure-7-4-Quart/dp/B000AUOC7W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326202069&sr=8-1

                                I watched it for some time on Amazon and bought it for about $55 less than the $230+ that the page shows today. In fact, I bought it last January, and I bet these things go on sale especially in Winter.

                                I don't know Kuhn Rikon's full line-up, but I do know they have two different lid venting styles. My "Duromatic" style is supposedly a bit easier, but I doubt there's much difficulty with any Kuhn-Rikon product. One advantage to the Fagor line, however, is that their lids seem more interchangeable with different pots. I would be interested in adding a lower-sided bottom pot that would match my current lid, but only Fagor lets you mix and match that simply.

                                This website was a great help to me:

                                http://missvickie.com/

                                Also Miss Priss and some other Chow members are very helpful.

                                1. re: Bada Bing
                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 10, 2012 06:36 AM

                                  Thanks.

                                  1. re: Bada Bing
                                    e
                                    ellabee Jan 10, 2012 12:07 PM

                                    I believe all the Kuhn-Rikon models are called 'Duromatic', but one difference between models is the 'Top' (that Bada Bing has) and the regular Duromatic with pop-up rod pressure indicator. The 'Top' is supposed to make it easier to hit the pressure just right -- not too low and not too high -- as compared with the regular K-R which has a little pop-up indicator for pressure level 1 and 2 (but no real indicator if the pressure is going above level 2).

                                    On the Fagor, which releases more steam during cooking than any of the K-R models, you need to watch and learn the difference between, as a poster helpfully put it on an older chow thread, "lazy" steam (not enough pressure), "angry" steam (straight up, too much pressure), and "steady" steam (just right) -- and associate this with the correct burner setting to maintain pressure. That's one of the reasons I got a portable induction unit; I figured it would be easier to be precise about the amount of heat being applied to maintain pressure than using the somewhat flaky and variable-pressure gas burners on my cheap stove. It is.

                                    1. re: ellabee
                                      Bada Bing Jan 10, 2012 07:13 PM

                                      ellabee is right: mine is the "Top Model," which has some more flexibility about judging pressure level, etc. Before buying, I had called the company to ask about the different venting models, and they didn't strongly sell one type over another.

                                      It is, I've heard, an advantage of the K-R cookers that they are quite tightly sealed and don't lose much moisture via steam, which is good for certain applications when you want to avoid washing away food flavors or nutrients from having to use more water in the first place.

                              2. Naguere Jan 10, 2012 05:49 AM

                                My low tech way is, each week I soak and cook beans, 500grams, then freeze half

                                and use the rest of that variety from the fridge.to incorporate in to dishes.

                                The cooking this way is easily controlled and the heat setting is very low indeed..

                                You will soon have a 'Library' of beans in the freezer ready for you to command.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Naguere
                                  g
                                  GH1618 Jan 10, 2012 01:02 PM

                                  "... the heat setting is very low indeed."

                                  A neighbor of mine recently got food poisoning by cooking beens at very low heat. These were not bulk beans, but the ordinary commercially packaged kind.

                                  I always boil beans a short time before further cooking (Narsai David degassing method), which protects against this.

                                  1. re: GH1618
                                    s
                                    sueatmo Jan 10, 2012 05:53 PM

                                    If I understand this, beans that make you sick are undercooked. If the beans you are eating are tender, you shouldn't get sick.

                                    1. re: sueatmo
                                      g
                                      GH1618 Jan 10, 2012 07:19 PM

                                      Food poisoning is caused by bacteria, not the food. Killing the bacteria is a matter of raising the temperature to a minimum threshold, not cooking per se.

                                      Undercooked beans can also cause illness, but these beans were cooked.

                                      1. re: GH1618
                                        s
                                        sueatmo Jan 11, 2012 07:23 AM

                                        Well, I guess this is a good argument for using a PC. If you use a slow cooker, then your method of parboiling would be a good thing, I think. I googled undercooked beans to come up with the illness I mentioned. I misunderstood the point of your original post.

                                        1. re: sueatmo
                                          g
                                          GH1618 Jan 11, 2012 08:28 AM

                                          Slow cookers are safe. My neighbor didn't use one, but used his range. I don't suppose he checked the temperature.

                                          My information is second hand. After reading up on undercooked beans, it seems possible he had that instead. Either way, it is advisable to bring food to at least 160 degrees F whan cooking, even for a seemingly innocuous product like dried beans. The danger zone for food-borne pathogens is 40 to 140 degrees.

                                          1. re: GH1618
                                            s
                                            sueatmo Jan 11, 2012 05:15 PM

                                            Well, I know I've learned something from this. I had no idea about either possibility with beans! I'm sorry your neighbor learned the hard way.

                                            1. re: sueatmo
                                              IndyGirl Jan 11, 2012 05:55 PM

                                              yikes. Good to know!!

                                2. t
                                  The Veggie Queen Jan 11, 2012 10:47 AM

                                  I am a vegetarian and have been pressure cooking and teaching it for the past 15 years.

                                  Fear not with your pressure cooker. It will be safe and easy as long as you get a decent model spring valve cooker such as Fagor, Magefesa or B./R/K, or other model mentioned below.

                                  Besides beans which are easy to do, you can make all kinds of whole grains, soup, stew, chili, vegetables, 3-minute steel cut oats.

                                  Lorna Sass is my pressure cooking mentor and I love what she does. I just wrote a vegetarian (vegan) pressure cooking cookbook. I don't think that I can mention it here because it is shameless self-promotion but it has cooking charts for all kinds of beans, grains, rice, vegetables and recipes from breakfast through dessert,

                                  A pressure cooker can help everyone save time, money and energy and eat lots of beans without paying a fortune or worrying about BPA in the cans.

                                  Have fun with it.

                                  1. IndyGirl Jan 11, 2012 05:57 PM

                                    Thank you all for hte great information. I don't know when I will make a decision--I did cook chickpeas on my stovetop this weekend and they turned out great, just right in fact and yes indeed much better than canned. However, watching the pot for that length of time on a regular basis will not be realistic so I know I have to come up with another solution, probably a PC. I will check into the book everyone is mentioning as well. Thanks! And keep the posts coming--not trying to kill the thread.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: IndyGirl
                                      Bada Bing Jan 11, 2012 06:17 PM

                                      Chick peas are an especially long-cooking bean--second, I think, only to soy beans, which I have yet to cook whole--so you started at the challenging end of the spectrum. That's why I mentioned chick peas for the PC, which really speeds them up.

                                      By the way, in case you don't know: it helps to put just a pinch or two of baking soda into the water whenever you want a fine consistency for the chick peas, as in hummus. The baking soda helps break down the skin. Alternatively, when you want the skins to remain strong and toothsome, as for certain soups containing whole chick peas, then omit any baking soda.

                                      As you probably know, lentils and split peas can cook quickly without pre-soaking (70 minutes give or take).

                                      1. re: Bada Bing
                                        s
                                        sueatmo Jan 12, 2012 01:36 PM

                                        I want to speak to the lentil issue. I know plenty of sources say that they cook in 20 minutes, but for me they just don't. I soak them now, several hours before cooking, and they do cook in about 15 minutes. An accomplished Indian cook advised me to do this, and she was right. If you go home to make dinner, planning on a 20 minute cooking time for the lentils, and they don't get done before 30 minutes+ of cooking time, your recipe will be thrown off.

                                        I don't pressure cook lentils, but I also presoak other beans I cook in the PC. I get a more consistent state of doneness if I do. I don't know why this is the case for me, whether because our water is slightly hard, or whether it is some other reason. But I get a better product if I soak beans or lentils for a few hours before cooking, whether I am using the PC or not.

                                        1. re: sueatmo
                                          scubadoo97 Jan 12, 2012 02:26 PM

                                          I don't pressure cook lentils or soak them. For me lentils are done in around 20-30 min. 10 min one way or the other will have little effect on my recipe or meal in general. I'm usually still thinking of what I want to do while the lentils are cooking ;-) I'm really a off the cuff cook

                                          1. re: scubadoo97
                                            s
                                            sueatmo Jan 12, 2012 05:04 PM

                                            Off the cuff--that's me too. I don't PC lentils, but I do presoak them. I started doing that when I was cooking after work. I'd cook them and cook them, the spinach and onions would be done, but the lentils were still too chewy. As I said, someone who knew lentils recommended soaking them. I made beluga lentils tonight. I soaked them, and it still took almost 20 minutes for them to get done.

                                            And, as I said before, I also presoak beans before pressure cooking them. It works for me.

                                            1. re: sueatmo
                                              scubadoo97 Jan 12, 2012 07:45 PM

                                              Cool. I've been pre-soaking before pressure cooking beans as well

                                        2. re: Bada Bing
                                          scubadoo97 Jan 12, 2012 02:28 PM

                                          BB, I've used the baking soda on occasion. I find I get a very soft texture in the bean itself. I have not noticed a difference in the skin. I'll have to investigate that further. Since getting a high powered blender skins are a non issue in hummus. Can get silky smooth with skins.

                                          1. re: Bada Bing
                                            Bada Bing Jan 12, 2012 05:59 PM

                                            To clarify, I meant that lentils and split peas are the two legumes/beans that I know which don't really require presoaking nor a PC. They just cook up pretty fast and delicious straight away.

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