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Will a used pressure cooker be reliable?

j
jvanderh Feb 16, 2012 10:32 AM

After reading about

easy-peel soft boiled eggs http://www.hippressurecooking.com/2011/04/hip-modernist-soft-medium-and-hard.html

15-minute beans http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/cooking-beans-in-your-pressure-cooker.html

and cooking frozen chicken in 25 minutes http://barbarabakes.com/2011/06/press...

My desire for a pressure cooker has officially outweighed my resolve not to clutter up my kitchen. I was looking on Amazon, but it seems like the sort of thing I might find cheap in Value Village or Goodwill. Has anyone bought a used one? Any advice?

  1. j
    jvanderh Feb 20, 2012 06:39 PM

    I received it today and put it straight to use. I was amazed at how fast beans cooked and how after 15 minutes the stew meat seemed like it had been cooking for hours. I was confused, though, about why the directions tell me to bring the food to a boil and then snap on the pressure regulator. This is very unpleasant to do with steam billowing out. Also, it has a quick release valve that says it can be used after I move the food off the burner, but it seems like it would be really easy for the handle to come open while moving the pot. So, I am very impressed by it, but also kind of scared of it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jvanderh
      m
      Miss Priss Feb 21, 2012 07:55 AM

      Thanks for the quick report! Sounds like you're liking pressure cooking already. It won't take long for you to become comfortable with the process, and then it won't seem at all scary. With regard to bringing the contents to a boil before putting on the regulator: I've never used your particular brand/model of cooker, but I haven't found that to be necessary when using other cookers that have removable regulators. (Maybe someone else can explain why it's recommended for your model?) As for the handle opening when you move the pot: Modern cookers should remain tightly sealed until the pressure has almost completely dropped. But if you don't want to touch the upper long handle (which I assume is the one you're concerned about), you can probably lift the pot safely and easily by putting one hand under the lower long handle and gripping the helper handle with the other. Also, if you haven't done it already, check YouTube for videos about this particular type of cooker; you may find something that addresses these issues.

      1. re: jvanderh
        paulj Feb 21, 2012 09:24 AM

        This is a Futura, right? And the lid (with gasket on the top rim) fits inside the body? That design is quite secure under pressure. That pressure is holds the lid snugly up against the body. The latch on the handle is need to keep the lid in place before pressure builds up, but isn't what keeps it there under pressure. Notice also the lid and opening are elliptical, so you have to turn the lid to take it out.

        http://www.hawkinscookers.com/1.4.1.pc_close_open.html

        I was a bit puzzled about the snapping on the regulator, but I see from this that it is a leaver that does clip on (as opposed to the weight of the classic line).
        http://www.hawkinscookers.com/1.4.2.p...
        So while the geometry of the Futura is different, the operating mechanism is the same as the Classic.

        1. re: paulj
          j
          jvanderh Feb 21, 2012 10:05 AM

          Yup, it's a Futura. That makes sense- even if the handle latch came open, it wouldn't be possible for the lid to pop off. Removing the pressure regulator is not normally something you have to do, right? It seems odd.

          1. re: jvanderh
            paulj Feb 21, 2012 10:33 AM

            With the classic (and presto) the weight is normally off. With a Fagor, the control 'valve' is only removed for cleaning. Since the Futura regulator is flush with the handle, I thought is was fixed, not something that is normally removed. But I haven't seen one in person.

      2. j
        jvanderh Feb 18, 2012 04:53 PM

        All right! In 2-3 business days, I'll be the proud new owner of a 5 liter Futura. My 3-quart saucepan is officially on probation. Thanks so much for all the replies.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jvanderh
          m
          Miss Priss Feb 19, 2012 09:13 AM

          Congratulations! Please let us know how you like it--and what you make with it.

        2. iL Divo Feb 17, 2012 07:32 PM

          Probably bought around 5 from Value Village or other charity shops.

          My best friend never had used one, was a wonderful cook, I saw one in Roseville at Denio's farmers market. It was used and inexpensive so I figured if she used it at all it'd be a good purchase. She used it all right and has bought 'em for all 3 of her kids since realizing the benefits. I gave my son my mom's when she didn't cook in it any more. DD asked for one for Christmas one year, I got her a new one from Sears.

          Used is fine as long as it has the rubber seals that go inside the lid and the little cap [I call it a doppler] [it's a separate piece] is with the item too. They're all different and can be hard to replace if missing.

          1. e
            ellabee Feb 17, 2012 10:41 AM

            I agree with the posters here who advise at least sticking with major brands for the sake of replacement parts.

            With respect to wanting to avoid cluttering up the kitchen: For a long time I never considered getting a PC, and the light finally went on when I realized that without the pressure lid, they can be used as regular cooking pots. The 4-quart pot that's part of my Fagor Futuro set (nests with the 6-quart for efficient storage) is one of the most-used pots here, more than half the time as a regular soup pot. The very thick base allows excellent sweating, sauteing, and browning, as well as scorch-free cooking of thick soups and sauces. It has essentially replaced a 3-qt tri-ply saucepan.

            Especially if you're seeking to have a pressure cooker multi-task, it's worth seeking out/spending for one made of stainless steel (rather than aluminum) and with a good solid conductive base.

            The Futuro has two pressure settings (15 psi and about 8 psi), as do several other of the Fagor models. I haven't yet used the lower pressure setting, but the egg recipe might be my first go...

            7 Replies
            1. re: ellabee
              j
              jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 11:33 AM

              Huh. Well, that's an excellent point. If I got rid of the pot that's the closest in size, I could put it in its spot. Are the futuros common in thrift stores?

              1. re: jvanderh
                m
                Miss Priss Feb 17, 2012 01:16 PM

                There's a cluster of thrift shops near my office, several of them relatively upscale; but the only PCs I've ever seen in any of them were beat-up, stained, pitted old aluminum ones, usually missing some crucial component. You can get a brand-new, 6-quart stainless-steel Fagor--not the top-of-the-line Futuro, but a perfectly good model nevertheless--for about $60 at Amazon.com. For less than $50, you can get a brand-new 6-quart stainless-steel Presto jiggle-top model with an aluminum disc base, or a brand-new 5-lter Hawkins Futura (not to be confused with the Fagor Futuro) made of thick anodized aluminum. It'll come complete with all its parts, full instructions, and manufacturer's warranty. In my opinion, it's worth it.

                1. re: Miss Priss
                  j
                  jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 02:07 PM

                  Thanks for all the info. That futura sure is pretty, but I was reading that the lid is difficult.

                  1. re: jvanderh
                    m
                    Miss Priss Feb 17, 2012 03:05 PM

                    I've never tried any of the Hawkins models myself--they all have lids that fit under the rim of the pot--but they're very popular in India, where tens of thousands, if not millions, of people use them regularly. The Futura was also the favored PC of Graham Kerr (aka the Galloping Gourmet), and I've seen Alton Brown use one on his TV show. So I'm assuming it's not THAT difficult!

                    1. re: Miss Priss
                      paulj Feb 17, 2012 03:59 PM

                      The Hawkins classic line has an unusual springy handle on the lid that holds it in place until there is internal pressure. It's different, but not difficult to use. I haven't paid attention as to how the Futura lid locks on.

                      Hawkins classic also has the weight that lifts and whistles, as a way of releasing excess pressure. While 'counting the whistles' is a way of timing without a clock, it isn't what the manufacturer recommends.

                    2. re: jvanderh
                      e
                      ellabee Feb 18, 2012 01:43 PM

                      Haven't found the lid difficult, with one exception. On my second pressure effort, in opening the lid, I got it stuck -- sort of a vacuum. I left it alone, figuring one or another edge would cool enough for me to jiggle it loose, and that's what happened. Now I'm more careful not to lift up on the lid until it's lined up so that it will lift right off.

                      1. re: ellabee
                        j
                        jvanderh Feb 18, 2012 04:51 PM

                        Thanks!

              2. j
                jvanderh Feb 16, 2012 08:32 PM

                Wow, I didn't expect this much great advice! I'm confused about the low pressure mentioned in the egg instructions. Is this a feature that I would need to look for, or do I just turn the burner down to get low pressure? The one I'm looking at says it runs at 15 psi, but it doesn't say anything about a low setting.

                15 Replies
                1. re: jvanderh
                  paulj Feb 16, 2012 09:22 PM

                  A long time standard pressure in the US is 15 psi (1 atmosphere), which raises the temperature in the cooker to about 250F. In Europe a lower pressure of 10 or 12 psi is common. In addition some cookers have a dual pressure setting, e.g. 15 and 10. Electric pressure cookers tend to regulate temperature instead of pressure (e.g. 240F).

                  Changing the burner heat does not alter the pressure. Follow the directions for your cooker. For most you start at a high heat (like bringing water to a boil), and lower it so you just maintain pressure. The pressure is determined by the regulator, not the burner.

                  The 15psi setting is not inherently superior to a lower one, just a bit faster. In fact for some items like fish and vegetable the lower pressure may be better since it reduces the chance of overcooking. In the egg example, the lower pressure may reduce the chance of cracking the egg, but I haven't examined this issue.

                  The best guide for cooking times is the booklet that comes with your cooker. If adapting a recipe from another book, you many need to account for the difference in pressure.

                  1. re: paulj
                    j
                    jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 04:57 AM

                    Thank you so much

                    1. re: paulj
                      s
                      shiny Feb 17, 2012 08:29 AM

                      The Fissler Blue Point and Kuhn Rikon PCs have a little stick or button in the lid that rises with pressure. Some other brands have this feature as well. There are lines on the button to give you a visual indicator of the pressure. The first line tells you it reached the low pressure- the one you would want for eggs. As it continues to heat, the button rises to show a second line. That indicates high pressure.

                      When it reaches the pressure you want, you start your timer and turn the heat down to the lowest it will go that still maintains pressure. It's that simple!

                      When your timer goes off, you either run cold water over the lid to reduce the pressure quickly, or take the pot off the heat and let the pressure fall slowly. The method you use depends on what you're cooking. The recipe will tell you whether to do quick or slow pressure release.

                      1. re: shiny
                        paulj Feb 17, 2012 09:33 AM

                        Unfortunately models like this with dual pressure settings are relatively expensive and new on the US market. You are much more likely to see a Presto or Miro at Value Village.

                        1. re: shiny
                          j
                          jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 10:21 AM

                          Ahh! I saw a reference to a soft stick or hard stick. Now I understand. If I buy a new one, I'm looking at a cheap Hawkins aluminum one, which I assume won't have that feature. It sounds like the eggs might not work.

                          1. re: jvanderh
                            paulj Feb 17, 2012 10:39 AM

                            The Hawkins will be single pressure - 15psi (I have their smallest 1.5L)

                            1. re: paulj
                              j
                              jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 11:24 AM

                              How do you like it? What can you fit in there?

                              1. re: jvanderh
                                paulj Feb 17, 2012 11:37 AM

                                I mainly use it when camping, to prepare a dish for 2 people without left overs.

                                1. re: paulj
                                  j
                                  jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 11:52 AM

                                  Gotcha. I looked at a tiny one first, but after I thought about it, I'd like to be able to do a pound of beans or a small chicken.

                                  1. re: jvanderh
                                    m
                                    Miss Priss Feb 17, 2012 12:39 PM

                                    As has often been said, it's best to get at least a 5- to 6-quart cooker as your first one, because you can cook a small quantity of food in a large cooker, but not vice versa. Remember that you can only fill it to 2/3 capacity for non-foaming foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables) and to 1/2 capacity for foaming ones (such as beans and grains). Some people recommend starting with an 8-quart (or 8-liter) model, but personally I find that size to be unnecessarily large for most meals, as well as very unwieldy to wash by hand. And the larger the cooker, the longer it takes to get up to pressure. My 8-liter only gets used for stock; and in truth, I could manage just fine without it.

                      2. re: jvanderh
                        m
                        Miss Priss Feb 17, 2012 11:36 AM

                        jvanderh, even when I use pressure cookers that have more than one setting, I tend to cook everything on high pressure--including pasta and hard-boiled eggs. If I'm following a recipe that specifies low pressure, I just shave a few of minutes off the cooking time. So far, things have turned out fine.

                        1. re: Miss Priss
                          j
                          jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 11:52 AM

                          Have you ever tried soft or medium eggs? I'm not much for hard boiled.

                          1. re: jvanderh
                            m
                            Miss Priss Feb 17, 2012 12:25 PM

                            No, haven't tried that. I suspect it would be more difficult, even at the low setting, as the timing is more critical than for hard-boiled. Using a PC wouldn't save any time, either, as it's very quick to cook soft- or medium-boiled eggs in an ordinary pot. Also, the main reason for using a PC to cook hard-boiled eggs is that it makes them easy to peel, which is generally a moot point for soft- or medium-boiled. Pressure cookers are great, but they're not necessarily the right tool for every culinary task.

                            1. re: Miss Priss
                              j
                              jvanderh Feb 17, 2012 02:09 PM

                              I like to cook 'em just long enough that I can peel them. I'm totally bummed that I probably can't use the PC, but being able to cook stuff faster is probably good enough.

                              1. re: jvanderh
                                m
                                Miss Priss Feb 17, 2012 03:07 PM

                                When you get your PC, experiment with it. Who knows--maybe you'll find a great technique for making medium-boiled eggs.

                      3. Sid Post Feb 16, 2012 06:32 PM

                        Ebay A WMF Perfect Plus and don't look back. I have used lesser models and won't go back. Buy once, cry once!

                        And yes, pressure cooking really does work. I especially find them useful above 10K feet where dry beans won't cook.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Sid Post
                          s
                          shiny Feb 16, 2012 07:18 PM

                          Does your WMF get up to full 15psi pressure? I had read that they didn't. They look like great pressure cookers.

                          15psi (pounds per square inch) is the standard in the USA; most pressure cooker cookbooks base the cooking times on 15psi. Extra time has to be added to the recipes if the cooker doesn't reach 15psi.

                          I'm loving my pressure cookers. Last night I made spagetti squash in 20 minutes from start to finish!

                          1. re: shiny
                            Sid Post Feb 17, 2012 06:44 PM

                            I have two Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers too. Yes these only go to 12psi but, that hasn't been an issue for me. Those Swiss pressure cookers aren't feeling the love in my kitchen these days.

                            1. re: Sid Post
                              i
                              iyc_nyc Feb 18, 2012 04:15 PM

                              Sid, why do you prefer WMF over Kuhn Rikon?

                        2. m
                          Miss Priss Feb 16, 2012 06:19 PM

                          I've bought several preowned stovetop pressure cookers on eBay and Craigslist and have never had any hesitation about using them, but a couple of them did turn out, when tested, to need replacement parts in order to function properly. So if you aren't already familiar with how pressure cookers work, it may be best to start with a new one. As other have noted, Fagor makes some very reasonably priced models that are easy to operate.

                          1. s
                            shiny Feb 16, 2012 11:16 AM

                            I buy used items as much as possible because I like recycling and I'm cheap. But I don't recommend buying a used pressure cooker. It might not work, which is the best bad outcome, or it might explode, which you do NOT want.

                            I read the advice at Miss Vickie's pressure cooker website (an excellent resource!) to not buy a used PC. Then I found some Fissler Blue Points on sale on Ebay and just had to get them. One set was new and was perfect. The other was an "opened box special". It looked perfect, but had a pinprick hole in the main valve seal and wouldn't build up to full pressure. Fissler was great about honoring the warranty, but it was a hassle waiting for it to get fixed. I won't buy a used PC again.

                            The modern PCs have many more safety features than the old-fashioned ones you're likely to find at the thrift store. If you don't want to spend a lot of money for a PC, Fagor makes some decent ones; sometimes Costco has them on sale. If you find you love pressure cooking, you can buy some better quality Kuhn Rikon or Fissler PCs down the road. Miss Vickie's website has lots of information about the different types and how to use them.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: shiny
                              paulj Feb 16, 2012 11:51 AM

                              If the used PC has no visible damage and has a lid interlock, it should be safe to buy. I'm thinking in particular of a Presto from around 1980 or newer. But it would be a good idea to buy a new gasket and over-pressure plug. And make sure you can see through the main vent hole.

                              A big advantage to Presto (and a few other American brands) is that replacement gaskets are readily available, online or in some stores.

                              I'd stay away from an off brand for which replacement gaskets might be hard to find.

                              1. re: paulj
                                s
                                sparrowgrass Feb 16, 2012 12:04 PM

                                Presto or Mirro replacement parts are readily available. I would not hesitate to buy one of those used. As a matter of fact, I did buy a used one not long ago, but haven't used it yet--it needs a new gasket. I would stay away from ancient ones--they do not have the overpressure plugs. An overpressure plug is made of metal or rubber--if the temp gets too high, it pops out and relieves pressure before the pot explodes. An interlocking lid fits on in one position, and slides to lock.

                                My old Mirros are probably 30 years old, work like a charm, and will certainly outlast me. I have replaced the gaskets 3 or 4 times, and the plug once. I have a large canner and a smaller canner/cooker. (Canners must be big enough for 3 quart jars--recipes for canning consider the time it takes to heat up the canner--smaller cookers heat up too quickly, and your food might not be safe.)

                                I have always used a PC with a weight, not the gauge ones, but new gauges are available as well. Gauges should be checked yearly, whether old or new--usually the County Extension office has a tester.

                            2. r
                              rasputina Feb 16, 2012 11:08 AM

                              If replacement parts are readily available for the model you are looking at then I don't see the problem with buying used. Even new ones can need gaskets or over pressure plugs replaced over time.

                              1. dcrb Feb 16, 2012 10:52 AM

                                I have never purchased a used pressure cooker. Always new. Here is my reasoning. All pressure cookers have seals or a gasket where the lid attaches to the pan. The seal/gasket is critical.

                                Some have safety devices such as a blow out plug in the event too much pressure builds up and the regulator cannot release it fast enough.

                                Those two facts alone, not counting the reason someone may have gotten rid of theirs, keeps me from buying used. Regular cookware no problem Also models change over time and if you need a replacement part to get it operational and safe, the part might not be available. For me and my family, I buy new. Current model is a Duromatic. We have had Ultrex, and 2 MirroMatics, All stovetop models. I have no experience with electronic models, although I am considering the Cuisinart 6 quart from Lowe's for $99.00.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: dcrb
                                  j
                                  jvanderh Feb 16, 2012 11:07 AM

                                  Thanks for your reply- you make a good case. I'm almost positive I want a stovetop one. Can you sautee in it before you put the lid on? Do you have any particular methods you'd be willing to share? A pressure cooker wasn't something my mom or grandma used, so I don't know much.

                                  1. re: jvanderh
                                    dcrb Feb 16, 2012 11:31 AM

                                    jvanderh - Yes, we do saute in it. Onions, carrots, celery, etc. Brown the meat to develop a good fond, then add the liquid and bring up to pressure. It is basically like a stock pot or deep saute pan with pressure capability. So yes, you can pretty much do it it what you would do in a skillet or saute pan or sauce pot. Pretty versatile.

                                    I do pintos for refried beans. Rinse (no soaking) and into the pot. One smoked ham hock/shank, liquid and 15 lbs of pressure for 50 minutes. Done.

                                    I pretty much just experiment and have done so for nearly 40 years. If there have been any failures it has been underestimating a cooking time. Easy enough to fix.

                                    Hope this helps.

                                    1. re: dcrb
                                      j
                                      jvanderh Feb 16, 2012 11:43 AM

                                      thanks so much.

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