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Why not just a pressure cooker for all liquid base cooking?

Thanks to fellow Chowhounders suggestions and encouragements, I have bought a Fagor pressure cooker, and have been using it for pressure cooking, as a regular pot for atmosphere pressure cooking, as a steam pot for my bamboo steamers...etc

My question is that if a pressure cooker can be operated in regular atmosphere pressure and at high pressure, then why not just get the pressure cooker since it can do both -- granted that a pressure cooker is usually more expensive than most regular pots, and that the disc clad is adequate but not extraordinary. Are these the only reasons preventing everyone getting pressure cookers? Thanks for sharing your opinions.

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  1. I have a pressure cooker, a 6-quart Dutch oven (wider than it is deep), and a 12-quart stockpot.

    It depends on what I'm making -- the pressure cooker is heavy and unwieldy, so I tend to only use it with pressure, because the pan itself is deep, so it's harder to turn and stir things. (but it's awesome for being able to put dishes on the table comparatively quickly that would usually take most of the afternoon)

    For soups, stews, chili, etc., I use the Dutch oven-shaped one, because the larger diameter/depth ratio means that it's easy to maneuver whatever I'm cooking -- either stirring or turning, and the larger surface area means that things reduce faster.

    The stock pot is mostly just for stock and large batches of soup -- it's too tall and deep to stir or turn easily, and it's just plain heavy and bigger than I need for most uses.

    1. The biggest reasons I can think of why people don't just get a pressure cooker and use it for all their saucepan needs:

      1) I prefer saucepans that you can put in the oven if needed. Most pressure cookers have plastic pieces in the handle or lid. This is a fairly minor concern.

      2) A bigger reason - basically everyone who isn't scared to use a pressure cooker already has a half-decent saucepan. Pressure cookers are just about as hard to sell to newer cooks as whetstones. Whether or not they're good multitaskers and great devices when used for their intended purpose, new cooks seem to find em scary and complicated.

      3) Also, the most useful size of pressure cooker for the average home cook is probably a bit bigger than the most useful size of saucepan.

      All that said, I've used my pressure cooker as a saucepan many times. It works fine. Generally speaking, if you can't get good results from a disc bottom pressure cooker used as a saucepan, the problem is not with the pan.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cowboyardee

        I even used to use a pressure cooker as a mini oven (just pulled the gaskets out, then put a small circular rack in the bottom) It worked great.

        I think that the fear factor is definitely there -- everybody remembers Mom's and Grandma's pressure cooker with the rattling weights and the horror stories of chili on the ceiling....but today's models are so much easier and safer -- it will just take a while til the word gets out.

      2. I've pondered this issue too, and cowboyardee's response nicely sums up my own thinking, especially point #2. By the time most cooks get a PC, they already have at least one non-pressure pot of the same size and may not want to get rid of it. This is certainly the case with me. Despite having accumulated several (OK, too many) pressure cookers in various shapes and sizes, I remain very attached to my regular stainless stuff, can't seem to part with it, and use it whenever I'm not actually cooking under pressure. This is partly for sentimental reasons, but even more for esthetic ones. Many of my stainless pieces are high-quality, well-designed items that are a pleasure to use. And no matter how attractive a PC may be in relation to other PCs, I've never met one whose plastic handles appealed to me in and of themselves.

        1. I'm a cook who actually did get rid of a pot I'd used happily for many years when its functions were taken over by the pressure cooker. Another factor was that the displaced pot didn't work on induction.

          The pc in question is one that I'd really recommend to cooks starting out in small kitchens because of its compactness in storage and on the stovetop (Fagor Futuro 6 & 4 qt set), and because of the usefulness of the 4-qt as a regular cookpot. It's in near-constant use here because it's the right size for pasta, potatoes, steaming, blanching, etc. It's not especially heavy or unwieldy; I store it with its non-pressure lid on. If I'd realized sooner that pressure cookers could also be used as regular cookpots, I might have made the move sooner.

          Even so, I went through some pangs of the kind Miss Priss mentions. I don't love plastic handles. But they're a blessing when emptying out boiling contents into a colander.

          It could be that the revival of interest in real foods and home cooking, as well as the rise of modernist techniques and their spread to home kitchens, may mean that starting-out cooks become more familiar with and less afraid of pressure cookers.

          1. Pressure cookers fell out of favour for decades.After WWII,the modern kitchen,prepared food trend began and has hung on tight.Add the stories of what happened in so and so's grandmother's,third cousin's kitchen.Most of which was true.Cooking on and baking in the very best old Monarch wood ranges isn't without fuss and skill.Energy was cheap and new appliances all the vogue and in steps marketing.Or you have my late mother in law who was modern convenience food all the way or utterly tasteless,overcooked something in the pressure cooker.Bad food memories in my husbands family.
            The old is new again.A great tool starting to shake off a bad reputation,still lurking.

            1. I don't use my Fagors as anything but a PC. Both pots are heavier than my normal pots and the handles are short, fat, and slippery. This makes the larger pot particularly clumsy to use. Add to that, the flanges on the outside of the rims are sharp. So, good as a pressure cooker. As a regular pot, not so much.

              1. I guess I'm not understanding what you mean in your query. Do you mean that you use your PC for all stovetop uses now? Or are you saying that your PC has two settings for high and less high pressure cooking?

                I think the main reason for hesitancy regarding a PC is fear. A lot of people fear them, regarding them as sounding scary as they hiss, and remember a previous bad accident involving explosions or stories about such. And not everyone makes dried beans or soup stock. So, there isn't an incentive for them to speed up those processes, because they aren't doing that kind of cooking.

                4 Replies
                1. re: sueatmo

                  <Do you mean that you use your PC for all stovetop uses now?>

                  Not all, but I do use it for non-high pressure cooking. In other words, I also use it like a regular stock pot. I wasn't using it like a saucepan since my pot is 8 quart large, and I wasn't using it like a fry pan. However, I was using it as a regular 8 quart pot.

                  Obviously I have been using my pressure cooker to do high pressure cooking. However, I have also use it for making soup at regular atmosphere pressure.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Many years ago my mother popped corn in our PC. She didn't use pressure, of course. She simply used the pot as a popcorn popper, keeping the lid loosely on top of the pot.

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      Sueatmo, my mother did the same thing. In our house, the PC was just a big, sturdy aluminum pot with a peculiar rim. It served as a popcorn popper, spaghetti pot, soup pot, whatever. I don't recall ever seeing it used for its intended purpose. Not sure why, as our family lore was completely free of pea-soup-on-the-ceiling stories. I think she just preferred other methods, and wasn't as pressed for time as most of us are today.

                      1. re: Miss Priss

                        My mom who wasn't a really good cook, or wasn't even terribly interested in day to day cooking, used her PC for pressure cooking, as did my MIL, who could be described the same way. I do think my mom wanted to get dinner on the table ASAP, but I don't remember her using it like that. She made a meat dish in it from time to time I think, and not too often. Her PC was build like a tank. All aluminum with a hissing regulator going full speed when she cooked with it. I've learned to back the pressure off on almost all my PC cooking, especially for chicken and beans. I don't have a PC in my temporary digs and I miss it.

                2. Thank you all the responses. You guys are awesome and your responses have give me much to think about. The fact that most people already have adequate cookware by the time they make a pressure cooker makes sense. Plastic handle and plastic pressure relieve valve also make sense.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    i use the pot for my pressure cooker as a regular pot all the time. boil water for pasta (less so in the last year, as lately i use a much, much smaller quantity of water for pasta), make soup, stock, things of this nature.it's smaller than my regular stockpot, and i usually need less quantity.

                    i don't care to brown in the pot, as it's tall, therefore has less surface area and is a little awkward to shift things around in there.

                  2. I have a Fagor pressure cooker, and I use it mostly for high pressure (rather than atmospheric pressure) ... though I do have a separate basic (non-pressure) lid for the Fagor that works well for atmospheric pressure. My concern with using the Fagor for standard non-pressurized cooking is that I'm quite rough on my standard cookware... and I'm afraid that if I handled my Fagor the same way I'd knock it beyond its tolerances for use under pressure. So I use my normal cookware for atmospheric pressure (and don't worry too much about beating it up), and I use my Fagor for high pressure (and I treat it carefully).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: drongo

                      <and I'm afraid that if I handled my Fagor the same way I'd knock it beyond its tolerances for use under pressure>

                      I didn't think of this. Good point.

                    2. Ignorance.

                      And part of that ignorance has to do with recipes. Majority of recipes do not call for pressure cookers.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Sort of the same phenomenon that has newer cooks buying double boilers rather than just using a mixing bowl on top of the pot.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Bingo. There are so many dishes that could be less tedious if done in the pressure cooker but hardly anyone ever points it out. For example, almost every recipe for dried beans calls for cooking them for an hour or more on the stovetop or even longer in the crockpot. Most people think it's the only way to cook beans and often resort to canned to avoid the hassle. So it was like discovering electricity when I found out that I could cook dried beans in 15-20 mins in the PC.

                          Now, for braises the pressure cooker is a little trickier. You have to know when to stop cooking and the proper way to release pressure to avoid overcooked meat and turning veggies to mush. A good recipe though would supply all the timing info but since most never do, people have no idea how to do it in the PC or even the fact that a particular dish can be done in the pressure cooker.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Yes, and most cookbooks don't mention them, even though almost any dish that's steamed, braised, simmered, or stewed can easily be adapted for pressure cooking. Over the past week, I used my PC for braised turkey parts, eggplant caponata, chick pea soup with kale, lentil stew, and collard greens. Only the caponata was made from an actual pressure-cooker recipe, but that's because it happens to come from a favorite cookbook.

                          2. The stovetop pressure cookers are mainly made of stainless steel or aluminum. I know a few people that only have nonstick cookware. They aren't confident enough to cook on anything other than nonstick. They won't buy any cookware that's not nonstick. Even their stock pots are nonstick.

                            1. Interesting question. I don't own a PC because I don't need it for the kind of cooking I do at my altitude (close to sea level). But if I did, I'd still probably use my conventional pots and pans because I know exactly how they work, and am not interested in learning a new set of cooking times etc.

                              My parents had a big heavy PC - this was back in the '50s and maybe earlier - and they sometimes used it, but what for I can't remember, except for canning preserves in Ball jars. They had a much larger kitchen than I do, so storage space wasn't an issue.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: John Francis

                                "I'd still probably use my conventional pots and pans because I know exactly how they work, and am not interested in learning a new set of cooking times etc."
                                That's basically tantamount to saying you would never consider buying a pot that you don't already own. Don't get me wrong - that is fine if you just particularly value familiarity with your equipment. I'm just pointing out that using a PC as a saucepan doesn't significantly change any of my cooking habits from when I'm using another saucepan. I didn't have to learn anything new to use it anyway.

                                Here's the thing about Fagor-style pressure cookers: they ARE conventional pots. They just have unconventional lids.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  No, I'm not saying anything of the kind. I'm saying, in effect, that the object of cooking is to produce good food, that cookware is a means to that end and not an end in itself, and if what you have works to your entire satisfaction, why fool around with other stuff?

                                  I'd never put down folks who like to experiment with the hardware, and I don't appreciate being put down for keeping my eye on the ball.

                                  1. re: John Francis

                                    It wasn't a put down. Or at least I didn't mean for it to sound like one and I'm sorry if it did.

                                    I'm saying there's no significant difference in how a pressure cooker pot works on the stove top when used as a saucepan vs how a traditional saucepan works. I'm not faulting you for not wanting to experiment with pressure cooking or for seeing no reason to buy another pot. I'm saying the bottom of a Fagor-style PC is essentially just a standard disc-bottom saucepan. And that unless you want to throw it in the oven, or you dislike disc-bottom pots, or you're just really into the minutiae your particular pots, there is no real difference and nothing new to learn or adjust to.

                                2. re: John Francis

                                  :: I don't need it for the kind of cooking I do ...
                                  not interested in learning a new set of cooking times ::

                                  Fair enough. For people who do regularly make stock, cook dry beans, or make two-hour stews, the cooking times using a pressure cooker are about a third of the regular time (and there's a lot of leeway with these). The time and/or energy savings are significant.

                                  Pressure cookers for canning of low-acid foods have to be big -- 10 quarts minimum. Sizes for regular home cooking are more like four to seven quarts.

                                  If I were in the p.c. business, I'd concentrate marketing efforts on people too young for their parents to have had a pressure cooker. Memories of the older ones are clearly off-putting!

                                3. I don't use the PC pan for regular cooking for a couple of reasons. One, it's too deep/narrow for my liking and two, when I'm using the PC I'm a vigilant cook. Right there or close by as sometimes pressure can creep up and the heat needs to be lowered. I don't want to become so familiar with the PC pan on the stove that I forget I'm using it as a PC and wander off to do a load of laundry. I do drag it along in the RV. It's great for quick cooking and conserving propane. In the RV it is used as a regular pan as well because utensils are limited. It's a nice piece of stainless cookware. Why everyone does't get them? Learning to cook is an evolution. If mom or granny didn't use one, you've never heard of it. Boards like this educate and probably sell more cookware than the Sunday advertisements.