Why not just a pressure cooker for all liquid base cooking?
- Chemicalkinetics Sep 23, 2012 12:25 AM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.