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Oct 5, 2012 11:30 AM

Pressure cooking help

Just got a pressure cooker for my birthday and have been playing with it. I have had some moderate success, but none of the books I have discuss some details I would like help clarifying. They say, "bring the pressure up and turn the temperature of the cooktop to the lowest possible without losing pressure." My Fagor video said that the cooker is up to pressure when the little thing pops up and steam comes out of the release valve. I kept the temperature high enough for steam to continue to be released in my risotto, and it ended up with crispy burned bits on the bottom. I am assuming the heat was too high, but when I turned it down the steam slowed or stopped.

I guess my question is, if the little thing is popped up at pressure, do I still need to see steam? Or, how do I 'know' it is at the lowest temperature to keep the pressure up? What do I look for other than the little pop up thingy?

Thanks for any clarification you can offer!

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  1. My guess....., but I don't think risotto or any thick dishes would work well with a pressure cooker.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      We've talked about doing risotto in a pressure cooker - it does surprisingly well even though you can't stir it. The pressure seems extract starches better. In fact, it's harder to get fluffy rice in a PC.

      But in response to the OP's question - that is one thing I don't like about Fagor. It is hard to judge the correct heat. With a Presto, I can listen for the slow rocking of the weight. With a Fagor the rise in the yellow button just indicates that the lid is locked and pressure is starting to rise. Sometimes I tap the button. If it resists movement I think the pressure is sufficient. If it does produce steam it should be a small amount, barely visible.

      1. re: paulj

        Chemicalkinetics--most of the reading I've done says any grain can be cooked much faster under pressure and I have three pressure cooker specific cookbooks that have risotto recipes in them.

        Paul, I did little research when I asked for the pressure cooker, and the reviews on the Fagor were so good it seemed like the perfect choice. But, I will try tapping the pressure button and not expect quite so much steam coming out. It just seemed like I turned it down too far the other morning when I was making steel cut oats--they turned out crunchy and I had to re-cook them for another few minutes. (Still had oats after 15 minutes rather than 45!)

        Thank you both for your reply!

        1. re: Lauriero

          You could be right. I just haven't tried cooking rice in a pressure cooker. I do agree that sometime the yellow tap can get slightly stuck, so tapping it can help. I have a fagor too.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I tried a Thai Sticky rice the other night--just a plain rice without any additions, and it was fine. The method was to use a bowl on the trivet inside the pressure cooker and it only took a couple of minutes. It was perfect because I had completely spaced on any other carb for the meal, and my kids neeeeeed their carbs. But, the risotto has a specific quantity of liquid that i think escaped as TdotNerd expressed below.

            1. re: Lauriero

              <The method was to use a bowl on the trivet inside the pressure cooker and it only took a couple of minutes>

              Why of course. Thanks. This makes sense now. So do you have to (or not have to) do so for the risotto?

              I agree with TdotNerd. Once the pressure is built up and the steam starts to escape, then it is time to dial down. Dial the heat output just until the Fagor knob is up, but not excessive steam escaping. Anyway, good disucssions.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Chem, it's not necessary to use a bowl when making risotto in a pressure cooker, and I've never come across a PC risotto recipe that called for one. I don't use a bowl for any kind of rice, but I do use one for steel-cut oats, which seem more prone to scorching and/or clumping otherwise.

                1. re: Miss Priss

                  Some people like cooking their rice in a bowl in the pressure cooker but I prefer to cook right in the pot. I cook rice a lot.

                  I also cook my steel cut oats directly in the pot because my pressure cooker (s), stove and I have a magical relationship.

                  I like the flavor of food cooked directly better than what happens in a bowl. It's steaming versus cooking.

                  I encourage everyone to do what works best for them in the pressure cooker (and elsewhere).

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  The risotto recipes all start with standard technique--oil in pan with shallots, brown the rice, then add the liquid. Instead if adding hot stock slowly, you just put all the liquid in at once and pressure cook it. It was a ten minute process! So seriously worth considering if you like risotto. The recipe I used had me add chopped artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato and chopped olive before serving. It was good in spite of losing some on the bottom. (I just didn't expect to have it brown and stick on the bottom at all.)

                  1. re: Lauriero

                    If you use gas, you might need to get a flame tamer to get the heat to go low enough so that you don't have sticking. You must make sure that nothing is stuck to the bottom of the cooker when you add your liquid, because you will be turning the heat up to high. So thoroughly scrape the cooker bottom (inside) when you add your liquid.

                    I have made risotto many times on many different heat sources and sticking is not usually an issue. Try it again and see if any of the suggestions given make a difference.

        2. I'm not an expert at pressure cooking, I've only used the cheap crappy tire one with a jiggly weight regulator, and your Fagor is likely different, so I don't know if what I say can apply to you but...

          I would think that if you're constantly letting out steam as you cook then you've got it on too high. Pressure builds in the pressure cooker when steam is created and can't escape the pot. This is why you need liquid in a pressure cooker. Once the pressure cooker is up to its limit it will allow excess steam to escape, thus regulating the pressure inside to its safe limit. Once steam starts to escape from your pressure cooker, then it should be up to pressure, and you can lower the heat on it. If you continue to have the pot on high enough that steam escape, then all you're doing is letting the liquid escape the vessel. No more pressure will be built, as any excess is vented. If too much steam is vented over the cooking period your food could turn out too dry. If there's not enough liquid in the pot then proper pressure can't be created/maintained.

          So, TL;DR version, let the pressure build up and vent so you know your pot is at pressure, and then lower the burner until steam no longer escapes, yet the pot maintains pressure. You might need to do a little trial and error cooking to find the right spot, but it should be fairly consistent once you find it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TdotNerd

            Thanks, TdotNerd...this makes perfect sense, but it's not clearly explained in so many words in any of the three books I picked up. I'll be doing a lot of testing, but the whole pressure cooker experience is very new. I was raised by someone who feared them and it took me a long time to get past that to try it out. Every time I use it is like going out on a date with someone new, and I'm not quite sure what to expect. :P

          2. I have another brand valve-type pressure cooker and I think there should be a line or other marking on the thing that pops to indicate that it's "popped up" to the right extent. Then you turn the heat down as low as possible while maintaining the thingie at the right height. It's not rocket science so you don't have to be ultra-precise, but the flame will be low.

            Like paulj's, mine also produces the occasional small burst of steam, but you hear a slight puffing sound more than you see live steam. If a lot of steam is steadily pouring out of any kind of PC, it's turned up too high.

            As for risotto, you can do it, but I don't think it's worth the bother (mostly of washing a larger pot with more parts.) I've tried it a couple of times but found the immediately-post-pressure consistency too liquid for my taste, and ended up cooking off the extra moisture over normal heat, resulting in a longer cooking time anyway. I find it simpler to just cook risotto the regular way.

            Oh, if do cook rice in the PC, be careful not to overload it so you don't clog the valve with starch from the rice.

            12 Replies
            1. re: MikeG

              I am a pressure cooking expert and the author of a book, The New Fast Food, that contains information on cooking all kinds of grains, including risotto.

              I love that there are so many people here who understand that you do not need to see a continuous stream of steam coming out of the pressure cooker.

              Risotto is a perfect dish for the pressure cooker. My recipes is as follows: 1 1/2 cups aborio, or other medium grain starchy rice and 3 1/2 to 4 cups liquid, preferably good homemade pressure cooker stock. Pressure cook for 5 minutes and do a careful quick release ( if the liquid is too high in your pot, it will come shooting out) or a running water release. Remove the lid and adjust liquid, as needed, by adding more stock or cooking off some stock as suggested above. Often, if you let the risotto sit for a few minutes it will firm up and still be plenty hot to eat.

              I cook regular rice and other grains at least once a week and have not yet (in more than 16 years), had my valve clog from rice starch.

              To cook on my electric stove, I go from high (9) to low (1) to maintain pressure. This depends upon your stove, the size of the pot and how full it is.

              Keep trying pressure cooking. It's an amazing way to cook - I just demonstrated how to do it to a group of 40+ people. The food was amazing - not truly replicable on the stove top.

              1. re: The Veggie Queen

                I ordered your book the other day...There are not that many vegan cookbooks for the pressure cooker, and I was thrilled t find it. The omnivore cookbooks tend to focus on the meats and treat legumes and grains as more side dishes or after thoughts. I'll definitely be trying some of your recipes out. But, I must have missed the part where you talk about how to figure out the whole pressure/steam issue.

                1. re: The Veggie Queen

                  But I still don't see a reply to the op's question re the Fagor cooker. Yes, it's easy to tell when the cooker has reached pressure (the button pops up), but how can you tell whether the pressure is being adequately maintained when you lower the heat?

                  1. re: josephnl

                    This link might help: http://pressurecookerrecipes22484.yuk...

                    [Note to mods: please delete if not appropriate to link to another site; I'm not sure what the rules are.. sorry!]

                    1. re: iyc_nyc

                      Thanks for the link. Seems like I am not alone with my Fagor!

                  2. re: The Veggie Queen

                    I actually do not own a pressure cooker and I want to buy one. It still is unclear to me how you can tell on the Fagor if pressure is being maintained after you turn down the heat. Do you really have to listen to the hisses coming from the pot? Will the button drop down if the pressure is too low? Are Kuhn-Rikon or other brands easier to regulate? What about electric pressure cookers? Which is the easiest to use and most reliable...cost is not that important, because if it's a pain to use and I don't like it, it will be a total waste.

                    1. re: josephnl

                      <Are Kuhn-Rikon or other brands easier to regulate? >

                      I doubt it. The pressure level is preset by the check valve, so there is nothing to regulate. The only regulation can be made is the heat source. The indicator can be different, and that may be the something which makes some minor differences.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        :: It still is unclear to me how you can tell on the Fagor if pressure is being maintained after you turn down the heat. ::

                        The yellow pressure indicator stays up if you tap it. Medium heat should hold pressure without being too high.

                        :: Do you really have to listen to the hisses coming from the pot? ::

                        No, but it helps a lot when you're first using it, to get a feel for where the setting on your own stove is that will best maintain pressure.

                        :: Will the button drop down if the pressure is too low? ::


                        :: Are Kuhn-Rikon or other brands easier to regulate? ::

                        Can't answer that, as I haven't used any other cooker. The original poster was asking for tips on the Fagor. I do know that less steam is released in the K-R pressure cookers.

                        :: cost is not that important, because if it's a pain to use and I don't like it, it will be a total waste. ::

                        Then for you, it may make sense to spend extra money for a K-R or go with electric (disadvantages: single-tasking, nonstick-lined) . For many people it's worth a bit of watching and adjusting at first to gain the benefits of pressure cooking with a more reasonably priced pot or one that also serves as a regular, good-quality cookpot.

                        1. re: josephnl

                          I wouldn't say it's "easier" to regulate, but the KR might be a tiny bit simpler to regulate, since it has markings on the stem that pops up to show what pressure it's at. (Mine has 2 settings.) I don't think it's enough of a difference to warrant spending the extra money for that feature alone, though.

                          1. re: josephnl

                            Joseph, when I researched to purchase my Fagor, I looked at a lot of consumer reports and made a judgment call. The 6quart seemed just right for my family, and the futura looks with small handles fit my shelves and styling. I did read that electric pressure cookers have the advantage of being able to set a timer and leave it. They do have a non stick base, and you can't do any stove top style sautéing or browning. If you are going to make certain foods where browning is important, you probably want a stove top model. I hated dealing with my crock pot where I would use my Dutch oven to brown the meat and transfer everything to the crock pot for a long slow cook. With a stove top pressure cooker, you can use just the one pot for everything. Other than that, I would just look at the brands you've heard mentioned here and stay clear of anything you find in the attic or at garage sales.

                        2. re: MikeG

                          Mike--I can see your point, risotto is not particularly tricky with normal stove top pots and heat. However, I love the idea of closing the lid and putting a timer on so I can step to the sink to make a salad or prep other veggies. There are some nights when a fifteen minute dinner prep is reallllly appealing.

                        3. Like Lauriero, I have a Fagor and had to experiment a bit to find the right temp to keep pressure up but not too high. [The Fagor manuals are not especially helpful or reassuring; this forum and the hippressurecooking site were.]

                          In a Fagor, some steam does escape from the release valve during cooking. The most helpful advice for me was a post in a chow thread that mentioned the need to learn to distinguish between 'lazy' steam (not enough pressure), steady steam, and 'angry' steam (straight up, too much pressure). When the yellow pressure indicator first pops up, the contents aren't yet fully under pressure; a light tap on the indicator will send it back down. Keep the heat on high for a minute or so, and watch the steam coming out of the valve; you'll probably be able to see how it intensifies. Turn the heat down when it does, and/or when there's hissing or escape of steam from under the handle.

                          At least, that's the technique for gas burners or induction, where turning it down results immediately in less heat. With radiant electric burners, you might initiate the turn-down when the pressure indicator pops up, since it will take a minute for the lower heat level to take effect, and the pressure will solidify during that lag.

                          On a gas burner, I found that turning the burner down to medium or just above medium kept pressure up without scorching the contents. Going significantly lower than that resulted in the natural pressure release after stock or beans or brown rice taking only a few minutes rather than the ten minutes it does with correct pressure -- or even resulted in the pot losing pressure and the little yellow indicator dropping before the cooking time was done.

                          Because drafts and the use of other burners on my stove affect any in-use burners, I now use the pressure cooker only on a portable induction unit. This eliminates the risk of the flame guttering out, but also has the advantage of there being a consistent relationship between the power levels and the heat produced. On the Max Burton 6200, an 1800-watt unit, I use a setting of 6 or 7 to bring the unit to pressure, lower it to 3 (a setting that holds a boil in non-pressure cooking) as soon as the yellow pressure indicator pops up, lower it again to 2 after about a minute (as the steam intensifies and seems to chug straight up from the release valve), then lower it to 1 after another two minutes. In a long session, such the 45-60 minutes for making stock, I turn it back up to 2 for ten minutes or so in mid-session, then back to 1 for the rest of the cook time. With this method, natural pressure release takes between ten and fifteen minutes.

                          Happy cooking, and keep us posted with how it's going!

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: ellabee

                            Thanks Ellabee--I did a search on the site for other pressure cooker posts, but there were so many to wade through I never saw the one you talk about. The kinds of steam makes a great analogy and is helpful. I have a great gas range with five burners with a wide range if BTU, so finding just the right setting should be relatively easy now that I have a bit more of a clue as to what to look for.

                            1. re: ellabee

                              This was a great way to describe it ellabee. I tell people that you need to develop a relationship with your pressure cooker and your heat source.

                              I agree regarding the Fagor manual. In my book, The New Fast Food, and on You Tube videos, I explain what you need to do to get to pressure and maintain it.

                              Too bad that you, or someone who uses a pressure cooker often, didn't write the manual.

                              1. re: The Veggie Queen

                                I've actually considered putting together a personal "manual" online, to help reassure new Fagor pressure cooker users. If I did, it would have links to your and other videos, the couple of helpful posts at hippressure, and the official Fagor manual info online. It would also credit the original poster who described the different steams (I have the link somewhere).

                                The main part would be a series of photos to take the cook through the steps of using a cooker for a simple, basic recipe with natural pressure release. [And a few more shots to show a recipe with the the alternate ending of quick release, by opening the pressure release valve.]

                                I assume that the extra $ paid for Kuhn-Rikon cookers gets you, among other things, a manual that accomplishes this -- and the K-R itself calls for a little less from the new user.

                                1. re: ellabee

                                  The KUHN RIKON pressure cookers are very nice and have great user manuals. However, I must say my WMF PerfectPlus pressure cookers are easier to use and maintain though some complain that they only go to 12PSI vs. the 15PSI of KR and others.

                                  While I haven't used the Fagor models, I have used some of the cheaper alternatives and they all basically cook the same. It's nice to throw a $10 aluminum pressure cooker in the trunk of the car when you are going to camp at ~10K feet where you can't eat your beans without pressure first.

                                  1. re: Sid Post

                                    I'll take your word for it that the WMF Perfect Plus cookers are easy to use; but given how easy it is to use the Kuhn Rikons, I wonder how the WMFs could be any easier than that!

                                  2. re: ellabee

                                    Credit for the original description of the different intensities of steam coming from the Fagor pressure release valve goes to Jeri L, who wrote in August 2011

                                    :: That's the thing about the Fagors--you have to learn the difference between a lazy hiss (not up to full pressure, even though the button is up), friendly hiss (at pressure) and angry hiss (need to turn the heat down). ::


                              2. One of the reasons I love my electric counter top pressure cooker is that I don't have to figure out how high to turn on the stove to get it up to the appropriate pressure. I just put the food in there, turn it on, and walk away. The most major thing I need to be concerned with is time. Some foods need far less time in there than others.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Tudor_rose

                                  I love my Fagor multi-cooker. I had a stove top for many years but rarely used it. The multi-cooker is fine for sauteing and then pressure cooking. It is also no stress and for me that is a big factor. I don't want to baby sit a pot. I want to be chopping and rinsing the salad greens while the pressure cooker does its thing. Plus, it's great as a slow cooker... one less thing in the kitchen..

                                  1. re: debbypo

                                    Sounds great. Might be just what I'm looking for. Any other CH's have the Fagor Multi-Cooker. Almost sounds too good!