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I keep looking at pressure cookers....and I don't know why...

so what am I missing. I see it mentioned a lot in Indian cookbooks, I remember my mom cooking tongue in it, I'm not sure what I would use it for. Am I just wanting another gadget?

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  1. I don't know why you're looking at pressure cookers either. But if you regularly make braises, stews, soup, stock, dried beans, or whole grains, let me encourage you to strongly consider getting one.

    1. Gadget-o-philia is a true addition so it might just be that. Can you borrow one from a friend and try out a few recipes to see if it is your thing before plunking down money? I have a probably 30 year old Mirromatic PC that works great. I've made a few stews and the like but mainly I use it for beans and artichokes.

      1. I felt a lot like you when I stumbled across a sale that made it a fairly low-risk venture.

        I quite like it-- I use mine for soups and stews, especially on busy days-- I can have slow-cooked taste on the table in the same amount of time as a fairly quick meal.

        I don't know if it would make my desert-island 5, but I definitely wouldn't offer to get rid of it!

        3 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          I've wondered the same as OP. Except for the time factor, is there any other advantage? I'm retired so that's no selling point for me. I have a slowcooker and DOs.

          1. re: c oliver

            I would say that great tasting food is a good reason to own a pressure cooker. If it's good enough for Modernist Cuisine, Top Chef and Iron Chef, it's plenty good for me.

            I have been teaching people how to use a pressure cooker for 17 years and the taste of the food is what sold me, and I think that it's why so many others decide to buy one after taking one of my classes.

            Time is only one part of the equation.

            1. re: c oliver

              According to Martha Stewart, you get stronger flavor with lighter color when you make pressure cooker chicken stock.
              It's also supposed to extract more collagen.

              I have a very old pressure cooker that doesn't owe me anything but I do still use it on occasion for beans and stock.
              I am tempted to try it for braising but like you, time savings isn't important for me, and I wonder if the juices would be weak without the opportunity to reduce the way they do during long braising.

              If I had to choose between a crockpot and a pressure cooker, it would be the latter. Not enough evaporation in a crockpot, and an oven serves the same purpose. Between microwaves, pressure cookers, sous vide cookers, and crockpots, we probably have more stove alternatives than we need.

          2. Cook tongue in your own pressure cooker-- try to recreate a memory. Why not?

            Give in to the object of your desire.

            1. Hi, jeffpen2:

              The Cook's Illustrated on the shelves right now has a piece on why everyone needs one.


              7 Replies
              1. re: kaleokahu

                Kaleo, in light of MY lifestyle, could you give me the short version please? Thanks, C

                1. re: c oliver

                  Hi, C:

                  Cliff Notes version: speeds cooking by increasing boiling temperature of water from 212F to around 250F. Only government-approved way of canning to kill pathogens. That's about it.

                  I have one (a bequest), but I've never used it, don't appreciate the need for the above. So I'm with you on this one.


                    1. re: c oliver

                      K's not wrong, but there's MUCH more to it than that -- check this out:


                      I didn't know all of those things, either.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Thanks, sunshine (lordy, I love your S/N). I guess if I didn't have a slowcooker, I'd definitely be more disposed. The kinds of things that I can imagine cooking in one is currently accomplished by it or low and slow in the oven. Unlike some people I use VERY little liquid in either. That chart shows that steaming keeps most of the vitamins anyway. Since we keep our house cold enough to hang meat --- or so visitors claim :) --- and save energy various ways, that's not a real selling point for me. And, as I say, we're retired so timesaving isn't a factor. But I appreciate that graphic. It does give good info. Best, C

                        1. re: c oliver

                          the PC works better for me because I don't have to squeeze "putting stuff in the crockpot" into the morning rush of school and work.

                          My fridge just isn't big enough to hold the crock overnight...so it limits my options.

                          I use the crockpot on weekends or if I happen to not be working that day, but I've been a little surprised at how often I use the PC.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Never thought about that. I usually do the mad scramble in the morning. Gah!

              2. I have a pressure cooker that I use for just a couple of things, but it mostly sits in my pantry. Can anyone recommend some good starting places for recipes tailored to pressure cooking?

                2 Replies
                1. re: zhenya00


                  This site is extensive, and I've never even begun to scratch the surface...


                  This one is cool, too.

                  A LOT of the world outside the US uses a pressure cooker on a regular basis -- while it's not a full-on love affair, I definitely have developed a strong affection for mine. Tonight's dinner was courtesy of my pc.

                  1. re: zhenya00

                    Try any pressure-cooker cookbook by Lorna Sass. The most popular is her latest one, "Pressure Perfect"; but I actually prefer her first, "Cooking Under Pressure," which was recently re-issued in paperback. Clear instructions and a nice variety of fairly simple recipes that yield good results.

                  2. Because they save time and energy. They provide you with more nutrition than conventional cooking methods, they use less liquid and you lose less nutrition to evaporation, you can use less expensive cuts of meat and the list goes on. They are safe and cannot blow up. They are versatile, I have made cheesecake and bread puddings as well as the usual soups, stocks, pot roasts, and stews. Check out books by Lorna Sass, they have excellent timing charts. No, they cannot blow up any more either. It seems silly not to have one.

                    Until about 8 years ago I was sitting on the fence about them and now own 2. My slow cooker (who has time for that?) has not been out of my laundry room since.

                    39 Replies
                    1. re: Candy

                      Just call me "silly" :) I also am purging things that don't get used.

                      1. re: Candy

                        Hi, Candy:

                        I get the time thing, and some energy too--maybe.

                        Got any cites or links about the "more nutrition" idea?


                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          As i suggested, get the Lorna Sass books. Your public library should have them. PC's will really change the way you cook and use your time. Split Pea Soup, no soaking, prep to on the table in 15 mins? Argue with that! Pot oast in 25 mins?

                          1. re: Candy

                            As I've mentioned, I don't need speed. So there seems to be no real benefit for me and sounds like Kaleo is pretty much the same. But for those of you for whom it does matter, that is certainly a big selling point.

                            1. re: Candy

                              Hi, Candy:

                              No argument on speed. I'll read more, and look for the Sass books. Thanks.


                            2. re: kaleokahu


                              It took several pages of google citations before I found one based on things other than anecdotes/opinions. Scroll down to "pressure cooking."


                              I never "boil" vegetables but rather steam (usually) or MW (not so often) so it appears that the nutritional component is nil or negligible.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Thanks, C.

                                If the theory is that pressure cooking is the nutritative equivalent of lidded steaming, I get it. But I count steaming as a conventional cooking method, and so I was wondering how the PC delivers more nutrients than that method.

                                And if the basis for this theory is that water-soluble vitamins slip away as a function of heat over time, then it stands to reason that the higher temperature of a PC may open a bigger door, yet for a shorter period of time--to accomplish the same steam cooking.

                                Does anyone know... Does a gram of steam at 15 psi (the normal PC pressure) bestow unto food a higher number of heat calories than it does at sea level (540 kcal/g)?


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  carried out in the steam, is my understanding -- since the link I posted upthread says that the steam loss is only 3% in a pc...this makes sense (plus the food is cooked for a shorter time, which may or may not play a part)

                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                Because of the low amount of moisture needed, you lose fewer vitamins and nutrients to evaporation, as i said above.


                                Check out that article there are also some good articles on line from Eating Well mag. and others

                                1. re: Candy

                                  I use only about 1/4-1/2 cup liquid in my slowcooker. Never have understood why people use a lot.

                                2. re: kaleokahu

                                  I am a Registered Dietitian and the author of The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes cookbook.

                                  The nutrition content, especially Vitamin C, is higher in pressure cooked foods because Vitamin C is destroyed by air. You are cooking in a low air environment in the pressure cooker. You also use less liquid. I suggest using a small amount that can be reabsorbed into cooked vegetables, and it happens naturally with soups, stews and chili. You get maximum nutrition due to the short cooking time.

                                  If you've ever seen, or tasted for that matter, carrots or broccoli that results from just a few minutes of cooking in the pressure cooker, you would likely know that the nutrition is high. The color, texture and flavor remain bright and intact.

                                  There have only been a few studies done and they do show increased nutrition for some nutrients.

                                  For me, getting food on the table quickly makes the big difference. People no longer have the excuse of something taking too long to cook whole grains or beans. Easy to do, and fast, and best of all delicious.

                                  1. re: The Veggie Queen

                                    I think you make a good point as others have. If time is of an essence, then, yes, I see it. Otherwise, since I have other means then, no, it doesn't work for me. But I totally get it for others.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Sharply reduced use of energy use is another benefit, which may be important to some cooks even if time is not an issue.

                                      1. re: ellabee

                                        I've wondered about the energy use. Comparing the PC which runs for relatively short period of time but really SUCKING up the energy while it does. And the SC which is consuming smaller amount over a longer period.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          No, the PC doesn't suck up energy -- once it comes to a boil, I can back my PC off to a "3" on my cooktop -- that's lower than I can maintain a simmer for a braise, which takes a lot longer.

                                          You have to bring a braise up to boil, too -- so the energy comparison is a wash there.

                                          But once up to temperature, the braise has to be on 4 or 5 to maintain a simmer, for a couple of hours, versus a 3 for 30-40 minutes with the PC, depending on what I'm making.

                                          I also like that veggies still have some texture in the PC -- it's hard to do that in a slow cooker.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            < Comparing the PC which runs for relatively short period of time but really SUCKING up the energy while it does. And the SC which is consuming smaller amount over a longer period.>

                                            First, the food will come out so different. In the case of pressure cooking, the food are cooked at a very high temperature for a short duration, whereas the food are often cooked at low temperature for a long duration.

                                            That aside. I think a pressure cooker may still save you money here. Most slow cookers consume about 200-300 Watts, and it takes a long time to heat up a slow cooker. So you will have to use it for hours and hours. A stovetop heating coil probably consumes 2000-2500 watts at max, and you will need this to bring the pressure cooker and its content up for a pressurized boil, but you will turn this way down afterward.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              The energy savings in my situation for something like a beef or lamb stew are significant: the pressure cooker on the induction unit for 45 minutes to an hour (less than 15 minutes on high power, rest on lowest or next-to-lowest setting), versus the gas oven at 300F for 2 hours, or the gas cooktop on medium low for 2 hours. For me, the most legitimate comparison is with the oven, which is my pick for stews because the heat is so much more even and the stove burners here are very iffy at low-simmer level.

                                              As others have pointed out, the energy used in initial browning of the meat and veg on the stovetop is the same whether the stew or braise is finished in the pressure cooker, on the stovetop, in the oven, or in a slow cooker.

                                              The p.c. & induction combination also makes it possible to enjoy some stews in the summer, when I would be unwilling to use the oven and reluctant to have the stove going for hours.

                                              1. re: ellabee

                                                Hi, ellabee:

                                                I'm not sure how significant the energy savings really are. If you go to this site, there is a nifty little energy cost comparison calculator: http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity...

                                                If I input the data right, cooking your beef or lamb stew the 3 different ways you listed one day every week for a YEAR, the energy consumption would be:

                                                Induction (Hi for 15min; Lo for 60min): $5
                                                Gas Oven (300F for 2 hours): $17
                                                Gas Cooktop (Med for 2 hours): $6

                                                Your utility rates may vary, but it looks like a really small yearly savings, even using the PC on induction.


                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  you do know that someone's going to say that you save 70% by using the PC on an induction burner of cooking in the oven, right?

                                                  and 16%by cooking on an induction versus gas.

                                                  It's all in how you spin the numbers....

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    And I've been cooking on induction for several years now so MUST have a credit coming my way :)

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      sure, c, good luck with convincing the electric company of *that* one. :)

                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                      Hi, sunshine: "It's all in how you spin the numbers...."

                                                      No spin imparted by me here. One can quibble with the calculator, but I simply input ellabee's numbers for her stew.

                                                      Sure, someone may say that you save 70%, but 70% of very little is still very little. Especially when virtually everyone is still using their oven, and most are still using gas or electric hobs.


                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                          oh, I know -- and I agree with you, by the way....but your "$10 over the course of a year" will get spun to "70% savings"

                                                          Because most folks won't look into what the numbers really ARE.

                                                          (just used mine last night for a turkey tajine that came out awesome, and just an hour start to finish)

                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                        I wasn't thinking of it in money savings, but fossil fuel use ("carbon footprint").

                                                        As I noted in a post above, the realistic comparison for me is pressure cooker on induction vs. enameled cast iron casserole in oven. If the fossil fuel consumption is even roughly proportional to the dollars spent (which I don't know), the gas oven's using three times as much as the pc+induction.

                                                        But maybe the fuel/dollars aren't proportional? Open to info; intuitively it would seem to be a real if small lowering of carbon use (rewarded with a real if small savings of money).

                                                        1. re: ellabee

                                                          Hi, ellabee:

                                                          I'm always in favor of reducing our footprint where we can, so good on you.

                                                          I believe the calculator I linked to IS proportional. But it does not calculate or compare the carbon footprints. As we have debated here before, the generating and delivery infrastructure 'prints, as well as the 'prints for manufacturing new appliances and disposing of old ones all have a place in the equation. As does efficiency and wastage in electricity generation and flaming of gas from oil production.


                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                            "'prints for manufacturing new appliances and disposing of old ones"

                                                            I think this is huge, Kaleo. Sure, if you don't have another way to cook the same thing, then go for it. But the 'print for manufacturing can't be ignored. Thanks for reminding us.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              The embodied energy footprint of producing the appliance is certainly one of those areas where ancient & eternally retinnable copper has it all over recently manufactured stainless/aluminum/plastic.

                                                              But a pressure cooker is just another piece of cookware -- so its main reasonable comparison is to the (usually also fairly recently manufactured) enameled and plain cast iron and clad stainless pieces that will accompany it in most kitchens. It makes a case for itself by offering speed, energy savings, and versatility (can be used for wide range of foods, can be used as a regular non-pressure cooking pot). These benefits will have stronger and weaker appeals to different cooks. Some will be immune to them all.

                                              2. re: The Veggie Queen

                                                Hi, Veggie Queen:

                                                Thanks for the info.

                                                I *have* tasted pressure-cooked foods of many kinds, and I can't say the veggies have been any tastier, brighter or intact than they are after steaming or MW. In fact, my experience has been that if they're overcooked at all, they're none of those things.

                                                To me, marginally lesser oxidative losses of ascorbic acid seems like a thin argument for a PC. I'd appreciate cites to the studies you mention. Certainly, boiling the s@#t out of e.g., brocolli will *leach* out water-soluble compounds, but that will happen regardless of the presence of air.

                                                As a winemaker, I am painfully aware of how little air (and the O2 it contains) in a barrel or bottle it takes to oxidize beneficial compounds. Even in a sealed barrel, an ullage of a volume equal to that of your PC is enough. It seems to me that a PC just seals in the air that is already there (i.e., all but the tiny volume displaced by your "small amount" of liquid). To me, this sounds like the same fallacious reasoning given for "waterless" cookware. I submit that that the difference in oxidation between a PC and a lidded pan is minuscule.

                                                I think PCs make complete sense for safer canning and quick prep though. I look forward to the study citations.


                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  There is a lot to read here and you will see that the pressure cooker does induce losses in nutrients.


                                                  The interesting thing for me is the times that they used for cooking. Pressure cooking broccoli for 5 minutes leads to limp broccoli. I only cook mine for a minute or 2.

                                                  There are not many well done studies on pressure cooking. I am not sure what you are referring to with overcooked vegetables. I don't cook them, because I don't want to eat them.

                                                  I practice intuition as well as science. I will put my pressure cooked broccoli up against steamed broccoli any day. What happens in the pressure cooker still seems pretty magical to me.

                                                  You can believe me, or you can try it and see. Let me know.

                                                  1. re: The Veggie Queen

                                                    Hi, VQ:

                                                    Thanks. I read it cover to cover. Although there were several measures, and the results were somewhat specific to the vegetables in question, I did not see much of any generalizable evidence that PC cooking yields more nutritious/more-antioxidant food. Perhaps I am misreading the tabulated results, but it appears that there was not a big difference measured between immersion boiling (2:1 water/food) and PCing (3:5 water/food). Lamentably, the authors did not include conventional steaming in their cooking methods.

                                                    Of note is this finding:

                                                    "On the other hand, microwave heating retains the active components in the cooked tissue (Yamaguchi and others 2001). Our results for most of the vegetables analyzed agree with this. The activity of vegetables cooked in the microwave oven was generally higher than that of those cooked in boiling water, because microwave heating, griddling and baking does not stimulate the release of ascorbic acid or other antioxidants from cooked tissue."

                                                    IMO, this study would be useful if one were trying to squeeze the greatest scavenging effect from each of the tested vegetables--the authors seem to find vegetable-specific cooking methods to do this. But the differential effect between methods seems borderline inconsequential to me. Eating one-quarter of an extra portion of any of the vegetables listed more than equalizes any difference, I think.

                                                    I am more interested in the claim, attributed to Martha Stewart above by greygarious, that stocks are more flavorful yet lighter in color when PC'd.


                                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                                      Thanks, Kaleo, for doing some analysis. I do get a little weary when reading so much anecdotal stuff or from biased sources.

                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                        and I really, really don't like stock in the PC...I find it watery and bleh.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          How did you cook it? We made stock for the first time this weekend in it and I was nervous it wouldn't be as good as stovetop, but it turned out very flavorful and thick.

                                                          The big difference is you use less water because you don't have evaporation taking place, so it's possible if you found it watery it may have been that you used too much water (or really the normal amount of water for stovetop).

                                                          We PC'd it for 1.5 hours as recommended by Modernist Cuisine at home. I know I ran across a Martha Stuart article where she PCs the chicken stock for 30 minutes, which I wouldn't think would be enough.

                                                          The stock did end up cloudy which doesn't bother me but may bother those of us who are more Escoffier in heart, but you could always clarify with gelatin.

                                                          Anyway, may be worth another shot. I'll definitely be using for stock from now on.

                                                          1. re: Klunco

                                                            My stock made from a pressure cooker is about as good as that made from a regular cooker. I made mine for 1.5 hours in the pressure cooker -- just because. In a regular cooker, I usually go for 3-4 hours.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Never read MC but also do my stock 1.5 hrs plus natural cool down. Chicken bones always crumble and get good gelatin extraction.

                                                              I really can't comment on regular stove top method since I just couldn't commit that much time to it so rarely did it. Attempted it a couple times and just gave up. Now I make stock often and my freezer is loaded with stock and reduced stock. Sometimes make it on the fly for a dish that will follow like Pho

                                                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                <Chicken bones always crumble and get good gelatin extraction. >

                                                                Yeah, same here. By the time, my stock is considered done, the chicken carcass more or less fall apart. This is the same regardless I do it in a pressure cooker or a regular cooker. The difference is that a pressure cooker takes less time to do so.

                                                        2. re: kaleokahu

                                                          Impressive review, Kaleo. Even though I do a lot of my everyday cooking with a PC, I'm a bit skeptical about the "improved nutritive value" claims. It would be nice if they were true; but as someone who works more than full time and wants to avoid take-out as much as possible, the most important thing to me is the speed. That being said, I think the PC turns out very tasty food when used properly.

                                                          1. re: Miss Priss

                                                            Miss Priss (just had to write that!), you sum up what I 'feel.' There tends to be a lot of anecdotal claims when it comes to ANYTHING to do with nutrition so I dismiss most of it. If I were still a working stiff, I'd definitely get one having read this thread. Thanks for summing up.

                                              3. Pressure cooked stocks are reason enough alone to take the plunge.

                                                Other things I am using my pressure cooker for at the moment are risotto and pressure caramelized vegetable soups. You can get PERFECT risotto out of a pressure cooker in 7 minutes. No stirring required until you open the cooker and cook for the last minute.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: twyst

                                                  Do you have a tried and true recipe for pressure cooked risotto, please?

                                                  1. re: ninrn

                                                    I use Lorna Sass' recipe. It takes about 20 mins and is delicious.

                                                    1. re: Candy

                                                      Thanks so much, Candy. Will give it a try.

                                                    2. re: ninrn

                                                      ratio of 2.5:1, water to rice

                                                      Cook at full pressure for 7 minutes

                                                      Release pressure and, finish on stove like you would a traditional risotto (usually about another 2 minutes)

                                                      This is the method from modernist cuisine and it works much better than I expected.

                                                  2. I was on the fence for about a year and then bought a 7.5 quart Kuhn-Rikon in December. Six weeks later I can't believe I waited so long; what was I thinking?

                                                    The pressure cooker has made my day-to-day cooking so much faster and is a godsend, BUT like most kitchen appliances (ie. sous-vide, juicers, crockpot) it only makes sense if what it does improves or makes easier what you already cook.

                                                    I eat beans daily, love long cooking grains, make stock regularly, eat soup daily in the winter, and eat a lot of root veggies. Basically all the things the pressure cooker excels at. It's been incredible to cook dried beans in 10 minutes. The other day I made black bean soup from dried (soaked) black beans while I was making breakfast. I then let it cool while we ate breakfast and was able to pack it for lunch. Stock now becomes something I can do after dinner on a weeknight since it only takes an hour as opposed to 3-4. I don't get home until at least 7 on weeknights, so to be able to cook risotto in 7 minutes, brown rice in 17, or even just steam squash or root veggies in 5 minutes is fantastic. Even being able to whip up a simple lentil dal in 10 minutes is great.

                                                    I don't cook a lot of braised meats, but the pressure cooker can do those well and in a fraction of the time. If time isn't an issue though, standard braising or a slow-cooker would work fine. So you may not be able to justify it just for that.

                                                    In addition to the Lorna Sass books, check out Modernist Cuisine at home. They have tons of pressure cooker recipes, everything from caramalized ketchup, to pressure cooked polenta (in glass canning jars) in 12 minutes, to rendering chicken fat or vegetable jus, to dulce de leche. These are more specialized applications but nice extras the PC can do.

                                                    1. I got a Fagor 6qt. two months ago and I love it. For me, just being able to have brown rice on a weeknight is worth having the pressure cooker. I am gluten-free so cooking other grains was a big one for me. I also am able to use dried beans and not worry about starting the rehydrating process a full day before. I also love being able to make soup and stock incredibly fast. Sure, sometimes it's nice to have things simmering all day, but sometimes you just don't have time for that. My husband has used the pressure cooker for some more complicated recipes, but I think they really shine when it comes to preparing whole food simply and quickly. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but I found by the second time I used it I had a pretty good idea of how it worked with my stovetop and which way of depressurizing I preferred. I just made a pressure cooker risotto for the first time this week and it was awesome. Definitely going into our regular weeknight rotation.

                                                      I understand wanting to be careful about another piece of specialty cookware, though. I would advise, based on whatever your current cookware collection is like, to look into getting one that also serves as a decent pot if you're not using it as a PC. If there is a size pot you could use anyway, that might be a good way to get more mileage out of it, should you decide to get one. Also, I don't necessarily think that a top of the line one is necessary, especially if you're not sure how you'll use it. I was initially scared to get anything but the most top of the line, since I remember several pressure cooker accidents in my mother's kitchen. You can get a decent Fagor, or Presto, with a fairly minimal investment.

                                                      1. It isn't as if they are terribly expensive. They come with instructions, and books have been written giving detailed directions, recipes and tips.

                                                        So, buy it. Why not?

                                                        If you become a PC devotee, then you can splurge for a super fabulous PC.

                                                        Now, what am I missing. I keep looking at Vita Mixes. Oh, drat I got a Ninja for Christmas.

                                                        1. By the way, Chef Central is having some kind of online-only sale on Fagor pressure cookers right now. I keep getting emails. I think those are supposed to be good ones.

                                                          1. there is no better way to cook artichokes. i'm sure it has a lot of other great uses too. i've used mine to steam/boil chicken, make stews and soups, pot roast, corned beef, and to steam various other vegetables. but i don't cook artichokes any other way.