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Jun 10, 2013 12:59 PM

Pressure cooker recommendations?

Have never used one in my life, but I think it's time I learned. However, since I do a lot of Indian recipes, I keep reading about 1-whistle, 3-whistle, etc., and I understand US pressure cookers are vastly different. So: any recommendations for a newbie who doesn't want to blow up the kitchen?

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  1. Hi, pine time:

    I'm no PC expert, quite the contrary, just bought my first PC.

    But I've been reading and shopping for quite awhile, and I recently chose the RapidChef Supercooker. About the only place to get them new is http://www.pro-selections.com/index.cfm There is also the Fagor Pressure Magic from the same source.

    I chose this model/style because it can also be used as a pressure fryer. This is a completely manual configuration, but it has 3 separate pressure safety features. As far as I can tell, it's only downside is that it operates at 10psi, rather than the 15psi of many PCs, so you have slightly longer cook times. It also has a heavy bonded-disk bottom.


    27 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Maybe its also a function of altitude, I'm at about 1,000 feet and my sister is a few hundred feet higher, so we're both relatively close to sea level, but we haven't found the 10 PSI to be cause for increased cooking times in most dishes, only for meats that are cooked for prolonged periods of time.

      The temperature differential is less than one would think from the relative PSIs. A 15 PSI pressure cooker gets up to around 250 degrees. http://fastcooking.ca/pressure_cooker... says 10 PSI will correspond to about 235 degrees, and http://www.cookingissues.com/2011/08/... actually hacked the model I have, a Cusinart CPC-600, and got it up to 237 degrees. I also read somewhere else, sorry don't remember where, that although the 10 PSI units cook at 10 PSI, they spike up to 15 PSI or close it to when heating up, so for shorter cooking recipes, it isn't going to make a noticeable difference for most recipes, at least in our experience.

      1. re: ePressureCooker

        As Cookingissues explains it, electric pressure cookers actually control the temperature, not the pressure. Sensing temperature, and turning heat on and off to keep it with a desired range is must easier than sensing pressure.

        What they found was that the pressure seal was good enough to handle higher temperatures.

        For non-electric cookers, controlling pressure (and indirectly the temperature) is easy with a pressure gauge, weight, or spring value.

        1. re: ePressureCooker

          Hey ePC:

          The Arnold piece was good reading, thanks.

          This novice is going to refrain from hacking anything that contains 96 oz. of 390F peanut oil under 10 psi of pressure. I'm a cooking adventurer, not a passively-suicidal stunt chef.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            Agreed, Kaleo, I would definitely recommend NOT hacking an electric pressure cooker, in fact, the authors of that article say the same thing. They are a cooking school, and have access to facilities and resources, including scientific equipment (and presumably safety equipment), that most of us don't have. Besides, there's no reason to do it, they've already done it for us!

            For anyone who's interested, if you do a search, they also have an interesting article, actually two IIRC, comparing stock created in the pressure cooker versus traditional methods.

        2. re: kaleokahu

          Macy's also has them. I find them much easier to use than the ones I saw growing up. I saw my mum's explode and deposit daal all over the ceiling. Mum still gets hers in India but I have a fagor from Macy's which is really easy to use. There are so many websites with pressure cooker recipes that you shouldn't have any problems! Enjoy

          1. re: Kalivs

            Hi, Kalivs: "Macy's also has them."

            Are you sure? I cannot find this armature-style PC on Macy's website.

            I believe that the RapidChef Supercooker is made by Magefessa in Portugal, and the Fagor Pressure magic is made in Spain. These are quite different units than I see on Macy's website.

            Are any of the PCs offered by Macy's approved for pressure frying? Virtually all PCs other than the two models I mention warn *against* this use.


            1. re: kaleokahu

              Everything that I have ever read recommends that you do NOT pressure fry in any pressure cooker.. They are meant to be used with liquid not fat. But what you do in your own home is up to you.

              1. re: The Veggie Queen

                Hi, VQ:

                Thanks for your concern. You are right that pressure frying is not approved in a regular PC.

                However, in the case of my Rapid Chef, pressure frying is the very first section of their manual. You can get the manual here if you want to read about its *approved* use as a pressure fryer: http://www.pro-selections.com/product... Or there's a for-purchase video link here of a pressure frying demonstration: http://www.pro-selections.com/product... My cooker came with a videocassette of the demo and it looks very straightforward.

                I would be interested in your expert opinion after you read and see this stuff.


                1. re: kaleokahu


                  I cannot access the manual or video so I can't comment on pressure frying in your cooker. I have seen that cooker and it is built differently than many others. If they say that you can do it, then I am sure that you can. Always follow the directions for safety's sake.

                  1. re: The Veggie Queen

                    If the manual has any warning about adding more than a few tablespoons of oil (usually they warn about a 1/4 cup or more) that's a red flag the unit wasn't built for pressure frying. Hopefully, it is, and you can do it, but most machines are not.

                    1. re: ePressureCooker

                      Hi, ePC:

                      For the 8Q, they say up to 3 QUARTS of oil. Elsewhere, they say you want the oil to be at least 2 inches deep. So I'm just going to (scrupulously) follow the instructions.


                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Well then, it's a pretty safe bet that it was intended to be used as a pressure fryer. I'm officially jealous. ;D

              2. re: kaleokahu

                Most of Fagor pressure cookers are made in Spain but not all of them. Some are beiing made in China. You have to look carefully. Their electric models are made in China.

                A friend of mine has the electric Fagor and really likes it. I gave my niece an electric Fagor, she'd never heard of pressure cookers and I thought it would be good for a novice. She loves it. She has 4 children, the eldest is 15 and the youngest is 2. That pc is constantly in use. It changed her life!

                1. re: Candy

                  Why should the Spain v China matter? Both of mine were made in Spain. If the China ones are made to Fagor's specs, there shouldn't be any difference.

                  1. re: paulj

                    Paulj, some people feel that, specs or no specs, Chinese quality control isn't as good as American or European quality control; and some people have concerns about working conditions in China. I'm not necessarily endorsing these viewpoints, just reporting them.

            2. re: kaleokahu

              Hello Kaleo,

              How is this working out for you? Would you recommend it? I tried finding any sense of you reviewing this and I couldn't find it.

              I'm looking to pressure fry as well.

              Do you just follow the instructions from the manufacturer when it comes to you cooking fried chicken in it or have you found a personal way to do it that you feel is better? Have you fried anything else in it?

              Also, why did you choose this over the Fagor?

              1. re: kaleokahu

                Hello Kaleo,


                I am still in the market for a pressure fryer and am very curious about your responses to my previous questions.

                I understand if you are too busy to answer and completely respect that, but wanted to reask just in case you did not see I asked in the first place.

                Thank you for your time, advice, and thoughts.


                1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                  Hi, KPD:

                  Gosh, I'm SORRY. Did I not answer your questions? I must have lost this thread...

                  It's working out just great, and I definitely recommend it. I have been getting chicken far juicier with the same or better crisp than with just deep frying.

                  So far I haven't departed from the manufacturer's instructions for pressure frying. The instructions are stated as "musts", and there's a fairly rigid rule for how long you cook what (e.g., chicken gets 2 minutes/pound after the lid goes on, whereas seafood gets 1). My experimentation has been more in the direction of batters, brines, rubs, oils, etc I have also done prawns, scallops and short beef skewers in the cooker.

                  I chose this make simply because it came up for resale at a reasonable price. My understanding is that it and the Fagor are no different in any meaningful way.

                  One of the several ways that these units differ from many others is their comparatively low psi, i.e., 8 vs. 10 or 15. I've considered everything I've cooked in mine to have been done very fast, but if you're used to cooking at 15psi, maybe 8 would seem slow, I don't know. What I *do* know, is that these units are simple and robust, without cord, electronics, expensive parts, or complicated interlocks.


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Hello Kaleo,

                    As I said, I just thought you were busy; there is no need to apologise, there never could be.

                    That is great news! More juicy and more crisp sounds like the pressure creates the rather noticeable affect that it is supposed to.

                    I’m glad that the manufacturer’s instructions are producing such optimal products to you. I know that ignoring the specific danger here with this product that often when one follows recipes (Sometimes mixed with directions) that they often aren’t very good and can be overcooked. That all sounds like a lot of fun and delicious, have you been using it as a fryer only or have you been pressure cooking with liquids/water as well? I ask because I know it is your first pressure cooker and you got me curious about your new experiences with a new tool.

                    That is really good to know, I was wondering just that (If there were any real differences between the brands).

                    My regular Fagor pressure cookers can do 15 psi and 8 psi, I’ve never actually PCed at 8 psi so I am not certain of the time difference either. I bet in general it would still feel quite fast 2 minutes per pound for chicken seems fast, how many pounds of chicken can your 8 qt do at once? I feel like I read it somewhere, but I have misplaced it. Also, does the chicken touch the bottom of the pot when it pressure frys and does it make the chicken have a harder crust where it touches the pot?

                    “What I *do* know, is that these units are simple and robust, without cord, electronics, expensive parts, or complicated interlocks.”

                    That is music to my ears, I’ve seen some PCers that make it look like it would be easier to break into a high security vault versus using it.

                    I just wanted to say I am so sorry it took me so long to reply to this and I am sorry if I am asking too many questions, the last thing I want to do is bother you and I am sorry if I ever have at any point.


                    1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                      Hey, KPD:

                      I've been slowly including regular PC preps with mine, and so far, so good.

                      i believe the 8Q can pressure fry 3 pounds per batch. This is mostly a precaution--to keep the oil level conservatively low (but it's still a lot of oil).

                      Regarding the chicken touching the bottom after the PC is sealed, I don't know--you obviously can't see. However, the chicken shows no sign of being crispier/browner on one side.

                      You're no bother, KPD. i admire your inquisitiveness.


                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Hello Kaleo,

                        That's great to hear, any favourites? : )

                        So, that would make it 6 minutes total for 3 pounds right? That sounds very quick even compared to 15 psi to me and 3 quarts is a lot of oil, I agree, I'm glad to the extra precaution even if it is more than needed.

                        That is fantastic to hear, I had to stop making fried chicken on the stovetop in cast iron because the part of the chicken coating touching the pan would always get rock hard even if nicely coloured and it just isn't me personal ideal for fried chicken.

                        That is lovely to hear Kaleo; I am honoured. I have always been voracious for knowledge and have learned to keep it to myself, I hope I never do bother you.


                        1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                          Hi, KPD:

                          My favorites so far are bean and lentil dishes.

                          My unit is the RapidChef 8Q. The only markings say "Rapidchef, Made in Portugal, Inox 18/10, 226/2004"

                          No, it takes longer than 6 minutes total, because (a) I was wrong--it's 3 min/lb for chicken; and (b) you preheat the oil and deep-fry the food with the lid off for 45-60 seconds before sealing it up. In pressure frying, you start your recipe time only *after* the lid goes on.

                          Other useful info from the manual:

                          --Yes, there are very specific instructions for pressure-frying (but they're not complicated).

                          --You want 1.5-2" of oil in the PC, maybe a little more if you're using it to full capacity "so that the food will float and not rest on the bottom." For the 8Q size, this is about 96 fl. oz.

                          --During the 45-60 seconds of frying before sealing the unit, you are advised to break up any pieces that have stuck together.

                          --Unlike with conventional PCs, you do *not* turn down the heat after the unit comes to pressure; you leave the hob set to High.

                          --The 10Q can accommodate 5 lbs of food (4Q=2lbs, 6Q=also 2lbs, 8Q=3lbs).

                          --You can pressure-fry different foods together (e.g., chicken and joes); if you do, use the *longer* of the cooking times.

                          --The oil should be 375-390F at the flop, and at 390 if you're filling the cooker.

                          --You can also pressure DRY ROAST in these (just a few tablespoons of oil), but I haven't tried this yet.

                          --The 304-page spiral-bound manual/cookbook that Pro-Selections sells for $25 is really valuable, because everything is written specifically for these 8psi cookers.

                          Have Fun,

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Hello Kaleo,

                            Bean and lentil dishes are such great pressure cooker dishes, sounds lovely.

                            “No, it takes longer than 6 minutes total, because (a) I was wrong--it's 3 min/lb for chicken; and (b) you preheat the oil and deep-fry the food with the lid off for 45-60 seconds before sealing it up. In pressure frying, you start your recipe time only *after* the lid goes on.”

                            I was just counting the time when pressure was applied, but that is a VERY good point; that all still sounds very quick though : )

                            I’m excited for the all new information you have given about your pressure cooker, thank you for writing this all out, it is invaluable.

                            “"so that the food will float and not rest on the bottom."”

                            I did not know that that could happen, that is so cool.

                            “--Unlike with conventional PCs, you do *not* turn down the heat after the unit comes to pressure; you leave the hob set to High.”

                            Wow, that makes it SO much easier to use than a conventional PC, it makes me really want one right now lol (I’m not joking, I hate fiddling with hob settings with my conventional PCers).

                            “--The 10Q can accommodate 5 lbs of food (4Q=2lbs, 6Q=also 2lbs, 8Q=3lbs).”

                            Oo, thank you so much for this now I can figure out which model to buy, thank you! I wonder why the 4Q and 6Q do the same amount of food.

                            “--You can pressure-fry different foods together (e.g., chicken and joes); if you do, use the *longer* of the cooking times.”

                            Joes? Using longer cooking times is easier enough and that certainly is helpful to be able to do multiple at once, how nice.

                            “--The oil should be 375-390F at the flop, and at 390 if you're filling the cooker.”

                            Flop? Filling the cooker to its maximum oil and lbs of food I assume?

                            “--You can also pressure DRY ROAST in these (just a few tablespoons of oil), but I haven't tried this yet.”

                            Oh wow I didn’t know that either, that is cool too; tell me how that goes that sounds like a lot of fun : )

                            “--The 304-page spiral-bound manual/cookbook that Pro-Selections sells for $25 is really valuable, because everything is written specifically for these 8psi cookers.”

                            I’ll have to buy one when I get a pressure fryer it sounds like the perfect mate to the machine.

                            “Have Fun,”

                            You too : )

                            Thank you again for all this really helpful and fascinating information and again I’m sorry I took so long to reply.


                    2. re: kaleokahu

                      I've been meaning to ask, Kaleo, what specific model did you buy? And the manufacturer actually has instructions for pressure frying, do they? That's unusual.

                      I myself just bought a PRESSURE SMOKER. I can't wait to use it. But its been crazy hot the last few days since I received it, and I just can't take the heat, so I think I'm going to have to start cold smoking cheese first.

                        1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                          Thanks. Then I guess my only remaining question is whether the manufacturer includes specific instructions for pressure frying?

                          1. re: ePressureCooker

                            You're welcome. Yes, it comes with a manual from the manufacturer detailing how to pressure fry in the unit.

                            (He specifically bought a unite that can be called (And used) a Pressure Fryer versus a Pressure Cooker, although the Pressure Fryer can do the same job as a Pressure Cooker as well.)

                2. I like my old reliable Fagor Splendid. If you have a look at the Fagor USA site, you will see several lines and can read about the features.

                  My Splendid is a simple cooker. I am fascinated by having 2 pressure settings, and I am thinking hard about buying a 5 pc Fagor Futuro, but I haven't made up my mind totally.

                  At any rate, find this book: Pressure Perfect, by Lorna Saas. She is pretty reliable and she explains about what sorts of cookers are out there. I'd get the latest edition. Also she has a blog: http://pressurecookingwithlornasass.w... and here is another blog: http://www.hippressurecooking.com/

                  Since you haven't grown up with one, or used one before, I'd do some research about what cooker might be best for your needs.

                  Happy hunting!

                  1. The 'whistle' business is more of a way of timing the cooking, than a difference in pressure cooker construction.

                    One way of controlling the pressure is to put a weight over the vent pipe in the lid. In US brands like Presto, the steam lifts that weight a bit, allowing it to rock, and release excess pressure. Thus a slow rocking is an indication the cooker is at the designed pressure.

                    I have a small Indian Hawkins PC that also has a weight that lifts to release pressure. A small lift controls pressure just like the Presto. But the weight also has a ball bearing catch. If heat is kept high, the weight lifts to the extent that this catch allows, releasing a burst of steam - the whistle.

                    Apparently in Indian homes without timers, the practice developed of timing the cooking by the number of times it whistles like this. Hawkins does not recommend timing like this As with a American (and European designs) they recommend lowering the heat so that it just maintains pressure, as opposed to keeping it high and letting it 'whistle'.

                    I don't know off hand the conversion between 'n-whistles' and 'x minutes'.

                    Hawkins has a different lid locking mechanism. The lid is elliptical, and fits inside the rim of the pot. It's unusual, but as best I can tell it is effective and safe.

                    When people tell tales of 'blowing up the kitchen' it is almost always the result of trying to open the lid while there still pressure inside. Presto added an effective lid interlock in the 1970s. The Hawkins design is inherently a locking lid.

                    When buying on, check on whether replacement parts are readily available. The lid gasket is some sort of rubber that needs to be replaced when it gets worn or hard. Other parts might also need to be replaced with use and age. So any major brand that has a good distribution network in your area is a candidate.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: paulj

                      Thanks, nice overview. My pressure cooker is a Mirro, probably from about the 70s. It has an interlocking lid and a safety valve. I find it interesting that so many people want to tell me how dangerous it is and suggest buying a new one for hundreds of dollars. I've had no issues *whatsoever* cooking veggies, stews, beans, and more. I'm always careful to thoroughly release pressure before opening.

                      1. re: tcamp

                        It might well be dangerous in less experienced hands, however. Part of the problem in the past has been operator error.

                        1. re: ePressureCooker

                          What kind of operator error do you have in mind? tcamp said this has an interlocking lid.

                          1. re: paulj

                            I should have been more specific. I wasn't talking about tcamp's model specifically, but older pressure cookers in general.

                            There are many ways people could cause problems with a pressure cooker, new or old. A clogged pressure valve that hadn't been properly cleaned, for example, trying to fry in them, or I actually read somewhere (made me cringe) someone had stuck a fork into one of the backup safety features (a backup pressure release vent, I think it was) for reasons I can't remember.

                            1. re: paulj

                              People would often try to get the lid open before the pressure came down and that is operator error. Also, some people did not properly clean the vent pipe which can get clogged and the pot can build up too much pressure.

                              The new pressure cookers usually have about 5 safety release valves and it's almost impossible to make them "blow up". But with enough neglect, I am sure that anything is possible.

                              1. re: The Veggie Queen

                                And then there are the folks who try to make the Colonel's fried chicken in units that aren't designed for it. :(

                                1. re: The Veggie Queen

                                  Trying to open the lid when there is still pressure is addressed by a lid interlock. That's standard now days.

                                  Pressure release if the main vent is clogged:
                                  Presto's have a rubber plug in the lid. The downside to this design is that steam and contents can shoot straight up to the ceiling.
                                  Hawkins has pressure release plug under the upper handle.
                                  Fagor has a gap in the lid rim, allowing the main gasket to bulge, and release excess pressure laterally.

                                  In theory Fagor may be better, but in practice I've found it frustrating. The handle broke on my first pot. Main gasket fit has been hit and miss on the replacement. Sometimes it fails to seal and I never get pressure. And when pressure builds, there is a fine line between operating pressure, and too much, causing the gasket bulge. The Presto's rocking weight is a clearer indication of operating pressure (and isn't so sensitive to heat setting).

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I have been using my Fagor for over 12 years. with none of the problems you cite. I am really surprised. I have had to readjust he lid for the gasket to seal. I do this when I should be having pressure but don't. I have been thinking that my gasket is probably due for replacement. But a broken handle! Wow. Which Fagor do you have?

                            2. re: tcamp

                              There is no need to spend "hundreds of dollars". There are a number of pressure cookers below $150.00. If you check them out at Amazon you will be surprised at how reasonable they are. I have sold many pressure cookers. Check it out, But if you are happy with your Mirro and can get gaskets that fit it stay with what you are comfortable with.

                          2. Fagor Duo. I have 2, an 6 qt. and an 8qt. I also recommend a Kuhn Rikon that is the "Cadillac" of pressure cookers and worth the money.

                            I do recommend that you get Lorna Sass' book Pressure Perfect and Cooking Under Pressure. You might check out www.missvickie.com It is a good web site that you can learn a lot from. She also has a good book, Victoria Wise - The Pressure Cooker Gourmet.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Candy

                              Candy, I second your Lorna Sass recommendation. Also want to note that Miss Vickie (Vickie Smith) and Victoria Wise are two different people. Miss Vickie's book is called "Miss Vickie's Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes" and is a little more meat-and-potatoes oriented than Victoria Wise's "Pressure Cooker Gourmet."

                            2. There are many models of "modern" pressure cookers that don't have jigglers and don't whistle which are the ones that I recocmmend. The best value pressure cooker (Cook's Illustrated) is the Fagor Duo 8 quart but it really depends upon how many people you cook for. Generally for 4 people a 6 quart ought to be just fine.

                              You can use most standard pressure cooking charts to determine the length of time certain ingredients need and correlate it to the number of whistles, which is the timing.

                              Other than the Fagor Duo, my favorite (but expensive) pressure cooker is the B/R/K set.

                              I have not yet tried the Calphalon cooker but hope to do so soon.

                              I am a pressure cooker expert (teaching more than 17 years) and I have a lot to say about them. Avoid a jiggler, avoid aluminum and have fun with your new cooker. The differences in cookers is like the difference between a Corolla and a BMW. They will both get your where you want to go.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: The Veggie Queen

                                Thanks, Veggie Queen and everybody else, too. Lots of great info here and lots to research yet. I appreciate all of the help!