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Do you use a pressure cooker?

I'm thinking of buying one primarily for cooking beans and making stock. But I'd probably only use it to cook beans once a week at most, and stock maybe every couple of months. Steamed veggies are fast enough the traditional way, and my partner doesn't eat rice, so I don't cook it that often. I have a tiny Manhattan kitchen and am not sure if it's worth storing something fairly big for such sporadic use. Am I missing some good veg uses? What else do you use yours for? Or do you love yours so much for beans and stock that's enough of a reason?

Thanks!

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  1. I have an old PC given to me by a friend. It sputters around the gasket but still works well enough for legumes. I like it for mujadarra, which I make with brown rice, because I can cook the rice and lentils together, cooking times being similar. Unless I am making a large amount, I cook rice in the PC by putting it into a pyrex casserole set onto a rack, which usually keeps the PC itself clean. When I was little, mom cooked vegetables in the PC every day. (We also had meat and potatoes for every dinner.) She always drank the PC cooking water afterward. She lived to 91....coincidental, or not?

    What I like best is that I can cook 3-4 different bean varieties at the same time, as long as the cooking times are about the same. I save empty cans (not white-lined because I am unsure about the chemical implications), soak up to 2/3 cup of beans in each, depending on the size of the can. The water in the cans should not come up more than 3/4 inch below the rim. I place the cans on a flat rack inside the PC, add a half inch of water to the bottom, and cook. Once done, check the tenderness of each type of bean. If any are too tough, leave the can in the PC and put the lid on. The residual heat should be enough to finish them but if there was a lot of difference in required cooking time you can bring back up to pressure for a few minutes. As long as you haven't overfilled the cans, the PC won't even need cleaning. Just dump out the still-clean water beneath the rack.
    This is a nice way to make colorful bean dishes. If you want, you can save the variously-colored bean juices for inclusion in different soups, or combine them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      You can probably buy a new gasket--you might need an release plug, too. Google the brand and model number--look on the bottom of the cooker for those.

      1. re: greygarious

        I love the multiple-bean strategy, greygarious. Thanks so much.

      2. I use mine for beans and whole grains (farro, barley, etc) and just for that alone it's worth the storage space. While soaking helps, I love that I can get away with using dry if I decide last minute I want some. Last night I was craving chickpeas, just grabbed them dry from the cabinet, add water and a pinch of salt and pinch of baking soda and thirty minutes later, dreamily creamy chickpeas better than I ever got with soaking + simmering for hours. It's also good for all kinds of soups, not just stocks. The storage isn't bad in my opinion since I can nest some of my other pots in it.

        1. Thanks to you both -- those are great suggestions. I also meant to ask in my original post what size you have or would recommend. I won't be cooking whole chickens or big brisket, and while stock is nice to freeze, I don't have room for more than a quart or so in my freezer. Think a 4-quart is large enough for these purposes?

          3 Replies
          1. re: herring

            I purchased a Fagor 6 qt pressure cooker 3 years ago:
            http://www.amazon.com/Fagor-Splendid-...

            and have kicked myself repeatedly for not doing it sooner! It is a breeze to use and has made a huge difference in the speed/quality of many of my food preps. Not to mention that it provides a signficant energy savings. Yes, plain old whole grains and beans are quicker....but so are many dishes that you would think of as "slow cook" type dishes. Pasta sauces, chilis, stews....all FAST. Also, stovetop baked beans. Basically, cooking times are reduced by 2/3 of the normal time. You can start your saute in the pot, add whatever you like and then engage the pressure. Also, if you need to add something part way through cooking, there is a rapid release mechanism so you can get back in there and check/add things and then re-engage the pressure if need be.

            I would definitely recommend the 6 qt size. You can only fill it 2/3 of the way max, so that's 4 qts of cooking space. I really like the ease of the Fagor...really, it is foolproof and safe. Plus, it is heavy and a beautifully machined piece of cookware! I have purchased these as gifts for many family members and friends, and they are all so happy and use it ALOT.

            Hope this helps....if you decide to take the plunge, post again and I'll get some recipe ideas to you.

            1. re: Science Chick

              Thanks, ScienceChick, it helps a lot, and I think I'm sold on a pressure cooker, just determining size and price (see my answer to Jaimie below). Is there a minimum you need to use the 6qt? If I just want, say, 2-4 cups of rice/millet/beans/whatever, can I do that in the 6, or will I have to cook more? I have a very small freezer ...

              One other question, since you mentioned the rapid release mechanism: How long does a standard release take? I keep seeing "black beans cook in seven minutes" or whatnot, but I don't think that takes into account the natural release time.

              And I would *love* any recipes you recommend! Thanks!

              1. re: herring

                I think they recommend a 2 cup minimum so you don't run out of water/steam/pressure, but I don't remember exactly. You can look at the manual for the Duo here:
                http://www.fagoramerica.com/my_fagor/...

                I almost always use rapid release...I have no patience! Black beans don't cook in 7 minutes. Again, it is a 1/3 cooking time. So if normally they cook for 60 min, it would be 20 in the pressure cooker. Recipes to follow later....

          2. I use the pc all the time. Take a look at Lorna Sass' Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.

            I have both a stove top and an electric. The stove top is faster (you have to add about 2 minutes for each 10 on the electric because it doesn't come up to as a high a pressure) but the electric is great because you can push the buttons and walk away.

            1. I absolutely love my pressure cooker. I have the 8 quart and 4 quart set and use both, sometimes for different elements of the same meal and multiple times during the week. I do think you could possibly just get the smaller one and cook most things. It's fun to think up new things to cook and I love avoiding using canned beans (I share the concern about the liners). I also find that the home cooked garbanzo beans are superior to regular stove top cooking, as well as better than canned beans (these are the one type of bean I do soak overnight - quick soak doesn't work as well). My son constantly requests the 9 minute risotto I can now make. I make pasta (http://www.hippressurecooking.com/spi...) and polenta is so fast! I have a ridiculously expensive Fissler that was a gift (it is beautiful and so quiet), but the nice thing is that the two pans are made to stack, using less room. I previously had a Fagor that was not as good but still worked well. I love this website: http://www.hippressurecooking.com/. It has lots of ideas and inspiration. I think it's worth the space.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Jaimie

                Thanks Jaimie. I cook for two, don't mind leftovers for another meal or two, but no more than that usually. I was thinking of getting a duo like you have, figuring I'd mostly use the smaller pan, and can stash the larger somewhere out of the way. Debating between the Fissler 6 qt and 2.5 qt (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...), and the much cheaper Fagor 8 qt/4qt. (http://www.amazon.com/Fagor-Combi-5-P...). But that 8qt looks so huge, I can't imagine using it more than once or twice a year.

                1. re: Jaimie

                  What an AWESOME website. Thanks you SO MUCH for this link!

                  1. re: Jaimie

                    Yes, this is a fantastic site! I'm already down the rabbit hole ... great recipes and great info on equipment. Thanks so much!