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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!

                  2. I cook for 2 and my pressure cooker is the piece of gear I use most. I make tons of stocks, sauces, soups, all sorts of vegetables (mostly for purees and such), meat, beans etc.

                    Buy a Kuhn Rikon, they are unvented and it makes a difference in the end product. Expensive but worth it imo. They are extremely well engineered and built.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                      Thanks EFGM. What size do you use for cooking for two?

                      1. re: herring

                        I use the 8 liter but I wish I got the 12. I am going to purchase the 12L soon as I seem to be limited by the size a lot (ie. having to do two 5 liter batches of stock rather than just being able to do one 10 liter batch). There are days when my PC will be in use for 10+ hours. Some days I'll make 40+ cups of stock and then freeze them in 2 cup vacuum bags. I also do a lot of ~5 course meals and usually they require the pressure cooker for multiple things.
                        Honestly, I never thought I'd use it so much.

                        If you don't think you'll make so much I'd still recommend the 8 liter size. You can always fill it partially but if you get a small one you run the risk of not being able to make enough food, and stocks are far easier in big batches I think.

                        1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                          Egads, I cannot imagine needing anything larger than an 8-quart; I was leaning towards a 6! You clearly do a lot more batch cooking than I do, and I'm envious of both your dedication and storage space. ;) I'm a little worried about being able to run the 8qt under cold water to do the quick release, since my sink is so small ... but I'll probably end up taking your advice, though, since the 8qt/4qt Fagor combo is MUCH more reasonably priced than the 6.4qt/2.75qt Fissler combo I really want. Thanks for your help! Any and all thoughts always welcome.

                          1. re: herring

                            I have a fissler and love it. You don't have to run cold water over it for a quick release. It has a release button that lets the pressure out. The running water over it is for older models.

                            There are just 2 of us & I have the 6 quart. I wouldn't get anything smaller. You will be amazed at how good everything turns out. Stocks have so much more flavor than making stock the stovetop method.

                            1. re: topeater

                              Ah, thanks topeater. I think I've been talked into at least a 6qt, but am eyeing the combo sets, so I can have the larger one when needed (probably just for stock or when cooking for company) and a smaller one when I'm just making rice/beans/whatever for the two of us. Good to know you don't see a need for the smaller pans, though, even though you cook for two as well.

                              1. re: herring

                                Don't forget that you can't fill it more than 2/3.

                            2. re: herring

                              You don't have to run it under water for the quick release, at least not for the Fagor. You just flip the switch and the steam comes gushing out! (stand clear!)

                              1. re: Science Chick

                                That's exactly why fagor is an inferior pressure cooker.

                                1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                  Why does that make it inferior? Being able to do a quick release by venting it seems like an advantage, no? I'm reading as much as I can on this, and I think it was on hippressurecooking or missvickie that the cold water method wasn't recommended.

                                  1. re: herring

                                    I use both the cold water and the quick release (on my KR). Cold water is quicker and I use it when pc-ing something delicate and seconds count. For soups, beans & stews I use the quick release because it's easier. But you do need to stand out of the way!

                                    1. re: herring

                                      The advabtage of Kuhn Rikon is that they are unvented and no air or volatiles (flavors) escape while temps are far above normal boiling temps. I think you could do a water release with any PC but many slowly vent to maintain the correct pressure during the cooking process, Kuhn Rikon doesn't do that. You can quick vent with a KR too but mostly I don't. I think not letting any air escape at higher temps can sometimes have negative effects on the end product.

                        2. Yes, I own one and even though I don't use it often (probably just a few times a month), it's one of my best loved appliances. It's fantastic for beans and grains, but also for those situations where you weren't organized in the morning and have to get dinner made in a rush. I use it for soups (lentil soup in 30 minutes!) and even risotto and meatballs. DEFINITELY get one.

                          1. i prepare dried legumes about twice a week.

                            i have an easy way to do this without using a pressure cooker.
                            you will need a microwave that can be programmed to do two step cooking.
                            (virtually all microwaves sold in the last 5 years will do this)

                            1. in a glass pyrex or corningware casserole with a glass cover soak beans overnight.

                            2. change water and put the whole thing in your microwave

                            3. program your microwave to heat the bean/water mixture to simmering and then to cook the rest of the time at 10% heat.

                            leave house, do your stuff, when you return home the beans will be cooked.

                            empty excess water, add the rest of the ingredients to the cooked beans/legumes mix in the pyrex casserole dish and either microwave or bake until done.

                            serve.

                            put the casserole in your dishwasher and run it on "pots and pans" cycle.

                            repeat the next time you want legumes.

                            for rice, you can use the same system only skip the soaking time.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: westsidegal

                              Wow, interesting. Thanks. I'll have to look at my microwave's instruction manual to see how to program it the way you describe. I'm not sure it's possible, but this is certainly worth trying.

                              1. re: herring

                                it's definitely possible.
                                the only "trick" is to figure out how long it takes for a cup of dried beans that have been soaked and are now in a fresh quart of water takes to get to simmering on the "high" setting of your microwave

                                once you know that, everything is amazingly simple
                                and you can use that knowledge every time

                                my girlfriend, who has an ancient microwave, maintains that for her machine, she needs to interrupt the cooking cycle once mid-cycle to stir all the beans up and then she finishes the cooking cycle.

                                same story with the rice. once you figure out how long it needs to cook on
                                "high" setting in order to get to simmering, the rest is a breeze.

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  That does sound simple. I'll try it. The main reason we have a microwave is so Mr. Herring can re-heat food; I almost never use it, so at first I thought there was a way to "program" it to simmer -- but it sounds like it's more that you just let it go at high power until it simmers, then put it on low power? About how long does it take?

                            2. We bought a 6 qt Cuisinart electric pressure cooker after a 6 week trip to India, where we had dal, rice and veggies daily, often pressure cooked. We got an electric model mostly because it could be programmed and required no watching (eliminating some of the fear factor!). There's a sauté setting, so no need to use multiple pots. I had a tiny NYC kitchen for many years and it would have been great to have had this item then - put the ingredients in, plug in, program and set on the fire escape to cook! We usually take it outside to release the steam, so no extra heat in the kitchen.

                              1. I recently got a pressure cooker and like it so far. When thinking of the sizes, if you use beans, I am told the foam could overflow so you want a bigger size to keep that contained.

                                Otherwise, just know that stove top and electric pressure cookers have different high temps. I think most cookbooks assume you have a stovetop cooker with the shorter times. I don't know whether it is really feasible to do vegetables for short amounts of time in an electric cooker.

                                __
                                http://tastespace.wordpress.com

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: blinknoodle

                                  Thanks blinknoodle. The two I'm looking at go to 15 psi, which seems to be what most recipes (at least the ones by authors mentioned here) are geared towards. (They're both stovetop versions.) I'm almost sold; I just need to figure out size and how much I'm willing to pay.

                                2. I have a Revere 4 qt.all SS copper bottom and it works flawlessly since there are now a very fine reproduction gasket available for it at under 15 bucks. For the tiny kitchen I highly recommend the Revere a dream to use speedy to open and yeah can't misplace the jiggler that is also variable with the simple twist of the knob. Mine is at least 60 years old and perfect as are many on the used market. vannatta1@gmail.com for furthers; just blanched summer squash in it this morning.
                                  CMVHighPriest