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Pressure Cookers: brands, sizes, features


Jaymes
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Was there ever a Pressure Cooker eGCI course, or did it not go ahead?

I've never had any experience with pressure cookers - never used one, never eaten anything that was (to my knowledge) cooked in one - but the efficiency and usefulness of them appealed to me. Last weekend, I bought an 8-litre Tefal Clipso Control Pressure Cooker.

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The first thing I did was try to familiarise myself with its operation by boiling water in it. The instruction booklet says that after it reaches pressure, "lower the heat" and set the timer for however long a recipe calls for. Boiling water is one thing, but when cooking, how low do I "lower the heat"? Am I right in saying that if the temp is too high, it'll burn the food, and if it's too low, the pressure won't be maintained?

Thanks for any tips or advice!

The PC has a maximum temp. based on the max. pressure it can reach, typically 230 -260F. When you lower the heat, you are still applying enough to keep the pressure up. If you leave it on high, there is a possible chance that the blow-off plug (a plastic slug on mine) will open, or rupture, and let the steam out. The plug can be replaced.

Burning is not usually a problem, unless there is not enough liquid, or if the liquid contains too much carbohydrate (rice, beans, pasta) which should be pretreated anyway. The starches could sink to the bottom and burn, but probably won't if there is enough liquid in the recipe so that they move around with the turbulence.

Some cooks refuse to do beans or thick pasta in the PC because they may foam up and clog the pressure sensor. I have never had this problem if the beans or pasta is pre-boiled for a few minutes in an open pot, until the foam subsides.

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  • 4 months later...

My husband and I are considering the acquisition of a pressure cooker.

We think we'll use it for making stocks and soups, as well as expediting dinner prep on nights we do stews or braised dishes. And probably other things too, when I figure out what-all it can do. (Probably not beans, though: I've always been happy with doing those overnight in a crockpot.)

Very often we're just cooking for ourselves, but when we make stock we do largeish batches, which we reduce and freeze. We also sometimes host a pre-hockey game dinner with a bunch of friends who also have season tickets; it's not atypical for us to have 8 at our table and less than 1.5 hours to cook and eat before walking back up to campus through the snow and wind. (Screams stew or chili or soup, doesn't it? :smile:)

I've read this thread from last year. I've also looked at the Cook's Illustrated article from January 2005, which tested 8-quart models and ranked the Fagor Duo as their top pick. That brand also got kudos here, and is consequently quite high on my list.

Those of you who have pressure cookers (now a year older), how do you like yours? Is there anything I should think about that hasn't yet been mentioned? If we get one, I'm definitely thinking stainless steel rather than aluminum.

Would you get an 8-quart model, or do you wish (or are you glad you have) a 10-quart-er? Are there any must-have accessories? (I should note here that we have a 22 quart pressure canner, so it's unlikely I'll be doing any canning in the smaller one.)

Thanks,

Melissa

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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If you want to do stock in it, definitely get the 10-qt. As someone mentioned earlier, you can't fill a pressure cooker more than 2/3 full, so even in a 10-qt., you won't be getting a huge batch of stock.

For fast soups, stews and chili, it'll be fabulous. I've done braised shortribs in 45 minutes, split pea soup in 20, beef stew in 30.

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So what would be the difference between this one and this one?

Good question, Kim! I haven't been able to figure out anything definitively, but from looking on the Fagor Web site, I think (if I'm comparing correctly) that the Duo has two pressure settings (high and low) and the Splendid has only one. The Duo is the one Cook's Illustrated likes.

Can anyone out there elucidate?

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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So what would be the difference between this one and this one?

Good question, Kim! I haven't been able to figure out anything definitively, but from looking on the Fagor Web site, I think (if I'm comparing correctly) that the Duo has two pressure settings (high and low) and the Splendid has only one. The Duo is the one Cook's Illustrated likes.

Can anyone out there elucidate?

MelissaH

That's it exactly. Most big pressure canners have three settings (5, 10, and 15 lbs) so you can heat to different temperatures. Higher pressure, higher heat, faster cooking. It's fairly unusual in a small cooker, but useful, I think. Sometimes it's nice to have the lower setting if you are not sure how long it will take, or if you don't want to turn things to mush by overcooking.

-L

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I'm really happy with my 6 qt. Kuhn-Rikon, but I'm in the market for a bigger pot, maybe 10-12 qts., because of the stock issue. I make lots of vegetable stock with the cooker, but I only get 6 cups or so with the 6 qt.

I've cooked rice in my pressure cooker; it's just easier for me to cook it in a rice cooker. I love that I can throw everything in a rice cooker, turn it on, and forget about it. Not so with the pressure cooker.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I am fairly happy with my Wal-Mart (6qt?, stainless, Presto, rocker weight(15lb)), and though it would be nice to have a larger capacity sometimes and variable pressure, I've pretty much figured out how to do everything I ever wanted to with this model (though I will be trying to cook rice in it now). All beans I've cooked take about 35 minutes at 15 lbs. pressure. I have had it for a couple of years now and the seals are still holding up.

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I have a Fagor Classic (marine) PC, which is marketed toward the boating crowd. I can pressure fry chicken in it (yes, it is designed for pressure frying, which I think is broasting), dry roast (which I have not tried) and distill water. Truly a desert island model I guess. I find it dead easy to use for soups, stews, sauces, potatoes etc..... The time savings is significant.

I was scared of PC's also, but now I respect them, don't fear them.

The drawback on this Fagor is the price, it's expensive.

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For us, the rice cooker is the easiest way by far to make rice. (An appliance timer works wonders: set everything up in the morning, plug the rice cooker into the timer, and set the timer to turn on about half an hour or so before you'll get home.) However, I can see a pressure cooker as being particularly useful for preparing the stuff to go on or with the rice.

Are there any high-altitude pressure cookers on this thread? Any comments about that? (I'm pretty close to sea level, but my parents are at about 8600 feet.)

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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[Are there any high-altitude pressure cookers on this thread? Any comments about that? (I'm pretty close to sea level, but my parents are at about 8600 feet.)

I am at 5400' and have also used it at a fishing club at 9800' . That is the only way to do lambshanks etc at that altitude.

Had a pal from NY come up there and we were doing pasta..He looks at his watch as I put the pasta in the boiling water and proclaims "11 minutes proudly" I laughed and told him to call me in half an hour....It would probably work for that as well, but never tried it.

Bud

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I continue to be very happy with my inexpensive no-frills Manttra PC. The only downside to it, as I discovered the hard way, is that you can't put the lid in the dishwasher. One of its safety mechanisms is a little valve-plug with a heat-sensitive core, designed to melt and release pressure if the cooker starts to overheat. Well, the water in a dishwasher apparently gets plenty hot enough to melt that valve's innards--when I tried to cook some beans in my cooker right after the washing, the darn thing just would *not* get up to pressure nohow, mystifying me until I figured out what happened. (Manttra shipped me a new valve in a couple of days for a couple of bux.)

This incident did prove to me all over again that, with the safety releases built into today's modern pressure cookers, it is pretty damn near impossible to get one to blow up on you. As long as you're a good do-bee about making sure the mechanism on your cooker is in good working order and all valve-bits clean and unobstructed by gunk, it's totally safe.

Oh yeah--don't fear the hissing sound! That sound is actually your assurance that all is well and the thing *won't* blow up, because it's the sound of excess pressure escaping as it's supposed to. Now if, for some reason, the cooker's been hissing along just fine, but then the sound mysteriously stops, that's when you might need to observe some caution, because a blockage may have developed preventing excess pressure from escaping; that's why manufacturers tell you not to overfill your cooker, so that the contents are low enough that they can't splash up and clog a valve. Of course, the steam sound stopping can also signal that you've boiled off all the liquid and your food is going to scorch; that's why the manufacturers recommend putting in sufficient liquid, and keeping the heat just high enough to produce a little quiet hissing, not a Vesuvius of steam. Or perhaps the heat's fallen too low to maintain minimum pressure, which is not hazardous, but inefficient, as your food is then just simmering along at conventional pressure/temp.

By the way, I use my pressure cooker to cook brown rice frequently, putting the rice and some water in a metal bowl on a trivet over about another inch or so of water (and sometimes I cook beans simultaneously, in that water in the bottom of the cooker). The rice steams in about half the time of conventional cooking (ie 30 minutes instead of 60). I don't own a rice cooker--no more counter space to put another gizmo--but with the cooker I don't feel the need anyway.

My cooker is an 8-quart model. This is plenty of volume for my purposes, but then I'm usually just cooking for myself.

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I am trying to decide on which size - I don't do canning, and a 10 qt. would be good for stock, but would it be too large for small amounts of food, say 1/2 C of beans? Is a 4 + 8 qt. combo a more practical all-around solution? (I'm looking at Fagor)

Monterey Bay area

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  • 3 months later...

What should I look for? I'm considering buying a Lagostina 7L pressure cooker which is on sale for $60 Cad.

It reads, "18/10 stainless steel with aluminum, impact-bonded base." Is that good? I plan to cook a whole chicken, beef stew, legumes, lean meats...

Your advice and suggestion is greatly appreciated.

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What should I look for?  I'm considering buying a Lagostina 7L pressure cooker which is on sale for $60 Cad.

It reads, "18/10 stainless steel with aluminum, impact-bonded base."  Is that good?  I plan to cook a whole chicken, beef stew, legumes, lean meats...

Your advice and suggestion is greatly appreciated.

I've been using pressure cookers for years. In the past, I had a stovetop model that my father bought for me after college (many moons ago). About a year ago, I bought an electric one (Russell Hobbs) and I love it.

The big thing is to have plenty of room (NEVER go over the limit line inside the pressure cooker) and to be able to release the steam easily so that you can further regulate the cooking.

I think what I like so much about the electric model is that it seems a lot safer than my old stovetop, cleans up much more easily (nonstick interior), and I can program every step of my recipes (all 3 of the ones that use a pressure cooker).

I hope this helps -

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The Lagostina PC is an interesting design; Every other PC I can think of works by having two heavily overbuilt parts [lid and pan] with interlocking fingers which engage when the lid is rotated. The Lagostina uses a relatively thin stainless steel lid which is preformed into a curve to allow it to be inserted on an angle through the rolled lip of the top of the pan. A system of levers and rollers then bends the curved lid up towards the underside of the lip, forming the closure.

18/10 tells you about the composition of the steel; it's one of the common '304' family of alloys used for most kitchenware. The impact bonded aluminum base is likewise fairly standard. It's been a while since I handled one of the Lagostina pans, but I do not recall the base being either exceptionally thin [bad] or exceptionally thick [good].

I've handled them, and played around, but not used them. At $60 it would be a tempting experiment - if I didn't already own a Kuhn Rikon, touted as being the 'Rolls Royce' of pressure cookers. The build quality and finish on the Kuhn Rikon is superb - it will outlast me - but then it cost about four times what the Lagostina is available to you at.

Since the flexing lid and cam operating lever is a more 'mechanical' system, I would say that in the long run there's more to go wrong, but the base product appears well made, and is almost certainly as safe as the competition.

7 litres might require you to joint the chicken, unless it's a small chicken in the first place.

Looking at pressure cookers you might want to check what methods are available for regulating the pressure. The older models like my mother's Prestige [of fond memory] used to use a system of weights which nested one inside the other. Three pressures were available [5, 10 & 15 psi]. Some of the modern units sold only allow two pressures [usually only described as low and high, but frequently 5 and 10 psi]. Using a recipe which expects a 15 psi pressure in a 10 psi pan will require you to adjust cooking times. Different PCs release excess pressure in different ways - the old 'weight on top' systems were pretty foolproof, but constantly vented steam with an alarming hiss. The Kuhn Rikon [for example] sits quietly doing its thing, conserving moisture in the pan and generally not alarming the visitors.

Bottom line - at the price quoted I'd probably give the Lagostina a try.

cheers

Derek

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Thanks DerekW for your very in depth reply. Now you've tempted me to look at the "Cadillac" as I am a sucker for quality.

I guess my new concern is ease of use. I want a pc that has an easy and simple assembly. Does the Kuhn Rikon have that?

Plus, PattyO mentioned "nonstick interior." I'm concerned about teflon and the health implication. But the electric portability is a good feature.

I notice the Kuhn Rikon website has various sizes of pc. Which one is the most commonly used?

I'll check out the stores and would like others' feedback on your experiences with your pc.

BTW, I think this is a great cookware to conserve energy and although it may seem insignificant, it would be one small way to combat global warming.

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I guess my new concern is ease of use.  I want a pc that has an easy and simple assembly.  Does the Kuhn Rikon have that? 

I deliberately tried to avoid pushing Kuhn Rikon, but since you ask, the KR is simple and obvious in its design. I find it very easy to use, and assembly, disassembly and cleaning are fast and straightforward.

I notice the Kuhn Rikon website has various sizes of pc.  Which one is the most commonly used?

Hard to answer that one. The 5 litre [or thereabouts] is big enough to make soup or stew for four to six people. The 7 would be bigger than I would get any benefit from. I bought the 'Two pans, two lids' kit, but rarely pressure cook in the smaller pan. It makes a very robust saute pan & the glass [non-PC ] lid is handy to drop on the big pan while doing initial cooking of dishes. That said, the additional cost for the second pan and lid on Amazon is about $30, and for that I'd buy the same kit again...

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  • 10 months later...

I've started a new job and am in commuting hell now, so I'm thinking a pressure cooker will help me to still get a nice dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time.

I need some help researching and selecting a model.

Which one do you have?

Do you use it?

What do I need to consider when buying and using it?

Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

Thanks!

Genny

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