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we are looking to purchase our first pressure cooker. we will be using it mainly for canning our own tuna, jellies and sauces. But i would also like to use it for regular cooking as I want to try some of the great recipes i have found in this forum that have mentioned pressure cookers.
Any advice on what to look for or what you have found to be important?
I have been looking at All Americans' 15 quart, but am open to other ideas.
I, too, struggled with what to buy and wanted to buy one that would work for both. All the advice I got was to purchase them separately. Aluminum is ok for canning, but you want steel for cooking.
For canning: the All-American's are the way to go. Still have this on my wishlist - probably the 21 1/2 quart size.
For cooking: I decided on the Fagor Duo set of 8-quart and 4-quart. Love it! Have only used it a few times, but very easy to use.
I have a friend from Brazil, where pressure cookers are a lot more common. He tells this story:
His mother always lectured him and his 6 brothers about the importance of safety in using the pressure cooker and the importance of paying attention to it in case anything went wrong, but they always were dismissive of her lectures and thought she was being a grumpy old lady. One day, the phone rang, she listened for a moment, said "I'll be right over," and hung up. Very upset, she piled all the kids into the car and drove them to her sister's house. She marched them into the kitchen and demanded they look at what they found. There they found a large hole in the ceiling, and a flattened mass of metal where the stove used to be. It seems Aunt Forgetful had placed her large pressure cooker on the stove and forgot about it, the valve clogged, and since she wasn't there to notice and do something about the problem it exploded, made a hole in the roof, and flattened the stove. Fortunately she wasn't in the room, so it became an expensive lesson for her, and an illustrative lesson to my friend on why not to ignore his mother when she talked about safety.
So, while my friend LOVES his pressure cookers and encourages everyone to try using them, he also encourages that the most important factor in choosing one to buy is that it should have multiple safety features - essentially, multiple points of failure. If something goes very wrong, you want a part that's DESIGNED to blow out to be the part that blows out, so the pot itself can't blow up. A valve should open, or a rubberized plug should pop out, or a gasket should fail, or something like that, rather than the pot exploding. So, before purchasing, examine the device thoroughly and determine what these built in safety features are. It should have two, preferably three ways to safely release the pressure if the main regulator fails.
Another factor is heat distribution. I have a friend who bought a pressure cooker about a year ago and started using it, and he loved the pressure cooking aspect, but he had a problem with hot spots on the bottom of the pot scorching his food. A way to deal with this is to use a kind of trivet insert that comes with most pressure cookers to hold the food off the bottom so it won't burn, but that doesn't work for all recipes.
The solution my friend came up with was to buy an induction burner. This is a sort of hot plate that works not by making heat under the pot to heat it up, but by electrically stimulating the pot to become hot on its own. (This is very different from a normal electric stove, which works by heating an electrical heating element below the pot and merely transferring heat. An induction stove directly heats the pot itself.) (NOTE: the pot has to be steel or iron, not aluminum, for it to work with induction!) Because the pot itself is heating rather than having heat transfered from some shape below it, it heats very evenly. This worked out very well for my friend, and he has superb results using his pressure cooker with his induction burner. Moreover, he is in love with induction cooking, and I liked it so much I bought one too! You can melt chocolate or make hollandaise sauce without a double boiler! It makes much less heat in the kitchen, so cooking in the summer is much nicer! It is more responsive than a gas stove! It's very safe, because nothing gets hot except the pot itself! And, it's far more energy efficient: a gas stove is something like 30% efficient (30% of the energy from the gas becomes heat in the pot while the rest is wasted making the room hot), while induction is about 97% efficient (which is why it's so great at not making your kitchen hot), thus saving a lot of money on the energy bill if you cook a lot. The model of induction burner I bought is $150 retail, I got it on sale for $54.
There's also a model of pressure cooker for the microwave, but none of us in my social set have tried that yet. The reviews I've read about it are glowing with praise.
Good luck with your pressure cooking. Buy a nice safe model, pay it just a little attention, and you're going to be absolutely fine, and I'm confident that you will have great results.
Last Edited on: 10/17/09 6:10 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
I belong to a Yahoo group if you are interested in asking questions, or getting recipies here is the addy.
I have two Kuhn Rikon pots with one pressure lid and one regular lid. I absolutely love these. They have a safety valve built in so there is no danger of blowing them up. I use the small one probably 3 or more times per week to make rice or other grains. I use the larger one to cook chickens for soup.
Last Edited on: 12/3/09 4:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 2