Monica Bhide

Pressure Cookers

76 posts in this topic

Hi FOlks - I am working on a feature story about pressure cookers. Do you have stories you can share? Love it? Hate it? I would love to hear from you! Please PM or email me.

*Posted with permission from DR

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Yeah Monica, well, only us desis love pressure cookers more than anyone else on earth. There is no other way to make daal! Just moved into an apartment a few weeks ago and my FIRST big purchase for the kitchen-- a Futura!

:P

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My last (hazy) pressure-cooker recollection involved a college physics lab, a prior experiment involving grapes found growing behind a rental house, and at least one West Virginian.

So, you can make dal with those things too? :P

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I've never tried making dal with a pressure cooker (because I usually cook masur dal, which cooks pretty quickly). What kinds of dal would you recommend work best in a pressure cooker?

My parents insisted that we always eat a home cooked meal together virtually every day. We rarely ate out or ordered in food. Both mom and dad worked and they would cook as soon as they got home, instead of relaxing. I never realized until just now how important it was to them that we all sat together for this one meal. Using a pressure cooker was essential in getting some of the dishes to the table in reasonable time.

My dad would always make his kasha mangsho (lamb curry) in a pressure cooker. Mom would occassionally use it as well for doing large batches of chicken curry (I think she called it murghi pathla jhol???). I've started using the pressure cooker for these dishes, as well as for making western style chilis and stews. Absolutely indispensable.

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I got a digital pressure cooker for Christmas, after hearing Bobby Flay comment that he had learned to use one on ICA and now finds it extremely useful. I opted for digital, because with my attention span issues, I'd walk away from a stovetop model at the wrong moment.

It took me a little while to figure out how to cook some of my favorites, but I've made short ribs, beef pot roasts, and pork braises. The butter chicken recipe I found in a PC cookbook was out of this world!

This morning I tried cooking rice (brown Basmati), and it didn't turn out quite as I expected, but still usable for my purpose (a little too much water, not long enough pressure time at first, too much oil).

What has worked for you in your pressure cooker (and what went bust)?

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I love my pressure cooker, and I use it mainly for risotto and to cook dried beans on a whim. Boiled peanuts also get soft and saltilicious in one third of the regular time. I've found it does wonders if you want to cheat on foods that you usually have to simmer to get all the flavors to meld. Sometimes you need the meld, but have no time for the simmer. A general rule is to cut the cooking time to 1/3 and check the contents at that point.

Lorna Sass has some great cookbooks that give times and water ratios for all sorts of beans and grains. That might help with the rice. Happy pressuring!

-Linda

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Recently got a pressure cooker and can see how I will be using it frequently. The short ribs that I made, in much less time than normal, were great. I would enjoy hearing more tips and recipes that folks have to share.

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I've been thinking about getting a pressure cooker for a while. Seeing KMango's post in the Dinner thread prompted me to pull up this thread.

Any recent reports, recipes, tips, recommendations? How has yours worked out mdt? What kind did you get?

I know my parents had one when I was a kid, but I don't remember what they cooked with it. One of the main reasons I'd like to get one is so I can try to replicate a dish that my French host mother prepared during my study abroad year - Poulet Dakar. My memory of it is a whole chicken (cut up?), 5 lemons cut in half, and 4-5 onions quartered - throw it all in the pressure cooker 'til it's done, serve with rice and a sauce of crème fraîche and lemon juice.

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I have one recommendation - if you are going to buy one, get the one you really want instead of the "starter" one. I've had a fairly cheap one with the jiggle-weight on top for over fifteen years, and there are no signs that anything is going to go wrong with the thing. Even the gasket (it's silicone) is still in perfect shape, thus robbing me of a reasonable excuse to buy a shiny, new, state-of-the-art one. My Mom got the Fagor that doesn't have the jiggle pressure vent, and she loves it. I covet it. Here's a link to the one she has.

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I've been thinking about getting a pressure cooker for a while. Seeing KMango's post in the Dinner thread prompted me to pull up this thread.

Any recent reports, recipes, tips, recommendations? How has yours worked out mdt? What kind did you get?

I know my parents had one when I was a kid, but I don't remember what they cooked with it. One of the main reasons I'd like to get one is so I can try to replicate a dish that my French host mother prepared during my study abroad year - Poulet Dakar. My memory of it is a whole chicken (cut up?), 5 lemons cut in half, and 4-5 onions quartered - throw it all in the pressure cooker 'til it's done, serve with rice and a sauce of crème fraîche and lemon juice.

This is the one that I have. It has served me well so far and I use it for beans, greens, rice, and various braises. I have been pleased with the results. Some of the braises require browning first but then you just put the stuff in the cooker and walk away.

It has allowed me to make things in far less time than the standard which works out great when you are running short on time.

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I have the Fagor 8 quart and love it. I have used it to make curries, bean soups, and braised meats. It was only $80 and is big enough to pressure can small jars as well. It's a very safe model with lock, quick release, and a feature that does not allow it to be unlocked until the pressure has released (either naturally or manually). The only trick I've found with it is to apply some pressure to the lid when turning it and locking it. I've had a few minor problems building up pressure until I tried this trick.

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I like my pressure cooker for items that have a fair amount of leeway in their cooking - like rice or beans - but not for more touchy items, like artichokes. Basically, I tend to cook with my fingers - I poke at my food during cooking to tell when it's done (or, I suppose, in the case of an artichoke, I pull out an inner leaf to see if it releases easily). The nature of the slow pressure buildup and release in a pressure cooker obviously prevents the quick poke, and so I find that anything that doesn't have a fairly wide window of error is fairly easy to somewhat over- or under-cook. That being said, I love it for relatively quick brown or wild rice, other whole grains like barley or quinoa, beans, and the like.

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I've used a combination Megafesa pressure cooker [came w/ a 4Qt & 8Qt pot, & a standard lid that fits both] for quite a few years now.

I love making quick risotto this way [i know, the horror :D ]. Roughly the same initial steps, but only about 4 minutes pressure cooking on high, quick release pressure & then cook for a few more minutes w/o the lid on to firm it up [it'll be a little goopy after the quick pressure release]. Beats stirring the heck outta it sometimes [ah it's truly a labor of love the traditional way]

Awaiting the fall again to make another batch of Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto, yummy!

Making stocks in here is another easy thing to do.

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I finally made up my mind and got the 8-quart Fagor model. I deliberated about the Combi (4 and 8 qt set) but decided, with some input from the store clerk, that I really only need (and have space for) one pot. Thanks for the input from folks here.

I took it out for the first test run yesterday, making an improvised version of borracho beans. After a false start I figured out that the safety valve rises as pressure builds. It took a little while to get up to pressure, but being able to cook beans in about 12 minutes was great (after a 4 hour soak).

I found the information on the Miss Vickie's website very helpful, particularly the dried bean cooking time table.

I love my pressure cooker, and I use it mainly for risotto and to cook dried beans on a whim.
I'm curious about making risotto in the cooker - I like the stirring, adding liquid, stirring, etc. What is the process in a pressure cooker? And does it affect the texture beyond the initial 'goopiness' noted by collije?

Hope to give some braising a try pretty soon. As always, any pointers or favorite recipes will be much appreciated!

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I'm curious about making risotto in the cooker - I like the stirring, adding liquid, stirring, etc. What is the process in a pressure cooker? And does it affect the texture beyond the initial 'goopiness' noted by collije?

I'm not sure about the goopiness - maybe this is describing the relatively solid-ish mass after the lid comes off? I've never made risotto without a pressure cooker, and I've never had anyone guess that's how I made it. The texture is the same *unless* you cook too long. I use the methods from Lorna Sass, who writes great pressure cooker cookbooks.

Sweat out shallots, onions, garlic, peppers, whatever aromatics you want in a little olive oil. Add in 1 1/2 cups of rice, then cook it a bit until it's toasty and oil coats everything. I brown in each step depending on what I add in later - delicate items = less browning. Pour in some wine. I haven't looked at the book in ages - 1/2 cup maybe? Maybe a little more? Four or five big glugs. You stir this around and let it soak in/evaporate. Now pour in 3 1/2 cups of stock, stir everything around, and lock the lid. After it comes to pressure, cook 7 minutes. Go six the first time just to see how your cooker works. You may need to cook a little longer on the stove. Do a quick release, stir, add cheese if you're using it, stir again, add in your asparagus, peas, roasted squash, or whatever you are using, a couple of minutes with the lid on for it to rest, a final stir, maybe a bit of butter, then serve. Because the heat in a pressure cooker is so high, I find that asparagus cooks to a tender crispness if I toss it in after I take off the lid, stir it in, then put the lid on top for a minute or two.

That's a lot of paraphrasing - she gives really exacting methods in the cookbooks. I've been doing it so long, from the time I start chopping to the moment it goes into the dishes, I can have a nice risotto dinner in half an hour. And if your friends are dubious about pressure cooking risotto, serve it to them without telling them how you made it, then surprise them at exactly the right moment. :rolleyes:

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I completely forgot another use for the pressure cooker - flan. Apparently, it is very common, especially in places where people need to conserve fuel for stoves. But still want flan. This is one I haven't tried yet, but I plan to soon.

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I use my pressure cooker (a Kuhn Rikon 8-qt hotel) to make cheesecakes. Quite often, really. I suppose it's a mix of the ease of putting together cheesecake and the fact that it cooks in 20-30 minutes.

In fact, it was for cheesecakes (and ribs, I suppose) that I waited to get that cooker (via eBay). It is low-and-wide rather than tall-and-deep and so can accommodate a 9" springform pan or a flat piece of meat easily.

I'll have to try flan soon...

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Risotto will be on my list of experiments. Chocolate and Zucchini has what sounds like a tasty recipe for Porcini Walnut Risotto. From the same page, I followed a link to a Cooking Light page that has several pressure cooker recipes ranging from beet salad to barbecue brisket. The possibilities seem to be endless!

Indeed, they are. The other day, I placed six CSA sweet potatoes (scrubbed, but skins on, cut into 1.5 to 2-inch dice) with just under a cup of water into the pot, brought it to high pressure for eight minutes, quick-released the pressure, and drained the excess water. A splash of maple syrup and a dash of sea salt later, these had my dinner guests trash-talking all previous renditions of the tuber.

You'll be amazed at the intensity of flavor that comes out of that pot with the reduced cooking times.

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I'm not sure about the goopiness - maybe this is describing the relatively solid-ish mass after the lid comes off? I've never made risotto without a pressure cooker, and I've never had anyone guess that's how I made it. The texture is the same *unless* you cook too long. I use the methods from Lorna Sass, who writes great pressure cooker cookbooks.

Sweat out shallots, onions, garlic, peppers, whatever aromatics you want in a little olive oil. Add in 1 1/2 cups of rice, then cook it a bit until it's toasty and oil coats everything. I brown in each step depending on what I add in later - delicate items = less browning. Pour in some wine. I haven't looked at the book in ages - 1/2 cup maybe? Maybe a little more? Four or five big glugs. You stir this around and let it soak in/evaporate. Now pour in 3 1/2 cups of stock, stir everything around, and lock the lid. After it comes to pressure, cook 7 minutes. Go six the first time just to see how your cooker works. You may need to cook a little longer on the stove. Do a quick release, stir, add cheese if you're using it, stir again, add in your asparagus, peas, roasted squash, or whatever you are using, a couple of minutes with the lid on for it to rest, a final stir, maybe a bit of butter, then serve. Because the heat in a pressure cooker is so high, I find that asparagus cooks to a tender crispness if I toss it in after I take off the lid, stir it in, then put the lid on top for a minute or two.

That's a lot of paraphrasing - she gives really exacting methods in the cookbooks. I've been doing it so long, from the time I start chopping to the moment it goes into the dishes, I can have a nice risotto dinner in half an hour. And if your friends are dubious about pressure cooking risotto, serve it to them without telling them how you made it, then surprise them at exactly the right moment. :rolleyes:

I am not really clear as to why this is not considered a pilaf, rather than risotto. Other than the addition and evaporation of a small amount of wine before adding all of the liquid, it proceeds like a pilaf (saute onion and rice in oil, add liquid, cover and cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed). The whole point of a risotto is that the liquid is added in small increments and the rice is frequently stirred as it slowly absorbs the small additions of liquid. I suppose, if you really stretched it, it could be considered a pilaf/risotto hybrid: pilatto or risolaf anyone?

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I'm back, looking for some more input from the seasoned pressure cooker pros. So far, I've had success with beans and a great Mexican pork stew. My attempt at beef stew (using the recipe from Lorna Sass' "The Pressured Cook") was a big flop. :angry:

I'm still getting familiar with the cooker and knowing what temperature to adjust the burner to once it's at pressure. I followed the recipe's instructions to brown and cook the beef separately, set it aside, and then cook the potatoes and carrots. After cooking the beef, there wasn't a whole lot of 'gravy' left and I wasn't sure if I should add some more liquid during the vegetable cooking phase. I wound up with overcooked (mushy) potatoes and carrots and a scorched pan. I think the scorching was due to the tomato paste in the recipe. And I guess the veggies just cooked too long, even though I followed the timeline and used the quick release method. This was one instance where I felt like I spent a lot more time using the pressure cooker than I would have I'd followed a traditional, stovetop recipe. Any hints, suggestions, or other advice?

I saw several recipes online that just called for putting everything into the cooker at one time and cooking it all together - this seems easier, but also as if it might lead to overcooking of certain items (like veggies). Any thoughts on one technique over the other?

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We use pressure cookers quite a bit in Puerto Rico, especially for softening beans and, most importantly, for making stews with low-grade meats, like chuck, or softening a flank steak so it may be shredded easily and make the Cuban dish vaca frita. It is also used to fry chicken for exceptional crispiness. I make a chicken fricassee in it, finishing the cooking uncovered to reduce the sauce. One risky way of using it, and I do not recommend this to first time users and it goes against every warning in the manufacturers book [and admittedly common sense], is for making dulce de leche quickly, where daring folks put the closed cans inside the cooker [with water, of course] and cook it for 20 minutes or so. This is meant as an anecdote, and not a suggested use [yes, I have done it successfully once, but kept a safe distance from my stove]. Pressure cookers save a tremendous amount of time and energy, it extracts natural flavors exponentially [great results to get a very flavorful chicken stock]. As a trivia point, Fidel Castro handed out pressure cookers by the thousands throughout Cuba as a way to conserve energy during the oil price crisis several years ago.

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I completely forgot another use for the pressure cooker - flan. Apparently, it is very common, especially in places where people need to conserve fuel for stoves. But still want flan. This is one I haven't tried yet, but I plan to soon.

We cook flan in a pressure cooker. My mother used to use the tin cans where the danish cookies used to be sold in the drug stores during the holiday season [you know the kind?]. It is highly effective. I will get the recipe and share as soon as she arrives from the island today.

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I am not really clear as to why this is not considered a pilaf, rather than risotto. Other than the addition and evaporation of a small amount of wine before adding all of the liquid, it proceeds like a pilaf (saute onion and rice in oil, add liquid, cover and cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed). The whole point of a risotto is that the liquid is added in small increments and the rice is frequently stirred as it slowly absorbs the small additions of liquid. I suppose, if you really stretched it, it could be considered a pilaf/risotto hybrid: pilatto or risolaf anyone?

Sorry I didn't see this earlier. The finished product from this method is indistinguishable from risotto cooked with gradual additions of stock. Some friends and I did side by side blind tastings and the only difference is that the rice in the pressure cooker risotto is more evenly cooked. The dish is creamy and smooth, not dry like a pilaf. I suppose it depends on whether you are a "journey of risotto" or "destination of risotto" kind of person. If I'm in a hurry, it's all about the destination.

I'm back, looking for some more input from the seasoned pressure cooker pros. So far, I've had success with beans and a great Mexican pork stew. My attempt at beef stew (using the recipe from Lorna Sass' "The Pressured Cook") was a big flop. :angry:

I'm still getting familiar with the cooker and knowing what temperature to adjust the burner to once it's at pressure. I followed the recipe's instructions to brown and cook the beef separately, set it aside, and then cook the potatoes and carrots. After cooking the beef, there wasn't a whole lot of 'gravy' left and I wasn't sure if I should add some more liquid during the vegetable cooking phase. I wound up with overcooked (mushy) potatoes and carrots and a scorched pan. I think the scorching was due to the tomato paste in the recipe. And I guess the veggies just cooked too long, even though I followed the timeline and used the quick release method. This was one instance where I felt like I spent a lot more time using the pressure cooker than I would have I'd followed a traditional, stovetop recipe. Any hints, suggestions, or other advice?

I saw several recipes online that just called for putting everything into the cooker at one time and cooking it all together - this seems easier, but also as if it might lead to overcooking of certain items (like veggies). Any thoughts on one technique over the other?

There has to be a certain amount of water in there to make steam - it's the buildup of steam that makes the pressure. I think you probably didn't have enough liquid for it to work well. A rule of thumb for preventing mushiness is cut the regular cooking time to one-third. So if you think that it would take fifteen minutes to cook the vegetables, go for five with a quick release. If you are worried, go for three then finish the dish with the cover loosely over the top like you would in a regular pot. I've done that and it's worked out OK.

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I've finally gotten the hang of the thing (with some input from lperry ;) ) and am consistently happy with the dishes coming out of the pressure cooker. Mostly I'm making bean dishes - it's great to be able to use dried beans and get them cooked all the way through, which was never the case with the crockpot or regular stovetop cooking.

Lorna Sass' "Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure" has continued to be a good resource. Tonight I made Thai Chickpeas - delicious and very simple, with just a handful of ingredients creating great flavor. Red Beans and Rice for Oscar night, hummus for the Super Bowl made from pressure cooker chickpeas... Butternut squash risotto was okay, but made before I got the timing/temperature down, so I need to give that another shot. Other dishes I've tried include chickpea stew with sweet onions; a first attempt at the reason I got the thing in the first place "Poulet Dakar" - or Yassa Poulet/Poulet Yassa; chana masala; the Mexican pork stew mentioned above (yes, chickpeas have been featured regularly).

I now need to give some meat dishes a try, but I've really been enjoying the meat-free ones!

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