Under pressure

I know, I know, it's a completely ridiculous question.  What does that even mean?

I ask because this season has been remarkably light on slow cooker books, which I had always thought of as a 4-season staple of the cookbook industry. I'm as devoted to my slow cooker as ever, but right now it's mostly being used as a sous-vide machine for yogurt and buttermilk.

I haven't yet sprung for a pressure cooker. In fact, it may be the one single gadget my kitchen lacks.  

But that intrepid pair, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, may convince me otherwise with their forthcoming The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book.    Lamb stew in 20 or 30 minutes?  Seriously?  Black beans in 18 minutes?

When you think about it, slow cookers and pressure cookers are simply different responses to the same problem: a chronic shortage of prep time before the dinner hour.  Do you deal with that shortage by anticipating it?  Or do you wait till the last moment and scramble around for an answer?  (Another way to put it: Do you clear out your roof gutters by Labor Day?  Do you buy your Christmas tree on December 10th or 24th?)

Considering how much of a scrambler I am, it's surprising I haven't considered getting a pressure cooker till now.  I guess, in theory, since I work at home, I should never need a shortcut to dinner because I can start hours in advance if I want.  Somehow it doesn't work out that way, though.

So, poll: do you own a pressure cooker?  Do you use it all the time?  And - most importantly - do you regularly resort to a pressure cooker cookbook to use it?

15 Comments

  • veronicafrance  on  2/3/2015 at 3:02 PM

    I absolutely wouldn't buy a pressure cooker thinking it would regularly help me get dinner on the table quicker. That's only true if you always want one-pot meals. I've had one for years and I use it for two things: making rice pudding (15 minutes!) and pasta e fagioli (or other bean-based dishes). I make pasta e fagioli often enough that it's worth keeping for that.

  • darcie_b  on  2/3/2015 at 8:02 PM

    I have a pressure cooker but I never use it, despite my best intentions. In fact, I don't even know where it is at the moment. I went through a spate of making beans in it but the novelty wore off and I would rather let them simmer away on a Sunday instead.

  • Sfgordon  on  2/3/2015 at 8:15 PM

    I LOVE my pressure cooker. So much so that I'm considering upgrading to a nicer/larger model. If you make beans/lentils/brown rice/soup stock/root veggies with any regularity it's a godsend. I've even recently started using it to process small batches of canned things. It took me a while to understand the utility of a pressure cooker but now it sees way more kitchen action than my slow cooker. I would never give it up just for the sheer satisfaction of cooking brown rice perfectly in 20 minutes. I do regularly use the recipe booklet/guide that came with my pressure cooker so I have a good idea of what pressure level and how long different types of grains and beans etc. need to cook, but I don't have a pressure cooker cookbook aside from that.

  • Cubangirl  on  2/4/2015 at 12:12 AM

    I've had pressure cookers forever. I use them way more than the slow cooker. I seldom do oven braises anymore. I've converted all my favorite to the pc. It does cook the meal in 20 minutes, but it does do it in one hour instead of 3. Cubans use pressure cookers a lot. Cuban Pot Roast is always made in a pc. I even do a version of Cuban Roast Pork in the pc, good to eat and perfect for Cuban sandwiches. My favorite thing to do is Cuban flan. 20 minutes and no fussing with water in the oven.

  • marry_bellows  on  2/4/2015 at 2:25 AM

    Pressure cooker is great for beans/chickpeas etc and I stopped using canned beans since I owe one. And that was it until I read "modernist cuisine at home" and started to use it For other purposes such as fuss-free preparation of carmelized carrots or onions. I cannot imagine my kitchen without it, even though I don't use it more often than once a week.

  • pokarekare  on  2/4/2015 at 6:13 AM

    I've had my pressure cooker for 40 years [have replaced the seals several times] or so and used to use it constantly, especially for soups, pot roasts, cooking beetroot for pickling, dried beans etc. Nowadays it has more or less been superseded by my slow cooker, but it still comes out occasionally, especially when pickling beetroot! But hey, I've never done caramelized onions in it - recipe mary_bellows?!!

  • tsusan  on  2/4/2015 at 9:03 AM

    Wow! What a variety of responses. Fascinating.

  • ellabee  on  2/4/2015 at 10:30 AM

    I agree with veronicafrance that scrambling to put dinner on the table isn't the best use of the pressure cooker. Beans, rice, and many other preps require natural release of the pressure, which adds 10-20 minutes to the cooking time, plus the time for the pot to come to pressure. Brown rice takes in all about the same amount of time as with regular stovetop cooking, but the results are much more consistent and satisfactory, and there's a real savings in electric or gas use. Beans in a p.c. do take only a fraction of the time of regular cooking, even considering the natural release, but they're still more feasibly done ahead in a prep session that leaves you with ready-to-use ingredients for the week ahead than in a work-night scramble. Stock used to be a weekend-only project for me, but the greatly shortened cooking time makes it feasible as an after-dinner task with a pressure cooker.

  • marjotse  on  2/4/2015 at 12:15 PM

    I love my pressure cooker and use it a lot. Legumes and stock are my main reasons, and I do realise that there are more things one can do, and I do not have a specific cook-book to address that... So maybe the new one will be a good one to look into.. I tend to buy my Christmas tree rather early (the 10th thus) as I do like the smell of pine....

  • Cubangirl  on  2/4/2015 at 1:38 PM

    I hate cooking at dinnertime. So I cook a lot ahead. Most of the pressure cooker dishes I do, freeze extremely well, many are actually better for it (think beans and pot roast). So a weekday meal, just requires remembering to defrost and adding a fresh salad or veggie. Short ribs in the PC are wonderful and freeze beautifully. So I always recommend a Food Saver along with the PC.

  • LetsCook  on  2/6/2015 at 12:17 PM

    I have an electric pressure cooker and use it ALL the time. I love love love it! The new book "Hip Pressure Cooking" is a great primer along with the great recipes. I cook all kinds of things, meats, rice, eggs, you name it. Fun fact: pressure cooking eggs to "hard boil" them makes them way easier to peel. Making deviled eggs is a snap now!

  • Krisage  on  2/14/2015 at 10:30 AM

    I looove my PC, and use it regularly for rice, lentils/beans, stock, and easy-to-peel "boiled eggs." And since I'm a vegetarian fan of creative one-pot dishes, I recently picked up Lorna Sass' "Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure." We've only made a dozen of the 150 recipes, but so far, I really like it. (Veggie Queens Mollie Katzen, Martha Rose Shulman, and Deborah Madison all provide book-jacket reviews.)

  • Lgw713  on  2/22/2015 at 1:12 PM

    Love my pressure cooker. I have the America's Test Kitchen pressure cooker book, and it's great. My favorites are the pulled pork, osso buco and chile con carne. Great dishes in under an hour including prep time. Yum.

  • apattin  on  3/6/2015 at 11:58 AM

    I make chicken stock in an hour, polenta and stir-free risotto. It's not a replacement for all cooking, but it's surely useful. I have the Kuhn-Rikon cooker (lots of $ but will be here after I die) and a cheap Cuisinart electric one that sometimes refuses to work well but when it does, I need not even be in the kitchen.

  • vikingcook  on  3/25/2016 at 9:14 AM

    I'm late to the discussion but I have to say my Cuisinart electric PC is a godsend! I can have chicken breasts go from frozen solid to on the table in less than 20 minutes. That includes a great sauce! No need to use a separate pan when cooking pasta.......cooks in the PC with the sauce. I have this book and it has wonderful recipes. Try the America's Test Kitchen PC cookbook as well.

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