Cooking Hint of the Day - Pressure Cooking 101 - PART 3 : LUSENET : Cooking & Crafts : One Thread

Selecting A Pressure Cooker:

Much of the information you see here is from Miss Vickie’s Pressure Cooker Pages. Be sure and visit the website for everything you ever wanted to know about pressure cooking! Keep in mind that whatever brand of pressure cooker you buy, it should be expected to give you a lifetime of service, so shop wisely and invest in the future. When considering which pressure cooker to buy be sure to read the product information carefully and beware of catchy advertising slogans, or fancy marketing. Think twice about companies that charge outrageous amounts of money for "new products" which are nothing more than an ordinary pressure cookers. There are many heavily advertised "pressure cookers" that only cook at low pressure (Turbo Cooker, Prestige Cooker). There are expensive pressure cookers that cannot even reach high pressure (theT-Fal will only reach 13psi). Pressure cookers that do not meet the accepted standard of 15psi means you will have to adjust pressure cooker recipes which are designed for 15psi (the most common called for in all recipes).

Here are some tips in selecting the perfect pressure cooker for you:

  • Avoid the non-stick interiors. Regardless of the manufacturer's claims, the finish will not last for the lifetime of the pot itself. Interior finishes chip and peel and those particles end up in you and your family. Many surface finishes use fluorocarbons and also release fumes at higher temperatures. To avoid damaging the finish you cannot use most utensils or accessory items and that limits the recipes you can cook and the usefulness of your cooker.

  • Avoid electric models as the heating elements will not outlive the pot itself. There are fewer safety mechanisms on electric models than on stovetops. Most electric cookers have a smaller capacity and that may limit some other possible uses for the cooker. Another drawback is there is no means of rapidly cooling electronic models for delicately steamed foods such as tender-crisp veggies like the stove top models which can be placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Electric P/Cs are generally smaller than comparably priced stovetop brands and that limits your cooking options.

  • Avoid buying a pressure cooker from an unknown manufacturer. While there are many manufactures from Europe, India and Asia that make excellent products that are well liked in their respective countries, it may be difficult to find replacement parts for them in America.

  • Avoid buying the old style. 1st generation, or jiggle top pressure cooker. While there is nothing wrong with the original style pressure cookers you can get more bang for your buck with a newer, and much improved 2nd generation cookers are available for only about 20% more. You will find more benefits and safety features to offset the extra cost.

  • Avoid buyin small pressure cookers. Any pan less than 5 quarts will not be big enough to cook dry beans, pasta, or large foods, and ; limit the use of accessories. Speacialty pressure cookers are available, such as the pressure frypan, which is a low pressure cooker designed for braising, not pressure frying.

  • Buy a cooker with a long handle and a shorter helped handle on the opposite side of the bottom unit. Unlike cookers with two short handles, the longer handles protect your fingers from touching the hot pot, make it easier to carry a heavy pot and provides some leverage when locking the lid in place.

  • Buy a Stainless Steel model with a triple wall bottom (SS-aluminum core-SS, or copper), it will minimize burned foods, heats faster and retains heat longer, which translates to improved energy efficiency and a saves a little money on fuel bills over time. You can use a SS P/C on any heat source from gas to electric, camp stoves, BBQ grills, charcoal, wood fires (done that) and even solar stoves. SS will last at least 25 years, your kids will inherit it.

  • Buy a large size, remember you can only utilize 2/3 of the actual volume of the pot, or 1/2 in the case of cooking dried beans. Five quarts is the minimal useful size, even for singles and couples if you intend to get the most out of your cooker. An 8 quart model if the most useful, giving you the option to cook large roasts, whole chickens, beef ribs, turkey breasts, etc. The larger size is not just for family sized meals, even singles and couples will benefit from preparing foods in larger quantities to freeze for quick meals later on.

Care and Cleaning:

Proper care and cleaning is the one of the keys to pressure cooking safety. It is very important that the gasket and the vent be cleaned properly and after each use. For proper care and cleaning and to view the parts that are being discussed, see Miss Vickie’s Care and Cleaning and Valve Systems. That page describes it much better than I can and you can “see” a gasket and different types of valves.

Pressure Cooker Safety:

The majority of pressure cooker accidents are caused by 'operator error'. Read and follow directions in your owners manual. I can't stress enough that you should always read the manual that came with your pressure cooker before you cook anything in it. If you are a novice at cooking, especially pressure cooking, be sure you understand the new terms you see. Remember pressure cooking is not the same as regular stove top or oven cooking, so follow the instructions that come with your cooker carefully and remember experience is the best teacher.

  • Check the Gasket
  • Check the Lid

  • Check the Vent & Valve Systems

  • Add sufficient liquids to last the length of the cooking time

  • Don't leave it unattended

  • Always set a timer

  • Don't overfill especially for dried legumes or frothing type foods

  • Add some oil in foaming foods like beans

  • Pay attention to the time and the heat for best results

  • Don't try to force the lid open

-- Karen (, May 10, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ