I inherited a pressure cooker (among other things) from my Grandmother. I have been wanting a pressure cooker, but have always been a little scared of them. When I was considering buying one, there were a couple features that really appealed to me. The first was the cooking speed and the second was the higher pressure cooking things more completely. Living in Denver, I have had a lot of trouble cooking beans till they are soft like a canned bean.
The pressure cooker that I inherited is an older model “Magic Seal” that has a rocking 15 PSI weight and a safety gasket. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rubber seal (not pictured) was still in good shape and that you can still get parts for this model online.
I have tried a lot of different foods and have had mostly good results. Beans come out soft and creamy. Tough cuts of meat can be cooked quickly. Chicken becomes shreadable in 20 minutes. If you haven’t used a pressure cooker before, it is similar to making something in a crockpot except that hours worth of slow cooking are replaced with 30 minutes of pressure cooking.
My favorite foods to pressure cook are pinto beans, steel cut oats and Dutch vegetable whip. The last is a recipe that was included in the instruction manual:
1 c. diced carrots
1 tart apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. chopped parsley
Place all vegetables in a pan (except parsley) with water and cook until vegetables are done. Mash, add butter and whip until fluffy. Garnish with parsley. If you have a pressure cooker, cook 3 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure. Cool cooker at once.
I was a little disappointed with cooking brown rice. I had hoped to save time, but by the time the cooker comes up to pressure and then slowly comes back down to normal pressure, the time savings isn’t much at all. Same with steel-cut oats. It takes longer (about 45 minutes total) in the pressure cooker instead of ~15 minutes on the stove top. Of course the oats are so much softer and creamier after pressure cooking, so it is worth the extra time. Anything that can be cooked with the “fast release” method (running the cooker under cold water to quickly drop the pressure) is significantly faster. But all the grains and beans are “slow release” (meaning you just wait for the pressure to drop on its own).
Something that I hadn’t really considered is how much less energy it takes to cook some foods. Once the pressure cooker comes up to pressure it takes a very low setting to keep it going. And since the cooking time is already much shorter you use quite a bit less power. I don’t really have a good feel for how much gas it takes to cook compared to a water heater or furnace, so I don’t know how much this really matters.