Pressure Cooker: Friend or Foe?


I bought a pressure cooker about a year and a half ago. I’m not really sure why I woke up one morning and decided I just had to have one, but that’s what happened. Very soon after I made Mama Shah’s Kitchari and was so terrified of the pressure cooker that I described cooking with it like “trying to calm an errant two-year-old in the middle of a temper tantrum.” After that I put the entire contraption in the cabinet and hadn’t looked at it since.

Now that some time has passed, I was finally able to work up the nerve to revisit the scary pressure cooker and decide once and for all if it’s worth keeping. After all, I have a pretty small kitchen and cabinet space is at a premium – it’s either ship off or ship out (in terms of cookware, of course).

I first wanted to make barley risotto in the pressure cooker, even went out and bought all the ingredients. But when I consulted the terror-inducing manual to make sure I set the pressure cooker up correctly – you know, because it could blow up and all – I saw that barley can’t be cooked in the pressure cooker. Something about the barley foaming and clogging the valve, causing mass destruction.

After that I decided to try something more traditional: beef stew. The beef stew recipe was great, an adaptation of this one from Self magazine (I used sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash and smoked paprika), but didn’t come out quite right in the pressure cooker: the beef was tough and the vegetables a little overcooked.

But the bigger problem was I didn’t see the value of using the pressure cooker. The stew took just over an hour to make using the pressure cooker, and I imagine cooking it the traditional way would’ve only added about 15 minutes and resulted in a better product.

What do I do? Should I retire the pressure cooker to my parents’ basement with my toaster oven, heating blanket, and other items that aren’t worthy of prime cabinet space? Or should I give it once last try to see if I can find value in the product by using it with dried beans or something? And how much does it matter that the darned thing still scares the crap out of me?

  • Ginny posted: 12 Feb at 12:30 am

    I’ve never used one and wouldn’t know the first thing about it… but… do you read this blog…

  • CindyvIagraoso posted: 12 Feb at 5:31 am

    Hi, my name is cindy. i like your blog. i found it at besome1 dot info in alexa sidebar widget. take care friend. C.

  • Lynn posted: 12 Feb at 11:29 am

    I use mine mainly for dried beans. It works great for things like that. I do use it for stew, because I like the texture and flavor it gives cheaper cuts of meat. But as far as time saving, you should try beans before you give up on it.

  • The Diva on a Diet posted: 12 Feb at 11:43 am

    I’m probably not a good person to ask … the very idea of pressure cooking terrifies me. My mother in law, who was a great cook, was very fond of hers. And, to the best of my knowledge, never had an explosion. LOL

    I dunno, I’d probably relegate it to the basement, because anything you can do in the pressure cooker, you can do either on the stove, in the oven, or in a crockpot.

  • CouponWebz | UPrinting Coupons posted: 12 Feb at 6:01 pm

    I haven’t done any cooking using the pressure cooker. I don’t know how my mom does it, but everytime she uses the pressure cooker, it’s like eating the foods that came from heaven :) That’s the only thing that keeps me from putting the pressure cooker t the basement :P

  • Kay | posted: 12 Feb at 10:00 pm

    Give it another try, probably using a different recipe. Who knows? You might find it a hidden gem. Good luck with it :) At least you know you’d have conquered the pressure cooker challenge even if you do end up keeping it in the basement!

  • Culinary School Dropout posted: 13 Feb at 12:51 pm

    I am facing this very same conundrum. I have a couple of space hogs in my kitchen that I never use, yet am loathe to get rid of because it’d be a pain to replace them when I suddenly decide I need to have them again in a year. Case in point: the waffle maker we got for our wedding and haven’t used once. And all those different sized and shaped baking pans. I use those, but they take up a ton of space.

    To me, the pressure cooker sounds like a good candidate for eviction, though. It makes lackluster stew and you’re afraid of it. Then again, I’ve never used one, so maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing.

  • Linda (Mom) posted: 14 Feb at 3:46 pm

    Do I get a vote as it is my basement? I vote for Ebay. Would love more blueberry muffins as long as I am commenting.

  • Dan posted: 14 Feb at 9:25 pm

    Well, my own personal rule is, when in doubt, throw it out.

  • chek posted: 21 Feb at 2:09 am

    We have a 8qt one that I use to make chicken and dumplings all the time, it comes out amazing every time now, but when I was first getting the hang of using it, the meat would often come out kind of gross. Now that I am used to it though I find it to be pretty convenient. The trick I think is to use very high heat the beginning, and once the pressure indicator pops up turn it down to medium low. If you have an electric stove, fire up 2 burners, one on high and one on medium low and move the pot over to the one on medium low once you have pressure in the pot. Remember also, your cook time starts when the pressure indicator goes up, not before.

    Also, they really aren’t that dangerous anymore provided you didn’t get a super cheap one, the fagor ones have like 3 outlets to help relieve dangerous pressure.

    This one chicken and dumpling recipe takes maybe 20 minutes prep time and 20 minutes cook time.

    If your pressure cooker can only do 15psi (like mine) then on step 1 lower the cook time to about 11:30 minutes.

  • Jackie posted: 23 Feb at 12:02 am

    Thanks for the suggestion – it sounds like a promising idea. I’ll try it with chicken and dumplings and report back.

  • Jackie posted: 23 Feb at 12:05 am

    Culinary School Dropout: Sounds like you and Dan have differing opinions on what to keep vs. throw out. Maybe we should start sharing random appliances/gadgets? You can borrow the pressure cooker and I can try the waffle maker?

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