I Heart My Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker

I grew up in a household where the hiss and huff of the pressure cooker was a familiar kitchen melody.

My mother owned a large specimen of what the French commonly call une cocotte minute — this is a brand name to the generic, and less endearing, term autocuiseur — and I seem to remember she used it mostly to boil or steam vegetables, such as potatoes and globe artichokes, or the cauliflower for her gratin de chou-fleur.

I myself went without one for a while, until Maxence’s grandparents had to sell their country house and I was offered a few pieces of cooking equipment, including the jumbo pressure cooker that had served to feed a whole generation of grandkids.

I loved it, but it soon turned out to be too large for me: with a ten-liter capacity, it was both too big for the quantities of food I ordinarily cook, and too bulky to fit in my teeny sink when the time came to wash it up.

And so, trapped between these inconveniences and the sentimental attachment to a family heirloom, I let the poor beast collect dust on a shelf.

Until one day, I decided there was something cosmically wrong about this situation: what I needed was a smaller pressure cooker, and this large pressure cooker was no doubt needed by someone else. Who was I to halt the natural flow of the universe?

Once the decision was made, it was easy: within a month, thanks to a popular auction website, I’d purchased a second-hand, 4.5-liter pressure cooker, and found a happy buyer for my own*.

And why am I drawn to the pressure cooker in the first place, you ask? Well, it is among the most energy-efficient cooking vessels out there, that’s why: as you seal the lid tightly then heat the pot, pressure builds up inside, and this causes the boiling point of water to increase** (from ~100°C to ~120°C, or from ~212°F to ~248°F). In this environment, foods cook considerably faster and with less water than in a regular pot boiling on the stove.

Although you can use a pressure cooker to cook all sorts of dishes — meat stews, risotti, soups, compotes — I use mine chiefly to cook grains and legumes, in a third of the time it would otherwise take. And my new-but-old cocotte minute is exactly the right size for my needs: it allows me to cook two or three cups at a time, use some of it straight away, and freeze the rest in portions.

Different models work slightly differently, but the basic process is this: you place the ingredients along with the cooking water in the pot, filling it by no more than half (this is important to prevent the food from clogging the safety valve).

You put the lid in place, lock it, and set the pot over high heat. As soon as the target pressure has been reached, the valve starts to whistle: this is your cue to lower the heat to medium-low — no need to keep building up more pressure for the valve to dispel — and you can start the cooking time countdown from this point.

Because I use an electric range on which the hotplates remain hot for a while, and also because the food continues to cook inside the closed pot, I turn the heat off five to ten minutes before the end of the cooking, to further conserve energy.

When the food is cooked, you remove the pot from the heat and release the pressure as the manufacturer instructs you to: in my case, I put on an oven mitt and pluck the valve off the lid, and a locomotive-like plume of hissing steam escapes then — obviously, that steam is extra super hot, and you want to keep your face and hands or any other body part away from it. When the plume dies down completely, it is safe to open the lid.

Naturally, this system means it’s impractical to just peek inside the pot to check on the progress before deciding to stop or prolong the cooking, so a little trial and error may be necessary when you’re just starting out. But as with all cooking tools, you’ll soon get to know your cooker and develop an intuition to work with it.

In France, the leading manufacturer of pressure cookers is SEB, owner of the brand name Cocotte minute, and theirs are a paragon of durability. My mother purchased her pressure cooker on March 11, 1970, just two months after my parents got married — I know because she gave me the recipe book that went with it, and it has a “Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville” stamp with the date of purchase on it. It is still in operation today, though it moved to my parents’ mountain house a couple of years ago, when my mother had to replace it with an induction-friendly version to match the new cooktop she got (lucky her).

This is why I felt entirely comfortable acquiring a second-hand unit of that time-proven model: so many pressure cookers have been manufactured only to end up sleeping at the back of someone’s cabinet, I didn’t for a minute consider buying a brand-new one. The only part that may need replacing over time is the rubber seal that ensures the lid is airtight, but that only costs a few euros, a fraction of the price a new pot would set you back.

What about you? I’d be interested to hear whether you own and/or use a pressure cooker, and what you like to cook with it!

~~~

[By a curious stroke of synchronicity, Gena, whose blog Choosing Raw I greatly enjoy, has also just written about pressure cookers. Read her thoughts on the subject, too!]

* If you’re curious, I bought the small one for 10.50€, and the large one went for 21.50€.

** It is this same rule of physics that makes it tricky to cook or bake at a high altitude: the atmospheric pressure is lower then, which decreases the boiling point of water, and in turn throws off recipe temperatures and durations.

  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I’ve never used a pressure cooker before but it seems like it would definitely be useful for cooking dried beans

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    I own a huge one as well, enough to can 30 jars at a time, or make a 20 kg case of veal stock. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much use.

    I grew up watching a pressure cooker get used as well. My great-Granny used to cook tongue and heart in there. I was too young to be disgusted even.

    I bet if I was to get a smaller vessel, I would probably find more ways to use it, that is for sure. OTOH, my wofe might be a little miffed that I have yet another kitchen appliance.

  • Mrs Redboots

    I own a pressure cooker, but only really use it once a year, for making orange marmalade! I ought to use it more often, and now that I have found your recipe for pressure-cooker risotto, I might well try that very soon – I love risotto, but it is a pain, all that stirring and checking and so on…

    Pressure cookers also great for stews, especially if you’ve added pearl barley or soup mix.

  • http://teaandcookies.blogspot.com tea_austen

    My host mother when I lived in Japan used her pressure cooker often, especially for making my favorite Japanese-style curry (recipe below). When I came back to the states I picked up an old version at a garage sale. The man selling it said he often used it for dry beans and it cut the cooking time down (from 1 hr to 15 min).

    I do use mine from time to time, but I’m also slightly terrified of it. I have this fear that it might just explode one of these days, so I generally put it on the stove and then leave the kitchen or cower in a far corner until it’s depressurized. Silly, I know, but there you have it.

    I have wondered why environmentalists don’t get on the pressure cooker bandwagon, as it really does cut down the time and electricity needed for cooking. I love that!

    Japanese curry (classic kid-food).

  • http://thecastlerockincook.blogspot.com/ My Kitchen in the Rockies

    I don’t own one, but my mom did. I remember being scared of it as a child. I always thought it could explode. Funny, right?

  • Kevin

    After living in Brazil for a couple of years, I learned how to make Feijoada. This black bean stew always cooks best in a pressure cooker. What would take 3-4 hours normally, takes about 40 minutes or so.

    500g black beans
    1 small white onion
    3tsp salt (will need to add more to taste after cooking)
    8 cloves garlic crushed
    1 tsp black pepper
    250g cubed pork
    100g bacon
    100g Portuguese Linguica (sausage in natural casing) sliced.
    small bell pepper (optional)

    Cook on high for 10 minutes to build pressure, reduce heat when rocking to medium low. Cook for 30 minutes, let cool to release pressure.

    Serve over rice/quinoa/couscus.

  • http://www.makanaibio.com Flo Makanai

    Je me sers de ma cocotte par périodes, mais je l’aime beaucoup. J’en ai eu une petit modèle, quand j’étais toute jeune. Puis nous en avons acheté une grand modèle, pour les 4 enfants, les invités etc.
    J’aime y faire des compotes en trois fois rien comme temps (les fruits, un peu d’eau, je laisse 5 minutes une fois que la soupape chuchote et j’arrête), des sautés de poulet pour les jours pressés, occasionnellement (1 fois tous les… 4-5 ans!) un rôti de porc boulangère…
    Et j’ai testé aussi quelques recettes très originales et fort intéressantes du livre de Frédérick-E Grasser Hermé (Super Cocotte : 119 recettes pour la Cocotte-Minute à toute vapeur)
    Ce soir, elle va me cuire en un clin d’oeil des coings, des pommes et des épices. miam.

  • http://roadtothefarm.blogspot.com Anna

    I’ve been a bit intimidated by pressure cookers. I’m not sure why, I guess because my mom didn’t use one, but I cook beans at least once or twice a week. I really like the environmentally friendly aspect of this tool so I will have to look into it more.

  • Monica

    I JUST got a pressure cooker for my birthday and was about to do some research to see whether I was going to keep it! This was very helpful. Thank you!

  • http://80breakfasts.blogspot.com joey

    This may sound silly but I am scared of using my pressure cooker. Yes, I do have one…a really nice WMF set with two sizes of pots given by my mother in law, but to this day I have never used it for its original purpose! Help! I really want to make use of it but I’m too nervous about all that pressure and don’t know where to start!

  • http://theperfectpastry.blogspot.com margie

    I have vibrant memories of snapping endless quarts of green beans from my grandma’s garden, then canning them in her pressure canner. That pressure canner still lives in her house, ready for me whenever I want it; I’m not sure if it’s the type that can be used for pressure cooking & canning though, so I’ve hesitated to buy a new cooker.

    After living in Morocco for a year, I want to get a pressure cooker with a couscoussiere attachment – the cooking stew steam makes the best couscous out there!

  • http://www.zomppa.com Belinda @zomppa

    I bought one a year ago, and the times Ive used it, I love it. But I admit I get nervous figuring out the right cooking times and worrying about blowing my eyeballs out.

  • becky

    We love our pressure cooker! Over 10 years ago, a roommate brought her mother’s pressure cooker (circa 1970s based on the groovy daisy design on the lid) to our house and we have used it ever since!

  • fd

    oh i craved one forever and finally got one courtesy of a friend’s grandmother’s house clearance. i used it for soups, stews, curries and speeding up cooking time on dried beans and pulses. love it. in our house growing up we had a huge one but i only ever remember it being used to make christmas pudding and like you, to cook artichokes.

  • http://kitchenhealssoul.blogspot.com Jan

    I have been debating on acquiring a pressure cooker, but they scare me. They scare me because they scare my mother. They scare my mother because my grandmother had a bad experience with one blowing up (don’t worry, nobody was hurt, it just made a serious mess of her kitchen).
    I have friends who swear by them, including one friend who has 2! They are a great tool for cooking beans from dry beans!

  • http://www.LolosChild.blogspot.com Sue K

    I cannot imagine life without a pressure cooker! I was married to my first husband around the same time as your mother and knowing how much my mother used her pressure cooker, it was one of my first purchases. I loaned it out, never got it back, then lost a bunch of other cooking implements in the divorce. When I re-outfitted my kitchen, a new cooker was one of the first things I purchased!

  • Stephen

    I have a Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker from Switzerland (it was in a sale) and I use it for making stock and quickly cooking beans that require soaking(broad, butter and kidney) but not lentils such as Puy or red which don’t need soaking.
    As a child, my mother made stock from the occasional chicken that we ate then (chickens were still expensive) so I don’t remember ever eating a chicken leg or wing with the bone in at home. All the bones and most of the skin went in the pressure cooker with a whole onion and a carrot for twenty minutes at high pressure to make stock for soup and were those soups good. The same bones would be used again a couple of times to make further stock.

    Every few months I go and collect a bag of beef bones from the local butcher (he is glad he doesn’t have to pay for their disposal), roast them for about 40 minutes then put them in the pressure cooker with an onion and carrot and half-cover with water then cook on full pressure for twenty minutes. I love Yorkshire Pudding with onion gravy (not Italian-American red sauce) and this beef stock makes wonderful gravy!

  • Sophie

    I can just hear the screaming hiss of the pressure cooker. It is conjuring up a fearful image of my mother, holding this pan cum hand grenade, rushing to the sink, still hissing, to cool it with cool running water and open it up. Also coming up in my memory is The Stain on the ceiling, above the stove.

    Nope, I don’t care how many safety features they come up with, I don’t think I’ll be getting a pressure cooker any time soon.

  • http://www.tiffintales.com/ Heena @ Tiffin Tales

    Back home in India, no kitchen would be complete without a pressure cooker and we use it for everything from curries to grains to legumes. When I traveled to Canada for a work project, I was disappointed and bereft to find it wasn’t a common cooking tool here. I miss it so.

    • sam

      u can buy it in costco in canada

  • Indu

    There is no Indian household without one. We cook lentils, vegetables and use it to steam some very typical indian dishes like Idlis and dhoklas. For steaming use the pressure cooker without the valve.

  • Khendra

    I have one since my last birthday, which was in summer. I really like it, but haven’t used it too much, because it’s no good for pasta. And I still have to figure it out a bit more. As I’m a big fan of legumes I guess I will use it a lot more in winter! I hope you’ll post some nice recipes for it!

  • Nivedita

    Hi Clotilde,
    As an Indian woman I am very familiar with the pressure cooker. When I moved to the US, that was one item that all friends and family who had lived in the US at some point, insisted I should carry with me. And I am glad I did.
    However, now that I don’t exclusively cook Indian food, I find that I often skip the pressure cooker for beans and delicate grains. Some dishes just need the beans cooked but not split open or falling apart, or the grains fluffy and not mushy. Are you able to achieve such textures? Perhaps I just need to play more with cooking times and amount of water I use. I’d appreciate any insight you or your readers may have. Thanks!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Regarding the cooking of beans, it is really, as you suggest, a matter of experimenting with the cooking time to get just the texture you like. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Ursula Garcia

    I have a vivid memory of a pressure cooking dry while cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk (you cook the milk in the can to make amazing caramel). But, if the pot runs dry, the can explodes … caramel sprayed across the kitchen – ceiling, windows, cupboards, floor….! Like others, I’ve been scared to use a pressure cooker, but I do love the idea of quicker, healthier, more efficient cooking – so maybe I need to start pricing pressure cookers here in the US!

  • Renee

    I agree with Jan, they are great for cooking anything with beans. In fact, a few Thursdays ago, I had a sudden craving when I got home from work for a yellow split pea soup. Thanks to my pressure cooker I whipped it up in about 45 minutes (including time to chop and cook the carrots and onions AND snip the kombu). :)

  • http://www.thisiswhatimeating.com/ Ross

    I’ve always wanted a pressure cooker, but for some reason never got around to buying one. Hopefully this post will be what finally gets me to head over to “that auction website”!

  • CJ

    Love this in the pressure….
    burger, rice, spices, egg, etc. rolled into meatballs. Quartered green peppers and some chopped onion. A can of tomato soup and extra 2 cans of water. Pressure for like 10-15 mins. Served over mashed potatoes….YUM! Comfort food from when I was a kid :O)

    • Phyl

      that was called porcupine meatballs. I made those often for my 5 children. I used a pressure cooker with no problems for at least 30 years. It was the first thing I packed when I went on vacation.
      If you read the instructions before using them, they are perfectly safe.

      If you hop on a motorcycle without any training, you will get in trouble. Same, with a pressure cooker.

      Don’t be such scaredy cats. It will not kill you even if it did explode. Mine is still in use since 1952 when I received it as a wedding gift.

  • http://kitchen-notebook.blogspot.com/ Lucy V

    I heart my pressure cooker too! Easy good clear chicken or veal stock, at a moment’s notice! I have found also that the flavor of herbs is infused by pressure into vegetables, as well as smoky flavors. Mmmm. We love it here.

  • http://haphazardmusings.wordpress.com Freckles

    We got a pressure cooker about 6 months ago and have loved it! My husband and I are vegetarians, and so we eat a lot of beans. We prefer the flavor of dried, but with our busy careers, it’s often hard to remember to set them out to soak, then leave them cooking for hours. Using a quick-soak method along with the pressure cooker has really opened up our options for tasty, healthy dinners. Our usual go-to dishes are red beans and rice, brazilian black bean stew, and moghlai-style chickpeas. One batch of these will feed us for a week!

  • http://easydoesitrecipes.blogspot.com/2009/10/cherry-bakewell-pudding.html Christelle

    Even though I am, French and my mum is a total convert, I have never possessed or used one myself. Maybe indeed because my mum’s was so huge, the seb cast aluminium type. Instead I am a fan of steamers (they give me preparation time whilst food is cooking and allow me to look through the transparent plastic baskets), but I really should get a pressure cooker too. Thanks for reminding me about it, especially because a friend of mne offered to give me her old one! :)

  • http://www.balletnews@mail.com balletnews

    I’ve never used a pressure cooker – my mother had one and it always seemed to make the most amazing amount of noise and steam and really put me off !

  • http://www.heidispiegel.com Heidi

    I use a pressure cooker. It’s the best thing for the St Patrick’s corned beef. Also, if I want to do up a quick veggie soup, I throw whatever is in my fridge into the cooker and make soup. Pumpkins cook great in these things. Some mexican recipes for certain meats also work great in these things.

  • Isabelle

    My mom is French and she used her pressure cooker and her fancy autotimer oven to make sure we had gourmet meals every day after school (where she also worked all day). Thinking back, it’s hard to imagine what she could NOT make in her pressure cooker, meal-wise. Even lapin au pruneaux, and dishes like that, took so much less time. Now that I work and have small children, I think back on the time saver it must have been and am going to dig mine (of course she bought me one when I moved out but I neglected it until now!) out and dust it off and give it a try. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Isabelle

    Oh how funny! I just reread some of the posts and noticed someone mentioned the stain on the ceiling… that perpetual stain we knew and loved! Hilarious.

  • vasudha

    as others have mentioned before me, being indian pretty much means growing up with a pressure cooker. when i moved to the US nearly 10 years ago, i didn’t have room to pack one, and that first year was the most agonizing one i ever spent in the kitchen.

    we always had a 10 liter cooker at home, which meant that EVERY part of the meal (except the yogurt) went into it and basically got assembled and spiced when the pressure reduced.

    which reminds me, i’ve hardly ever actively released the pressure when done…just let it sit and it reduces naturally. and if i’m in a rush, i’ve generally sat the cooker under the faucet in the sink and let cold water run over it – no risk of burns there. some brands advice against this though.

    most indian stores stock pressure cookers, at better prices than regular stores. the brands used in my mom’s home and now in mine are prestige and hawkins – and both last forever too.

  • http://fishtailsandpearls.blogspot.com/ Laurie Iseman

    I love cooking brown rice and chick peas in mine.

  • http://bucaio.blogspot.com Kai

    My mother used one for as long as I can remember. When I got married it was one of the first kitchen implements my husband bought. Apparently a pressure cooker was also commonly used in their house when he was growing up.

    We never use it for beans, though, as it’s difficult to estimate cooking time. Mostly the beans turn mushy. We mainly use it to soften meats, tripe, free-range chicken that are cooked into soups and stews. And yes, I use it as a steamer, too, with the lid not tightly closed.

  • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra PW

    It is so funny to see all the comments about people being scared of pressure cooker explosion. I don’t think there has been a pressure cooker incident since Audrey Hepburn blew up a chicken in the movie Breakfast at Tiffanys. We use our pressure cooker at least every other day for beans, whole grains (but not rice, it cooks too fast!), the weekly soup, baby food and anything that needs to be cooked étouffée! On a seasonal note, the PC is the best way to make purée with your pumpkins for cakes, casseroles, etc.
    It is also the most environmentally friendly way to cook, especially if paired with an induction stove … I Heart my Induction Stove and Pressure Cooker… we’re kind of kinky in our home:).
    Pressure Cooker recipe for pumpkin purée.
    Induction and PC match made in heaven post.
    We make all of our soup in the PC in the time it takes the kids to take a bath.

    Also, Clotilde, keep the big PC too!! You can make huge batches of soup to bottle and have on hand for those days when (well maybe this never happens to you) you just do not want to cook!

  • http://todrownarose.blogs.com rose

    I used to be a bit intimidated by my mother’s mammoth pressure cooker (only used to boil the big chunks of meat needed for “lesso” and tortellini), but a few years ago I bought my own, a small number from Lagostina – supposedly the best in Italy, from generations – and I absolutely love it, as time is a scarce commodity in our kitchen, and things somehow seem to cook better if you leave them alone under that lid. Minestrone, pulses and grain soups, but also 5-minutes risotto, 3-minutes desserts made with cooked fruit… once you start reading recipes, ideas keep flowing!

  • Vickie

    You would love our pressure cooker. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother. I would guess it could be from the 50s. I am a bit intimidated by it, as I have a difficult time getting the lid in place (it locks into the center). But he uses it a lot and swears by it for cooking beans. I used a newer pressure cooker often for many things until the rubber ring stretched out, then never replaced it.

  • Kate

    I have a Fagor brand one that I use all the time. We cook lots of South Indian food (dry lentils, beans, etc…) and it is such a valuable tool… I first used a pressure cooker when I lived in Provence years ago – my host family used it all the time in the winter for soups… My favorite is still a simple puree of potatoes leeks and carrots seasoned simply with salt & pepper, thinned with a little milk and served with a bit of butter and crusty bread…

  • http://www.cupandtable.blogspot.com gretchen

    i am terrified of pressure cookers! i remember reading about an explosion in cambodia that killed 9 people caused by a pressure cooker. so because of my timidity, they are not for me, although the energy efficiency and faster cooking times are very appealing. my mother had one and i did like that whistling sound.

  • http://www.clickblogappetit.com Faith Kramer

    My mom had an old-style one that was also threatening to explode. I have 2 (one small, the other huge) that I depend on for everything from cooking beans to beef stew to anything that you want to have that cooked all day taste when you don’t have all day to cook. I’m particularly fond of “risotto” made in the p.c. I find many recipes are very adaptable, just add a bit less liquid and make sure not to overfill the cooker. If anyone is looking for a good series of cookbooks for the p.c., try any of Lorna Sass’s.

  • http://spicesavant.blogspot.com Ameya

    Hi Clotilde,
    Thanks for this post-Im looking to buy a pressure cooker here in Paris right now, and I was wondering what brands are popular here. Pressure cookers are truly mircle workers. I generally use one to prepare lentils and beans, mainly for Indian lentils soups called “daals.” I also use it to cook vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. It makes my life so much easier.

  • adnohr

    I got an 8 qt one for a wedding gift, but it’s aluminum, so I can’t make anything acidic in it, otherwise the food tastes… grey? anyway, I’ve been looking around for a 4 or 5 qt one in stainless so I can use it this winter. I’ve used the one I have for making butternut squash risotto, asparagus risotto, mushroom risotto… They are all good, but I need some new recipes, and the one you posted is for risotto! How funny is that.

  • http://www.newidentitymagazine.com Cailin

    I too love the energy efficiency and time saving qualities of the pressure cooker. I just have to remember to soak my beans ahead of time. :) It’s a miracle tool.

  • http://www.honeyfromrock.blogspot.com Claudia

    I’ve had my pressure cooker for years, but don’t use it as often as I could. Have kind of gotten out of the habit. But, your article and the comments has made me think it would be very useful for beans and stocks, which I have never used it for.

    Any danger they hold comes from improper use.

  • ATL Cook

    I grew up hearing stories about pressure cookers exploding–but never heard of anyone that happened too. Both DGM and DM used one. I bought one when I got married and also used it for canning. Still have that one, but the new one is stainless. I cook dried beans in the Crock Pot–no soaking needed.

    I have a pressure cooker with a 4qt and a 6 qt pan–uses the same lid. I use i at least twice per week in the winter for soup. Cooking for a small family is much easier with a pressure cooker–saves time too.

    Eating Well magazine did some great recipes for the pressure cooker–search their web site. There are a few cookbooks, but I found 4 old ones at Good Will for $1.

  • vicki parish

    I bought a pressure cooker initially to cook beans and pulses,but now use it all the time to make fabulous chicken stock (i collect all used chicken bones and carcasses, freeze, when i have about 3-4 birds’ worth of bones i add the usual vegetables, herbs, wine and pressure cook. This system of cooking forces the maximum flavour out of both the bones and the vegetables etc). Also makes very good osso buco, french onion soup, cabbage soups.

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    Happy to hear pressure cooker love is expanding! My mum bought me one new (Lagostina) when I moved out, six years ago; a smallish one. Then I got one of hers that she did not need any more (I actually think she just wanted to buy a new one after 35 years of owing her two :) ). We cook everything with it, but it is at its best with pulses and grains, I agree.

    Mine exploded twice, so yes, it can explode: actually, the safety valve explodes, and you get a hot jet towards the ceiling. Both times it was waaaay to full and nobody got injured (though a fair amount of cleaning was required) because it explodes upward and by the time everything goes down, it is much colder. Both exploded pressure cookers are still in use today. Now I always make sure I don’t overfill it and change now and again the parts that wear, safety valve mainly. I guess reading the manual would have been enough for preventing the accident to happen :)

  • Therese

    Dry beans, brown rice, risotto, lamb shanks, pot roast, any stew with flavorful but tough meat, chili, stock, soup, whole chicken, even pasta cooked in its sauce. The modern ones are totally safe, mine (I have 2) do not whistle, and they save tons of energy. I make a pot of brown rice or wheat berries or exotic beans, freeze them in small portions, and always have something good that’s ready to go. I can live without a microwave but not so well without a PC. Gave up on slow-cookers long ago — not flexible enough for my work-day and besides, can you really be sure that they’re maintaining safe temperatures? I have been really inspired by Lorna Sass and her great PC books, and would recommend you read them.

  • http://butterandonions.com Liz @ Butter and Onions

    I must admit that I am afraid of using a pressure cooker, after a good friend of mine who uses hers all the time severely burned herself when she thought all the steam/pressure was out, but it wasn’t. =( But if I can overcome that fear, it sounds like an excellent piece of kitchen equipment!

  • Mark

    Although I have mastered many culinary techniques, making good risotto via the traditional method eluded me. Until I got a pressure cooker! Following and then expanding on a recipe from Food & Wine (April, 1996) I have made splendid and reliable risotto ever since.

    Alas, I have not used it for much else.

  • http://www.whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com

    We all own une cocotte minute SEB in our family (that’s at least 6 cocottes). As my sister says, in France, either you grew up in a family that used a cocotte minute or you did not. I for sure did. I brought mine from France a while back and is using it a few times a week. It’s perfect to speed up cooking time for gratins or soups or beans that require a lot of cooking time. One thing I NEVER use it for is to make split peas soup. I never put enough water and end up burning the soup!!
    One thing I have been using it for to is to make cremes au caramel, it’s easier/faster than the double-boiler in the oven. I love my Cocotte Minute (that has a timer so I don’t have to listen to its humming to count cooking time!)…and I don’t think that I would be able to live without one unless I had all the time in my life to cook. Et encore!

  • Becky S

    My MIL bought me my first one as an engagement present 35 years ago. It was a 4-quart Presto aluminum…which has been replaced with a 4-quart Presto stainless steel. I have never had an explosion, and I always cool it in the sink under running water. I have never cooked dried beans in it…I use it for meats and vegetables. My favorite is beef stew: 1 pound stew beef, 4-5 potatoes, a pound or so of carrots. Cut stew beef in small chunks, PC for 10 minutes. Cool to release pressure, add the potatoes, and PC for 7 minutes. Cool to release pressure, add the carrots and PC for 3 minutes. Cool to release pressure, pour off liquid, add 1 can Campbell’s GOLDEN cream of mushroom soup and stir. Serve over biscuits. It will be hot enough to heat the soup. It is delicious and you can literally make beef stew in less than half an hour. I also always cook my potatoes for mashed potatoes in the pressure cooker and I often cook carrots in the PC. I have stewed chicken, but after reading this posts- I will probably make stock soon. I never really thought of it. I also own a big 20-quart pressure cooker/canner which I use to can vegetables and meat, but not very often. Occasionally I have used it to cook up a bunch of chicken backs. When I buy fresh chicken, we don’t eat the backs and I save them in the freezer until I have about a dozen and cook them all up for broth with a little chicken meat, which I usually can in pint jars to use for noodles or soup. YUMMY.

    Since our children have grown and left home, I have occasionally wished for a smaller pressure cooker–do they make something smaller than 4 quarts? It would be handy.

  • Jerry

    Clotilde, glad you are enjoying the benefits of pressure.. My Kuhn Rikon (and yes to the recent commenter, they make a 3.5L model, Fortunately, these cookers use a spring valve which is easier to control with 3 safety measures. The worst that has happened is when I overfilled and opened the lid too soon, it slopped out some of the contents. I watch my filling now and have enjoyed some 5 minute fried chicken wings with the fryer model…

  • http://www.raspberryandchipotle.blogspot.com Tessa

    I have 2 pressure cookers. A Prestige aluminium one this gto a lot of use in the 70s and 80s for jam, marmalade, casseroles etc etc. Twice I had food whoosh out and decorate the kitchen ceiling!I upgraded to a stainless steel Prestige one tho haven’t had as much use from it tho sometime use ot for stocks. The old aluminium one now gets used for steaming silk scarves that I paint. I know someone who collects old pressure cookers and converts them into a contraption for distilling oil from lavender.
    I think I used it less since I got a microwave.
    Thanks for getting me thinking about it again.

  • Maya

    i use it to make spanish garbanzos & lentils, as well as south indian lentil based dishes (dahl and saambar). and, for cooking chickpeas for making hummus. i have heard it’s also healthier to cook with a pressure cooker, b/c the vitamins of the vegetables do not escape as much!

  • http://andbabycakesthree.blogspot.com/ Nicole Criss

    What a coincidence. My sister and I were just looking on line at Fagors- she owns one and I can’t stop thinking about wanting to own one! It’s been months and I haven’t made the purchase yet, but I think I will this fall so that I can get a head start on my soups and risottos, and so much more!! Thank you!

  • PJ

    Our pressure cooker was purchased at a garage sale about 30 years ago. We now can’t find a replacement rubber gasket, thus, I need to locate a new one.

    To quickly bring the temperature down so that the lid can be released without danger of getting a steam burn, we hold the cooker in the sink and spray the sides of the pot with the water nozzle. It takes less than a minute.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Thanks so much for your comments, everyone. I’m delighted to see you share my enthusiasm, and grateful for all the great ideas, which I’ll put into practice very soon!

  • DA

    Have had a SEB 10-liter stainless cocotte for 20 years now. The first ten years it stayed quietly hidden, but then I discovered an occasional craving for pig’s feet and the SEB is a treat! 40 minutes instead of 3 hours cooking.

    I usually open the lid after 25 minutes put in my lentils, split peas, carrots, etc, then close it up to finish.

    BTW, to shorten the time it takes for the steam to fall so you can open the cocotte, just run cold water over the lid. Pressure drops in 3-4 seconds!

  • http://www.entrepanelas.net Carla Duclos

    Hi Clotilde,

    Very nice article! :)

    I am Brazilian and I also grew up with the sound from a pressure cooker. My mother had actually 2 and used it all the time.

    Brazilians eat a lot of beans and the pressure cooker is very handy to cook them.

    I had one that I used few times and put on side for a while, because I had decided was not necessary and too dangerous.

    Bu I recently changed my mind, started some research about pressure cookers and after reading some good articles with some very good arguments, as the environment friendly one, I decided to by a new one. Less than a month ago I bought a WMF pressure cooker with 6 liter capacity. Today I made black beans for dinner and in 40 minutes they were perfect without letting them soaking overnight.

    I am very happy with my pressure cooker and have plans to use it a lot.

  • Sandy

    We purchased an automatic electric pressure cooker for our son some years back. He’s a musician and often got home late and tossed frozen meat in it for a quick dinner. He bragged about it all the time and urged us (who live at 7500 ft. altitude) to get one, also. He said it should work even better where we live (he is only 500 ft above sea level). He was so right! We got one 2-3 years ago, and it is the only way we can cook dried beans at this altitude! Many wonderful roasts, pots of beans etc later, we could not do without this workhorse!

  • http://www.remedialeating.com molly

    oh, golly, i needed this just now.

    i bought a pressure cooker a few months back, determined finally to produce good beans. but i’ve been too terrified to use it (one exploded on me in my youth!). chin up, buckle down, give it a go, tally ho!!

    thanks, clotilde!

  • Comet Bowen

    – I love pressure cookers, too!
    – I have four 1950-60 vintage Presto cookers, in graduated sizes (2-1/2 quart, 4 quart, 6 quart, and pressure fryer). They are my basic cooking equipment. I got the 4 quart cooker from my mother, and found the rest at garage sales. I also have a 16 quart pressure canner, but seldom use it.
    – I use pressure cookers for almost all types of cooking — vegetables, soups, stews, meats, steamed desserts, steamed breads, and hot beverages — and almost everything turns out well. Exceptions: I have trouble pressure cooking fish, and have to be careful with some grains (so I rely on wild rice, which is great in a pressure cooker).
    – I have some basic mid-century pressure cooker cookbooks that came with Presto cookers, and one wonderful 1970s vintage cookbook, Pressure Cookery Perfected, by Roy Andries de Groot. I like to buy whatever is available at the farmers’ market, then consult the cookbooks if I haven’t cooked it before.

  • Lisa

    I love my regular size pressure cooker. I use it for soups, stews, pot roast, and artichokes. I started using it many years ago when I started cooking from a Julia Child cookbook called From Julia’s Kitchen. She gives pressure cooker directions for many of the recipes, but it is funny because you can tell that she seems to feel that she should provide this info, but she doesn’t really like using the pressure cooker! But her directions are accurate. You need to be really careful with beans and legumes because these are precisely the things that can clog the steam spout!!!

  • http://www.thespicespoon.com shayma

    i really enjoyed this post as i thought no one really uses pressure cookers anymore. i have one which has a safety valve in it- it is italian, (i bought it in Rome) T-Fal Clipso. one button to shut and open. easiest and best pressure cooker out there, in my humble opinion. as Pakistanis, we eat a lot of dahl (lentils) so this is a life saver, 10 mins, and the lentils are ready. i have also made a gorgeous roast in it, (first it has to be seared), perfectly pink from inside, if you get the timing right.

  • lee Blaylock

    My friend just wrote a recipe book on pressure cookers..they are great and now days very safe…make sure u read the instructions before using one….it will definitely stop any cooking injuries

  • Honeybee

    I love mine, too! I use it to boil potatoes, cook pulses and in the last couple of months to make tons (at least it feels like it) of babyfood!

  • Marianna

    I thought I was the only one cofessing the love for pressure cookers. I go on and on about my own, and people look at me like I’m nuts. It’d ok, though. Only I know (maybe you too) that in less than 20min I can savour a delicious lentil soup and feel like the proper chef, even if I’m not one. :)

  • mitch

    I would love to use a pressure cooker but they terrify me…my granny had an incident with hers when I was little and quite frankly I’ve been terrifed of them ever since! Shame.

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    I use mine a lot! I bought one made by Kuhn-Rikon. Lorna Sass is a famed pressure-cooking cookbook author and her recipes are great.

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    I use mine a lot! I bought one made by Kuhn-Rikon. Lorna Sass is a famed pressure-cooking cookbook author and her recipes are great.

  • http://www.cook-books.com.au Judy

    I love my pressure cookers – both of them are Fagor, a 6L and a 10L. We use the 6L constantly, for curries, stews, cooking dried beans and for my OH’s all-time favourite comfort food, Creamed Rice.
    Using a pressure cooker is one of the most environmentally-friendly ways to cook – fast, uses very little power or gas, and when cooking food that would normally require long, slow cooking, PC’s beat slow cookers hands-down for convenience, flavour … and time!

  • Bruce

    My French partner introduced me to pressure cookers. We use ours at least once a week, and cook everything in it (Imagine my surprise the first time she cooked roast beef, and it came out just the way it should be…)

    It is so fast and versatile that I call it the French microwave. My partner would gladly ditch our microwave, but we can’t live without the pressure cooker.

  • su

    what a great idea to use the 2nd hand circle! i love pressure cookers regarding the eco-friendly aspect but the costs of around 150 euros for a branded article have kept me from buying my own one so far.

    if you don’t mind wasting a little amount of water though you can open the pot this way – put it under the tap and let cold water run over the lid for a couple of seconds. the pot will cool down immediately and can be opened.

    best regards from berlin

  • Kate

    I got a Fissler about 2 years ago from Amazon’s bashed up box but the insides are perfect department. I use it nearly every day. This thing is great and should be far more popular than they are. Yesterday I cooked semi-frozen chicken thighs in 15 minutes. Took those out and used it to cook rice in 9 minutes.
    9 minutes for minestrone. Unbelievable time-saver.

  • http://weirdcombinations.com Stevie

    We often use our pressure cooker to cook beans. It saves loads of time! Though the things are so efficient it is easy to over do it and inadvertently end up with bean soup.

  • http://otm-inthegalley.blogspot.com/ SeattleDee

    I also love my Kuhn-Rikon and the several recipe books by Lorna Kass. The pressure cooker is a practical necessity for the months we live aboard a boat and I must run a generator to operate the electric stove.

  • http://www.bakedinmaine.com Lisa@bakedinmaine.com

    Reminds me of my Grandmother…..
    She made the most delicious creamed green beans, and new potatoes (red) in a pressure cooker.

    NowI need to get a pressure cooker asap!

    Lisa
    xo

  • poornima krishnan

    Being an Indian I cook dals everyday and without a pressure cook I am lost! Love them. Been using for so many years now.

  • http://www,cheapbeets.wordpress.com Molly

    I, too, am a pressure cooker evangelist. It is a life changing, time saving pot that is, hands down, my favorite kitchen tool. I tell my friends/readers all the time how amazing it is. It seems it’s gotten a bad rap in the United States. Risottos, soups, beans and rice: Is there anything it can’t do?

  • http://www.bakedinmaine.com Lisa@bakedinmaine.com

    Reminds me of my Grandmother…..
    She made the most delicious creamed green beans, and new potatoes (red) in a pressure cooker.

    NowI need to get a pressure cooker asap!

    Lisa
    xo

  • http://www.divinetaste.com anushruti

    I can’t imagine my kitchen without a pressure cooker. It is especially useful in Indian cooking where legumes, lentils and rice are cooked in plenty. I love to cook potatoes with it too.

    A pressure cooker and an electric rice cooker are indispensable to my style of cooking.

  • http://www.choosingraw.com Gena

    Ma Chere,

    Love that you also love the pressure cooker! My boyfriend is really the master of this appliance in our relationship, but I’m slowly getting my sea legs with it, too. I hope to be posting more recipes soon — tis the season of stews, eh?

    Have you read the new Tom McCarthy novel, btw? Good stuff.

    G xo

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the reading recommendation! I’ve never read anything by him, I’ll look into it. I’m currently reading the latest William Boyd, and it’s a real page-turner, too.

  • Jenn

    Love this! I have a Fagor, with a small and a large pot. Absolutely the best for beans! What DON’T we make in it? My weekly giant pot of soup for lunch..beans..wild rice..lamb shanks..stew..spare ribs..etc. I work long hours, as does my partner– the pressure cooker means we can eat well every night. Oh, and for nay-sayers..we also use our grill pans and steamers for quick-cooking meals. The correct tool for the meal!

  • http://www.hippressurecooking.com/ Laura

    Hi Clotilde, I would be honored if you would pop by to visit my “new” Pressure Cooker recipe website – I started it a few months ago but I’ve been cooking and photographing like a mad-woman. I try to use the pan for absolutely everything and I cracked the code for making polenta in the pressure cooker and converted the official Bolognese sauce for the pan.

    Without further ado:
    http://www.hippressurecooking.com/

    Hope you can read way down here. I think I’m the last comment!

    Ciao,

    L

    P.S. Thanks for sharing about your pressure cooker with your copious readers – perhaps you’ve won over a few converts!!!

  • J

    A pressure cooker is a staple in every Cuban’s kitchen. I had never used one until I visited Cuba with my husband for the first time. His mom would make the most delicious meals, straight from the cooker. It was then that I knew I had to get one. It’s great for stews and vegetables and my kids love the food!

  • Diane

    I cook a ton of Indian food, and use mine all the time to cook dal. Don’t use it for anything else, but it is invaluable for this.

  • sierra martin

    This post set me off on an hours long pressure cooker web bender. I think I have a 5.5 quart pressure cooker. I primarily use it to make my favorite family stew (which I make fairly often), and nothing else. I’ve recently branched out into making some soups and broth.. nothing fancy.. but I just found an oatmeal recipe that uses oat groats (uncut oat grains) that I’m going to give myself a bout of experimentitis and try it in the pressure cooker, and maybe the rice cooker.. and the stove, etc..

    p.s. I can’t believe you pull the regulator off with an oven mitt. I’m always TERRIFIED it’s going to explode, but as time has gone on I get a little less afraid each time I use it. I use the sink method..

  • Sandi McMahill

    Try your oats in a 2 1/2 qt crockpot. 1 cup oats to 4 cups water. turn on low overnight. I do Pam spray the crock first. Use this all the time for my Oatmeal.

  • Ken

    I have an All American 921 and want to make large quantities (15-20 pounds) of meat (shredded beef for tacos etc.) and have 2 questions;

    1- an idea how much can be made at one time in this unit?
    2- any recipes for this quantity?

    Thanks,
    Ken

  • Tom

    We have used a SEB 6 litre stainless steel pressure cooker that we bought when we were married in 1981. However I’m having trouble finding a replacement gasket. Are SEB replacements readily avaiolable in France? I can find the odd one here but they are all slightly different in dimensions.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’ve never tried seeking replacement parts, but I’d recommend you get in touch with SEB and ask?

  • peter denver

    i use my very old SEB pressure cooker at least 4 times a week for all and everything my comment is theres no need to take the presure valve off at all when you feel the ingredients are done ie for stews or potatoes i only let it spin for 2 minutes then remove from the heat wait 6 mins thats it, or i take it straight to the sink and run cold water over it untill the pressure is gone easy peasy

  • David

    I am having some trouble finding a good pressure cooker! I think I’ve nailed my list down to three, these three, but before I make the decision it would be nice to see what you guys think. What should I look for? What should I buy?

Planning a trip to Paris?
Eat Your Books Recipe Index

Instagrams

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.