Gotta spend that Christmas money somehow...
January 31, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about getting a small to medium inexpensive pressure cooker? Should I, and which one?

For Christmas, I got a 16 quart Presto "jiggle-top" pressure canner, to make and put up stocks and veggies. I love it, and I've learned that pressure cooking isn't some arcane magic like many make it out to be. Of course, such a big pot is hard to bring up to pressure and clean for a simple dinner, so I'm interested in getting a smaller one with a more modern steam release method.

What would be a good small to medium pressure cooker for somewhere in the range of $60 to 100? And I'd also like a good cookbook for it, since most of my cookbooks only have small sections on pressure cooking. Nonreactivity would be a plus, but we already use a ton of aluminum pans, so if it is dangerous, we're already at risk anyway.

Or am I right to even want a pressure cooker in the first place? What are your favorite things to cook in a pressure cooker, if you have one? My family tends to like low fat, high protein meals (chicken, lean beef, beans, fish, pasta), so I know it's good it can handle lean pot roasts and beans quickly, but what else is there?
posted by mccarty.tim to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any recommendations for specific cookers or recipe books (I got my cooker at Costco, Fagor brand, it works fine and came with a small recipe book), but, just wanted to say that I definitely think it's a useful item to own.

The thing I use it for most often is corned beef - with a regular pot I'd only be able to make it on a weekend since the meat has to boil for so many hours, but with the pressure cooker I can start cooking when I get home from work and have it finished in time for a late dinner. Any soup/stew will be done faster with a pressure-cooker, so, I can't see any downside to owning one.
posted by oh yeah! at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: Yes, you should. It puts a superheated twist on the phrase "fast food".

4 liter Fagor, aluminum plate integrated into the bottom of a stainless steel pot.
Reliable, and in frequent use for years at our house by The Real Cook. Fifty bucks,
plus shipping from Amazon.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2010

I would suggest going to an Indian supermarket if you have one local. I picked up a 3 litre Futura brand (here is the 5 litre on Amazon) and have been very happy with it for small meals. It is more foolproof than a jiggle-top but not so complex that it runs into problems.
posted by arruns at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2010

Most of the delicious, delicious Moroccan tagine recipes are commonly made in pressure cookers now, then transferred to the tagine for presentation.
posted by HopperFan at 3:58 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: I have a Presto that I've had forever (12 years...there's chili cooking in it right now!) and have replaced the seal and valve once or twice. Cook's Illustrated recommends the Fagor. Needing replacement bits is the only maintenance to worry about, and for that reason I'd choose a popular brand. We mostly do beans and soups in it, being vegetarians. It makes beans a reasonable weeknight food...and at our house, beans go into salads, pastas, soups, tacos, enchiladas, or stand by themselves.
posted by jocelmeow at 5:23 PM on January 31, 2010

Don't get much cheaper than this, unless you find one on Craigslist, or yard sale. Definitely worth having.
posted by JABof72 at 5:32 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: I'm thinking about going with the Fagor, since they seem like safe, modern mid-range pressure cookers. However, I'm torn between the Duo and the Splendid. Do any recipes really use the "Low" (8 psi) option for cooking? Most recipes I've seen use 15 PSI, so I suspect the low setting isn't essential. Am I right?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:09 PM on January 31, 2010

I got this one and have to say I am amazed. I have never had a cooking product be so useful. I was intrigued by them after watching the Fagors in action on Iron Chef. I have whipped up spare ribs, potato soup and a variety of stocks in a tenth of the time it usually takes. I have nothing but good things to say about the Duo.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:56 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: BTW, I have used the lower setting but can't really see any use for it. YMMV
posted by bkeene12 at 7:57 PM on January 31, 2010

I've got a Fagor Duo; I don't think we've ever used the lower setting.

We make a lot of indian recipes in it---you can't beat it for Lamb Saag.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:58 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: I decided on a 6 qt Fagor Rapid Express. I'd love some recipes for it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:07 AM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: Serious Eats just did a week of recipes from Lorna Sass' "Cooking Under Pressure" book. The recipes sounded so good they made me buy a pressure cooker AND the book.
posted by FreezBoy at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2010

My mother's corned beef:
Buy a slab of corned beef with the spice packet, put it in the pressure cooker with water (enough to cover the beef if possible, but not so the the pot is more than two thirds full) bring to pressure and boil for two hours. (The Fagor manual says one hour for corned beef, but, it always comes out too tough for me if I do it less than two hours.) At some point while the meat is cooking, chop up some carrots & potatoes (big chunks) and a head of cabbage (quartered). Preheat your oven to 375 or so.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a cooking sheet. When the meat is finished cooking, lay it on the tinfoil. Crumble some brown sugar all over the top of the meat, close the foil to seal in the moisture, then stick the beef in the oven for 15 minutes or so to melt/caramelize the sugar. While or before doing that, put the vegetables into the pressure cooker, using the same liquid that the beef was cooked in. Bring it to pressure and cook for 6 minutes.

There are probably more exciting ways to flavor the vegetables than just with the spice packet/beef water, but, Mom's trick with the brown sugar is why I love to make this. (I haven't got the temperature/timing down right just yet, so, it may caramelize better at a higher temperature, but I'm happy as long as the sugar is melted and I haven't dried out the meat.)
posted by oh yeah! at 5:43 PM on February 1, 2010

Oh, forgot a step - I cut most of the fat from the outside of the corned beef before I put the brown sugar on it.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:31 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Does anyone have advice on converting recipes for a pressure cooker? Do slow cooker recipes convert to pressure cooking well, since they both focus on braising-style cooking?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:53 AM on February 2, 2010

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