You guys, we've been holding out on you. We've been talking about blogging about our pressure cooker for at least six months, but life kept getting in the way. We were going to post about it last summer when we got it. Then we were going to do a roundup of our favorite kitchen gadgets for the holidays. Then we were going to write a love letter to our pressure cooker for Valentine's Day. Well, life obviously got in the way and we did NONE of those things. Enough is enough, it's time to extol the virtues of our Fagor Duo 8-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker.
A lot of you probably think pressure cookers are dangerous. You've heard stories about pea soup exploding all over the ceiling or have memories of your mom or dad taking the pressure cooker outside to open it for fear of an explosion. Well, let us tell you that is no longer the case. Pressure cookers of today are safe, easy to use, and much quieter than those of years past. They have multiple safety mechanisms built in to ensure that nobody ends up with a face- (or ceiling-) full of dinner.
We talked about buying a pressure cooker for months, but didn't take the leap until last summer, when we'd spent time with not one, but two different friends who used pressure cookers to cook dried beans in a fraction of the time it would normally take. Our friends both had old-fashioned pressure cookers, but we wanted to get a new one that ensured safe use. (We're usually all for buying used, but we knew that we'd be way more likely to actually use our pressure cooker if we weren't afraid of it.)
True to form, Kristl jumped head first into researching pressure cookers and decided to go with the one that America's Test Kitchen deemed their "Best Buy," the Fagor Duo 8-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker. We also bought their cookbook Pressure Cooker Perfection, after giving it a once over at the library.
If When you get a pressure cooker, you should absolutely get this book. Not only does it have a lot of great recipes, but it also goes into the basics of pressure cooking, buying a pressure cooker, troubleshooting problems, and is basically an indispensable reference to have on hand.
How do pressure cookers work? Water usually boils at 212°, but when it's under pressure in a closed environment the boiling point is closer to 250°. This is due to the steam being unable to escape the closed environment, causing the pressure to increase. The temperature is increased because more energy is needed to boil the water under pressure. When cooking with a pressure cooker, you put the ingredients in the pot (following whatever recipe you're using, of course) and then seal and lock the lid on. If the pressure cooker you're using has two pressure settings, set it to either low or high (we do most of our cooking on high). Turn the heat on high and bring it up to pressure. There's a pressure indicator that shows when pressure has been reached, though you will also hear the steam escaping. Lower the heat to maintain pressure for the specified amount of time. When the time has passed, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and release the pressure. There are two ways to release pressure - quick release, in which you turn the pressure valve to release the steam quickly, or natural release, in which you let the pot sit off the heat until the pressure goes down on its own. Most recipes will indicate which type of release you should use.
So, what do we make with our pressure cooker? Well, obviously, we make dried beans (in minutes!). We also make amazing stock in an hour (check out this post over on Serious Eats' The Food Lab comparing stock made on the stove top, in a slow cooker, and in a pressure cooker). Some of the dishes we've made include cottage pie, chicken and chickpea masala, pot roast and potatoes, chili, shredded chicken for soft tacos (we did this for our wedding lunch!), braised cabbage, polenta, turkey breast, a whole chicken with lemon and rosemary gravy, and a variety of soups. And you know what? Every single thing has been delicious. EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. THING.
Have we convinced you yet? No? What if we told you that pressure cookers could save you money? Because pressure cookers cook so quickly, you will use less gas/electricity than you would cooking things the traditional way. You can also buy tougher (cheaper) cuts of meat that will tenderize easily in the high temperature/high moisture environment of the pressure cooker. We already mentioned dried beans, which are significantly cheaper than canned, and also produce less waste. Also, pressure cookers obviously save you time. Time is money, so...you do the math. (Not necessarily monetarily-related, but pressure cookers are great in the summer because you can cook delicious food without turning on the oven AND your stove doesn't have to be on very long.)
Honestly, the pressure cooker has transformed the way we think about certain types of meals. We are so much more likely to eat beans, we are so much more likely to eat in rather than out, we are so much more likely to make things (like stock) that we might otherwise buy. If you are one of those people who means well in the kitchen and wants to cook more, but can never find the time (or you always forget to start the crockpot in the morning), the pressure cooker is your jam. But if you want to make jam, you might need a pressure canner. And that's a whole other post.
As further proof that we've been having a love affair with our pressure cooker for the better part of a year, check out this interview we did with the Windy City Times! We did the interview in September and were already raving about food we'd made in the pressure cooker. We hope you enjoy reading it and learning more about us!