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Please talk me into buying a pressure cooker - what size is right for me?

I'm right on the fence about buying a pressure cooker. I think I want to buy one, but then again, is it going to be another thing like the waffle iron where I spent weeks thinking and researching only to use it twice.

This last year I've started cooking dried pulses, especially lentils and chickpeas. I love it, but the chickpeas are especially daunting, taking upto 5 hours to cook. I cook between 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. I'm on a low fibre diet for medical reasons, so I just add the beans to a dish instead of making them the star. So, if I'm making pasta, I'll toss a handful of chickpeas in the sauce for protein and flavour. This way, a cup of dried chickpeas takes about 5 days to eat.

All in all, I'm cooking pulses twice a week now. I love it so much, that I don't think it's going to slow down anytime soon. But is a pressure cooker really for me?

I know I can cook other things in it, but I wonder... would I? Most of our meats we grow ourselves, and usually eat adult animals like mutton, so I slow cook them... would pressure cooking make cuts like this more or less tender?

What size would be right for me? 5 quart? I don't want to get too large a size, but too small would be just as bad.

Also, I'm trying to decide do I want to start with a more affordable one like the Prestige 5.5 ltr or save up for the 6 ltr Kuhn Rikon? I'm thinking the Prestige because I can afford it now and it would give me a general idea of what it would be like to cook with it. The Kuhn Rikon would have to wait till Christmas which is so far away!

Talk me into it? Or talk me out of it... maybe pulses aren't a good enough excuse?

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

asked over 2 years ago
12 answers 7230 views
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aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

JUST DO IT! :-) The chickpeas alone make it worth it - and black beans! In like 8 minutes instead of approximately infinity hours. We also use it when we want short ribs and have not planned ahead. Or any low and slow meat. We typically are cooking for two - mine is a Presto and I can't find the quarts on it but eyeballing it I would say 6 or 8, and it is plenty big. It has a twist lock-seal so you don't have to worry about it exploding (that is my sister's last memory of hers in the 80's - BANG and beans everywhere). I think the benefit of pulses without planning it absolutely worth it and to prove it I think we are now having something in that family for dinner tonight!

F3fdbabe d72e 44f9 919d eecf03b7e10e  liza skitchenlogo
added over 2 years ago

I recently got a pressure cooker hand-me-down and it is WONDERFUL! I have a very old one with a twist and seal lock (like Abbie's). It's a 6 quart and probably cost under $75. It intimidated me at first as it makes this squealing noise before it hits the right pressure and seals and only has these two little lines for high vs. low pressure. If the pressure gets too high, steam comes out the top so it doesn't explode and I just take if off the the heat. Big tip - once it hits the right pressure, lower the flame of the burner.

It really is a life saver as I don't always plan ahead or want to sit at home while something sits on the stove or in the oven for hours. You can cook an entire chicken in 20 minutes, with potatoes, veggies, and the sauce - and only dirty one pot.

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added over 2 years ago

Here's a few more reasons to get one:

1. It's the small-batch stockmaker's best friend. Think chicken stock in about 35 minutes start to finish, or beef stock in a couple hours.

2. It cooks large beets to tenderness in about 15 minutes.

3. Pork carnitas, cubed beef chuck, and similar cuts are tender in 30 minutes (definitely as tender, if not more so, than slow-cooked).

4. Pressure cooking saves energy and puts much less heat and water vapor into your living space than open pot or oven cooking. Especially nice in the hot months.

As to size, I do most of my cooking for a household of two, and six quarts is enough. You don't need to spend a lot of money on one. Mine is a 20-year-old aluminum Presto with the rocker valve. It's performed flawlessly. I've never had an accident, and the only maintenance it's needed is replacing the rubber gasket every couple years.

And without the top, it's a serviceable stockpot, too.

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added over 2 years ago

I use a pressure cooker most often for making stock, and I absolutely love it for that purpose. It is also great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat very quickly, so you can have a melt in your mouth tender stew ready in an hour instead of five.

I have owned two pressure cookers, one a more traditional affordable 5 quart pressure cooker, and now the 6 quart Instapot electric cooker reviewed extensively by HipPressureCooking here: http://www.hippressurecooking....

I really love the electric cooker -- love being able to 'set it and forget it' and not have to constantly monitor the heat / pressure. And I love that it doesn't heat up my kitchen. I have also recently used its slow cooker function successfully, for when I wanted to come home to my meal all ready for me. I would say that I found 5 quarts a little on the small side for making stock, and prefer the 6 quart size.

Good luck!

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

Awesome answers. I'm convinced that I can't live without one any longer.

Now, the big question: Cheep one now or better one later?

84baef1b 1614 4c3d a895 e859c9d40bd1  chris in oslo
Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added over 2 years ago

I am certainly not going to try to talk you out of getting a pressure cooker, as I'm sure you're going to have a great time with it.

But just for conversation's sake, I'll tell you that I've gone the exact opposite direction this year, falling in love with some clay bean pots. There's no reason that chickpeas should take 5 hours unless you don't soak (or maybe if you buy your chickpeas from somewhere with no turnover in stock). I just made some yesterday, a little over an hour. Which isn't a heck of a lot different from unsoaked chickpeas in a pressure cooker, is it?

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

Bean pots are awesome. Though I suspect mine is far too large for me since I want to cook less than a cup at a time. I have to admit the pulses I'm cooking now have been in my pantry for a while ... actually a few years. So I suspect the long cooking time is my own fault, but I'm working my way through them and will be onto new beans soon. Also hoping that with newer beans they'll have softer skin.

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

Another question: Is there a minimum amount of beans one needs to cook in a 6 quart pressure cooker? Would it be disastrous if I only cooked 1/2 a cup (dry bean) worth?

Or maybe I should look at getting a smaller cooker?

F3fdbabe d72e 44f9 919d eecf03b7e10e  liza skitchenlogo
added over 2 years ago

Nope, just don't add as much water. I'd cook at least enough to cover the bottom of the pot though.

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added over 2 years ago

I was scared to death of pressure cookers all growing up but my dad loved them and any version of "fall-aparty meat." I finally decided to get cozy with the one he left me and I can only agree with many of the other posters. It is especially great for someone living at high altitude or anyone not thinking ahead enough to cook grains etc. I cook kamut and beans in mine and have done country style pork ribs to great success (though if time is on my side I prefer to slow cook those). The thing I cook the most though is a caramelized carrot soup based off a method from Modernist Cuisine. Theirs is a bit more fussy (coring carrots? oy) but it is just dreamy and so quick. I'm sure a regular pot would be just fine, but so be it.

The January 2013 Cooks Illustrated reviewed pressure cookers and had these highlights:
- you must not fill the cooker more than 2/3 so you probably want a bigger one if you intend to do stock (and why not double or increase a recipe for freezing?)
- wider pots are better for browning though your flame shouldn't exceed the thick metal disk base as it can damage the seal
- electric models are convenient but there were none to really recommend at this time

Final recommendation in the high end was the Fissler Vitaquick 8 1/2 Qt for $280 or the Fagor Duo 8-Qt for $109 (at publication).

Hope that helps!

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added about 2 years ago

If you cook a lot of pulses or like to make stock, the pressure cooker is the way to go. Save time and money, and makes things much faster.

I was in your situation last year and was worrying about the same, but finally decided to buy one. I make a lot of stocks and beans dishes and I couldn't believe how much better it was with the pressure cooker.

As for size, it depends on how much you're cooking. 5 qt is not bad, but do consider that you can't fill a pressure cooker up to the top. The max is usually 3/4 full. IMO it's better to get a bigger one just in case.

As for brand, I say save up and get a good quality one that will last a long time. Kuhn Rikon is a very respectable brand. Have you considered WMF? I have KR but much prefer my WMF. Cookware Insider rate them to be best pressure cooker on the market. I personally got this from Amazon...basically I got 2 pots for the price of 1. http://amzn.to/1wdN9so

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added about 2 years ago

I LOVE my pressure cooker, and I use it in ways I never expected to.

It's just my husband and myself, so I'm not cooking for tons of people all the time, yet I use a WMF Perfect Pro 6.5 liter (6.5 quart) pressure cooker. Aside from using it to cook beans, rice, and lentils (and I will often cook small amounts and have had no trouble), I also use it to cook:

risotto - I make it with barley, spelt, and lots of other grains in addition to arborio. I will never cook risotto outside of my pressure cooker: it takes 10 minutes from start to finish and come out perfectly every time.

pork shoulder - in Denmark, this is a pretty cheap cut of meat so I buy it often. I make carnitas, French and Italian stews, and lots of other dishes with this cut of meat. It only takes 30 minutes under high pressure to break down the touch meat.

steaming - I bought the steaming rack for my pressure cooker and it's a great way to steam large, thick vegetables (like beets) quickly. You can also cook soft boiled, medium boiled, and hard boiled eggs using the steaming rack.

canning - because of the size and shape of my pressure cooker, plus the way the steaming basket fits inside, I use the pot for canning jellies, jams, and other preserves. 4 jars can fit comfortably in the steaming basket and the pot is tall enough that the jars are covered with enough water. I don't put the lid on, so I'm not using the pot as a pressure cooker, but the size is just perfect for boiling and processing!

There are two cookbooks I refer to a lot when using my pressure cooker: Lorna Sass' Pressure Perfect, and America's Test Kitchen's Pressure Cooker Perfection. Aside from having great recipes, they also provide helpful charts on general cooking times for different foods and provide you with a great understand of how the pressure cooke works, a knowledge which allows you to adapt non-pressure cooker recipes into pressure cooker recipes.

Happy pressure cooking!