How to Buy a Great Pressure Cooker?

Pressure cookers have a bad reputation. There are countless stories out there about exploding ones. The truth is that only old cookers are prone to explode, the new models are very safe and easy to use. Pressure cooking is worth trying out as it produces delicious and healthy food in a lot less time than ordinary cooking. Risotto takes only five minutes to prepare, a stew takes less than sixty minutes.

These devices work based on the fact that under pressure, the boiling point of any liquid is higher. When the pot is sealed, the pressure inside the device begins to build. The pressure raises the boiling point of water from 212 to 250 degrees. The elevated pressure produces steam. The hot steam heats the food, making cooking a faster process. Thanks to this, pressure cooking uses less energy than ordinary cooking, and produces a richer flavour as no molecule can get out of the pot.

What are pressure cookers made of?
Pressure cookers can be made of two materials. Aluminum and stainless steel. It is best to avoid devices that are made of aluminum. They are less robust than those made of stainless steel. Heavy usage will result in deformation and damages. Aluminum pressure cookers are less pricey, but if you plan on using the pressure cooker for years, I advise you to save up, and buy a pressure cooker made of stainless steel.

However, stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat. A device made of nothing but stainless steel would contain hot spots. These are areas which are a lot hotter than others. Hot spots mean longer cooking time. To buy the best pressure cooker, select a type that has an aluminium disc attached to the bottom of it. This way, you can get the best of two worlds.

How big should it be?
Most pressure cookers are 6 quart models. However, I advise you to purchase a bigger one. There are two reasons for this. First, it is impossible to fill a pressure cooker more than up to 2/3 of the way. All the minerals and juices from the ingredients will stay in the cooker, you need to leave space for them. Second, some recipes ask for bigger pots. I recommend an 8 quart model. This allows you to cook bigger pieces of meat, like whole chicken, turkey breasts, ribs. You can always prepare less food in a bigger pot, while you can’t do it the other way around.

Tall or wide?
It is widely accepted that wide models are better than tall ones. A wide bottom means bigger cooking surface. This is more efficient, and you have to spend less time cooking meat before closing the pressure cooker. A wide cooker’s inside is easier to reach when cooking, the food easier to see. The useful models are the ones around 7.5 to 9 inches in diameter. The best pressure cookers are 9 inches wide.

How about pressure?
A pressure cooker is essentially a sealed pot that does not allow steam to get out below a pre-set pressure. The higher the pressure, the shorter the cooking time. Cooking under 15 pounds of pressure would take away the speed gained by the process. Longer cooking defeats the aim of pressure cooking, as you do not save any energy by doing so. Also, you will need to adjust your recipes. Most recipes are written for exactly 15 pounds of pressure.

Electric or stovetop?
Electric pressure cookers became widespread in recent years. Inexperienced cooks like them as they are easy to use. However, electric pressure cookers are a constant source of pain. They usually come with a one year warrantee, while their stovetop counterparts come with a warrantee of a decade. The programmable feature defeats your options of coming up with innovative recipes. For example, quick cooling is impossible, which prevents you from prepairing crisp vegetables. Electric pressure cookers are harder to repair, parts harder to replace. A good stovetop model will make your life easier, allow you greater freedom, and serve you for a lifetime.

Does the handle matter?
Never purchase a pressure cooker with just one short handle. You will burn your fingers almost all the time. A long handle offers extra leverage when locking the lid on top of the cooker. Having a shorter helped handle on the opposite side of the bottom unit is an absolute must. It is hard to lift an 8 quart model full of food with only one handle.

Old or new?
Old pressure cookers might seem like bargains, but they can be unsafe, and hard to repair.

If the manufacturer of the cooker is already out of business, parts are hard to come by, a manual almost impossible to obtain.

An old cooker’s bottom can be full of bumps which prevent the heat from spreading evenly. The top might not fit the bottom perfectly. If the vapor can escape through the cracks, the pressure cooker is useless.

If the pressure regulator doesn’t fit well, the cooker is unable to maintain pressure as indicated. This defeats the aim of the process.

Any of these can result in a useless device.

Are non-stick interiors safe?
Non-stick interiors can’t withstand pressure cooking. Non-stick interiors made of fluorocarbons drop off as the result of sustained pressure. These parts end up in the food. Fluorocarbons release poisonous gases that are not able to escape the pot.

You can not use metal forks or knives as these damage the non-stick finish.

One final piece of advice
Your newly purchased great pressure cooker will serve you and your family for a lifetime. It is very important to find the best pressure cooker out there. Save up some cash and purchase an expensive, but better model. Don’t buy bargain cookers. If you buy a cheaper, used model, you risk having to buy another one a few years later.

Your one time investment will pay off in a short time by reducing your energy bills and saving you valuable time that you can spend with your loved ones.

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