Under pressure

April 16, 2009
I'm told they don't look like this anymore ...

I'm told they don't look like this anymore ...

I read with great interest this article by Suzanne Gibbs on pressure cookers  in last week’s Good Living section of the Sydney Morning Herald, primarily because my friend Steph (aka the Empress of the Chick Pea) is always banging on about how she just whipped up this or that traditional nine-hour confit/chick peas/cassoulet in her trusty pressure cooker in a matter of seconds. Well, almost.

Anyway I have always been terrified of the things, even though our mum cooked half our childhood meals (the half of our diet that wasn’t cooked in the electric frypan) in a pressure cooker without incident. I can’t actually remember what she cooked in it now, but I can still recall exactly the sound of the little jiggling whatsit on the top and the slowly rising whistle of building steam … eeek!

But my fear of pressure cookers isn’t just about explosions – it’s possibly more the idea of having to adjust cooking times for every damn thing – I’m soooooo bad at numbers (ask anyone) I can barely double a recipe, let alone do whatever might be required to cook a chick pea in half a minute rather than two hours, or whatever it is.

The other thing is my reluctance to have yet another giant (and heavy?) appliance taking up kitchen cupboard space – but perhaps in my gleaming new kitchen-to-come there will be room for such a thing.

But I’ve only just embraced the diametrically opposed slow cooker last year – clearly I need convincing. But the experts don’t – Suzanne Gibbs even scoffs at the slow cooker revival, saying of her trusty pressure pot:

“To me, it works better than a crockpot because you don’t have to do it all before going to work and have it cooking all day,” she says.

Hmm. Anyone else have experience with the fancy, funky modern numbers that have replaced the terrifying old steel buckets with the tinkling toppers?

Empress, I await your argument …


  1. I fricking LOVE the mighty pressure cooker, as you well know. Modern ones can’t paint your kitchen in shades of goulash, they’re so darn safe. And if you’re partial to a chick pea or two (or any other kind of pulse as I am) they’re a must. Also excellent for chicken stock – 20 mins max for rich deliciousness. Red cooked chicken, a whole bird from raw to done in 20 mins too. Haven’t done much other meat cooking apart from lamb shanks, tender and juicy in about half and hour. Have eaten Gemma Consumi’s (an Italian Mama) osso bucco fresh from a PC and it was divine. Every kitchen in every house I’ve rented in Europe has one. It’s not hard to adjust recipes. The worst that can happen is your chick peas are a bit mushy. So make houmos! Braising cuts of meat are pretty forgiving and these things come with timing guides. What are you waiting for?

    • w-e-l-l, you are starting to sway me, maybe. But you know, a pressure cooker can’t cook the chickypeas any quicker than I can open a can … I suppose you are morally opposed to can-o-pea?

      • Nah, not morally opposed at all to chick peas in any form. It’s just when you eat as many of them as I do, you don’t want to be lugging home heavy cans and paying for tin and water.

  2. Here’s a question: could you cook quinces in a pressure cooker and get that same stunning colour? I suppose so…?

  3. I am a huge pressure cooker advocate! So much so, I have two 🙂

    Pressure cookers got really “big” back around WWII but you’ll notice they fell out of favor fast and lots of folks – like yourself – have memories of explosions in the kitchen. One of the reasons why is because American companies started making pressure cookers, but since America doesn’t have the same type of cultural history with pressure cookers (as the Swiss and Indian nations do – they use PCs religiously), the obvious quality difference cut it short.

    So! Perhaps that was more info than you wanted to know 🙂 My fave is the Kuhn Rikon. They cost a pretty penny but are SO worth it!

    Here’s some great reasons why to use a pressure cooker: http://tinyurl.com/dcj5bq. I also have some great pressure cooker recipes on my blog, too. We recently uploaded a leg of lamb and pot roast recipe.

    You can also check out this blog: they’re big PC advocates as well 🙂 Hope this helps swap your vote! http://dorisandjillycook.com/

  4. […] love a bring-a-plate* function myself, and I love that everyone has a signature dish or two. The Empress, for example, is duty-bound to lug a huge bowl of her incredible baba ganoush pretty much wherever […]

  5. […] but with dried beans, and this one) – are tres simple and delicious (even without a pressure-cooker, […]

  6. I too have scary memories of the pressure cooker and the whistle- we lived near a train line which exacerbated the situation.

    Am still reeling from advice that Indians use Pressure Cookers religiously.No wonder there’s trouble in Kashmir.

    But the fervour of these testimonials is swaying me- 20 min stock, no bean tins to heft or ditch. Which brand do you go for Stephanie?

    • Mine’s a Tefal and it’s great – and not at all scary. But there are probably equally good ones out there. I just got this years ago (for nothing) because I wrote a story about it. Still haven’t had to replace the seal or anything! Then again I’ve seen a pretty spunky version used by Susanne Gibbs in her new book. It’s wider and shallower at the base with a conical lid so you could fry more in it first before bringing to pressure (good for casseroles). No idea what brand that is though.

  7. Thanks Stephanie, will follow that up. Choice might have done a report too.

    Didn’t know you could fry in the suckers first, makes it appealing. I’ve had some chook in the slow cooker for hours today,for a Claudia Roden Middle Eastern dish with noodles and apricot goo. Doesn’t really need a slow cooker but makes sure I don’t boil things over when I forget it’s on. But getting it done quickly via PC might be another way round that…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: