29 December 2011

Product Review - Presto Aluminum Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker

I kept putting this review off because I was scared by my pressure cooker. You see, Wayfair.com gave me the opportunity to review a product. I decided to use the opportunity to be somewhat practical instead of ordering a neato appliance like a Belgian waffle iron. Finally, after much thought I decided on a Presto 8 Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker. When it arrived I assembled the handles and stared at its shininess before putting it in the box and leaving it alone.

The good part of a pressure cooker is that foods can be cooked in half the time it normally takes. How? The ingredients are placed in the cooker, or in a bowl placed on a rack in the cooker. The lid is latched on and the cooker heats up. As the heat rises, pressure builds up inside and the lid is locked. The pressure regulator, a knob placed on the vent pipe, gently rocks back and forth to let you know the proper amount of steam is escaping. Because of the built up pressure, the food cooks quicker. Also, this method of cooking preserves the nutrients of the food you're cooking. Win-win.

What I found to be scary about this particular model is, how do I know if it's cooking at the correct temperature? What exactly is a "gentle rocking"? What if I lower the heat too much and it stops rocking? The only way to figure it out was to try it, which we did on Christmas. We wanted a wild rice pilaf that normally takes an hour to cook, but would take just 25 minutes in the pressure cooker.

Pressure Cooker

Rice has to be cooked in a covered bowl inside the cooker. Why? The manual says that since rice tends to foam when it cooks it has a tendency to clog the vent hole. Fortunately, I have a medium size metal bowl that fit nicely inside. This model comes with a rack, so I put the rack on the bottom and poured two cups of water inside, which is to keep the cooker from drying out and burning.

Pressure Cooker
Pressure Cooker
Pressure Cooker

The vegetables (onions, carrots, mushrooms, celery and garlic) are cooked in a separate skillet, then mixed with the rice, chicken broth, and white wine. Stir it once, then cover tightly with foil and place inside the cooker.

Pressure Cooker

Here is the lid. See the hole on the handle? That's where the air vent cover. The lock pin is on the bottom handle, and it locks when the pressure builds inside the cooker. Once it locks, you can't open it until the pressure is reduced. More on that in a bit.

On top of the lid is the vent pipe, where the regulator is placed. If it rocks too vigorously, excess steam is released and the food might scorch because the liquid evaporates too quickly.

Pressure Cooker

I see the temperature knob is on 7 in the background, so in this picture I had started to reduce the heat. You need to remain nearby so that you can gradually lower the heat enough to maintain a gentle rocking. If it stops rocking, you'll need to raise it. Unlike a slow cooker, a pressure cooker does require a bit of attention. Also, make sure you set a timer.

After the timer buzzes, the pressure needs to be reduced. Depending on what you're making there are two ways to do it. One, you can "manually" reduce it by running cold water on top of the cooker. Two, you let the cooker reduce pressure itself by removing it from the heat. Once the lock drops, you can open the lid. However, don't lock the lid back on to keep the food warm... Because the lock might rise again and you'll have to wait until it drops.

Yeah.

Anyway, the latter method adds another 10-20 minutes onto the cooking time, so it almost equaled cooking the rice in a pot on the stove, though I kind of liked cooking it in the pressure cooker. The rice came out moist and it was cooked through. I'm going to enjoy cooking with the pressure cooker and will try to turn it into a series on here.



For the technical side.

This cooker is sold for $44.69 on Wayfair.com. It's aluminum, so it's not as expensive as a stainless steel model. Stainless steel is actually preferable because it's less likely to get warped and distributes heat better, but for the average person (like myself) an aluminum model works just fine. Just don't turn the heat up to high when you're first bringing it up to pressure and it'll be okay.

I chose the 8-quart size because I can cook larger batches of food at a time. A 4-6 quart would be best if you're single or are cooking for two, three, or even four. I wanted the option of being able to cook large batches for leftovers. The smaller the cooker, the less it costs.

There are electric models and models with a different regulating system on top, but for now I think I'm satisfied with the way this one works. As I continue using it, I'll be able to provide a more in depth review, so stay tuned.

9 comments:

  1. I've been reluctant to try pressure cookers myself since the technique scares me.

    As far as the decreased cooking time goes, here is my brief explanation.

    The higher the ambient pressure, the higher the temperature at which a liquid will boil. By increasing the pressure in the cooker, it means that the water will boil at a higher temperature. The higher the water temperature, the faster the cooking time.

    Conversely, the lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point and therefore the longer the cooking time. I'm sure you've seen cooking instructions for allowing longer cooking times for making spaghetti at higher elevations such as in Denver.

    ReplyDelete
  2. At least I wasn't the only one who was spooked by the pressure cooker. Like I said in the review it requires attention so it's not hands off, though once you're confident you don't need to lower the temp anymore I suppose it's somewhat safe to leave... As long as you remain nearby.

    Thanks for the easy to understand explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the easy to understand explanation.



    I've always said that someone needs to come up with a "sarcastic font."

    ReplyDelete
  4. I wasn't being sarcastic, I just didn't want to add a bunch of exclamation points.

    Really though, I tend to over-complicate things by thinking about it too much, so your explanation was actually helpful.

    Thanks, Jogger!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did the food otherwise taste as good using the pressure cooker compared to using the conventional method?

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  6. I'd say it tasted about the same, though the rice seemed a bit more moist than usual. Good news if you're cooking a lean roast in the cooker.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Loved reading your little pressure cooker experiment! I'm hoping to get an electric variety - hopefully it will be even less fussy :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I use my pressure cooker for artichokes. Steams them great and fast. Follow the directions in the book.

    I have used it for corn on the cob, but lately I've been cooking the cobs husk on in the microwave.

    I'd like to experiment with puddings. I understand you can do creme brulee in the pressure cooker. I just need to get cups small enough to fit more than one in there. I'd much rather do them in the pressure cooker than in a water bath in the oven.

    ReplyDelete
  9. wow great i have read many articles about this topic and everytime i learn something new i dont think it will ever stop always new info , Thanks for all of your hard work!free dating sites

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your thoughts are appreciated! ^,^

~Christina

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