Cooking Under Pressure

I don’t normally do product review kinds of things, but then I don’t normally have my wife come to me three months after her birthday and thank me for her present. What was the product, you ask? It was a Fagor, 6-quart, three-in-one pressure cooker. The brand isn’t important (Amazon carries six different brands), the functions are.

It cooks, it cooks, and it ... cooks

It cooks, it cooks, and it … cooks

In this case, the three functions are pressure cooker, slow cooker, and browner. It’s like a big crock pot with a heavy lid and no ceramics. The browning/slow-cooking functions are nice, but the key is the electric pressure cooker.

To start with, it doesn’t look like one of the old-style pressure cookers, the kind that will get you arrested if you carry one within two blocks of a marathon. A lot of people have an aversion to the traditional steel boiler-waiting-to-explode models. They just seem unsafe. Is there any difference in the structure of the 3in1 compared with the older style? Not really. It just looks safer, like it should have the words “Don’t Panic” written on it in large, friendly letters. Isn’t it amazing what a touchpad on the front will do?

The timer function and the pre-programmed rice cooking cycle are also big plusses. I gave one to my niece as a graduation present, and she uses it all the time at grad school — for cooking rice. Why? It takes six minutes to cook rice in this thing using the pre-set (20min for brown rice), with no danger of spillover. I haven’t done a side-by-side taste test with a Japanese rice-cooker, but it tastes pretty good to me.

Then there’s the broth. This is what has MJ all a-twitter. Figure 45min to an hour, including all prep time. While the meat is browning, you can wash, peel, chunk whatever vegetables you want to use. Add the water, vegetables, herbs, and salt. Set to 30minutes (the LED starts counting down when the pressure has built up to the correct level), and that’s it. Go spend the next half hour working down your aperetif collection. Makes about six cups using the manufacturer’s recipe. You could go higher, but be careful of the volume constraints on pressure cookers — you don’t want to clog the small thermal exhaust port. The broth is superb. I’ve been using it pretty much straight up for my oatmeal. What kind of broth? All kinds. Beef, chicken, pork, ham hocks (which tastes different from plain old pork). All done using the cheapest cuts of meat. We haven’t had a bad batch yet. The meat and vegetables have almost all the flavor cooked out of them, of course, so if you are making this for stew or soup, you want to beef up your second echelon.

Then there’s cleanup. The cooking container is an insert, so it’s like washing a big pot, and very much not like washing a massive old style pressure cooker.

Cons: It takes up a hefty chunk of counter space (but you can get rid of your rice cooker, your slow cooker, and your other slow cooker). The 6-quart thing is a lie, unless you are slow-cooking. Getting the lid tight is a little fiddly, but one learns. There are some things that are not recommended for pressure cooking. Read the manufacturers instructions, and pay attention to the side-markings.

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