I own a pressure cooker; I’ve had it for years. A dull-colored metal pot with a lid and a carefully balanced pressure regulator, it comes to life on the stove. The pressure regulator vibrates, hissing and spitting like an angry rattlesnake.
Which is why the cooker sits at the top of a cabinet, well out of my reach, gathering dust. The thing is terrifying. Tales of my in-laws cleaning soup off the ceiling and walls when their pressure cooker’s vent got blocked and spewed boiling liquid throughout their kitchen do not help. (Clearly made of stronger stuff than I, my mother-in-law still uses her pressure cooker regularly.)
There are modern, safer pressure cookers out there, and for years I have been tempted by the “Cadillac of pressure cookers” – the Kuhn-Rikon. But at over $200, the price point was too high. I put it out of my mind.
Lately, though, I was thinking about pressure cooking again. I’d like my diet to include more beans and whole grains, and pressure cooking speeds their prep time so they’re practical for everyday.
And then two things happened within days of each other: I read a review of the exhaustive new cookbook Modernist Cuisine, an encyclopedic $500 tome researched to the tune of millions of dollars, which mentioned that a pressure cooker could be used for many things, including the creation of “sparkling clear stocks”; and I received an e-mail from a cooking catalog advertising the Fagor Futuro pressure cooker.
The Fagor was quite a bit less expensive than the Kuhn-Rikons I had seen (though they now have lower-priced lines). It was rapturously reviewed by users. And it was, unlike the clunky Kuhn-Rikons, beautiful to look at, with a lovely curve to its base.
After a few days of dithering, I ordered one.
Finally, it arrived, and I wasted no time: In went a batch of beans. I gave it a hard test, starting with unsoaked pinto beans seasoned with onion, garlic, bacon fat, and salt.
The process is simple: add ingredients, lock on lid, and place over high heat. Once steam begins to escape from the vent, turn the heat down until a gentle cloud of steam comes steadily from the vent. Cook for the suggested time, turn off the heat, wait for the pressure indicator to drop, and the food is cooked. It took a little fiddling to get the heat just right, but once I did the pot was nearly silent. It did its thing quietly on the back burner, and when it was done, I had beautiful beans – in just one hour from measuring ingredients to serving.