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Pressure Cookers

Pressure Cookers have received renewed attention of late, partly because of new safety features that have been developed and partly because of increased energy costs.  Consumers have become more aware of how much energy major appliances use in their homes. Because a pressure cooker can reduce cooking time by two thirds, they are energy efficient.
Pressure Cooker

Just as Italy is renowned for manufacturing beautiful traditional cookwares, Spain is becoming known for developing new technologies for energy-efficient cooking.  Both the pressure cooker and the induction cooktop are made by the Fagor company and can be purchased in North America.

Although digital pressure cookers are available for similar prices, I chose the stovetop type because it doesn’t have a non-stick coating. 

Fagor Duo

Also, I don’t feel the necessity of digital settings because I cook often enough (and take notes as well) that I'm able to tweak the timing!  And, digital pressure cookers don’t seem roomy enough to double as canners.  I purchased the largest Fagor Duo cooker because it will hold five canning jars.

Fagor makes a large line of pressure cookers with various features, including dual pressure selection, extra lids for regular cooking (browning, simmering, etc.), and accessories for steaming and canning.  In addition, this company provides reasonably priced cookware.  Other companies may be more or less expensive, but Fagor is very popular for producing a well-made product at an affordable price.

The company claims that your pressure cooker will become the most important item in your kitchen and that it will not only cook food more quickly and efficiently, but will make the food taste better.  Such claims are bound to make a consumer sceptical.  However, after having used the Fagor Duo 10 quart cooker, I have to say that their claims are not far fetched.

Usually when I purchase a new cooking appliance, whether it is a counter top oven or a stand mixer, it can take years before I begin using the product regularly. 

But with a good product, once I explore its features and learn the ways in which it is better than some older methods, I use it more and more until it becomes indispensable—assuming, of course, that it proves to be a good product.  I purchased the 10-quart Fagor Duo with canning kit and it quickly has replaced my old methods for cooking a variety of foods. Any recipe with a long simmering time is a prime candidate.
The food I was most eager to try with a pressure cooker is legumes.  First, I cooked chickpeas.  I had been cooking a five-pound bag of garbanzo beans a little at a time; when I tried cooking them in the Fagor Duo they not only cooked twice as quickly but they really did taste surprisingly better!  I cooked them on the lower pressure setting so that the skins wouldn’t slip off, but still saved one repetition of draining, rinsing, and reheating the beans.  The chickpeas seemed quite easy to digest despite the faster cooking time.

Testing the cooker with soups and sauces, the flavours really were fresher, as claimed by the manufacturer.  The traditional slow simmering method allows flavours to marry, so pressure cooking will produce more distinctive flavours.  Allowing a dish to marry in the refrigerator over night will produce the same effect as slow simmering as far as flavour is concerned.

I have not yet tried canning in my new pressure cooker, but I do plan to get to that soon.  All of the canning utensils come with the cooker if you choose that option, although not all retailers carry this version. 

It was great to finally obtain a stainless steel wide-mouth funnel—not an easy item to come by these days.  Using a plastic funnel with hot food risks contamination by plastics.  A steel trivet is also provided.

As I continue to try new foods in my pressure cooker, I will be adding new recipes and additional instructions to existing ones.

  The trivet is useful when steaming vegetables, but an ordinary steel steamer basket will work as well.  The trivet is tall enough that two cups of water can be added to the cooker for steaming, which means that if you’re steaming something for an hour you won’t run out of water during the process.  The trivet is necessary when cooking a cheesecake in the pressure cooker, although another option comes with a steamer basket that can be used.  This was a technique I was eager to try, because steaming a cheesecake in a conventional oven can result in humidity that interferes with the proper working of the thermostat and can even invalidate your oven’s warranty.  Custard is another dessert that is better cooked in a pressure cooker.
To cook a cheesecake, it is necessary to seal the cake in foil before lowering onto the trivet.  Cooked in this way, the cake cooks more evenly than it would in a conventional oven and without the problem of drying on the outer edges while the inner portion remains unset.  In the pressure cooker the cake cooks perfectly and remains smooth and creamy throughout.  Use ample heavy-duty foil to form a steamer basket for the cake with handles for lowering into the pot.

I suspect that the company is having trouble keeping up with demand because the products are not widely available in North America, and they often seem to have some factory flaw that, while not making the product defective, makes it imperfect.  For example, the only Fagor Duo I found in a store had a long scuff on the lid.  The one I ordered online arrived with a weld missing from the trivet.  I find I can still use the trivet, but it is less stable with a weld missing, which might become a problem during canning.  These didn’t seem like quality control issues as much as, perhaps, a business policy of sending seconds (aka “scratch and dent” items) to overseas markets.

Another renowned brand is Kuhn-Rikon, a more upscale name originating in Switzerland.

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