PRESTO Stainless Steel Pressure CookersJanuary 12th, 2012
I have a small anodized aluminum pressure cooker but I am not completely satisfied with the idea of cooking food directly in any sort of aluminum pot. In tests that I have conducted this pressure cooker used about 1/6th the fuel needed to cook the same amount of beans or brown rice as a regular pan. Aluminum is great for all types of canners, where the food is inside a jar, and will never come in direct contact with the pot. Aluminum heats up much faster and more efficiently, but a thick layer of aluminum attached to the bottom of a stainless steel pot heats quite evenly, holds the heat for some time and is pretty efficient. Stainless Steel cook ware may take a bit longer, but I really trust eating the food in contact with it. Many styles of Stainless Steel pots and pans can be purchased with the thick slab of aluminum on the bottom, and some models of PRESTO Cookers too.
As a rule of thumb, a pressure cooker cooks in 1/3 the cooking time, and then it is removed from heat. It will take some additional time to cool, so it is gradually cooking for another half hour or so. On my electric range I use a moderately high burner setting to bring the cooker up to temperature. After that a setting between 1/4 and 1/3 is enough to maintain pressure. I cook beans or rice much longer than the Pressure Cooker Recipe books recommend. Maybe I like both overcooked? I do not need the highest setting on my electric range, which means most any propane burner, kerosene stove and even an electric hot plate has enough heat to pressure cook a couple quarts of food.
I chose the 4 quart size Stainless Steel PRESTO Pressure Cooker model # 01341. In a way I wish I could buy a smaller American made Stainless Steel Pressure cooker. Cooking for just two of us, one quart of beans or rice is enough for a couple days. For beans or grains, a Pressure Cooker should not be more than 1/2 full. For most other foods the cooker may be 2/3 full. With a larger Pressure Cooker you can prepare enough for several days if you have a refrigerator. Then you can season beans or rice very differently for each meal or combine them. The 6 quart model # 01362 would be better for a small family, and PRESTO also makes an 8 quart size.
Extra baked beans or chili can also be frozen in wide mouth pints or most half pint jars. Look at cases of canning jars in a store, and you can see what the ones labeled safe for freezing are shaped like. They need to keep getting wider all the way to the top. A shoulder inside the jar would break when the contents freeze. You could also freeze in suitable plastic containers. The jars could also be pressure canned by following a complete recipe for the whole process.
In Stainless Steel you can soak the beans before cooking and store foods after in a refrigerator. When I pressure cook beans in anodized aluminum, I am eager to move them to a crock pot for the long simmering or baking times needed to make the best Boston Baked Beans or Chili. I need both a colander and a large bowl or pot to soak the beans over night and rinse them. I noticed some people on line are recommending soaking brown rice overnight, so it just begins to sprout. When you slow cook Baked beans or Chili in the same pan there is no crock pot to wash. On our electric range the lowest setting keeps the cooker above 140 degrees. I prefer to just barely simmer around 212 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the food stays at a safe temperature or it could spoil.
With a Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker, I am comfortable soaking, pressure cooking and slow cooking all in the same pot. PRESTO makes an accessory lid fitting both the 4 and 6 quart Pressure Cookers which acts as a colander. It is not expensive, and much easier to wash than a regular colander and a soaking dish. You could also use it with the Pressure Cooker pot for noodles or pasta. It locks onto lugs normally used by the pressure lid, so it does not fall off when straining off the liquid. That is really nice when the water is HOT. A glass lid for ordinary stove top boiling is also available from PRESTO. Another useful accessory is a Stainless Steel steaming basket. It allows foods like root crops to be quickly cooked just in steam. The flavors do not mix, so your beets will taste like beets and your potatoes will taste like potatoes. Steaming vegetables under pressure is much quicker and more fuel efficient than boiling them in water and should retain more vitamins and nutrients as well as flavor. All of these items are available from Pressure Cooker Outlet in the links section of this article. They have all sorts of parts. I would recommend ordering extra rubber seals and pressure relief plugs for any pressure cooker you have or buy new. Store them out of sunlight in a cool location.