Pressure Cooking for Vegetarians

Dear Home Ec 101,

I am coverting to Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and several books suggest using a pressure cooker as a good tool in the kitchen. My questions are:

1. Are the European models better than the American ones? That was suggested in one book.
2. Are they safe now? My grandmother never had an accident with one. When I was a kid,  I do remember seeing a lady covered in burns from a pressure cooker accident and I have been quietly terrified of them since.
3. Are pressure cookers only good for beans? What other use would they have in the kitchen? I don’t mind investing in a good one if it is not a uni-tasker.

Signed,

Veggie in Virginia

Heather says:

This is a great question for the Home Ec 101 community, as I’m still learning. As an aside, I have been using my pressure cooker a lot lately. I have somehow fallen out of the habit of remembering to soak my beans, but I can make up for that lost time by firing up the pressure cooker.

As I am still relatively new to pressure cooking, I’ll leave style suggestions open to the readers.

I want to remind everyone that the number one cause of accidents in the kitchen is carelessness and complacency. I’ll do a whole post on this in the near future, but specifically concerning pressure cookers there are a few things you must do before each use. These are not optional. You must check any vents for blockages, ensure the safety valve moves freely, and you must check the condition of the seal. If the seal is pliable, the valve can move, and the vent is clear there is no reason for the pressure cooker to malfunction -provided you follow the instructions and do not overfill or cook very foamy foods. It is always worth the thirty seconds or so it takes to peek through the vent and check the seal. Always. Got it?

Pressure cookers are good for far more than beans. I’m ordering Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna J. Sass to review and for my own educational purposes.

After receiving your question I began to search and it seems as though people use their pressure cookers for many more vegetarian friendly items than just beans. Grains, including rice, and other vegetables seem to be popular choices. Unless I shell out for smaller pressure cooker, I’m not sure that I will be lugging it out just to do some green beans, but know that it is an option.

Be aware if you have an electric stove that you may want to move the pressure cooker from one burner to another if the recipe calls for a fast reduction in heat. (Switching from high to low, for example). Electric burners, especially on smooth top stoves -lift don’t slide- retain heat and don’t respond as quickly as a gas flame.

Ok Home Eccers, share your best vegetarian friendly pressure cooker resources.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



13 Comments

  1. Jenn Fowler on March 25, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Now that I'm over my fear of my pressure canner, tackling the pressure cooker is next. . .
    My recent post Reader’s Question- How Do You Use Powdered Laundry Detergent in an HE Washer

  2. Camilla on March 25, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Most of the recipes for finished vegetarian dishes (even from the Lorna Sass book) that I've tried have been entirely inedible to me. The spicing is so weirdly altered that I don't think real compensation is possible. The good finished dishes that come out of the pressure cooker really do rely on the flavor of tough fatty cuts of meat.

    That said, if you eat beans, grains and potatoes in large portions, it'll save you both time and energy on the early stage cooking. I think to make effective use of it in that capacity, though, you have to be pretty good at planning ahead, soaking beans in advance, and storing the leftovers.

    (Hmm, commenting system seems broken, I'm not succeeding in posting this.)

  3. Laura on March 25, 2011 at 1:25 am

    Hi Veggie in Virginia, to answer your questions…

    1. Are the European models better than the American ones?

    Yes, and no. I have used both European and American models from the same manufacturer and though European models usually have more features, they have a different maximum pressure standard. In U.S. the standard is 15 PSI in Europe it's 13PSI or less. Why is that an issue? Because most books are written for U.S. models with the 15PSI standards so you will need to make a little conversion.

    Now, if you were asking whether European MANUFACTURERS are better than U.S. I would say it depends on the manufacturer – see where the pressure cooker is made- If it's made in China or India I would be wary about the quality of the stainless steel used. If it's made in Switzerland or Germany (in the U.S. European manufacturers will only sell the ones with the U.S. standard) then you can be sure about the quality. I have a really high-end pressure cooker from Germany and the stainless steel is so finely ground that it is practically non-stick! Cooking is a joy and clean-up is a breeze!

    2. Are they safe now?

    Oh, yes. The newer generation pressure cookers have 2 or more redundant safety mechanisms. That means if the valve is obstructed and the pressure cooker can no longer release pressure, there is a little silicone or rubber button that will pop out to release pressure before things get dangerous. Locking mechanisms have also gotten so that you CANNOT open your pressure cooker while the contents are under pressure (another source of terrible accidents).

    3. Are pressure cookers only good for beans?

    Well, beans are the most miraculous of the bunch (soaked chickpeas in 20 minutes!!!) but not the only foods to benefit from pressure cooking. Potatoes (just 10 minutes), whole grains in the bat of an eye and risotto in less than 20 minutes (start to finish), steamed veggies, sweets and even eggs!

    I'm doing a month of eggs in the pressure cooker starting in April on my website (if you are including them in your diet)!

    Come and check out my pressure cooker veggie recipes, green beans too ; ) and let me know if I can answer any more questions!

    Ciao!

    L

    The veggie edition: http://www.hippressurecooking.com/search/label/ve
    making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

    My recent post Cozze Serenissime – A New Venitian Dish form your pressure cooker!

    • Laura Ragsdale on March 25, 2011 at 9:15 am

      Thank you! I will be checking your site in just a few minutes. Risotto? MMMMM…. {G}

    • HeatherSolos on March 26, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Laura, thank you for answering the question thoroughly.

  4. Alice Dick on March 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    The "Tightwad Gazette" has a recipe for cooking rice and beans simultaneously in a pressure cooker. It takes a couple of heatproof bowls and some foil but as I recall the recipe was pretty simple. If you don't have the book it is available at nearly every library.

  5. HeatherSolos on March 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    She totally sold me with that description. Something I can put outside on the deck when it's 100F? That, is full of awesome and win.

  6. Tea on March 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

    After 20 years of using a pressure cooker on the stove, I got an electric one, when our stove was out of use during a kitchen remodel. Now that I have had an electric pressure cooker, i would never go back to a stove top model. It is as easy as using a crock pot. You set what pressure and how many minutes you want it to cook at pressure and walk away. When it reaches pressure it starts counting down the minutes and when it is done, it releases the pressure and automatically switches to warm. Their literally is no way to mess it up. If you forget or don't put in enough liquids it sounds an alarm to alert you an automatically switches off. You don't have to watch to see when reaches pressure, you don't have to keep track of how long it has been cooking. It does all the thinking for you.

    • HeatherSolos on March 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      Tea, you have my interest piqued. If this moving madness passes and it turns out we're staying put, I *KNOW* what our next purchase will be. Thank you!

    • Keter Magick on March 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm

      I was just going to ask about recommendations for a good pressure cooker… I gave away my old one because it was aluminum and I no longer cook in aluminum, but the prices for stainless steel were far too high ($100 and up). This isn't any cheaper, but will probably be worth it in terms of usability.

      BTW, after having done a few minutes of online research, I strongly recommend anyone who wants to buy one of these to do your research. There are a few models out there, including some very expensive ones, that do not last. Buyer beware. I will be angling for one for my birthday!!!

      • Tea on March 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm

        Mine is a Nesco Professional that I ordered from Walmart.com. I used it almost every for 6 months during the remodel, and still use it all the time, never had a problem with it.

    • Laura Ragsdale on March 25, 2011 at 9:12 am

      That sounds like what I need. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. John I. Carney on March 24, 2011 at 9:34 am

    They're great for cooking artichokes quickly. There are a number of recipes online, such as this one: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Recipes/Vegetable-56

    I have a very inexpensive model, but I've been very happy with it. Unfortunately, most of the things I do with it aren't particularly vegetarian. 🙂
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