Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ode to the pressure cooker


There are specialized pans to have, and specialized pans to not have. The pressure cooker is one to have if you ever cook at all.

Pressure cookers are good for vegetables, grains and dried beans, use much less energy and time to cook and therefore are also good for the environment and for you.

For example, you can "presoak" dried beans in a pressure cooker in five minutes, and then cook the beans (with all the trimmings) for about a half-hour or 45 minutes and you're done. With prep time (chopping onions and carrots and so on) and time to bring the pot up to pressure, then, getting dried beans on the table, cooked perfectly, will take about an hour and a half - or less. Cooking beans conventionally can take up to eight hours for presoaking plus two to three hours for cooking, not including prep time. I have learned that sometimes the beans I buy are not the freshest (yes, there is a difference in dried beans) and they take a really long time to get done. Even the tough ones give in to pressure cooking, though.

Pressure cookers do an admirable job on fresh veggies, like carrots, and on grains like rice and can even be used to make some interesting desserts. You might be lucky, like I was, and get one for free on freecycle or craigslist, but however you get it be sure to use it!

7 comments:

Elaine Vigneault said...

I want a pressure cooker! Will you recommend a good one?

Judith said...

The one I have is by Presto and is stainless steel and a nice weight (fairly heavy). It is really easy to use and quite beautiful (in my opinion). There are others that look rather more complicated to me. They seem a little intimidating.

sc2987 said...

Depending on your strictness, stainless steel is generally not vegan - it's finished using slaughterhouse waste fats, which is partly what makes it stainless. Unfortunately, I found this out about two days after I'd bought a 10l stainless steel cooking pot...

Judith said...

I appreciate the information and am interested in finding out if there are companies that do not use slaughterhouse fats in the making of stainless steel.

I do try to avoid using products that involve the use of animal products - but sometimes there is no reasonable alternative. I use tires on my car, for example, and I understand there are animal products involved in their manufacture. I eat vegetables that undoubtedly involve the death of some little animals in the planting and harvesting.

Sometimes I find it necessary, too, to make a decision based on how good it is for the environment or for my health, which is why I do not use aluminum pans.

I guess you could say I'm semi-strict...a ridiculous term, though. We do each have to find our own comfort level.

NiereG said...

I am very curious as to where the information about slaughterhouse waste being used to finish stainless steel came from. Stainless steel is stainless because it is an alloy containing chromium. I have not been able to locate anything that indicates that any type of steel is quenched or finished using waste fat from slaughterhouses. Or any other type of waste fat for that matter.

I would really like to know where the information came from.

NiereG

judith said...

Well, niereg, I'm with you. I haven't found references to the use of slaughterhouse waste in the making of stainless steel cookware. I'm not saying it isn't true, of course, just that I have not found the information.

sc2987 said...

I can't find the original place I read it (it's not widely known), but I emailed some of the companies the website said were OK, to check. Two said they had always used animal fat to polish their pans etc, another said that their polish used to be vegan but now they'd changed to using animal wax, and as far as they were aware it was industry-standard to do so.
I didn't mean that stainless steel would not be stainless without the coating, simply that you can tell the difference when the polish wears off, i.e. you start to get salt marks etc on the utensils.
In this case though, there are alternatives to stainless steel (and aluminium/Teflon, which I also don't use), e.g. cast iron, copper, enamel, ceramic etc. Or buying secondhand (which you obviously can't do with tyres!).