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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Pressure Cookers

Frugal Kitchens 101
Pressure cooking is the old fashioned way of putting good food on the table quickly preceding microwave ovens and take-out. A pressure cooker is a specialized cooking vessel that instead of cooking at 212ºF under pressure it cooks the food at 240ºF. What this means is the food cooks a lot quicker but because a moist heat is used the food is moist and tender. From start to finish a small roast can easily be cooked to moist and tender in less than 30 minutes! Unlike a slow cooker the meat can be browned in the same pot it will be cooked in and because of the greatly reduced cooking time you can easily pop thawed meat in the pressure canner when you get home from work with it being ready to enjoy less than 30 minutes later with minimal prep work.

In terms of energy usage my large slow cooker costs 4¢ per hour to run so for most dishes that would average 24¢ to 32¢. Using the large burner (2,000 ) W at a cost of 24¢ per hour the cost for the meat (20 minutes) would come out to 8¢. Now the cost savings is not as important as the kWh savings. In short the pressure cooker is considerably more eco-friendly than the slow cooker.

I have 2 pressure cookers (Jasi 6 qt, Fagor 4 qt) and 2 pressure canners (22 qt) that can be used for large batch pressure cooking. Now before I go any further all pressure canners can be used as a pressure cooker but all pressure cookers cannot be used as pressure canners. There are more details on this in this blogs archives. Pressure cookers are classified as 1st or 2nd generation depending on their regulator design. My Jasi is a 1st generation pressure cooker that uses a weight as a regulator. I like it because of the size and the fact the weight makes an audible signal as the cooking progresses. The downside to the Jasi is it is aluminum so cannot be used for acidic foods. The Fagor is a 2nd generation pressure cooker with the regulator built into the handle. It is smaller but it is stainless steel so can be used for acidic foods. I'm used to pressure cookers with the weighted regulators so can tell by the noise they make how things are progressing. The Fagor is pretty much quiet so that took a bit of getting used to.

A pressure cooker will cost you anywhere from $20 to $200 for a dual pressure cooker/canner and then some but if you are looking at a pressure cooker only you should be able to buy a nice stainless steel one for under $60. So figure on the $20 to $60 mark for pressure cooker only.

Tips for buying a pressure cooker:

  • buy a larger size than you think you will use as a pressure cooker can only be filled ⅔ full
  • stainless steel costs a bit more but gives greater versatility in that you can cook acidic foods
  • whether the regulator is separate (1st generation) or in the handle (2nd generation) is purely a personal choice
  • watch for the December sales meant for Christmas shopping; some can be as much as half off
  • a rack is a really nice extra; if your pressure cooker does not come with a rack see if you can find a small cake cooling rack that will fit your pressure cooker

5 food lovers commented:

Garden Gnome said...

A pressure cooker is a real asset in any kitchen! The modern ones are so easy to use too :)

tahtimbo said...

Thank you very much for this advice. I am currently trying to find a pressure canner and this helps. However, there is a question I have: would you recommend a canner with a weighted gauge or a dial. I'm lost and have no idea which one is better/safer.
Oh, I just made a batch of your pork and beans and they turned out great!

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Tahtimbo :) I prefer the All American pressure canner that has both dial and weigh gauges because it has no gasket. If you get a dial only pressure canner the gauge needs to be tested yearly to be sure it is reading correctly. This can be a problem in some areas although any radiator shop should be able to test it for you. A weighted only pressure canner like my Mirro is also good and you don't have to worry about testing. A weighted pressure canner is a bit louder but that really isn't a problem. So either weighted or dial are safe and it really is a matter of personal preference and price. Mirro and Presto canners are cheaper in price than the All Americans and they have gaskets so you will need to keep a spare gasket on hand.

I'm glad to hear you liked the pork and beans :)

tahtimbo said...

Thank you for clearing that for me. I was really going back and forth and didn't really know which I should get. I guess I'll go with the weighted gauge, so I won't have to worry about getting the dial tested each year (one less thing to worry about). Thank you again for the information. You can be sure that once I get the pressure canner, I'll be back prowling though your recipes and asking for advice.
Thank you!!!!
Yes, the pork and beans was a big hit!!

Garden Gnome said...

You are quite welcome Tahtimbo :) I look forward to reading about your canning adventures.