The pressure is on for the latest pressure cookers to prove their value as an important element in the kitchen. Scare stories need to be erased from distrustful minds. The new breed of pressure cookers is coming forth equipped with modern safety mechanisms. Here are some of the newest introductions:
With emphasis on safety and ease in usage, Cuisinarts Inc. provides these innovations in its Belgian-manufactured cooker, which carries the name of the Quiet Pressure/Cooker Steamer.
\o7 Quiet \f7 signifies the absence of an annoying rattle caused by jiggle-top pressure valves common in older cooker models. Instead, the rattle is replaced by a faint hissing sound caused by escaping steam, which indicates that the pressure level has been reached and that it's time to reduce the heat.
A single valve, which is designed not to fly off, sits on the center of the cooker's lid. A red pressure indicator rod in the center of the valve rises when pressure builds up. The rod is marked with three white rings to show low, medium and high pressure levels. An important safety feature is that if the heat is left on high and excessive pressure builds up, steam escapes from small holes in the base of the valve, making the hissing noise. If the heat still is not reduced, steam is released in a slot in the rim of the cover.
Another safety mechanism is that the lid will not open, causing burns from steam bursts, until the pressure is completely removed from the cooker/steamer. One of the most interesting assets of Cuisinarts' new pressure cooker is the quick-release pressure mechanism. Earlier models required taking the unit to the sink to run cold running water on the lid to lower the pressure so the lid could be opened. The red control knob on the handle of the Cuisinart cooker can be moved up and forward to blow out steam. This instant depressurizing allows cooking to be interrupted to add ingredients at the final stages and then returned to the heat source for further pressure cooking.
The cooker is made of heavy-gauge stainless steel. Since stainless steel takes longer to heat, the manufacturer installed a solid disc of copper in the bottom of the pot, sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. Copper has proved to be an exceptional heat conductor and allows even heat distribution.
Available in three sizes (four, six and eight quarts), each Cuisinart cooker comes with a steaming and draining basket and a trivet for cooking large roasts or poultry. Like most pressure cookers, by not sealing the lid, it can be used as an ordinary cooking utensil, a stockpot, deep-fryer or steamer. Suggested retail prices are $150 for the four-quart, $165 for the six-quart and $180 for the eight-quart. There's a full five-year warranty on all parts except the rubber ring in the cover, which has a two-year warranty.
The Swiss-made Duromatic pressure cooker from Kuhn Rikon is distributed by Swiss Gourmet Collection in San Francisco. The newest generations of Duromatic pressure cookers are among the quietest, simplest in the market with very few parts.
The stainless steel cooker has a five-layer heat-conducting base of stainless, silver and aluminum for optimal heat distribution. Duromatic comes in plain stainless design or in classic models that feature lids with cooking times for various foods etched into the top. The center of the lid has a multivalve, which contains: a metal pressure indicator rod that rises as pressure builds up, an overpressure vent, an aroma vent and steam release facility.
The indicator rod in the Duromatic rises to a first and second ring. When the first ring is reached, the heat should be turned down. When the second ring pops up, it indicates that the correct cooking pressure has been reached and that timing can be started. Should the heat be left on high, steam will escape downward through holes in the rim of the lid.
The Duromatic has an automatic safety lock in the lid. Pressure cannot build up inside the pot unless the lid is properly closed. Similarly, the lid will not budge unless the pressure is released. For quick depressurizing, fingertip pressure may be applied on the valve cap. The two-liter (slightly more than two quarts) Duromatic pressure skillet ($99) has a waffled skillet surface. It can be used for pressure roasting, braising and pot roasting stews, chops and small roasts.
The Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cookers are available in three-, five- and seven-liter sizes and range in suggested retail price from $90 to $130. Wire baskets, bowl inserts, timer and perforated inserts are available separately. The company provides a one-year guarantee. Servicing work and replacement parts are also guaranteed for 10 years.