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We were just clearing out our kitchen and stared at this brand new, unused pressure cooker we got for our wedding over 10 years ago! We've never felt the need to use it before. I know it's supposed to be able to cook things really fast, but is this really an essential appliance? We're debating if we should give it to someone else. Before I do that though, I think I want to try it a few times. What kinds of things would best demonstrate its usefulness?

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Titles with the word "best" generally imply a subjective question or poll. Converted to Community Wiki. –  Aaronut Aug 24 '10 at 18:39
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If you don't want it, I'll send you my address ;) –  daniel Sep 24 '10 at 21:53
    
I've edited this to attempt to salvage it - I think "what's it good for?" "things that take forever to boil" is a reasonable bit of information. A lot of the existing answers captured this even with the original vague phrasing. –  Jefromi May 30 '13 at 6:30
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11 Answers

For me, the best use is making beans. I find that home cooked beans have a much better taste and texture than from cans. The pressure cooker can make them in just about an hour from the moment you pour them in the pot to perfectly tender, and no presoaking is required, so I don't have to plan a day in advance.

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+1 Another advantage over canned is that you control the ingredients (salt, msg, etc.) –  bmb Aug 25 '10 at 23:29
    
No worries about EDTA too. –  ricbax Oct 22 '10 at 3:09
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It's a convenience and a time saver. The high pressure simply raises the boiling point of water which raises the cooking temperature. Anything you need to boil (but not evaporate) for a long time will go much faster using it. Of course without the lid it is also a nice heavy pot.

Canning requires the higher temperature to kill botulism spores but most recipes that call for a pressure cooker will simply take longer.

If you haven't used it in 10 years you are probably fine getting rid of it. You could send it to me for example. :)

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Just some notes on canning with a pressure cooker... Unless you've checked with the manufacturer, it's not generally recommended to can with a pressure cooker (as opposed to a pressure canner). If you do try, 1) check that it holds at least 4 quart jars. If the pot is not at least this big, you probably should not use it for canning. 2) check with the manuf. for changes in process times & pressure from the original recipe. uga.edu/nchfp/publications/nchfp/factsheets/… –  JustRightMenus Aug 24 '10 at 15:18
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Thanks for the clarification. Mine is a canner that I use as a cooker. –  Sobachatina Aug 24 '10 at 15:34
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a) Send it to me :)

b) Pressure cookers are good for cooking something like lamb shanks (or other tough meats), which would normally take several hours of braising before becoming tender. In a pressure cooker, you could probably do it in less than an hour.

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I laughed when I saw that your first impression was "send it to me" as well. –  Sobachatina Aug 24 '10 at 14:48
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I like to use mine as a high pressure steamer. Pour a 1cm layer of water into the pressure cooker, put a small rack in (came with my pressure cooker) and heat the cooker until the water boils, put your veggies on the rack, close the cooker and cook for two minutes or so on the highest pressure. Never tasted broccoli that was so fresh.

You could use a steam oven to get the same mode of preparation with more convenience, but it's very pricey.

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Pressure cookers use higher pressure to raise the boiling point of water, which means that you can cook at a higher temperature. That leads to shorter cooking times. It is especially useful for making braises, stews and stocks.

My personal favorite recipe to make in a pressure cooker is Alton Brown's Pressure Cooker Chili. I've made the recipe without a pressure cooker and it takes 3-4 for the meat to become nice and tender while the pressure cooker can do it in 25 minutes.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pressure-cooker-chili-recipe/index.html

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Thanks for the link, I will check that out. –  Wil Aug 24 '10 at 17:05
    
There's also the added benefit of stocks not coming out as cloudy as the more normal ways of making stock. –  J Wynia Aug 26 '10 at 17:32
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You can use it to make a version of risotto that doesn't take any stirring.

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Just mix the ingredients in and you are good to go? Really? This would taste the same? –  Wil Aug 24 '10 at 17:04
    
@Wil - there's apparently some trickery involved in the settings and letting steam out. –  justkt Aug 24 '10 at 17:41
    
That is not in fact the case. It will be similar to a risotto, but stirring is an essential part of making risotto, as it scrapes starches off the surface of the rice grains which create the gorgeous creamy omnomnomnom that is a good risotto. –  daniel Sep 24 '10 at 21:54
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I've never tried risotto a la pressure cooker but daniel's claim that stirring is necessary is another myth that should be dispelled. See Bittman in the NY Times: nytimes.com/2007/05/02/dining/02mini.html?ref=asparagus –  PaulS Nov 22 '10 at 20:15
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You can make vegetables soup in minutes. Steel cut oatmeal, very fast too.

Basically anything that would stovetop cook for hours can be done in 20-35minutes mostly. We did oxtail soup for dinner just last night in an hour, start to eating.

And vegetables can be steamed to perfection in just a few minutes, with some danger of overcooking.

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pressure cooker is one of my MUST HAVE in my kitchen because aside from saving me a lot of time tendering my meat but it also save your electric bill for electric stove.

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You can use it to boil eggs, cook beans, rice and polenta. It's great to cook potatos to make mashed potatos or potato salad.

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Laura at plawingwithfireandwater.com uses her pressure cooker to make a cream croquant. Pour 35% cream in your cooker to 1/2 an inch, cook for ten minutes at full pressure. You will get a crunchy caramelized bit of gorgeousness made solely with cream.

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Pressure cookers generally are ideal for food items that require moist cooking methods that take a long time. Generally, the can be employed in lieu of:

  • Long boiling or simmering, as with beans or brown rice
  • Stews and other braises
  • Long steaming
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protected by Jefromi May 30 '13 at 6:24

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