According to the answers in this question, pressure cookers are primarily used to cook foods faster by changing the boiling point of water. (They are also used for preservation, but that's beside the point for this question).

Are there pressure-cooker specific foods? I've been looking, but I'm surprised that I can't seem to find recipes that absolutely require a pressure cooker. Surely the increased pressure will do something unique to certain types of foods, and that can be exploited to create new types of foods.

I know it's impossible to prove a negative, so if such foods really are virtually non-existant, then why is this the case?

  • There might be some plants that are unsafe to eat unless pressure cooked, but most of our knowledge of foods that need specific preparation came from a different era when you couldn’t just ship food in when there were times of famine. So people figured out how to safely eat rhubarb, pokeweed, cashews, cassava, and whatever else was available because of need not just curiosity
    – Joe
    Feb 21, 2022 at 11:28
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    AFAIK anything that is pressure cooked could've been just cooked for a long time with a similar effect: beans, meat, bones, etc. Pressure cooking is just a matter of convenience: you get the results in minutes instead of hours.
    – Luciano
    Feb 22, 2022 at 9:46
  • Does the reduced pressure of high altitude environments do anything unique to food other than changing cooking times? Not really, no.
    – eps
    Feb 23, 2022 at 17:25

4 Answers 4


Pressure speeds cooking by increasing the temperature from 212 to 250 Fahrenheit, but it also creates browning via the Maillard reaction.

Nathan Myhrvold says in "Modernist Cuisine at Home" on page 28:

The high temperatures inside the cooker also promote browning and caramelization, reactions that create flavors you can't get otherwise in a moist cooking environment.

According to Harold McGee, The Maillard reaction begins to occur at 250 Fahrenheit ("On Food and Cooking", Page 779).

Myhrvold gives a recipe for Caramelized Carrot Soup (p. 178). So there is an example of a recipe that requires a pressure cooker (i.e., it is not just the same results but faster).

  • This is interesting. I don't have the book, but after reading the website, I'm left a bit confused. On one hand, it says "The recipe still works because it’s the pressure-cooking that really allows the flavors of this soup to flourish.", but on the other, it says "thereby transforming a long process into a short 20-minute cook time". Does that imply that I could do this with a long process? Or would a long process reduce the total flavor concentration because the Mallaird process never fully completes? Mar 3, 2022 at 2:24
  • Sorry for giving you a minus in your first post. I simply disagree with the statement that in that soup, the pressure cooker achieves a taste which is not achievable without it. I looked at the recipe. It does contain a tiny bit of water indeed, but if you would instead caramelize the carrots without the water in a pan, then add the water to cook through, you would have the same Maillard reaction and the same result without a pressure cooker.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 3, 2022 at 7:43
  • @rumtscho Fair enough. I agree with you that this effect could be approximated,through other means. However, Myhrvold makes his opinion clear that there is no exact substitute. I defer to him given his expertise and research kitchen. From p. 177 of the same book: Under pressure, many kinds of vegetables and fruits transform into something dramatically new, yet strikingly familiar. Think of Campbell's Tomato Soup: much of its iconic flavor comes from the tomatoes reacting with the high temperature of the canning process. That profile simply can't be reproduced with fresh tomato soup. Mar 3, 2022 at 16:22
  • @rumtscho You're right, I am new here, so appreciate any feedback to make my answers better. Thanks! Mar 3, 2022 at 16:24

Whether paitan broth is pressure cooker specific is perhaps debatable but cooking under high pressure makes the bones soft enough to blend. My wife actually made this last night and I can vouch for how well it works. The recipe she used says that long cooking in a normal pan will do it but not as effectively.



Pressure cooking only speed up cooking.

Either many hours on the stove top/oven or 30 minutes at high pressure (times are just for the sake of discussion).

  • 1
    There's no way it "just speeds up cooking", right? It's like saying that higher temperatures "speeds up cooking". While that may be true for certain applications (boiling water), it isn't true for all situations (baking a cake). Perhaps it's simply the fact that a pressure cooker doesn't actually add that much pressure (e.g. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12446/… Feb 22, 2022 at 17:51
  • @NathanMerrill I'm confused by your comment. In fact, there is increased pressure in a pressure cooker, thus the name, (confirmed by your linked answer), which raises the boiling point of water significantly, and indeed speeds up cooking. I guess you are asking if there is something you need to cook in a pressure cooker, which can't be accomplished with any other means. This answer suggests that there is not.
    – moscafj
    Feb 22, 2022 at 18:30
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    @NathanMerrill the Maillard reaction is not necessary for cooking to happen. This strikes me as unrelated to your original question.
    – moscafj
    Feb 22, 2022 at 20:51
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    I understand that Maillard reaction is not necessary for cooking. That's not my argument. My argument is that pressure does more than just cook things faster. Evidence piece one: "It can produce the Maillard reaction using water". Now, this obviously isn't exactly useful for home pressure cookers, but that doesn't mean that home pressure cookers can't do something unique. Feb 22, 2022 at 20:55
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    @NathanMerrill you are basing your "argument" on a completely theoretical device that will never actually exist, no one is going to be pressure cooking food at literally more than 2 times the pressure of a freaking autoclave chamber. It's like comparing an oven to a blast furnace.
    – eps
    Feb 23, 2022 at 17:13

It is hard to proof a negative but I am going to claim 'there are no such foods known'.

This is because pressure cookers are relatively new and any foods that can not be prepared in other ways will always have been called inedible.

Besides, the difference in temperature and pressure is noticable but not extremely so, likely less than many factory processes are different from home cooking and even that does not result in new foods, just new preparations.

  • Nit pick: I know that factory processes do occasionally make foods that are impossible otherwise (e.g. adding butyric acid in chocolate). I'd love to ask for a source here, but I also know that food manufacturers can be highly secretive about this sort of stuff, so determining if there are any food factories that use pressure is likely really tough. Mar 4, 2022 at 14:53

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