Tools for micro kitchens: pressure cookers
While somewhat still a novelty in the U.S., around much of the world pressure cookers are standard kitchen ware. Back in the 90’s a Cuban family I lived with had at least four. On an island where propane was a precious commodity, this was the only way to economically cook beans and rice. But what Cubans and all pressure cooks know well is that they save energy, but also water and time. And so a pressure cooker is highly recommended for any on or off-grid, efficiently designed micro kitchen. Let’s check out some numbers:
With the energy/water/time savings, a pressure cooker also encourages the cook to quickly prepare dry beans (15-25 min) and other foods that are otherwise frequently bought from a can, with a significant compromise on taste (just try a canned kidney bean vs. a home cooked one, no comparison). For a tiny kitchen, there are also significant space savings by keeping dried beans and other dried foods around vs their canned counterparts.
But what about safety? My first pressure cooker was a 4 quart Presto, received as a college graduation present. It served faithfully for over 15 years- countless beans, soups, and veges cooked. Throughout this time there was but one mishap- the time I threw in some TVP (textured vege protein) into a bean mix. A piece of it lodged in the steam valve, pressure built, and the safety cap (as intended) popped out. Unfortunately in this model it was a simple rubber plug, and when it popped a 230 degree black bean volcano erupted in my kitchen. I’m sure there are still some black bean remnants on the ceiling.
Fast forward to today, the pressure cooker world is completely transformed. I just upgraded to what the NYT deemed the ‘Mercedes of pressure cookers’, a 6 qt Swiss made Kuhn-Rikon. There is no comparison- multiple safety features, incredibly quiet, an elegant pressure control mechanism, and rather beautiful to behold. [On display at the Micro Showcase]
Also available today are electronically controlled pressure cookers that automatically bring food up to pressure and then depressurize. The best reviewed one is Instant Pot. I’ve also tested this one several times and was impressed with the functionality. Programming and then walking away is something that was never previously possible with a pressure cooker– there’s even a new Bluetooth model available so you can control if with your phone. Downside on this model is size and single functionality- one can’t put this pot on the stove for normal cooking, and it’s a large piece of equipment to store in small space.
Happy pressure cooking in your micro kitchen.