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Pressure cookers. If hearing those words makes you think of an unwieldy pot that sounds like it's about to lift off of a launch pad, then you haven't met the members of the second generation of pressure cookers like those offered by Kuhn Rikon. Gone are the days of seeing steam pouring out of a weight-valve system, hearing a constant hissing and jiggling that makes you envision the makings of a bomb and guessing about the pressure (or lack thereof) reached inside these hissing pots. Instead, Kuhn Rikon offers quick, healthy meals that lack the mystery and confusion brought on by first generation models.
How Does Pressure Cooking Work? To understand how a pressure cooker works, you need to know just a little about physics. Now, before you decide to move onto a different article, let me assure you that it is a very little amount of physics! Simply put, under normal circumstances, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. If you put water into a pot and cover it with a lid that doesn't allow steam to escape, the steam will remain trapped and pressure will build. The increased pressure inside the pot allows the water and/or other liquids inside the pot to boil at a much higher temperature (usually about 250 degrees Fahrenheit). As a result, the cooking process is sped up considerably.
Foods that normally take hours to prepare using conventional methods can take a fourth to a third of the time to cook. That adds up to both time and energy savings. Also, because little or no steam escapes at all during the cooking process, smaller amounts of liquid can be used and more vitamins and minerals can be retained. This advantage also helps to dispel the myth that food cooked in a pressure cooker often ends up soggy or mushy. It also allows cooks to steam, braise and roast foods in addition to cooking with liquids when using a pressure cooker.
Okay, that's the long and short of it all. Now, most of the components of pressure cookers are similar. They are all basically made up of a metal pot and a lid. The main difference between them can be found in the type of pressure regulator used. The type described in the beginning of this article is known as a weight-valve pressure cooker (often referred to as a "jiggler" pressure cooker). The type that's being reviewed in this article is a spring-loaded valve pressure cooker set manufactured and sold by Kuhn Rikon.
The Duromatic Duo Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic Duo pressure cooking set consists of:
1 - 5 liter cooker pot
1 - 2 liter frypan
1 - pressure cooker lid (fits on both pots)
1 - glass lid (fits on both pots)
1 - steaming trivet (fits inside both pots)
Each pot is manufactured from high quality stainless steel and features an aluminum sandwich bottom -- that is, the bottom of the pan includes a quarter inch of aluminum sandwiched between layers of stainless steel. This sandwiched bottom allows cooks to take advantage of the great conductive properties of aluminum and the durability and ease of cleaning offered by stainless steel. Because it is suggested that cooks never fill a pressure cooker over 2/3 full, both pots are also marked with 1/2 and 2/3 full marks to take any guesswork out of preparing meals.
The pressure cooker lid -- which works with both of the pots included in the set -- features a spring-loaded valve that allows a cook to accurately determine the amount of pressure reached inside the cooker. As the pressure builds inside the cooker, the pressure indicator stem rises. When a first red ring appears, it indicates that an internal pressure of 8 pounds per square inch (psi) has been reached. This level is intended for gentle cooking and cooking foods like rice and grains. If you continue to apply heat to the cooker, a second red ring will appear. This indicates that an internal pressure of 15 psi has been reached. Most foods are cooked using this level. To maintain a cooking level, the heat must be reduced. Kuhn Rikon suggests that the cooker be briefly removed from the heat source and the heating element temperature reduced (usually to the lowest setting) to allow a maintaining temperature to be reached, especially if a cook is using an electric stove.
In addition to allowing a cook to accurately determine the pressure, the spring-loaded valve also acts as a safety feature. If the pressure continues to rise after reaching 15 psi, the valve allows excess steam to escape. An audible hiss will be heard and appropriate action should be taken to reduce the heat and maintain the desired pressure. Another safety feature of the lid is the manner in which it locks onto the cooker. First, pressure cannot be reached until the lid is put on correctly. Once locked and brought to the desired pressure, it cannot be released until the pressure has been released. Finally, to release the pressure, the spring-loaded valve allows a cook to press the black valve cap lightly to quickly open the pressure cooker without cooling off the pot under cold running water.
The glass lid -- which works with both pots included in the set -- allows a cook to use either pot as conventional cookware as well as pressure cookers. It features an ergonomic handle and a stainless steel ring that rests on the pots.
The trivet --which also works with both pots in the set -- is ideal for steaming vegetables in both the pressure cooker and conventional cookware modes of operation. It is manufactured from stainless steel and has an even pattern of rings cut out of it.
The Duromatic Duo pressure cooker set is intended for both pressure and conventional cooking and is marketed towards people with busy lifestyles that can benefit from its claims of fresh food fast. Its suggested retail price is $199.00.