Product Review

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.

The Pros
Like all other pressure cookers, the Duromatic Duo offers an unparalleled opportunity to bring meals to the table in minutes rather than hours, which makes it a perfect choice for those with busy lifestyles. However, these pressure cookers do present several obvious advantages over older pressure cooker models.

First, the spring-loaded valve system practically eliminates all of the escaping steam and combination of hissing and bumping associated with older models of pressure cookers. Once the pressure inside the cooker has been maintained, a cook has little concern about the quiet cooker working away on the back burner of his or her stove. This hands-off approach allows a cook to use the extra time to prepare other dishes for the meal or enjoy a well-deserved rest. Either way, it only helps to add to the cooking experience.

Second, the inclusion of a tempered glass lid makes using the pots as conventional cookware second nature. For the cook that has limited storage and/or budget, the Duromatic Duo makes perfect sense. For the price of a good set of pressure cookers, a cook also secures a handy stockpot/saucepan and a versatile frying pan. This dual nature also lends itself very well to making meals that utilize one cooker as a pressure cooker and the other as a conventional pan. In fact, included in the literature is a brief pamphlet of examples of such meals.

Third, the design of the pressure cooking lid makes the nightmare of exploding pressure cookers practically impossible. Safety features ranging from self-regulating pressure valves to flanges for emergency pressure release make cooking with the Duromatic Duo pressure cookers easy and safe.

Finally -- and perhaps most intriguing to those familiar with first generation pressure cookers -- the introduction of a new method of releasing pressure that allows a cook to remove the pressure cooking lid without interrupting the cooking process is a welcome feature. By depressing the black valve cap on the lid, steam is released through the openings in the valve. Once all of the pressure has been released, a cook can easily remove the lid and add ingredients, check for doneness or sneak a taste!

The Cons
While the overall performance of Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic Duo is first rate, there are a few caveats to keep in mind about the set. First, in order to maintain the desired pressure, one must reduce the heat to avoid building too much pressure in the cooker. This can be difficult to achieve, especially with electric burners. Kuhn Rikon suggests that a cook either remove the cooker from the heat source for a few minutes to allow it to cool down after the temperature has been reduced or, if another burner is available, set it on the lowest setting when you begin cooking and move the pot to that burner when the desired pressure has been reached. These methods are both effective, but it does take a little practice to master maintaining the desired pressure.

Second, when using the touch release method of releasing pressure, the valve often becomes quite warm to the touch. It should be noted that using a wooden spoon to depress the valve cap completely rectifies this problem.

The Meals
Foods that benefit most from pressure cooking are those that often require longer cooking times such as:
  • soups
  • meats
  • vegetables
  • potatoes
  • legumes

A pot roast that normally takes over 3 hours to prepare in the oven can take about an hour to prepare using a pressure cooker. Savory black bean dishes that take almost 3 hours to prepare using conventional methods can take as little as 10 minutes in a pressure cooker. Now that's fast food!

Because little or no steam escapes during cooking, fewer vitamins and minerals are lost in the cooking liquid or dissipated into the air. The result is healthier meals that require less seasoning and retain more vivid color. The increased pressure also helps to mingle the flavors combined in a pot, so sauces and soups take less time to take on familiar flavors that often take hours to achieve.

In addition to everything from split pea soup to lemon cheesecake (yes, a cook can make cheesecakes in a pressure cooker!), pressure cookers can also be used to preserve foods. Fruits, vegetables and fish can all be canned for later enjoyment. Of course, certain safety precautions should be followed when canning foods. For more information on canning food using a pressure cooker, visit http://home-canning.com.

Resources
For more information about the Duromatic Duo or some great seasonal pressure cooker recipe ideas, visit http://www.eurocooking.com or http://www.kuhnrikon.com.

Kuhn Rikon products are available at over 300 retailers from coast to coast as well as through some high-end catalogs. For information about nearby retailers, call 1-800-662-5882.

Putting It All To Work
The Duromatic Duo is ideal for everyday use and is geared towards cooks with the busy lifestyle so often encountered in today's world. Its versatility combined with its ease of use make it a must for those who love their time in the kitchen, but find themselves with less and less of it these days.

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