Pressure cookers are an extremely useful kitchen tool. They greatly speed cooking and reduce energy usage by up to 70 percent. This is because as pressure increases, so does the boiling point of water, which is the factor that limits cooking speed in water-containing foods (most foods). If it weren't for my pressure cooker, I'd rarely eat beets or globe artichokes. Instead of baking, boiling or steaming these for 60-90 minutes, I can have them soft as butter in 30. But let's face it: most people are intimidated by pressure cookers. They fear the sounds, the hot steam, and the perceived risk of explosion. I escaped this because I grew up around them.
Recently, I was looking for a new pressure cooker to replace my abused old Presto. I had my sights set on a modern "second generation" stainless steel model. But looking around a bit more, I discovered that pressure cookers have evolved quite a bit in the last decade. There's actually a "third generation" now: the electronic pressure cooker. These not only pressure cook, they also slow cook, make rice, and can also brown meats/vegetables for stews. They're even more efficient than traditional pressure cookers because they're insulated and release very little steam. And they cook quietly, at the push of a button, while you do something else.
Of course I had to have one. There are a number of models available, but I only found one that has a stainless steel insert rather than nonstick. I don't really know whether nonstick is a health risk or not-- honestly I doubt it-- but I'm not going to do the experiment on myself. Stainless steel is also more durable than nonstick, and durability is extremely important to me for both financial and environmental reasons.
The model I found is called the Instant Pot LUX-60. It seems to be marketed mostly to Asians (e.g., it has a congee setting), but it's perfectly adaptable to the Western kitchen. I received it two months ago, and we've been using it several times a week since then. It appears to be solidly built, and I expect it to last a long time. The insert is fairly substantial stainless steel that has a 3-ply bottom for even heat distribution, and the gaskets are all made of durable silicone.
It's amazing how many things you can cook in it. It fits a whole chicken, which cooks in 45 minutes (vs. 1.5 hours in the oven). Rich soup stock from the bones takes 40 minutes. Pre-soaked chickpeas are very tender in 25 minutes. Pot roast in an hour and a half. Four cups of rice cooks in under 30 minutes and comes out better than when I make it in my rice cooker. All you have to do is press a couple of buttons and you're done. Cleanup is a breeze. I was initially concerned that the higher temperature would cause nutrient loss, but the reading I've done seems to indicate that it compares favorably to other cooking methods.
I'm always on the lookout for tools that allow busy people to cook at home in a more efficient manner, encouraging a wholesome and economical diet rather than relying on commercially prepared food. This pressure cooker definitely qualifies. I'm sold on this thing. Can you tell? My friends are getting tired of hearing me rave about it. I promise Instant Pot didn't pay me to write this.