I was very excited to receive this book, as I've had some wonderful results from recipes produced by America's Test Kitchen. I pay close attention to their equipment reviews. The descriptions of methods and cookers is worth reading. Today, I made two recipes from the cookbook and was disappointed - to put it mildly - with the results of both. I made a warm potato salad, following the recipe as closely as I could. The potatoes were mushy and way overcooked. I attempted to make the lovely top sirloin roast on page 100, choosing the meat with the help of 3 butchers at a store that actually has butchers cutting the meat. I followed the instructions precisely. The sauce was very tasty, but the meat was overcooked and dry as cardboard! The recipe predicted that the internal temperature of the meat after cooking would be around 105 degrees; my ruined roast was almost 200 degrees.
I have been using pressure cookers since I was married over 40 years ago, and own and use four pressure cookers several times a week. In addition, I used to demonstrate several different brands of pressure cookers in retail stores including Macy's and Williams-Sonoma. After choking down the cardboard for dinner tonight, I consulted some of the many other pressure cooker books I've collected over the years. To cook chicken parts, Roy DeGroot, Lorna Sass, and the booklet that came with my Kuhn-Rikon cooker all say to use high pressure for around 9 minutes. The "Perfection" book's time under high pressure for thighs is 20 minutes. I usually cook chicken breasts for 5 minutes under high pressure, but this book instructs cooking braised chicken breasts for 15 minutes! I am not going any farther with this book, because I can't afford to waste any more food.
I thought America's Test kitchen was churning out fail proof recipes. I thought they were trying out all the different options in appliances and ingredients to tell us which ones were the best. In the past I thought they were doing a bang up job!
Then comes along Pressure Cooker Perfection. A cookbook that sound like it is going to be right up my alley since I grew up with marvellous food coming from pressure cookers and have a firm belief in the ability of Pressure cooking to save energy, save time and produce terrific food.
The first hint that things might not be quite right was a quick flip through the book and all the many pictures of meat : chicken, roasts, stews, Turkey, etc. There is woefully little devoted to anything besides meat and potatoes - although there is a tempting looking recipe for beets and another for artichokes. There are absolutely no recipes for desserts - puddings, flans, etc perhaps because there is not a single recipe that mentions using a steamer basket or a trivet.
The second oddity was the fact that the book ranked the Fagor cooker (I own one) as a top buy and a Kuhn rikon as a 'recommended with reservations'! Without going into a review of pressure cookers, I would recommend that you read the reviews for both brands on Amazon before taking the plunge and buying a cheaper but more frustrating appliance. I've learned how to handle my Fagor but, compared to the pressure cookers that I grew up with, it is a second class appliance.
However, I took my hissing, spitting Fagor and a whole organic chicken and set out to try the recipe for the whole chicken in rosemary and garlic. the cook time seemed a bit long but I figured I would trust the books - tested by America's test Kitchen after all. Twenty five minutes later I had an over cooked, falling off the bone chicken that was good for not much more than shredding. Oh well, there's always a bum recipe or two in every cook book. so i decided to try out the Classic Pot roast with potatoes. This recipe - for a 3 to 4 lb roast - called for 90 minutes under high pressure. Seriously?? You could reduce a beef bone to jelly in 90 minutes under high pressure!! I cut down the time to 50 minutes (based on my older recipes) and the roast was done perfectly. The flavor was boring. . . sorry America's Test Kitchen, and a waste of a perfectly good roast.
So, this is not a pressure cooking book that I would recommend. The cooking times seem to be off. The variety of recipes is limited and I question the book's recommendations of the best cookers. Pressure cooking is a marvellous way to cook. If you are interested in it there are many other better books out there for you to explore.
on March 27, 2013
I am a big fan of Cook's Illustrated and was very excited by their article in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of the magazine covering pressure cooking. I ordered this book right away and received it with much anticipation. After a thorough read and test of a couple of recipes, unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book. Compared to other books that cover the subject well, this book falls short on almost every front. The introductory material is fine, but adds nothing new. The cooking times are generally longer than similar recipes in other books. By contrast, other books more often recommend natural cool down, especially for meat recipes. Chris Campbell mentions that the cooking times are different in this book. To test the relative merits I made 15 Bean soup using the CI method of 25 minutes at high pressure, followed by rapid pressure reduction using the pressure relief valve on my Fissler cooker. Then I made a second batch, but used 15 minutes on high, off heat followed by natural cool down which took about 20 minutes. The beans were mushy and over cooked using the CI method, perfect using the shorter cook and slower pressure reduction technique. Big difference in the finished soup, frankly the CI soup went down the drain. Next I tried pot roast. Way over-cooked using the CI times compared to Miss Vickie or the similar cook times found in several other books. To say this is a surprising result is a huge understatement. CI's test kitchen has proven reliable for years. I am a charter subscriber to the magazine and cannot say this has ever happened before. Others have pointed out the extremely limited selection of recipes, another big disappointment. Was this book rushed into print? Not recommended. Any of several others are much better, Lorna's and Miss Vickie's come to mind.
on March 28, 2013
Was so looking forward to receiving this book but it's somewhat disappointing. Nearly all the recipes are braised; a fine and tasty technique but certainly does not reflect the totality of pressure cooking. ATK touts the benefit of nutritious cooking with a pressure cooker, but then cooks all veggies and grain in excess liquid which has to be drained off. Then they praise the economy of using economy cuts of meat, but use boneless short ribs which are not what I would call an economy cut at $4-6/lb. None of the recipes utilizes a basket/rack to steam the contents. An OK cookbook, as far as it goes, but given ATK's reputation and the title of the book, I expected more.
Update 4/16/2013 I contacted ATK about using 3 quarts of water to 1 cup rice, convinced it had to be a mistake. They confirmed they used 3 quarts. That's just unnecessary and means they're (1) expending energy cooking down the rice further after initial pressure cooking and (2) throwing out vitamins with the water they drain off. Both situations are contrary to the purpose of pressure cooking. No wonder they think everyone else's cooking times are wrong! Consequently, I am downgrading this review to 2 stars.
I bought this book specifically for the recipes; simple, everyday food made with fresh ingredients. Despite the many negative reviews about the book from ePC owners (and ATK's bias) to the contrary, I bought it specifically for an electric PC (Instant Pot) and have found this to be an excellent cookbook. To be sure, the timing given is for stovetop PCs, but with the proper timing adjustments, the recipes turn out very well.
I'd like to say a few things about ATK's dislike of ePCs (a big part of why the best of them are "Recommended With Reservations"). In the full review of them found in the magazine and on the website, they go into great detail. It mostly comes down to 2 things. First, it seems that all ePCs (including my Instant Pot) automatically switch over to "Keep Warm" when cooking is completed. This seems to completely befuddle them. But really, is turning your electric unit off when the timer sounds any different than turning your stove off when your own timer goes off at the end of stovetop cooker's pressure time? I think it's exactly the same, as both require getting up and turning off the pot when the beep sounds (Note - the Instant Pot 7-in-1 switches to 'keep warm', but the heating element is turned OFF until pressure releases, then turns back on in warming mode). 2nd, they dislike the nonstick cooking pots. Fair enough, but their last review didn't include any of the models that ship with stainless pots (very nice ones, too, with thick bases, like the one on my IP) and completely ignores the optional stainless pot available for some of the others. And yes, those models (Instant Pot among them) were available well before their latest ePC review was written. Ok, rant over, back to the book.
The beginning of the book covers the basics of operation and advantages (along with reviews) of pressure cookers. Especially helpful are the tips and food guides found on pages 4-23. As a relatively new PC owner, I find myself referring to them often, even when cooking from another source. Experienced PC cooks will just skip right past them, but they're very nice for beginners and anyone, really, who's cooking something new.
The chapters are well organized and include nice entries like Fast and Easy Suppers as well as Fancy Dinners and Large Roasts. I appreciate that anything that's not normally a main dish is all in one chapter, Sides. Desserts are a notable omission, but they redeem themselves with One-Pot Pasta and Pasta Sauces and Indoor Barbecue. The recipes predictably make use of fresh ingredients and ATK's signature streamlined methods, like finely chopping the vegetables for Bolognese sauce in a food processor, then doing the same with the pancetta and mortadella. This not only speeds up prep time, it allows the ingredients to cook down faster while still releasing all their flavor compounds to the sauce. Total time? 90 minutes. Not shabby. The sole exception to the "fresh" rule seems to the condensed French onion soup used in Weeknight Pot Roast and Potatoes. It works, though, and got my pot roast on the table in 70 minutes, start to finish (note - I prefer to use Lipton Onion Soup and a cup of water, we like the flavor better). ATK helpfully gives total time involved, and highlights time under pressure in big type, a nice touch. Some nice detailed variations are included in many of the recipes, like Garden Tomato Sauce with variations for Puttanesca, Arrabbiata and Tomato, Vodka & Cream Sauce.
In the 3 weeks I've owned the book, I've sampled recipes from 3 chapters; the aforementioned Weeknight Pot Roast and Potatoes from Big Roasts and Fancy Meals, Pulled Pork from Indoor Barbecue and Barbecued Beans from Sides. All were very good. To the pork I added about 1/4 cup of my barbecue sauce (tossed after shredding) and to the Barbecued Beans I added about 2 Tbls more catsup to amp up the tomato flavor a notch. Both were the kind of easy fixes that I commonly make with new recipes, slight alterations to suit our tastes.
The book has lots of white space on the pages, which makes it so easy to jot down alterations, and also allows me to easily note the timing for my Instant Pot, which often varies from the listed time. Pages are glossy white, with ingredient lists and major steps in bold type. Why doesn't every cookbook do this? Also included with every recipe is a detailed explanation (with thumbnail photos) of the techniques used and a few troubleshooting tips. Again, experienced PC cooks may find this unnecessary, but with the new resurgence in pressure cooking, many of us will find these quite valuable.
It's not a big book, with only 100 recipes, but when I compare it to The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book, it shines. That book has 500 recipes, every one of which lists ingredients in brick-red ink, which all runs together on it's busy pages. Further, the index is very poorly organized, with some recipes appearing under their main and secondary ingredient and on their own, by title, and others only found once under their main ingredient. Most damning of all, the timing for electric cookers given with every recipe I sampled is woefully off. Risotto takes 6 minutes in my Instant Pot, GBPCB's author thinks it takes 10. ATK lists it at 6 minutes, spot on. Note that for short-cooking foods, ePC timing is the same as for stovetop models.
Of the 3 pressure cookbooks I own, this is my favorite. It is well organized, easy to read and cook from and the recipes use simple, commonly available, fresh ingredients.
on August 14, 2014
This pressure cookbook is primarily written for stove top pressure cookers and I have an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, which I am addicted to. That being said, I gave this impressive cookbook FIVE STARS for a good reason. At the end of each recipe, there are always directions on adaptations which need to be made when using an electric pressure cooker. I have learned more from this cookbook than any other PC book I've read. The front of the book explains in detail what to do differently, which I can say, I never knew never having owned a pressure cooker before.
Also, worth noting are two recipes I tried, and for a PARTY, no less! FIVE MINUTE macaroni and cheese, which was easier than I don't know what, and turned out great! (I will say, after sitting around all night, it needed a bit more moisture, but straight from the cooker-FABULOUS.) I could see many things do with it now that I've tried it. The other one I made, and it happened to be the HIT of the party, was a SPICY SAUSAGE DIP. It was inhaled!
I am finally glad to have my hands on a trusted book that caters to EVERYONE. Thank you ATK! Please make another one soon; I use my pressure cooker A L L the T I M E!!
I will say one thing: This Book is NOT all INCLUSIVE. Admittedly, it does leave out some chapters one might expect to find in a pressure cooker cookbook. However, the recipes that ARE included are a FANTASTIC way to familiarize oneself with one's pressure cooker, in the CLASSIC "WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS," trademarked phrase we've come to not only know, but also expect solid results from America's Test Kitchen.
on March 23, 2013
I first saw this book on QVC and it really sounded good. Most (maybe all) the recipes were done in electric pressure cookers. I was going to buy it from them, but it was less expensive on Amazon. This book caters to stove top pressure cookers (PC), and if that's your choice, I'm sure this book is good for you judging by the favorable reviews. But for people like me who was afraid of them for years, electric PC was the way to go and I love it. If you want to see how to cook with an electric PC, you have to go to the bottom of the page where is says, on almost every recipe, "can I make this in a 6 qt. PC?"Then it gives a little paragraph about how to do it in a 6 qt. PC. There are no fish recipes, having never used a stove top PC, can you cook fish in a stove top PC? Also, I know I can make a cheese cake in the electric PC, can that be done in a stove top. There are no desserts in this book at all. I have other cookbooks by America's Test Kitchen and I love them all, but if it didn't cost anything to send it back, it would go back. I'll stick with Bob Warden's two cookbooks that were very helpful. The rating for this book on Amazon was about four stars, on QVC it only got around 2 stars. I find that strange unless the demo boy the shopping network made people mad.