on December 1, 2010
So, I've never used a pressure cooker (PC) and was a bit afraid. I read about the electric PC's and decided the stovetop model was better because 1) gas is cheaper than electricity 2) no circuit board to break one week out of warranty and 3) I can brown meats in this monster before sealing the top. This is the Rolls Royce of pressure cookers from everything I read so I splurged and spent the money. Over 10+ years, what does $80 mean in all honesty?
Regarding the electric PC's. I read all the reviews and continually found people complaining about sealing problems, faulty buttons, the machine switching from pressure to warming mode, etc. Kuhn Ricon (KR) models have consistently received the most positive reviews, which sealed my decision. I've got enough electric appliances anyway.
As for safety, there is no way this thing is going to blow up unless you are clueless and don't follow simple instructions. If the pressure builds up too much, it automatically releases some steam through the spring-valve, the top of the line technology for PC's. Further, if it gets REALLY high, the rubber gasket is designed to bow outward and allow steam to escape through the side of the lid. In all, KR has five (5) safety features to protect you. Plus, you can't open it when even the slightest pressure remains. I tried to open it early, and no matter how hard I turned the lid, it wouldn't budge. This made me feel safe.
I prepared my first meal last night, lamb, and it turned out perfectly in just 12 minutes. Of course, you have to include 1) prep time (which is true no matter what method you use to cook a meal); 2) time to get to 15psi (about 5 minutes with 1/2 cup of water) and 3) natural depressurization (take it off the heat and let the pressure fall naturally) (this recipe warned against quick or even slow release) which took about 10 minutes. Still, given all this, it still was quicker than a slow cooker, range top, or regular oven (which I don't think would have worked for this recipe anyway).
Once I had the ingredients prepared, I browned the veal on the bottom with a little oil, dumped in the rest of the ingredients, added 1/2 cup of water (mandatory to build up the steam) and sealed it. Sealing is EASY, just line up the arrows, twist, and you're done. Now, I know KR makes models without the long handle and replaces it with two smaller grab handles at either side (model 3403 for example), but the long handle (it has a small grab handle on the other side) provides leverage to help in closing the top. This long handle also helps lift the cooker, as it is quite heavy (this is one solid sucker to be sure) and lifting it takes some effort, especially when full of food. It takes a little extra space to store, but believe me, it's well worth it. I've got plenty of pots with small grab handles, and they always get very hot and provide no leverage for lifting or closing.
This model (3916) has the Duromatic twist top vs. the pop-up type (model 3342 for example). I chose the 3916 because it is designed for people like me, who know nothing and want a little more flexibility in pressure release and pressure monitoring. It is super easy to see when one, then two, lines appear, even from across the kitchen. One line is 8 psi, two lines 15 psi, and if it goes over that, you can easily see that, too, and you know it's time to turn down the heat or remove it altogether until the two lines are exactly even with the top of the lid. Then, place it back. I'm sure with experience I'll learn exactly how low to turn my flame so I don't have to fuss with it. Until then, it's fun experimenting.
It is not Teflon, which is not a big deal to me because 1) Teflon always wears off and 2) it seems to flake when suffering at the higher pressure/temps a PC thrives on. So, it's probably better that it NOT be present. Read reviews of the electric PC's and you'll read a lot of "...the Teflon flakes and is worthless..." comments. Well, as stated, that's because at the temp/pressures achieved, Teflon seems not to hold up very well.
I just soaked mine overnight with soapy water and it cleaned up with a plain sponge.
The instruction manual is very good, with cooking times (general), how to use, and contact information. It has a cookbook with limited recipes, so if you're in this for the long haul, I would suggest Lorna Sass' books, or Miss Vickie's, although something about her irritates me (personal opinion obviously). But strangely, MV did recommend the KR or Fagor brands, so maybe I'll learn to love her.
In summary, this is a quality PC that is easy to use, that you can start cooking/browning/sautéing in (can't do that with an electric model, no matter which brand you get), and that is so safe NASA could take a lesson from KR.
Is it more expensive? Yes, it is. Is my health and safety worth the extra cost? Yes, they are. When you get right down to it, KR makes the best PC in the world (not me speaking, that's the NY Times, Miss Vickie, two independent websites, and even cookware stores I called to discuss different brands). If you want a quality piece of cookware, this is it. If you want to worry about buttons breaking, plugs to trip on, warming cycles when you should be in cooking mode, then spend $100 less and get the Cuisinart 600 series (lousy customer service from personal experience). The choice is yours.
Tonight it's lentil soup. Why not join me?