If you’re old enough to have owned a cassette tape, you may have heard the occasional pressure cooker horror story. Like the name implies, pressure cookers cook food under extreme pressure, and the earliest models did have problems with blown lids and valves.
Those tales of exploding pressure cookers took on urban legend status and persisted for years after safety features improved. But today’s trendy electric models are finally putting the fears of home cooks to rest with technology that is safer than ever — not to mention energy efficient.
A Brief History of Pressure Cookers
Pressure cookers were just beginning to catch on in the years leading up to World War II, according to food blog Foodal, but the trend stalled out when aluminum supplies became essential to the war effort. In the post-war years, pressure cooker demand and production both soared, but that brought several cheaply made models to market.
Kitchen mishaps with the inferior models of the 1950’s caused pressure cookers to fall out of favor, but they experienced a rebirth with significant safety improvements in the 70’s. Redundant relief valves, reinforced gaskets and accident-proof latches made explosions a thing of the past.
The original pressure cookers were designed to be heated on a stovetop, but that began to change with the advent of electric pressure cookers in the 1990s. Electric models have built-in heat sources and sit right on the kitchen counter, just like slow cookers. And today, modern multi-function pressure cookers from brands like Instant Pot, Cuisinart and Breville are all the rage.
What is a Pressure Cooker Used For?
One reason why electric pressure cookers are so popular is that many models can do the job of several small kitchen appliances. In addition to pressure cooking, some of these models also work as slow cookers, rice cookers, yogurt makers, saute pans, steamers, baking ovens and warmers for serving.
Between the variety of cooking modes and the time-saving aspect of pressure cooking — a pressure cooker can do in an hour what would take a slow cooker all day — modern pressure cookers can keep any home cook happy. But they also have plenty of appeal to frugal energy savers.
Electric pressure cookers can complete meals in a fraction of the time required by other methods, and it’s not because they use more energy — it’s because they use more pressure! By letting steam pressure do the work, you may be able to save hours of energy-consuming cooking time on recipes that traditionally cook at low temperatures for hours, like chili or pulled pork.
Modern pressure cookers are also fully insulated, so the heat stays in the pot where it belongs. That may not be such a big deal when you’re already running your furnace, but when summer comes around, an electric pressure cooker can give your air conditioner a break from the excess heat cast off by your oven, stove or even your low-watt slow cooker.
The Future Is Here
If those urban legends of exploding pressure cookers were enough to scare you off before, it’s time to give modern electric pressure cookers a closer look. The advanced safety features mean you can cook with confidence, and you can make great tasting meals in record time — all while keeping your energy bills in check.