The Non-Consumer Advocate Can Take The Pressure

by Katy on January 26, 2009 · 22 comments


Pressure Cooker

Burritos, chili, soups.

You guessed it, my family eats a lot of bean based meals. They’re cheap and tasty, healthy and easy. (Pretty much everything you can ask of a food product.)

I try to be forward thinking and fire up the slow-cooker early enough in the day so that I don’t have to break into my stash of canned beans. But the cord on my slow-cooker is frayed, and my husband won’t have a chance to fix it for another week or so. This means I was having to cook the beans on the stovetop, which is a royal pain in the tuchus. Start to simmer it, turn it off to run errands, turn it back on, turn it off to pick a kid up from school. Suddenly, what had been an easy task became a source of stress.

That’s not going to work.

My friend Lise and her daughter came over yesterday to visit with the new kittens and somehow the subject of pressure cookers came up. 

I fessed up that:

“I have a pressure cooker that my friend Tina gave me years ago, but I think it needs a new gasket. And frankly, I’m kind of scared to use it.”

So we tromp down the stairs and rummage around in the kitchen cabinet until the avocado green loveliness that is my pressure cooker floats to the surface. 

Hmm . . . the gasket actually looks to be in perfect condition, and I was able to even locate the pressure regulator doo-hickey. Lise gives me a quick lesson on pressure cooking and is on her way.

I gave the pressure cooker its first trial run this afternoon. I do have to admit that the hissing and bubbling freaked me out a little bit at first, but I got over it faster than you can say, “beans, beans the musical fruit.” I giddily called my friend Lise to share that:

“You might have a hard time hearing me, because I’m using my pressure cooker!”

(Okay, maybe you had to be there.)

I. Am. Hooked.

It took 12 minutes to cook a large batch of black beans, and I didn’t even soak them first! I made a big pot of black bean chili, (which incorporated a couple of leftover boneless chicken breasts.) This means I can now spontaneously cook bean based meals, which will be a huge improvement. 

Beans. Cheap and tasty, healthy and easy. And now, fast.

I am so excited to have finally gotten over my fear of the pressure cooker. And I’m looking forward to finding other meals to cook in my new toy, even if it is avocado green.

Do you use a pressure cooker and have tips or recipes? Please share them in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy January 26, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I use a haybox for things like this. With some wood and a few nails and a bag of cedar shavings, I made a box large enough to hold my gallon cast iron pot with about 3 inches of insulation on all sides. Just throw in the food to be cooked, get it hot, and put the entire pot in the box. Forget about it for about 4 hours, and then open the haybox to find a still VERY hot pot with the food fully cooked, juicy, never burned (no direct heat source!). Seriously though, I have put soups in and many hours later the pot is still too hot too handle without mitts. It’s slow cooking at its finest, homemade, and without leaving a stove on for hours.


stef January 26, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I have a pressure cooker that I don’t use … it’s like my slow cooker I also never use. I would if they worked the way I wanted them to. I must not have the touch with the pressure cooker as I have a hard time regulating the temperature and everything I cook in it seems to come out mushy. And my slow cooker just boils everything. Both items are pretty new, within the past few years. But a good cook doesn’t blame her tools, and I am sure that I just am not doing it right.


lala2074 January 27, 2009 at 1:28 am

I remember being a child and being terrified of the pressure cooker and that it would explode! I didn’t know any other families that had one, so I thought it was just one of the idiosyncracies of our family.

I do remember the delicious flavours of pressure cooked food as all the goodness is kept in!

I have been looking to buy a second hand slow cooker so that i can prepare nutritious casseroles and curries and other slow cooked meals.


Jill January 27, 2009 at 6:46 am

I have used my pressure cooker, which sounds like an easier one than yours, for all sorts of bean dishes. It scares me to have all that hot steam shooting out – like it’s going to take off and fly around the kitchen (“Everybody – DUCK!”). But seriously, it does help in a pinch when I want beans and haven’t soaked any. I have found recently that I feel safer with boiling a pot of beans for 10 minutes, turning them off, and leaving them for an hour. When I discovered how well this worked, I couldn’t figure out why I had thought I had to cook beans for hours. But it only works with at least an hour’s foresight. I have, however, had great success freezing the cooked beans for later dishes. That’s a huge help. Thanks for the great blog, Katy!


Joy January 27, 2009 at 6:51 am

Please, please, please make sure your pressure cooker is NOT aluminum!! The aluminum will leach into your food – not good!

I love making humus in my stainless steel pressure cooker – YUM!

Add onions – tons of them – to your beans and they will make your meals out-of-this-world delicious!!


Magdalena January 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

I had a huge pressure canner but sold it when we moved. We have two slow cookers, and I use one of them almost everyday. Both were free! Sounds like Stef’s has a bad thermostat – it shouldn’t boil, although it will reach a bubbling simmer.


Marisa January 27, 2009 at 8:23 am

I have always been intrigued by pressure cookers, but I’ve never used one myself. I have something of an irrational fear of them, because one once blew up in my grandmother’s face when she was making pot roast (this was in the late 1950’s, I’ve been told that pressure cooker technology has improved since then). However, the ability to cook beans so quickly does hold a great deal of appeal…


marianne January 27, 2009 at 8:47 am

I agree with you completely – I finally found a pressure cooker at the thrift store that had everything, and the gasket was in perfect shape. (Mine is the beautiful golden harvest color!) It makes the absolute best chicken stock that I have ever tasted, and the beans are divine. Yesterday I was craving the Breakfast Beans from Laurel’s Kitchen and had them ready in twenty minutes for lunch. I did make my husband stay with me during the first trial run (he is a chemist/mathematician that has a lot of experience with large industrial pressure vessels – and he spent the time calculating how much pressure was under the lid, 1400 psi if you’re wondering…)


Lucia J January 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

I use my pressure cooker all the time. If you beans are too mushy, try just covering them with water, but no more. That is how I cook my black eyed peas and they are delicious. I also cook home-canned green beans in mine and there is nothing better. My mom uses it to cook meat for soup before she adds it to the soup. Its very versatile.


Viki January 27, 2009 at 9:30 am

I have been dying to try a pressure cooker, but, like many, it seems I have a rather irrational fear of them! You’ve encouraged my to try it though. We are vegetarian and eat A LOT of bean-based meals. The idea of not having to pre-plan the soaking and long cooking time is winning me over. Now to find a good used one. Maybe my mother-in-law… she has every kitchen gadget ever made!


Maniacal Mommy January 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

Pressure cookers are wonderful! It can take trial and error with vegetables and beans (I use half the time recommended in the book and check to see how things are progressing) but meats come out so tender it is worth learning the process. The broth you get from cooking chicken just begs to be turned into soup. Even a tough roast comes out tender, and it doesn’t have to take forever like an oven.

I am excited for you! I have a friend who just cannot get past her fear of pressure cookers, and she just doesn’t realize what she is missing (like baked beans that are never a bit too hard and chewy).


GLM January 27, 2009 at 11:34 am

Can someone recommend a good pressure cooker resource online?

I’d love to be able to can, which I believe a pressure cooker is recommended for, and if this contraption is all that, I’d love to read more!


Martha January 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Can some of you meat cookers please enlighten us on how to cook a chicken or a roast in a pressure cooker? I cook beans all the time in mine but have never cooked anything else in it. Thanks!!


Jodi January 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Ah, the pressure cooker. My husband introduced me to these when we got married (his mom is an old Francis Moore Lappe devotee). I was scared to use it at first too. Now I couldn’t live without it. I also use it as a small soup pot.

It is absolutely essential for cooking dried beans. I don’t like rice made in it (too soupy), but it is also wonderful for steaming veggies straight out of their freezer boxes. Kale brought just to pressure, then served with salad dressing, is a staple winter food in my family.

It’s also essential when making chicken or turkey broth from the carcass. A little over half an hour up to pressure and you have nice concentrated broth ready to go in the fridge for the fat to firm up. We wring all the last goodness out of every scrap of meat that we buy.

Answer to GLM: A pressure canner is only required for low-acid foods (i.e. meat, most veggies). Anything else (all fruit plus plain tomatoes) is fine in a water-bath canner, easy to find at the thrift store or garage sale.

I’ll add my two cents on metals as well: Do make sure that your pressure cooker is not aluminum. Ours is a Fagor, stainless steel, very easy to use and has a great pressure-release valve.


Lise January 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

If you throw 1/4 of an onion or some garlic in with the beans then the house smells like a delicious meal instead of flatulence (garbanzos are the worst in this way).
I haven’t crunched the numbers but I’m sure pressure cooking bulk beans is much cheaper than buying canned– plus environmentally friendlier to not use cans which use up resources and energy in their manufacturing.


thenonconsumeradvocate January 27, 2009 at 2:01 pm

My pressure cooker is aluminum. I found this up-to-date info. It does say that, “Very little enters your body from aluminum cooking utensils.”

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate

September 2008

CAS#: 7429-90-5

This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions (FAQs) about aluminum. For more information, call the ATSDR Information Center at 1-888-422-8737. This fact sheet is one in a series of summaries about hazardous substances and their health effects. It is important you understand this information because this substance may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.

What is aluminum?
What happens to aluminum when it enters the environment?
How might I be exposed to aluminum?
How can aluminum affect my health?
How likely is aluminum to cause cancer?
How can aluminum affect children?
How can families reduce the risks of exposure to aluminum?
Is there a medical test to determine whether I’ve been exposed to aluminum?
Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?
Contact Information

Everyone is exposed to low levels of aluminum from food, air, water, and soil. Exposure to high levels of aluminum may result in respiratory and neurological problems. Aluminum (in compounds combined with other elements) has been found in at least 596 of the 1,699 National Priority List (NPL) sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What is aluminum?

Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust. It is always found combined with other elements such as oxygen, silicon, and fluorine. Aluminum as the metal is obtained from aluminum-containing minerals. Small amounts of aluminum can be found dissolved in water.

Aluminum metal is light in weight and silvery-white in appearance. Aluminum is used for beverage cans, pots and pans, airplanes, siding and roofing, and foil. Aluminum is often mixed with small amounts of other metals to form aluminum alloys, which are stronger and harder.

Aluminum compounds have many different uses, for example, as alums in water-treatment and alumina in abrasives and furnace linings. They are also found in consumer products such as antacids, astringents, buffered aspirin, food additives, cosmetics, and antiperspirants.

What happens to aluminum when it enters the environment?

Aluminum cannot be destroyed in the environment, it can only change its form.
In the air, aluminum binds to small particles, which can stay suspended for many days.
Under most conditions, a small amount of aluminum will dissolve in lakes, streams, and rivers.
It can be taken up by some plants from soil.
Aluminum is not accumulated to a significant extent in most plants or animals.
How might I be exposed to aluminum?

Virtually all food, water, air, and soil contain some aluminum.
The average adult in the U.S. eats about 7-9 mg aluminum per day in their food.
Breathing higher levels of aluminum dust in workplace air.
Living in areas where the air is dusty, where aluminum is mined or processed into aluminum metal, near certain hazardous waste sites, or where aluminum is naturally high.
Eating substances containing high levels of aluminum (such as antacids) especially when eating or drinking citrus products at the same time.
Children and adults may be exposed to small amounts of aluminum from vaccinations.
Very little enters your body from aluminum cooking utensils.
How can aluminum affect my health?

Only very small amounts of aluminum that you may inhale, ingest, or have skin contact with will enter the bloodstream.

Exposure to aluminum is usually not harmful, but exposure to high levels can affect your health. Workers who breathe large amounts of aluminum dusts can have lung problems, such as coughing or abnormal chest X-rays. Some workers who breathe aluminum dusts or aluminum fumes have decreased performance in some tests that measure functions of the nervous system.

Some people with kidney disease store a lot of aluminum in their bodies and sometimes develop bone or brain diseases which may be caused by the excess aluminum. Some studies show that people exposed to high levels of aluminum may develop Alzheimer’s disease, but other studies have not found this to be true. We do not know for certain whether aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies in animals show that the nervous system is a sensitive target of aluminum toxicity. Obvious signs of damage were not seen in animals after high oral doses of aluminum. However, the animals did not perform as well in tests that measured the strength of their grip or how much they moved around.

We do not know if aluminum will affect reproduction in people. Aluminum does not appear to affect fertility in animals.

How likely is aluminum to cause cancer?

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the EPA have not evaluated the carcinogenic potential of aluminum in humans. Aluminum has not been shown to cause cancer in animals.

How can aluminum affect children?

Children with kidney problems who were given aluminum in their medical treatments developed bone diseases. It does not appear that children are more sensitive to aluminum than adults.

We do not know if aluminum will cause birth defects in people. Birth defects have not been seen in animals. Aluminum in large amounts has been shown to be harmful to unborn and developing animals because it can cause delays in skeletal and neurological development.

Aluminum is found in breast milk, but only a small amount of this aluminum will enter the infant’s body through breastfeeding.

How can families reduce the risks of exposure to aluminum?

Since aluminum is so common and widespread in the environment, families cannot avoid exposure to aluminum.
Avoid taking large quantities of aluminum-containing antacids and buffered aspirin and take these medications as directed.
Make sure all medications have child-proof caps so children will not accidentally eat them.
Is there a medical test to determine whether I’ve been exposed to aluminum?

All people have small amounts of aluminum in their bodies. Aluminum can be measured in blood, bones, feces, or urine. Urine and blood aluminum measurements can tell you whether you have been exposed to larger-than-normal amounts of aluminum. Measuring bone aluminum can also indicate exposure to high levels, but this requires a bone biopsy.

Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?

The EPA has recommended a Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) of 0.05–0.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for aluminum in drinking water. The SMCL is not based on levels that will affect humans or animals. It is based on taste, smell, or color.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has limited workers’ exposure to aluminum in dusts to 15 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) (total dust) and 5 mg/m3 (respirable fraction) of air for an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that aluminum used as food additives and medicinals such as antacids are generally safe.


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2008. Toxicological Profile for Aluminum. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.

Where can I get more information?

ATSDR can tell you where to find occupational and environmental health clinics. Their specialists can recognize, evaluate, and treat illnesses resulting from exposure to hazardous substances. You can also contact your community or state health or environmental quality department if you have any more questions or concerns.

For more information, contact:

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop F-32
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: 1- 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348
FAX: 770-488-4178

This page was updated on 01/27/2009


Marj January 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Many a quart of green beans and carrots were canned in our pressure cooker years ago. I enjoyed using it. It is now living with someone else. lol


Mandy January 27, 2009 at 8:19 pm

You’ve inspired me to dig up my grandma’s old pressure cooker. If it can cook beans that fast and make them soft! I am down.

I’ve also thought about canning seasonal produce I buy from the farmers market.

Your blog speaks to my heart, my resolution was to learn the skills my grandma practiced and everything you talk about are things on my to do list.


Linda January 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

Well, I’m a little disturbed that playing with kittens brought up a discussion of pressure cookers ;), but anyway…I use mine (the pressure cooker that is) mostly for turning cheap cuts of meat into tender, flavorful things of beauty! I don’t know what it is about my home cooked beans but my husband won’t eat them….he must have canned beans.


LeAnna January 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Wow! I would have never thought of beans in a pressure cooker…I MUST GET ONE. We had one growing up, but hardly ever used it. I would use oneat least once a week for beans, seriously! I also need good vegetarian slow cooker recipes; anyone know of a source?


Sharon H December 11, 2015 at 6:38 am

Best resource is

I have a stainless steel Hot Pot. Love it.


Sharon H December 11, 2015 at 6:40 am

Oops, the brand of my machine is Instant Pot.


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