Today’s Pressure Cooker – Yesterday’s Microwave?

IMUSA Pressure Cooker

Product Reviewed:
IMUSA 7.5-Quart Pressure Cooker

Remember the stories of exploding pots from your grandmother’s era? In fact, she wasn’t the first to use a pressure cooker. Cooking under pressure was invented by Denis Papin, a physicist, in 1679. Interested in the science of steam, Papin built a pot with a closed lid and raised the temperature of boiling water by using pressure from steam. His experiment was a success and allowed him entrance into the Royal Society of London, the most exclusive scientific group of its day.

More than 250 years later, in 1938, Alfred Vischler invented a pressure cooker for home use. National Presto Industries was a hit when it introduced a pressure cooker at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. As home canning became popular, kitchen explosions became common. Those early models had no safety valves to moderate the pressure. And that’s where Grandma’s exploding-pot stories from come from – and why you might be nervous about using a pressure cooker today!

It wasn’t just that pressure cookers had a reputation for danger. As home cooks’ tastes moved away from stews, and microwave radiation cooking gained in popularity in the 1970s, pressure cookers fell out of favor. But just as other kitchen traditions – such as gardening, foraging and canning – have come back into fashion, so have pressure cookers.

For my first experience with the IMUSA 7.5-Quart Pressure Cooker, I went appropriately old school: chicken soup. I made up a recipe using two raw, skinned chicken breasts, carrots, onion, celery and half of a cup of water and seasonings. (The instructions were very clear in the book not to fill up the pressure cooker over two-thirds full with liquid or food.) I then closed the top, lining up the arrows, and turned on my burner and waited for the plug to fill the hole. This filled hole tells users that pressure is building.

It took about 15 minutes to get the pot to make the appropriate noise that lets you know when to start the timer for pressured cooking. The booklet recommended 10 minutes of cooking time, and then I turned off the fire. This lowering temperature stops the pressure, and you can manually let the steam out right away by lifting up the throttle or over time until the plug releases and it is safe to remove the lid.

I have to say: I looked in the pot and saw chicken soup. It might not have been the best chicken soup I’ve ever had – and a quick cooking time can’t compare to the wonderful aroma of a pot of soup sitting all day on the stove – but it was definitely chicken soup.

My friends own pressure canning pots and absolutely love them when it is time to put up all the lovely items coming out of the garden.

For my second go, I tried apple sauce. It was easy to make and tasted great. (I am sure tomato sauce would work great, too.)

Give it a try – the 1970s are back!

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Robin Rood
Robin Rood, RD, LD, MEd, MA, writes about nutrition as a local expert for in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and blogs at