I bet you remember your mother insisting that you stay out of the kitchen when she hauled out the old pressure cooker. It rattled, hissed and certainly sounded like it might blow it any moment. It seemed as though mom thought it was a deadly, if sometimes necessary, piece of kitchen equipment.
When visiting Kevin's parents in Sanya, we discovered his mother using a new pressure cooker almost daily. She used it to make rice quickly, cook beef ribs, etc. So when we returned home we looked into it and found nice, electronic pressure cookers available on the market. So, we purchased a unit (about $60) and decided to give it a try.
Knowing that beef stew generally cooks on my stove top for 5-6 hours, I thought this would be an ideal test. While the pressure cooker said it would brown and had a mode for doing this prior to the pressure portion of the activity, the bottom of the pot seemed small and I felt I could more adequately brown the beef on the stove top, which is what I did. Then I added it to the cooker, covered it with my standard beef base, red wine, onion, tomato paste and garlic, then tossed in a couple bay leaves and locked down the lid. I set the pot for "high pressure" and 15 minutes. The timing only begins when the pot has achieved the right pressure. Being prepared for trouble, I asked Kevin and our guests to leave the room (just in case mom was right) and also got out some towels and hot pads in case I was going to end up wiping dinner off the ceiling. But when I opened the pot after the pressure was released, I was pleased to find a tender set of beef chunks in a nice broth. I then dumped in the potatoes, carrots and turnips and went back to high pressure for 7 minutes. When the pot was again depressurized and opened, the meal was nearly ready. I quickly removed the solids and thickened the base, and returned the solids for a final toss in the delicious gravy.
If you haven't tried one of these new gadgets I would certainly recommend it. With winter nearly upon us, I think the device will make great soups and stews, and will be a help with any less-tender meats. And, if you follow the directions, I think you will also find that they make no noise on the counter, are cool on the outside and are very safe to use.