Pros: Helpful tips; some good recipes
Cons: Some ‘meh’ recipes
Rating: 3 out of 5
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough’s The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Machine, Both Stovetop and Electric is a useful book. It assumes a 6 qt volume, because that’s the best-selling size and because electric pressure cookers mostly come in that size. Ours is slightly less (5+), but at most that means we cut the ingredient amounts by a very small amount.
I was hoping to find more information on electric vs. non-electric pressure cookers; some people seem to have very strong feelings about which to use, and this cookbook doesn’t go into it at all. It does, however, have directions for both stovetop and electric pressure cookers, which is really handy. Various helpful tips also made me feel much less nervous about pressure cooking (our only other try, the cooker turned out to be defective, so it was… exciting). This time we used my mother’s Kuhn Rikon–an excellent brand, as I understand it.
Recipes for the pressure cooker are largely simple. Add ingredients–make sure they don’t go over the max fill line–bring up to pressure, cook for the required time, then lower the pressure according to the specific method recommended by the recipe.
The recipes we tried from The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book were decent but not great. Mind you, this cookbook has an awful lot of recipes in it, and we only tested a handful for this review. One soup I liked combined winter squash with chipotle peppers. It seemed a little thin, and while the chipotle flavor was noticeable, it didn’t have a lot of flavor beyond that.
There was a chili that worked out well enough. No real difference between it and any other ‘not bad’ chili we’ve made other than the faster cooking time. We also tried out a quinoa and apples recipe, and that was actively not-so-good. It was really bitter, even though the quinoa was thoroughly washed. The bit of vinegar in the recipe seemed to affect the results disproportionately. I didn’t end up eating any of the leftovers.
It’s never a good sign to pick a handful of random recipes and have none of them impress. I do still plan to use the book because it has all the useful directions and pressure/time recommendations. But I’ll certainly work on altering some of the details to suit my taste buds.
For added information, here’s a list of the sections in this book:
- Soups (main course and vegetable/grain soups)
- Meat (beef, pork, and a chapter on lamb, veal, and rabbit
- Poultry (chicken, but also turkey, game hens, and duck
- Fish and Shellfish
- Vegetables, Beans, and Grains
While the recipes don’t come with pictures, there is a sheaf of photos in the middle of the book. The index is useful, and the recipes are organized well/easy to read. If you’ve never used a pressure cooker before this book is useful, but be prepared to alter your recipes to taste.