Item: Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Pressure Cooker, 5-1/4 Quart
Overall Impression: Called "the Mercedes-Benz of pressure cookers" by The New York Times, this well-crafted stovetop pressure cooker is quiet, easy to use and equipped with a number of safety features that make it ideal for the first-time pressure cooker user.
Until I tried it, I approached pressure cooking the way many American cooks do — with some curiosity and a lot of nervousness. I loved the idea of quickly cooking beans, whole grains and cheaper cuts of meat, but the reputation of pressure cookers as potentially dangerous and difficult to use made me wary of devoting cupboard space and money to a new piece of cookware. I jumped at the chance to give Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic pressure cooker a try and was immediately impressed by its reliability, ease of use and multiple safety features, which has quickly made this pot a weeknight workhorse for quick, healthy meals in my kitchen.
Characteristics and Specs: The Kuhn Rikon Duromatic line of pressure cookers is made of heavy stainless steel and has an aluminum sandwich bottom for better heat conductivity. The cookware features three safety release options, an automatic locking lid, and a spring-valve system, which makes it easy to identify and maintain proper pressure.
The handles are made of sturdy stay-cool plastic and can handle oven heat up to 300°F. Small arrows on the lid and handle match up so the lid can be placed on the pot while bringing the contents to a boil on the stovetop. Once at a boil, a smooth twist lines up the handles on the pot and the lid, and the contents come up to pressure. The valve at the top rises to one red ring (8 psi) or two red rings (15 psi). Once you reach the desired pressure, it is easy to maintain by adjusting the heat of the stove.
The 5-1/4 quart (5-liter) pressure cooker is one of their mid-sized pans, perfect for turning out meals for 2 to 4 people. It comes with a perforated insert for steaming vegetables or sterilizing bottles, as well as a helpful booklet of recipes, cooking charts and tips for making the most of your pressure cooker. (I followed the guidelines in the booklet for everything I tested and it all came out perfectly.)
Safety features: Duromatic pressure cookers come with a number of safety features. The first is the automatic lid-locking system, which ensures that pressure cannot build up inside the cooker until the lid is properly locked, and that the lid cannot be removed until the pressure inside has been released.
The cooker also has several safety features to protect against the buildup of too much pressure. The valve produces a distinctive hiss when the pressure is too high — normally, the small amount of steam escaping is very quiet — so you know the heat needs to be turned down. If that valve becomes clogged for any reason, excess pressure is released through holes in the rim of the lid and another built-in safety valve. Finally, at really high pressure, the gasket is pushed out and steam escapes down from the rim of the cooker.
The lid also includes a steam protection cap under the valve, which directs hot steam downward, protecting your fingers when you push on the valve to manually release pressure after cooking.
Favorite details: Because of its spring-valve pressure system, the cooker releases very little steam during cooking, which is a plus for two reasons. First, the cooker is surprisingly quiet, which makes it pleasant to wash dishes or do other tasks in the kitchen while keeping an eye on the pressure level. The minimal loss of steam also means that you don't have to worry about all the water boiling off and scorching your food as a result.
The sturdy construction of the pot and smooth function of the lid locking makes the cooker a pleasure to use. The contents come up to pressure quickly and I had no trouble maintaining a consistent pressure once I locked the lid and turned down the heat.
As someone new to pressure cooking, I also appreciated the well-written, detailed booklet that accompanied the cooker, which made it easy to achieve perfectly-cooked results.
Potential problems: Although I have not run into problems after a few months of use, replacement parts for Duromatic pressure cookers are typically more expensive than comparable parts for cheaper cookers. (For example, a replacement gasket is $25, more than $10 more than Fagor's replacement gasket.) Not surprisingly, maintaining the Mercedes-Benz of pressure cookers is not cheap.
Splurge-worthy? Yes, especially for those who are new to pressure cooking and hesitant because of safety concerns. The Duromatic line is on the expensive end, but the thoughtful design and sturdy construction make the higher price point feel worth it. With proper care, this is a pressure cooker that will last for years. I'm so impressed, I plan on buying this exact pressure cooker when I have to return the review model!
Good for small kitchens? While the pot itself is not small, the range of uses makes it worth the space it takes up. You'll be able to cook small amounts of healthy, typically-long-cooking ingredients like beans and whole grains after work, which saves you from having to pre-cook big batches and store them in the fridge or freezer.
I am not a cook who has to have the most expensive tools and high-end cookware. I see no problem with sticking with my old Martha Stewart dutch oven instead of trading up to a Le Creuset, for example. People all over the world cook in inexpensive pressure cookers and manage to safely turn out excellent meals, so you don't need to spend a lot to enjoy the convenience and speed of pressure cooking. In fact, one of the few pieces of cooking advice my mother has ever given me is, "Don't waste your money on an expensive pressure cooker! They all work the same!"
But after cooking with a Kuhn Rikon's pressure cooker, I'm afraid I have to ignore her advice. I've been spoiled by its quiet accuracy, its even heat conductivity, its smooth functioning and consistent results. I've used my mother's pressure cooker. It might make the same ingredients, but cooking with it is a different experience.
And in the grand scheme of things, a Mercedes-Benz for under $200 isn't half-bad.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Anjali Prasertong)