I got a pressure cooker long before I started thinking about kids, back when I was just a busy person who loved being able to cook quick weeknight dinners. Then I had a baby and realized that a pressure cooker is even more essential for new parents, with uses I never even thought about before I had an infant.
Although I have other tools in the kitchen that can accomplish the same tasks as the pressure cooker, what makes it unique and particularly useful after having a baby is that it does it all in a lot less time. And during that tumultuous first year, even a little extra time feels like everything.
Here are a few reasons the pressure cooker is a key appliance for new parents.
1. It can quickly sterilize baby bottles and pump parts.
The thing no one tells you about having a baby is that in the beginning, you will spend what feels like 70 percent of your free time washing and sterilizing bottles, nipples, and breast pump parts. And when your "free time" is the scant 25 minutes your baby spends asleep in his infant seat, all that Sisyphean time spent at the sink and stove hurts — it really does.
I started off boiling everything to sterilize it, but the hard water in my city left a scaly white residue on the bottles, so I went looking for an alternative — one that was hopefully quicker and more hands-off than boiling-water sterilization. I found it in the pressure cooker. The instructions for my pressure cooker (a Kuhn Rikon Duromatic) had me place the washed parts on the cooker's steaming rack, add a cup of water, bring the pot up to full pressure, and immediately turn off the heat. The process was fast and, except for the few minutes while the contents were coming up to pressure, could be stopped and resumed as needed. It became the only way I sterilized pacifiers, bottles, nipples, and pump parts for the duration of my son's infancy.
And although he is now a toddler, I still use the pressure cooker to sterilize his sippy cup parts every once in awhile — especially after an illness in our household.
2. It can cook baby food in minutes.
One criticism of the pressure cooker is that it turns vegetables to mush. You know who likes eating mush? Babies, that's who. Instead of roasting sweet potatoes in the oven for 45 minutes, you can steam them whole in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Broccoli and cauliflower florets cook in under five minutes, as does cubed squash. Small, whole beets can be steamed in about 12 minutes. Halved apples can be cooked for applesauce in five minutes.
You get the picture. You can transform whatever vegetables or firm fruits you like into a mushier, baby-friendly texture in a shorter amount of time with a pressure cooker, and they can then be puréed or cut into finger-food chunks.
3. It can mean the difference between a home-cooked dinner and frozen pizza.
Dinnertime during your child's first year of life is always changing. In the first few months, it is often whatever you can throw together and eat mostly one-handed; later it might be postponed until 9 p.m., after the baby has gone to bed. And once your almost-not-a-baby is old enough to eat with you, dinners might switch to 5:30 p.m. affairs in which you have about six minutes to wolf down your food before someone starts fussing.
At any point in this process, two things are probably true: You are really tired, and you don't have as much time to cook dinner as you need. Giving in to another frozen pizza or plate of scrambled eggs is appealing, but with the pressure cooker, recipes that are otherwise far too time-consuming become legitimate dinner options.
Quick Pressure Cooker Dinner Ideas
Of course, this is the pressure cooker's main selling point, and one perk that will remain relevant long into parenthood — which is why I'd argue for putting a pressure cooker on your baby registry over, say, a bottle warmer or a fancy baby food maker. It is one gift that will quite literally keep on giving.
(Image credits: Razvan Raz/Shutterstock; Dana Velden)