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I already wrote why we bought a Hawkins Futura Pressure Cooker (find it here), why we love it so much and what kind of meals we use it for (read here).

Why another post? Well, we had never expected it would resonate with so many people and, what’s more, how many (future) overlanders bought one for themselves as a result. With the announcement of their purchase readers asked for more information.

#1: “Now, how do I use this pressure cooker?”

So, the original post will evolve into a series in which we will talk more about our experiences with the pressure cooker and share recipes.

Let’s start with a simple Pressure Cooker 101. Here we go.

A pressure does look intimidating with that weird-looking lid and the hissing sound once the temperature inside the cooker has reached its boiling point. I totally identify with that feeling; it took me a while to be convinced a pressure cooker was a good purchase for our overland trip.

In this blog post, I’ll first explain some of the basics, followed by what we think are important issues when using a pressure cooker. At the bottom you’ll find a link to a recipe-overview page.

First: A Trial Run

Here is a rundown of what is recommended in the Hawkins Futura Cookbook. It is a simple way of familiarizing you with your brand-new, intimidating looking pressure cooker to prevent screwing up a meal. It comes down to:

  • Pouring two cups of water in the cooker body.
  • Removing the pressure regulator from the lid and looking through the steam vent to ensure it’s clear (which is good practice before each cooking session because a clogged pressure regulator is something you definitely don’t want).
  • Closing the lid without the pressure regulator.
  • Place the cooker on a high flame.
  • When the water boils, you will see steam exiting from the steam vent, and you can place the pressure regulator in position.
  • In a little bit you will see the steam evaporating and hear that typical noise which indicates that the cooker has reached full pressure – your pressure cooking time starts now. When actually cooking food, this is the moment you would set your cooking timer. Note that at this point, you can turn down heat to a minimal flame, saving energy.

Now you know how to bring the cooker to a boil. There are 3 ways to end a cooking session:

  1. After the cooking time you will immediately release the steam by pressing on the pressure regulator. Make sure how the wind blows when cooking outside so the steam blows away from you! When all pressure is released you can open the lid and eat your food. This method I mostly use when steaming only vegetables (read here).
  2. In some cases you turn off the heat but leave the lid on without releasing pressure for an additional time period (which is indicated in recipes). The food continues to cook thanks to the built-up pressure, but no longer needs gas and thus saves you energy. At the end of this time, you release the pressure as mentioned in #1. This method I often use for cooking rice (read here).
  3. The recipe says ‘natural cool down’. You turn off the heat and leave the lid on until the pressure inside the cooking body is gone. I un-click the far end of the handle and so the lid will fall down by itself when ready. This system I mostly use when cooking soup (read here) and legumes (beans and lentils).

This is just a summary of the trail run. Check your cookbook and follow the instructions.

So that now you know the basics and have seen for yourself how the cooker works, let’s move on to a couple of other points.

Tomato soup: 5 minutes of cooking.
Cooking quinoa: 2 minutes.
Cooking potatoes: 2 minutes.

Important: Water

Quantities of different ingredients don’t matter much; however, the quantity of water is extremely important, because:

  • Too much will overcook your food.
  • Too little and your cooker will boil dry, and as a result the safety valve will blow (make sure you carry a spare with you).

How much water you need to add depends on:

  • The brand of pressure cooker.
  • The size of your cooker and the quantity of ingredients used.
  • The type of food you cook – e.g. tomatoes already have much more liquid that e.g. the same quantity of carrots.

Coen, fortunately, loves manuals. He checks it for every meal and is very precise in how much water he adds. So do keep that in mind, especially when starting out with cooking in a pressure cooker. Best check the water quantities in the cookbook that came with your pressure cooker, as they may differ per brand.

Also Important: Time

For exactly the same reasons a minute too long or too short can screw things up, so check the timetables for that. Or go for the trial & error method but make sure your pressure cooker doesn’t boil dry.

Here is a general timing table in case you have another pressure cooker.

Hummus from garbanzo beans (15 minutes), beets (9 minutes), carrots and potatoes (2 minutes).

#2: “Can you share simple recipes?”

Maybe not all pressure cookers come with a cookbook, but ours – the Futura – does. Not only do we have a cookbook, but you can also download it as a PDF online or search for information on Google.

Edited to Add: meanwhile we have uploaded a number of recipes and more will follow. Find them here.

If you’re interested in buying a Hawkins Futura Pressure Cooker like we have, check out this link.

Questions? Please post them in the comment section below and we’ll answer them asap.

(Originally published in 2014 / updated in 2017)

For more on Cooking Equipment, check out these articles:

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Thank you for your support — Karin-Marijke & Coen

4 thoughts on “Pressure Cooker 101

  1. Hi,
    I read your blog about 3 months ago whilst preparing for our own South America trip and it inspired us to buy the same pressure cooker. We have used it almost on a daily basis now for the last 4 weeks and it is fantastic. Lentils, beans, soups … we have a lot of fun just trying new things out. How could we have ever done without this pressure cooker before is beyond us! It saves a lot of drinking water, time and propane and is so easy to clean. Thank you so much for recommending it. We consider it an essential part of our motor home equipment now!
    Helen and Kirsten

    • Great to hear that. I can’t think what we would do without it either. 9 Years of steady use! The soups are new to us and pumpkin is something we are elated about. Please share your most favorite wholesome recipe with us!

  2. Dear Landcruiser
    Always a pleasure to read up your stories and a lot to learn for us since we will start for the Panamericana (with lots of detours and side trips of course) next year in V`Canada

    We also wanted to buy a pressure cooker for our trip and your chosen model was high up on the list. It has one feature we didn’t like: The handle, because it is difficult to stow away. After a lengthy research in the internet we found a model we liked more and finally purchased one.

    On our website is the full story:
    http://www.underway.ch
    You will find the link under “News”

    I’m not sure if the direct link works:
    http://www.underway.ch/panamericana/ausr%C3%BCstung/

    Happy and safe travels and maybe we will meet in about 2 or 3 years on the way “down”
    Ueli & Myrta

    • Hello Ueli, that looks like a nice little model. Would be interested to know how it holds up after a few years. Good luck and happy travels! And indeed maybe we’ll meet on the road.

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