Unleash the Dragon – Why Bring a Pressure Cooker on Your Overland Trip


Arguably our best kitchen equipment on the road: a Hawkins Futura Pressure Cooker.

We didn’t leave the Netherlands with one. In fact, I had hardly heard of a pressure cooker, didn’t know anybody who cooked with one and, obviously, I had never used one myself.

Our cooking gear on the road consisted of:

Those pans did all they needed to they: they provided us with good meals.

Did we really need a pressure cooker?

Cooking soup in a simple pan

In Turkey we met Irene and Pierre, who were overlanding with their 3-year old son Tobias. We met again in Iran, Pakistan and India. In Pakistan Coen saw Irene’s pressure cooker: a Hawkins Futura and took an interest.

We had just returned from the mountains where we had had a hard time getting our potatoes cooked due to the altitude. Irene explained how the pressure cooker solves this: you can cook anything in little time at any altitude.

Coen was intrigued, meaning: he wanted one.

By the time we arrived in the Himalaya Mountains of India, Coen had me convinced to experiment with a pressure cooker. We bought a 3-euro aluminum pressure cooker, the cheapest to be had.

Books on Using a Pressure Cooker

(click on the images to look inside)

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Cookbook – 500 recipes

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook – Easy Recipes

The Electric Pressure Cooker Soup Cookbook – 100 recipes

Products from Amazon

The Pressure Cooker Test

A new world of cooking opened up to us. We quickly learned that the pressure cooker provided us with the easiest and quickest way of preparing a meal.

What did we do:

  • We filled the pressure cooker with rice, veggies and spices (and/or maybe a can of tuna if we had it) with a cup of water.
  • Brought it to a boil.
  • Lower the flame and let it simmer/boil 3-5 minutes (depending on kind of rice).
  • Turn off the heat.
  • Let it sit for another 5 or 10 minutes (again, depending on kind of rice).

Voila. Our meal was ready.


  • Food gets cooked on altitude just as quickly as on sea level.
  • Food is cooked way faster.
  • It requires much less fuel is than for regular cooking.
  • You need a minimum of water.

A Quality Pressure Cooker

I was sold. We were going to add a pressure cooker to our kitchen equipment.

The 3-euro version obviously didn’t last long. It took about 2 weeks before that part on top of the lid broke off. It was the weakest point of the pan, and this also makes the cooker a nuisance in terms of space in your vehicle as you can’t stack anything on top of it.

In India and Pakistan, you can find the replacement parts for these cheap pressure cookers in just about any shop, but leave it to Coen to find a more reliable solution: A Hawkins Futura 3-liter Pressure Cooker, just like Irene had had.

It took until the major city of Chennai until we could buy one, as this 40-euro or so version isn’t available on the average market in the rural areas.

Why a Hawkins Futura Pressure Cooker

There are many pressure cooker brands, but we particularly like the Hawkins Futura and for a number of reasons.

The Hawkins Futura is a fancy pan:

  • It is made of hard anodized aluminum, which makes it strong + no taste of aluminum in your food.
  • Lifetime guarantee.
  • No pressure regulating system on top of the lid, but an integrated system with a fingertip pressure release.

Interesting detail:

The Futura is the only pressure cooker in the world to have been displayed by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Rice with Vegetables in the Pressure Cooker

The Pressure-Cooker Manual

In case you don’t know why a pressure cooker works as it does, this is how it is explained in the Hawkins Futura manual:

Ordinary open-pot cooking is done at the boiling point of water which produces steam at sea level at 100°C (212°F). Pressure cooking works by sealing the steam in a pot so that there is a rise in pressure to a safe, controlled extent which raises the boiling point of water and therefore the cooking temperature.

The steam permeates through the food, tenderising it, infusing it with flavour, preserving nutrients, colour, texture and juices and cooking much faster. The Futura Pressure Cooker cooks food at 121°C (250°F) at a pressure of 15 lb per square inch (1 kg per square cm).”

Cooking chestnuts in the pressure cooker
Chestnuts in the Pressure Cooker

The Hawkins Futura Pressure Cooker – a Good Buy or Not?

Today, some 14 years later, we still use our pressure cooker on a regular basis. We replaced the rubber seal on the lid a couple of times, as well as 2 safety valves. Coen once unsuccessfully tried to bake (a too-large-sized) bread in the pressure cooker, which blew up the safety valve and I once cooked food but had forgotten to put water in the pressure cooker.

Truth be told, I really don’t understand why a pressure cooker isn’t used in each and every household (apart from overlanders, I mean just in every single kitchen).

A pressure cooker saves water, fuel and cooking time. What’s there not to like about it?


We have a 3-liter Hawkins Futura, which suffices for two persons (I often cook soup and lentils for two days). Note that the 5-liter pressure cooker is not just bigger (obviously) but has a second handle on the side (which the 3-liter doesn’t have), which makes it less efficient to pack (but then most other pressure cooker brands have this too).

Pressure Cooker with perfectly steamed vegetables
Vegetables: 2 minutes.

Pros #1 – Taste & Nutrients

Let’s talk about taste:

  • Because you cook the food so shortly and with so little water, you keep the maximum of nutrients.
  • For the same reasons, the taste of especially veggies is much better than when cooking them the regular way.
  • For recipes, check the Hawkins Cooking website for recipes.

To give an example:

One day we were low on supplies and decided to fix a tuna salad. We boiled potatoes & carrots in the pressure cooker (small dices of potatoes, bigger chunks of carrots, ½ cup of water, 1 or maximum 2 minutes of steaming) and had that with the tuna salad.

How simple can a meal be: boiled potatoes & carrots, and tuna salad?

Let me tell you, this is still one of our favorite dishes. The potatoes and carrots have a superb taste that normally disappears in all that water you boil them in.

Of course,​ ​this works not just for carrots or (sweet) potatoes. The pressure cooker’s’ ​secret’ is steaming the vegetables (the cooker comes with a grid for this purpose) rather than boiling them​.

So, nowadays we steam our broccoli, green beans, cauliflower (all need about half a minute), you name it. We add a bit of olive oil and salt or another herb/spice and we have the most delicious veggies you can imagine.

Applesauce: a couple of minutes.

Pros #2 – Time Saver

The time-saving issue really hasn’t been relevant until a couple of months ago, when we seriously started eating a more plant-based diet. Cutting meat and dairy meant we needed to get our protein in another way: legumes were the solution.

Legumes can be bought pretty much everywhere and they have a long shelf life, which is perfect for a life on the road. These days, our Land Cruiser’s pantry has a stock of quinoa, beans, and lentils.

As I have never cooked beans and lentils without a pressure cooker, I don’t know how long you need to cook them, but I’ve read recipes where they talk about 1 or 2 hours, or even longer. Maybe it is shorter when you soak them, I have no idea.

How long I cook quinoa and legumes:

  • Quinoa: 2 minutes of boiling (no soaking needed) + 8 minutes of natural cooling (meaning: taking the pan off the flame and let it stand for 8 minutes).
  • Lentils: 2.5 to 5 minutes (no soaking needed) + natural cooling.
  • Beans: this depends very much on what kind of beans. I soak them and then cook them varying from 6 minutes (black-eyed beans, pinto beans, white & black beans) to 11 minutes for kidney beans and 18 minutes for garbanzo beans. + Natural cooling.

Enjoy and have many great, nutritious meals on your overland journey!

For more details on how to cook with a pressure cooker, we wrote a Pressure Cooker 101 for you.

Read More: Pressure Cooker 101

soup in the pressure cooker with sprouted beans

Originally published 2013 / Updated 2020

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18 thoughts on “Unleash the Dragon – Why Bring a Pressure Cooker on Your Overland Trip”

    • Must be, they sell them everywhere. The thing is to find one that suits your style and needs. Good luck hunting, and let us know what you ended up with.

    • Dear Eric

      Regret at present there are no importer of our products in Guatemala. The nearest country from where you can our products are USA and Panama. We can also arrange to send it directly to you by air courier / air parcle. Kindly advise your requirement – Model ans Size of the pressure cooker and quantity. We would advise you cost of products and despatch cost. On your confirmation of acceptance and payment remittance, we would despatch ordered products in 10 days after receipt of payment credit in our account.

      You can email to: [email protected] and [email protected]

  1. I’m looking into getting the same model pressure cooker as you have. A couple of questions for you, that I can’t find elsewhere right now.
    1. Does your pot function well as just a regular pot, when you don’t use it as a pressure cooker? I want something that has multiple uses.
    2. How do you know it is at the right pressure?
    3. Do you have any problems with cleaning the pot? I will be using it for travelling too.
    4. I see on the website it says: “Be aware that certain foods, such as applesauce, cranberries, pearl barley, oatmeal or other cereals, split peas, noodles, macaroni, rhubarb or spaghetti can foam, froth and sputter, and clog the pressure release device (steam vent). These foods should not be cooked in a pressure cooker.” Are you able to cook these foods in your pressure cooker? Any problems with them?

    Thanks for all your insights on this! I’m really excited to get something new and efficient for our trip.

    • Hello Stacey,

      Have you ever used a pressure cooker before? It seems you are a bit worried about it. There is no magic involved, and you will love a pressure cooker in general. We love our Futura model, but there are numerous models out there. What works for us shouldn’t automatically work for you. Everybody has to find out what works best for him/her. You might have more space and opt for a pressure cooker with straight walls and a lid that “screws” on, so that you can use it more as a normal pot as well.

      I will try and answer your questions as best as possible, and please don’t hesitate to ask more.

      1. We can use our pot with limitations as a “normal” pot. Continues high temperature frying isn’t advised and because of the clever design it is a more enclosed pot. I wouldn’t be happy to use our Futura as a single pot for boiling water and such, also because of the thick base — in which it stores heat — it would take more time to just boil water.
      2. Steam comes out of the outlet and the pot starts to whistle slowly.
      3. The Futura pot is extremely sturdy and the material can be cleaned easily. We have ours for over 8 years now and use it almost daily. The inside looks like new.
      4. I wouldn’t put spaghetti or pasta in any pressure cooker. For all those others you mention, there are tips and trick with adding a little oil or pre fry some unions and garlic.

      I wouldn’t want to miss our pressure cooker for the world. I hope you will feel the same.

      Adventurous greetings,

  2. Hiya Karin-Marijke and Coen,

    Took your advice and got ourselves a pressure cooker for our van.

    We have alcohol (meths) stoves in our Westy and while they are fine in general, they don’t have the energy of gas or petrol and trying to boil large amounts of water takes a while.

    Having never owned a pressure cooker before it never even occurred to us that it would be a solution.

    We are very impressed with the pressure cooker so far and have cooked various staples such as rice, potatoes and lentils and even experimented with a nice beef stew. As you say, it uses considerably less water and massively reduces the amount of fuel we use for cooking.

    The ‘dragon’ model isn’t available in the UK, so chose the little 1.5L Hawkins, which seems about the right size for the two of us, but isn’t nearly as cool!

    Adventurous Cooking 😉
    dan, Rosana and Betty Bus

    • Heya Paula, we have the 3 liter one. I think the models upward all have a extra grip on the opposite side of the handle and this makes it too big for us to pack.

  3. Hi Coen en Karin-Marijke,

    Today the Futura 2L from Amazon arrived in the Netherlands. Thanks for the advice on Twitter. What a piece of art, love it! We are going to used it in our California VW camper, so we want to make quick meals.

    Can you share some simple meals/recepis for two people?

    Alvast bedankt!


  4. Are you concerned at all about cooking with aluminum and that it can leach into the food? Would stainless steel be a better option?

  5. Hello Karin-Marijke and Coen. Thanks for your inspirational pressure cooker posts! As a result, I just bought a 4L Hawkins Futura (I believe you have the 3L as it looks slightly smaller than mine). I originally ordered the 2L but found it too small for cooking for two, so would recommend the 3L or 4L to other overlanders. I work for http://www.nationalparkrescue.org (we take over troubled national parks, stop poaching etc), currently in Zimbabwe, so I cook out of the back of my landrover, usually in as ‘middle of nowhere’ as you can get on Earth! So reducing weight (and adding nutrition) by carrying more dried stuff, instead of cans, is a big help for the landie. And I cook on gas most of the time so I expect to save a lot of gas, thanks to your posts! I bought a couple of vegan pressure cooker recipe books on amazon/kindle but all the recipes have 100 ingredients, most of which you can’t find in Africa. so if you wanted to add another post, a list of SIMPLE but tasty pressure-cooker recipes for overlanders would be certain to be popular!! I note you’ve had your futura for 8 years and would be interested to know how often you have to replace the seal or safety valve thingy? Thanks again and best wishes from Zimbabwe. Mark

    • Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your story! I do have the intent to share more pressure cooker recipes. Stay tuned. I can promise you they will be simple because that’s the only way I know how to cook :-). As to replacing parts: we blew the valve twice (result of stupidity) and replaced the seal twice as well. Hope that helps.

  6. I’m enjoying a lot reading your travel diaries. And by the way, pressure cooker it’s very common here in Brazil, mostly for beans and lentils.

    • One of the things we learned in Brazil about cooking great rice (indeed in a pressure cooker) is to add garlic and onion. You can even buy it already mixed in the supermarket, but I forgot the name for it.

  7. Yep I caved and bought one, these pressure cookers they are awesome, I really like the offset lid, it’s impossible to screw anything up, Yep I’m like most males and I do have a problem reading instructions, this cooker seems to work well with out them, and I like the fact Hawkins sells all the spare parts you will ever need, these pressure cookers aren’t your grandmothers tank they used to be, they are now a work of art that fixes dinner quick..

    Fuel savings, able to cook things at high altitudes, great tasting food what more do you want, and if anyone is wondering they are safe both UL and CSA rated…

    Keep on sharing all the details, I like how you both kinda cover off everything and anything on your site and enjoy reading about it..


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