Tag Archives: kuhn rikon

Pressure Cookers (Stovetop & Electric)

Pressure cookers have been making a big comeback over the last decade. Gone are the days of a shaky pot spitting hot steam out at your face. Safety features abound and they’ve even gone from the stovetop to the countertop in many electric models.

How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?

A pressure cooker, stovetop or electric, has a gasket seal on the lid piece that makes it impossible for steam to escape from inside of the cooking vessel once locked into place. As you heat the water/food inside the vessel, the water turns to vapor. Since the steam cannot escape, its molecules will increase velocity, which will increase pressure on the surface of the liquid and the also increase the temperature of the water.*


Why Pressure Cook?

  • Fast – steam cooks food faster than dry cooking methods
  • Nutritional – steamed food retain vitamins and nutrients better than other cooking methods
  • One pot – easy cleanup
  • Braising – works well with foods that require water infusion or braising methods
  • Safe – food is cooked above boiling point, killing most bacteria and micro-organisms
  • Pressure Canning – if you get a large enough pressure cooker, you can also use it for pressure canning. Some people don’t trust themselves to get the time/temperature correct when using a regular pot for canning.
    • Or purchase a pressure canner, which is essentially the same thing, it just won’t have the fancy handles and locks like a stovetop pressure cooker.

Most people really love pressure cookers for cooking beans, artichokes, and making soup stocks.

Fissler pressure cooker pans with pressure lid,
glass lid and perforated insert pan

Things to Consider With Both Stovetop and Electric Pressure Cookers:

  • Gaskets wear out (like they would on anything requiring a gasket seal), so I would recommend making sure you can find replacement ones.
  • On that note, making sure any parts are replaceable is key, in my opinion.
  • Reviews on pressure cookers can be tough, because a lot of people are overwhelmed when they finally get it home, don’t use it properly, etc. Reviews on anything, in general, tends to be on the negative side since people with positive experiences don’t feel the urge to get online and complain! So make sure you really do your homework and check reviews from several sources. Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports are high-quality resources.
  • With something that can be considered so dangerous, I personally would spend more to get the top-rated brands. I don’t want to skimp on materials to save a couple of bucks!
  • Find pressure cooker cookbooks that appeal to you. I would refer to something published versus a recipe you find on the internet (unless you know it’s a reputable source!), just like with canning (or pressure canning!) You don’t want to assume everyone knows their internal meat cooking temperatures, etc. At least this isn’t canning and you can always throw your food in a pot on the stove afterwards if it’s not cooked properly!
  • The European Union has very strict standards on pressurized equipment (pressure equipment directive), so if you are still worried, I would look for a European brand to have comfort in knowing it has to be up to par.
  • Everything has to be cooked at once, and some foods don’t taste quite right with the addition of water required to use the cooker.
  • You have to reduce pressure just to inspect the food while cooking, so that is discouraged. It’s recommended to aim to undercook versus overcook, since you can always continue cooking if it’s not done yet.
Duromatic pressure cookers and accessories

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

Stovetop pressure cookers aren’t what they used to be. Every model I have seen now comes with two ways to release the pressure buildup; a release button on the handle, and the old-school way, by running water over the lid.

All new stovetop pressure cooker lids are shaped in a way or designed in a way that forces the hot steam downwards, away from the cook’s face. They also won’t open until the pressure has been fully released.

You can use your pressure cooker pan as a regular pan without the lid, and my favorite brand, Fissler, actually makes a set that comes with a glass lid, a pressure lid, and two different sized pots that you can interchange the lids between for pressure and regular cooking. I know Kuhn Rikon sells the glass lids with certain cookers and separately. I’m sure other brands must also make glass lids, as well.

Fissler & Kuhn Rikon also make a bunch of really cool accessory pieces if you really want to get into using your pressure cooker as an essential kitchen tool. Who knew you could make a cheesecake in a pressure cooker?

Fissler is made in Germany. They have a unique indicator system that they’ve actually improved upon so you can really see what pressure level you are at; it uses the “traffic light” color model. Their newer models have cool features like an electronic digital readout and a pressure-free steam setting. They are also just very well-marked, making them almost fool-proof to get together and lock into place, unlike some other brands can be.

Kuhn Rikon’s Duromatic, is made in Switzerland. And yes, the pressure cookers are still made there, I know that a lot of their smaller gadgets are not. You can order replacement parts, so that is positive, as well. They’ve pretty much been producing the same cookers for a long time, so they are definitely sturdy and reliable, I just say they’re my second favorite because Fissler has so many cool features. They are both high quality pieces of kitchen equipment, and actually now that pressure cooking is becoming popular again, Kuhn Rikon are starting to revamp their wares again, so check them out!

Fagor is supposed to be a very good inexpensive alternative to these two, so I would recommend checking that brand out above anything else since it had a good rating with Cook’s Illustrated, but I personally have no knowledge about them.

Cuisinart electric pressure cooker

Electric Pressure Cookers

Electric pressure cookers are a great ease if you have room for another countertop appliance in your home. The biggest difference from the stovetop is that you can’t use this as a regular pot on the stove. You can, however, use most of them as slow cookers. Depending on the settings yours comes with, you should also be able to brown or sauté, so you have the potential to use it without pressure.

The safety features on these should really just be that it won’t start unless it’s all locked into place properly. If you are doing slow release, you don’t even have to let the pressure out yourself, it does it for you. (Fast release, you push a lever.)

I am really only familiar with the Cuisinart model; most other models are very new to the market over the last decade and the companies producing them are constantly changing the machines so you generally never see the exact same ones twice. Cuisinart has been making pretty much the same model for longer than that, proving it’s sturdiness and reliability. You can buy replacement parts easily, it comes with a rack and a nice recipe book, along with a 3-year warranty.

* http://www.edinformatics.com/math_science/science_of_cooking/science_of_pressure_cooking.htm

Ode to Pepper Grinders (& Salt, Too!)

I love fresh ground pepper! I put it on EVERYTHING! Which actually probably makes me a poor reviewer because I just leave all of my grinders set on “coarse” and rarely test out the other options. But I have used quite a few and can offer some insight and tips for maintenance, of course! First and foremost, the proper terminology is “mill” not “grinder” but I will mostly refer to them as grinders since that’s what everybody calls them.

Peugeot mill in various sizes

Buying a Pepper or Salt Mill

Can’t I just buy one grinder and do everything in one? 

The simple answer is yes, but there are always technicalities that lead you to lean more towards no. 🙂 A lot of inexpensive grinders will have a ceramic grinding mechanism which is safe for anything. However, you can’t really “clean” any type of mill entirely, so if you want to grind multiple things, you will probably get residuals of other things you’ve used the grinder for.

The more important thing to consider is with metal mechanisms. Salt is highly corrosive so the metal in these grinders is usually an 18/10 stainless steel that’s been chemically treated, versus a pepper mill just having a hardened steel to make it stronger for the peppercorns.

The next thing you need to consider is if you want the mill to have multiple grind settings. A lot of basic, inexpensive grinders will not come with options. The majority with settings will have three: coarse, medium, and fine. Sometimes you can find a mill with just two settings, but that’s it! Peugeot, a French manufacturer, boasts “infinite” grind settings because you can stop the selector anywhere you want (on other models the selection you make “clicks” into place).

Trudeau Graviti mill

Other features you can find are upside-down grinders that store with the “top” side down to reduce the mess they can leave on your counter or table. You can also buy battery-operated grinders that work with the push of a button. Trudeau makes one of the most inexpensive and best-rated electric grinders I’ve seen, the Graviti mill. It actually works just by turning it upside down – you don’t have to push a button! Peugeot pushes the bar further by selling one that also lights up while it’s grinding for you. Hey – you’ve got to be able to see when you’re dining by candlelight! 😛

Picking a Brand

Metal Mechanism Brands*
*Most brands that make steel pepper mills produce their salt mills with either ceramic or nylon.

Peugeot made the first pepper mill in 1841 and are still made in France today. While the guarantee on their manual grinders is only 5 years, the mechanism itself is guaranteed for life under normal use. Their most popular mills come in the same style in a plethora of sizes for you to choose from. To avoid the hassle that can sometimes come with filling your grinder, they offer some models with magnetic tops that just latch right on to the mill without any fuss. They also produce electric mills and even a classic-looking box mill. I mentioned already that they boast “infinite” grind settings, but in my personal experience, I did not notice huge differences other than coarse/medium/fine.

Peugeot’s salt mills are an 18/10 stainless steel that’s been treated to prevent corrosion.

William Bounds mills

William Bounds is my favorite brand and made in the USA! They have been in business since 1963 and have a patented mill mechanism that evenly crushes instead of grinds.Since it’s not grinding the mill components together, they can guarantee it will work for life. This is where their slogan “We’ve got a CRUSH on pepper” comes from!

William Bounds’ salt mills are made with a ceramic crushing mechanism.

Vic Firth is a tad newer to the game, but also made in the USA. This is a company that is famous for making drumsticks and drum equipment – Vic Firth was a tympanist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and happens to love cooking. Mario Batalli‘s pepper mills are Vic Firth brand with Mario’s signature green and orange colors, as well as his signature on the side.

Vic Firth salt mills are made with a nylon grinding mechanism.

Vic Firth mills

Non-Metal Mill Brands

Most inexpensive pepper and salt mills you find are nylon or ceramic grinders.

Chef’n PepperBall

Chef’n makes some pretty cool grinders, although I have to say they are very hit and miss with their salt and pepper grinders. I’m a huge Chef’n lover, but I got a lot of these returned in various models, from a simple table grinder to their more unique ergonomic styles. But when they work, they work forever, so just make sure you buy from a store that will not hassle you if you need to return it. It does look like they’ve updated the designs slightly so they might be even sturdier now.

They make some amazing ergonomic models, so if you have arthritis issues, think about the repetitive wrist movements you have to make to grind your pepper. My first pepper grinder use was a friend’s Chef’n pepper ball and I thought it was the coolest thing ever – you just squeeze! They also make some 2-in-1 options that let you grind both salt and pepper in one unit.

These models all utilize a metal rasp, but they do make ceramic grinders, too.

Kuhn Rikon has a couple of ceramic models, their vase grinder being the most popular. As I mentioned, they make theirs in lots of fun colors so you can color-code your spices. They make an ergonomic lever-model for those with arthritis pain.

Kuhn Rikon vase grinders

OXO‘s ceramic grinders are only a few years old, but they look great, feel very sturdy, and I’m a huge fan of OXO so I would think should be good!

**Buying tip – Williams Sonoma has a pepper grinding area where you can actually test out the grinders before purchasing. I’m not sure if this is available at all locations, but it’s really fun!**

How To Use & Maintain Your Mill

Basic mills have a body, a piece at the top (the “lid”) that turns to activate the grinding mechanism inside, and a little ball on top that screws on to the mechanism to keep the lid in place. If you have coarseness settings, there is usually a circular piece just below the lid that you can turn and hear clicking into place at the next setting. Usually there is some sort of marking to indicate fine (smaller mark) to coarse (larger mark). Left to right = fine to coarse.

To fill the grinder, you unscrew the ball on the top, remove the lid and fill the base. There will usually be something in the way to indicate the “fill line”. You always want to fill to BELOW this piece of the mill. Not even, and definitely not above. You need to leave room for the mechanism to turn. This was the most common problem when people tried to say their mill was broken – I would open it up, dump out a few peppercorns, and VOILA! It would work.

Kuhn Rikon is “upside-down”

As I mentioned before, you can find mills that work “upside-down” to keep the mess off of your counter or table. These fool a lot of people, so read the instructions first! Yes, even with something as simple as a pepper grinder, you should always read the instructions!! The Kuhn Rikon vase grinder is a great example of this and I sold them for a couple of years before I actually used one. People returned them all the time for not working but they would always return them empty so none of us working realized what the issue was – improper use! Someone finally brought it in with peppercorns and asked us what they were doing wrong and we realized they were the “upside-down” style!

There are special grinders you can buy for wet salt. You can only grind pink berry peppercorns within a pepper mix as long as there’s not a lot of pink berries mixed in. Otherwise, put them in a ceramic or spice grinder, or use a mortar & pestle to grind them up. Putting either of these two items into a regular salt or pepper grinder will ruin your grinder.

Grinding Spices

Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder

As I mentioned above, you can use most grinders for spices, just be careful of anything that could corrode a pepper mill. You should be able to find many inexpensive ceramic mills for spices. The Kuhn Rikon vase grinders are great and you can get it in all sorts of different colors to help differentiate between your spices!

Some people use inexpensive coffee grinders to grind their spices. You can read more about that on my “Coffee Grinder” blog, where I also mention the alternative of the Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder. For a few extra bucks, get something larger that grinds spices better and you can also clean out between spices.

Grinding Herbs

Microplane recently came out with an actual herb mill to grind your fresh herbs! I would love to test this out. There are a few gadgets you can find to chop herbs with, as well, but that’s for another blog!

Grinding Nuts

William Bounds Nut Twister nutmeg grinder

As already mentioned, Cuisinart has a great electric spice and nut grinder. Many of the manufacturers listed make several special nutmeg grinder models since that is a very popular spice. Peugeot and William Bounds probably have the most variety of other specific grinders (chocolate, cinnamon, chilies, etc.), as well.