Earth Notes
3:07 am
Wed December 3, 2008

Earth Notes - Energy Conservation III: Pressure Cookers

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Energy Conservation III: Pressure Cookers

This week Earth Notes continues its energy conservation series in the kitchen. Pressure cookers fell out of vogue there decades ago, their reputations tainted by a tendency to spit, hiss, rattle, wobble and blow their tops off. But they're making a comeback, thanks to improved safety features and a new awareness that they can dramatically cut time and energy in the kitchen.

Energy, that is, from electricity or natural gas. In their new incarnation, pressure cookers are the gold standard for green cooking.

Pressure cookers look like ordinary kitchen pots, except they're fitted with sealed lids and fancy gauges. By using steam pressure to cook food, they cut cooking time by up to two-thirds.

Advocates say the food retains more vitamins and minerals because the process uses less water and time. And the energy and money savings can be considerable: by some estimates, $300 a year if you cook with electricity, or $80 a year if you cook with gas.

That edge comes not just from the shorter heating times, but also from concentration of the heat. Most of the heat stays inside the cooker, allowing the rest of the kitchen to stay cool.

New and improved pressure cookers are widely available for 80 dollars and less. Even if you're not ready to make that investment, heed an easy lesson from pressure cooking: cover your pots when cooking, and always use the smallest pot - and burner - for the job.

Next week, we'll wrap up our energy-savings series on the road.

-Anne Minard