I’m going to be real with you for a minute. I often can’t even remember to brush my teeth twice a day.
This is relevant because I have always wanted to cook my own beans, but seriously cannot remember to soak them the night before. Or, if I do think ahead and soak them, I forget about them for days and later discover a foamy mess of fermenting beans. It’s gross, and yes, I am suitably ashamed.
The way around having to soak beans and cook them forever is a pressure cooker, but for years I avoided getting one. For me, they seemed to fall into the same category as dehydrators, blenders, juicers, and food processors: expensive things that I would probably not end up using enough to justify buying. I’m writing this post in an attempt to convince you that I was totally wrong, and that your life will probably be improved by a pressure cooker.
Here are a few reasons pressure cookers are great:
- They pay for themselves relatively quickly. And it’s not a matter of whether they will, but when. Canned beans are really not that cheap, and can be very expensive depending on where you live and what kind of bean you’re getting. Your pressure cooker saves you about $0.35 per cup of beans, which means it will pay for itself in X weeks, where X = cost of the pressure cooker / (.35 x number of cups of beans you eat per week). So, if you eat 4 cups of cooked beans per week, it will take 5.5 months for a $30 pressure cooker to pay for itself, 9 months for a $50 pressure cooker, and 12.5 months for a $70 pressure cooker.
- Pressure cooking beans doesn’t add too much time to meal prep. Canned beans are basically instant, but dry, unsoaked beans take only 15 to 50 minutes, depending on the bean, and you can cook a week’s worth at once. You don’t have to keep an eye on them during that time either, so you can prep the other parts of your meal while you wait. If you can actually remember to soak them, cooking times drop significantly.
- You can cook non-beans in them faster and retain more of their nutritional value. You can do things like 6 medium potatoes in 15 minutes and a cup of brown rice in 12-15 minutes. Apparently, you also lose only 5-10% of a vegetable’s vitamins during pressure cooking, compared to 35-60% with regular boiling. That is undeniably cool.
- You reduce your energy bill AND generate less cooking heat. Thank you to Paris Vegan for reminding me–when you cook things in a pressure cooker, they take about 1/3 of the time on average. That means less time running your stove, which lowers your energy bills AND, if you live in a hotter climate, reduces the amount of heat you pump into your already sweltering kitchen. Folks with this problem, you know what I’m talking about.
- You can easily try all sorts of great new beans. And there are just so many of them.
- You can flavor what you’re cooking. Bay leaves are just the beginning–cooking in salt-free broth or with herbs, spices, and veggies can up your Bean Awesome Quotient by 10 before you even use them in a recipe. Note: don’t add salt or acid (e.g. vinegar, citrus, or tomatoes) to beans until after they’re cooked, as it slows down their cooking time. This is an great explanation of what goes on when you cook beans.
- They make it easier to control sodium intake. Home cooked beans only have as much salt as you want them to, and salt-free canned beans aren’t always available.
- You can use pressure cookers for regular cooking, too. There’s no rule saying you can’t use your pressure cooker without its lid like a regular stock pot, and pressure cookers aren’t significantly more expensive than a stock pot. I have a $50 pressure cooker and a $25 stock pot, and one of them is redundant and should feel bad about itself.
- Dry beans are easier to carry home from the store, especially if you walk or bus to do groceries. You get more and it’s lighter. If you have ever, like me, walked miles to a grocery store with a backpacking backpack, filled it with food and then walked home suffering, you know what I mean. There’s also no dropping cans on your toes or braining yourself with them. There’s even less recycling to carry downstairs. Yes, I am that lazy.
- Did I mention it’s cheaper? I know I already said this, but the price difference really does add up. I don’t have concrete numbers yet, but I believe that the difference between canned and dry organic beans is even greater than it is for conventional beans. Using dry beans actually puts organics within my price range, which I like.
So, if you’ve been thinking about getting a pressure cooker–and really, even if you haven’t–I just want you to know that I feel like it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I recommend it A LOT, and so does David Bowie.