Review: Kuhn Rikon 12 Quart Family Stockpot Pressure Cooker


Review: Kuhn Rikon 12 Quart Family Stockpot Pressure Cooker

When I wrote about my love of pressure cookers, I said Size Matters. I mentioned that I'd love to try the largest pressure cooker out there - the Kuhn Rikon 12 Quart Family Style Stockpot pressure cooker. Someone at Kuhn Rikon read that article, and they offered to send me one for a review. I couldn't say "YES!" fast enough.

I have been a pressure cooker fan for close to a decade now, and I have heard about the quality of Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers. They are true second generation cookers, made in Switzerland, and are built really, really well. The Family Stockpot 12 quart cooker they sent me is no exception. It is huge, solid, and fits together like (excuse the allegory) a Swiss watch.
*Also, the 1/2 and 2/3rds fill lines are marked inside the pot, which is a "why doesn't everyone do this?" feature. Pressure cookers need head space to come up to pressure. They shouldn't be filled beyond 2/3rds full. Why doesn't everyone make that level obvious?


Handy 1/2 and 2/3rds lines

Why does size matter so much with pressure cookers? If a pressure cooker is over 2/3rds full, there isn't enough room in the cooker to build up pressure. Because of this 2/3rds rule, a bigger pressure cooker is almost always better. This 12 quart cooker is as big as they get; it is 2 quarts bigger than my current cooker, the 10 quart Fagor Duo. The extra 2 quarts translates into 1 1/3 quarts of usable space, and I always want more space in my cooker. The Kuhn Rikon swallowed two gallon bags of frozen chicken pieces when I made stock for my first test run, and looked like it could take two more.  I made large batches of food with all my tests, and I still wasn't filling this cooker to its limit.  I don't think I'll need to break apart my turkey carcass when I make my annual batch of turkey broth at Thanksgiving - the Family Stockpot cooker is that big.

Space isn't just about volume; width is also important. Every pressure cooker I've used, until this one, was very narrow. I think it is the nature of pressure cookers - it's easier to build them if the column of air they are pressurizing is narrow. The Kuhn Rikon Faimly Style is 11 inches wide. That extra surface area is a big help; it has as much space as my frypan for browning. My Fagor pressure cooker is only 10 inches wide, and is noticeably more narrow. All the other 8 inch wide cookers I've used are tiny in comparison. This is a big advantage of the Kuhn Rikon.
*And I think it explains why the Kuhn Rikon Family Style cookers cost as much as they do. That extra width must increase the pressure, and requires a stronger cooker. But we'll get to my cost-benefit analysis later.
Kuhn Rikon 12 quart on the left,
Fagor 10 quart on the right

Finally, there is a second generation, spring loaded pressure valve on the cooker. The spring loaded valve has two lines on it, and when the second line comes into view, the cooker is up to pressure. This is a much better pressure indicator than I have on my current cooker, which uses escaping steam to let you know it is up to pressure. With the Kuhn Rikon, there is no release steam unless it is over-pressurized, and needs to release some of that pressure.  In other words, there is no more hissing! I loved how quiet this cooker is.

And...I keep hearing how that lack of escaping steam is a good thing when it comes to flavor. Heston Blumenthal, the molecular gastronomist behind the Fat Duck restaurant, swears by his pressure cooker. Heston says that sealed pressure cookers give you better flavor in your food. His explanation goes like this: when you cook something uncovered on the stove top, your kitchen smells great; this is a bad thing, because it means the flavor compounds are escaping into the air. The sealed environment of the pressure cooker traps those flavor compounds, and letting the pressure come down naturally gives them time to settle back into the meal. This means the Kuhn Rikon (and any true second generation pressure cooker that doesn't release steam) should have a flavor advantage over pressure cookers that allow steam to escape while they are cooking.

The French Culinary Institute's blog came to the same conclusion in their taste test of regular versus pressure cooked chicken stock. The FCI found conventionally cooked chicken stock tasted better than pressure cooked stock - with their older, jiggle style pressure cooker. But! When one of their tests cooks brought his Kuhn Rikon from home, the results of the test switched. The Kuhn Rikon pressure cooked stock tasted noticeably better than the conventional chicken stock and jiggle-top pressure cooked stock.

I haven't had a chance to do a side by side tasting of stock, comparing the two cookers I have; that's my project for Thanksgiving, when I'll have a bunch of turkey carcasses to work with. I can say that my test recipes tasted great, and the pork chili I made in the Kuhn Rikon had a richer, porkier taste than any other pork stew I've done in a pressure cooker.
*This will obviously take more research and tasting. Yum!

As you can probably tell, the Kuhn Rikon was passing my tests with flying colors. Is it perfect? No. There are a few minor quibbles I have with it.

The first is the lack of a locking pressure release. Most cookers have a way to set the pressure valve to "open" so you can dump the pressure quickly. It's noisy, but it works. For the Kuhn Rikon, you have to hold the pressure valve down to get it to quick release the pressure. You can't just throw a switch and step back. Now, this isn't critical, because you can use the old fashioned quick release method - run cold water down the side of the cooker. This is what I usually do with my pressure cookers, because it is faster and quieter than their quick release valves.
*My kids usually clear out of the kitchen if I use the quick release valve - it is very noisy.

The second quibble is the Kuhn Rikon isn't a fully clad cooking pan, like my favorite All-Clad pans. It has an aluminum disc on the bottom; the aluminum doesn't come up the side walls of the cooker. That said, it browned meat very well in my tests. The browning was even, and not too quick; it wasn't quite as good as my All-Clad frypan, but it was certainly good enough. Besides, whenever I have to brown a lot of meat I use both the cooker and my frypan so I can brown two batches at once.
*I don't think I'm ever going to see a fully-clad pressure cooker. A fully clad pot costs about as much as a similar sized pressure cooker. Combining cladding with a pressure cooker lid seems like it would be very, very expensive. And speaking of cost...

The final issue is the cost. This is not a cheap piece of cookware; it lists for north of $400. I've always wanted one, but it is expensive enough that I would always think "I'll save up for it later." Now that I've used it, I love it. It is definitely worth the money. The volume, width, build quality, and second generation pressure valve make it worth the extra expense.
*If I had to give it back, I'd be buying myself one. I am already used to the extra space it gives me; my other cookers look puny in comparison. And it's so quiet!

If you just can't spend the $400, I would definitely look at the narrower Kuhn Rikons. I was impressed by this cooker's performance, and the advantages of the build quality and second generation pressure valve are available in their less expensive models. If you love pressure cooking (like I do), the extra width and space in the Kuhn Rikon Family Stockpot 12 quart cooker make it a great value for the money.
*If you're looking for something smaller, instead of cheaper, I would check out the other Family Style models - the 5 quart braiser and 8 quart stockpot models have the same 11 inch width as this cooker.

**Oh, no...the 5 quart braiser model is calling to me now...



Summary:

Pros:
  • Excellent build quality - built like a Swiss watch
  • Huge - extra cooking surface and cooking capacity
  • Second generation pressure valve - no hissing, better flavor
Cons:
  • No automatic quick release - have to hold down the valve or run water down the side
  • Not fully clad - disc on the bottom
  • Expensive (but worth it)
Recommendation: Highly recommended

FTC Disclosure: Kuhn Rikon gave me the pressure cooker for this review. Thank you, Kuhn Rikon! [KuhnRikon.com]

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Things I Love: Pressure Cookers
Coming Tuesday: Pressure Cooker French Lentils
Coming Thursday: Pressure Cooker Pork Chili
Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock
Click here for my other pressure cooker recipes.

Kuhn Rikon 12-Quart Family Style Pressure Cooker

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26 comments:

Cheryl said...

Oh wow, I am so totally jealous of you right now, you don't even know. Awesome post because I am totally salivating over that pressure cooker. I have no way near $400 to spend on one, but hey, I am going to stick it on my Christmas list and pray about it. Maybe God will see to it to that one appears under the tree.

I have a funny story about pressure cookers. I never heard of them as a kid until I came to live with my grandparents in Oklahoma. I guess it is a southern thing, because my grandma pressure cooked everything. One day, after school, I was particularly hungry and it smelled so good. I knew grandma was cooking stew meat for the goulash stew. Not really understanding the dynamics of the pressure cooker, I pried that sucker open and it blew up all over my neck, arms and chest. Yes, I was rushed to the ER with stew meat still clinging to me, with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. I can tell you that yes, indeed, you can pry a pressure cooker open if hungry enough, and I will never do that again! Hers was the old kind with the long pot handle and the toggle bell on top. Oh, and I am fully recovered, although, I have never used a pressure cooker yet. I would love to one day, though.

I bet it would make quick work of making fresh organic chicken stock.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Cheryl:

As I've said before, Chicken Stock in the pressure cooker is my killer application for pressure cookers. Homemade chicken stock in an hour? It's a miracle.

I thought I had heard all the pressure cooker stories, too...yours takes the cake. (Or the goulash...)

Cheryl said...

LOL great play on words.

Well I do raise my own organic chickens and I have threaten a couple if they didn't lay eggs they would go in the pot, and I do have a mean rooster (named chowder) who might just get to meet a pressure cooker one day. Hmm maybe I should name a roo Kuhn.

Anonymous said...

Nice pressure cooking blog, but i just want to set the record straight about the fat duck. The owner is Heston Blumenthal, not Hector Blumenthal.
Cheers from Norway :)

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

Argh! You're right. Thank you for the correction.

Dave in Tenn said...

Guess what I got today (late Christmas present)? Can't wait to use this beast tomorrow (making the turkey chile)!

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Dave in Tenn:

Great! Enjoy it. I've been pressure cooking a lot this winter; having this cooker has made it easy, and the weather has made me crave soups and stews.

Denise said...

Mike, Guess what?

All-Clad has a 4-quart pressure cooker!!!

We are all eagerly awaiting your review. I thought for sure All-Clad was going to ask you try it out over the Thanksgiving Holiday and post a review just like the d5 pans I am in love with.

Maybe they will send it over Christmas. I cant wait to try out the recipes.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Denise:

I asked my All-Clad connection if I could get one for a review; they said they'd get back to me, but I haven't heard from them. I'm assuming that means "no." :)

And...I heard the All-Clad PC was on sale cheap at the All-Clad factory sale. It figures - I skipped the sale because the only thing I really wanted was the PC, and that's the best deal they have.

Chris Lukowski said...

I think I'm about to break down and buy one of these puppies, so let me ask the all-important question. You own quite a variety of pressure cookers, both stovetop and electric. If you could only have -one- pressure cooker to cook recipes large and small (your beef stew with less the a quart of liquid comes to mind), would this be it?

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

If I could only have one pressure cooker, and money is no object, then the Kuhn-Rikon 12 quart is it. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001A0ER4E/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001A0ER4E&linkCode=as2&tag=dadcoodin09-20
If I could only have one pressure cooker, and money WAS a concern, I'd get the Fagor Duo 10 quart. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000CFH7X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0000CFH7X&linkCode=as2&tag=dadcoodin09-20
From 2005 to January of this year I have only had one pressure cooker, and it was one of the two above.

The only hesitation is "all recipes large and small." It's the small end of the scale. You can cook small recipes in these pots, but they're huge. Using a 12 quart pot to cook a side dish of rice is overkill. I keep thinking about getting a smaller (5 quart or less) pressure cooker as a second pot to use for side dishes.

I did get an electric pressure cooker to play with earlier this year, and I really like it. But if I could only have one PC, it would be the Kuhn Rikon.

Chris Lukowski said...

I have to say I'm glad I have this puppy hanging around. Yesterday my (sometimes culinarily challenged) MIL bought some bone-in pre-cut pork spareribs (finger style they were called) thinking it would be a quick grill or (gods forbid) microwave job like she does with the boneless country ribs she usually buys. I panicked as I found all sparerib recipes for the grill took an hour to get them tender, and we were getting hungry. Crap! Wait, I have a PC now! After panic-scouring the internet for recipes I did a minimalist concoction where I browned the ribs and mixed 1/2c BBQ sauce and 1/2c water to braise the ribs in (didn't want the thick sauce to burn). 15 min on high pressure and a natural cooldown gave us some DAMN tender ribs. Dinner was saved thanks to you and Kuhn. Thanks for cluing us in on this very valuable weeknight dinner tool.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You're welcome! I'm planning on a pork rib recipe around the new year - thanks for info.

Helen Rennie said...

Hi Mike,

I just got my first pressure cooker -- 8 quart Fagor Duo. I am having a few difficulties with it and was wondering if you could shine some light on them. It drips water from the handle during the entire cooking time. The pressure indicator comes up initially, but if I low heat too much, it drops. I finally found the setting at which it stays up (about medium-low on my stove), but the second I lower the heat, the pressure indicator drops. When I turn the switch to release the steam, the same amount comes out as during cooking (there is no burst of steam). It unlocks the second I turn the heat off, which makes me think it's not pressurizing correctly. On another hand, chickpeas cooked perfectly in 20 minutes. There is no way that could have happened without some pressure. I repeated the test with white beans that should have normally taken about an hour, and they were done in 25 minutes. I read the manual cover to cover. Oiled the gasket, etc. Any suggestions? Amazon reviews indicate that this happens to a lot of Fagor users. Do you think I got a defective product? I called customer service, but they were not very helpful -- basically, they just quoted me the manual.

Thanks so much for your help!
-Helen

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Helen,

On the Fagor Duo, the pop-up pressure indicator does not mean high pressure - it just shows the pot is starting to build pressure. Keep the heat on high until steam starts to come out of the vent on the pressure valve (the knob you turn to "2"). From the manual, with my emphasis:

When the pressure indicator has risen *and steam starts to come out of the operating valve for first time*, lower the heat to *maintain a gentle, steady stream of steam*. At this moment, the *cooking time starts* and you have to start timing you [sic] recipe.


[image: Inline image 1]

Helen Rennie said...

I definitely wait until there is lots of steam escaping and I get a whistle before lowering the heat. What I think is still not right is that I can unlock the cooker immediately after lowering the heat. If I don't need to de-pressurize it, doesn't it mean it's not pressurizing?

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You're right - that sounds like it is not pressurizing.

* Is the pressure valve pointed at #2? It is acting like it is pointing at zero. If it is pointing at #2...

* Maybe the spring in the pressure valve isn't pushing down enough. Try removing the pressure valve - lift it straight up, then turn to the zero setting, then lift again, and it should pull out. If you don't feel the spring resisting you while you're pulling straight up, I think something's wrong with the spring valve, and it probably needs replaced. If that isn't the case...

* Plug the valve back in again, and try to bring it up to pressure with 2 cups of water. There should be a noticeable pause between when the pressure indicator pops up, and when the pressure valve starts to vent steam. If not, I think you've got a defective unit, and you should try to get a replacement.

Helen Rennie said...

My pressure cooker finally works. Turns out it wasn't completely pressurizing. That's why water was dripping, the pressure indicator was falling, etc. My sliding lock button seems to be a bit temperamental. It needs a little push just as the pressure starts to build up and the indicator comes up. Once I figured that out, things cook in ridiculously short time.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Great! Thanks for getting back to me, I was curious what was going on.

Kath said...

Hi there I a new to buying my first pressure cooker. I live on my own and am tossing up between a 4.5 litre silit or fagor duo, any suggestions would be helpful please??

Kathleen

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I wrote a long post on my current pressure cooker thoughts:

http://www.dadcooksdinner.com/2014/03/what-pressure-cooker-should-i-buy.html



Not familiar with the silit. I do like the Fagors.

Connie said...

Very thankful for your article--thanks! Another site mentions a couple of concerns with going larger than 8 qts. The first is that for beginners, cookbooks are geared to the 6-8 qt size or smaller. Second, the larger size means more water so instead of braising meat one is boiling it. What's your take on these concerns?

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I use large cookers with cookbook recipes all the time, and they work fine, without adjusting the recipes.

Larger pressure cookers don't need more water. Kuhn Rikon recommends 1/2 cup of liquid in this cooker (the same amount the recommend for all their cookers). Fagor is the same - 1/2 cup minimum of liquid for their 10 quart pressure cooker, the same as in their smaller models.

In other words, I don't agree with those concerns. I stand by my original statement - buy the biggest cooker you can; the extra space is always useful.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

That said...the KR and Fagor are pressure *cookers* - slightly larger versions of their 8 quart models, that work the same way, with the same amount of water. There are also pressure *canners* - starting at 10 quarts, and going up to 20+ quart monsters. They are made of cast aluminum, and designed for canning as their primary use. While they can be used as a pressure cooker, they do require a lot more water, and the bare the aluminum will react with acidic foods. They are not a good choice for pressure cooking.

Joe said...

Great article, thank you! There is one thing I had noticed that Kuhn Rikon had in their advertising for this that I have not seen or heard of it being done. Cooking a turkey in a pressure cooker! I assume it would have to be finished with a broil cycle to brown properly, but have you tried it? Did the manual come with a recipe? I have run a few Google searches to no avail. Being the season for it I am wondering if you have ever done or would consider trying it out! Not that it would make or break my decision, but if it would add more to the flavor of turkey I am always all for it!

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I just checked- no recipe for a whole turkey in the manual or the Quick Cuisine book that comes with it.

I wouldn't pot a whole turkey in; the breast meat will overcook. Turkey legs, however...thighs and drumsticks are great in the PC.

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