ASK YOUR QUESTIONS, Provisioning-Cooking Q&A

Is it worth it to get a pressure cooker?

Photo from aluminupressurecooker.comI don’t have a pressure cooker and have never used one. Do you think it’s worth it to get one?

We will be sailing in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. I love to cook but currently cook most things at home and then freeze them for longer vacations or bring them to the boat for the weekend. We tend to eat on the boat primarily. I am a bit concerned about having the oven running all of the time to cook in the heat of the Caribbean.

Just curious about what you think are the biggest advantages to having one.


Gwen Hamlin, Beth Leonard, Kathy Parsons and Lisa Schofield answer.

1) Gwen Hamlin: I didn’t use my pressure cooker as much as some people.

Gwen HamlinNot every cruiser chooses to use them, but I would guess the majority do, for just the reason you list: reducing the heat you generate in the boat.

Also for getting the most out of your propane supply. Cruisers on boats with limited propane storage and limited refrigeration use them alot. You can cook a one pot meal for several days and just bring it back up to pressure and then let it sit on the stove top. You can use it for canning. You can even bake bread in them.

I didn’t use my pressure cooker as much as some people. My charter years had oriented me more to grilling and stir-frying, and our boat carried lots of propane in two tanks, each lasting 3 months, so we didn’t have to worry as much as others about using it up. But I did use it. Particularly when I got to Fiji and became interested in curries.

I think pressure cooking is a skill you need to work at a bit to get a handle on it. It’s easy to over-cook things if you aren’t precise about about timing! But it’s very persuasive when you want to make a stew, or cook beans. It’s also nice just to have it around to use as a big pot!

If the world were perfect you would get a large stainless steel one.

I started with a smaller one to save space, but that wasn’t so satisfactory. When you cook beans, or worse split peas, you don’t want the pot too full in order to ensure the vent stays clear! I ended up with an aluminum pot from French Polynesia, and was very satisfied with it. But I worry a bit about cooking with uncoated aluminum!

2) Beth Leonard: I have never used the pressure cooker for anything else than canning.

Beth LeonardI have used the pressure cooker extensively for canning and would not be without it for that reason.

But I have never used it for anything else. When we left on our first circumnavigation in 1992 we had a very nice one aboard, but I hadn’t used it by the time we reached New Zealand and so I sold it.

I have not taken any sort of a survey, but in talking to women on cruising boats it seems to me that your cooking style lends itself to the pressure cooker or it does not. Those who do a lot of cooking with potatoes and beans, and those who enjoy soups and stews are more likely to use it than those who eat a lot of salads, fresh vegetables and grilled meat/fish (a grill off the stern is another great way to keep the cooking heat out of the boat).

If you’re not sure which way you’ll fall, having a pressure cooker aboard as your largest pot has no downside.

But if you have limited room, I’d suggest buying a pressure cooker a few months before you leave and using it for anything that can be cooked in it. That way you can see not only how much you might use it, but whether or not you like the way it cooks things. By the time you untie the docklines, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not you’ll make use of it aboard.

Everything ready to start Finished product
Pressure cooker canning: everything ready to start  (Photo from Beth Leonard’s website: Pressure cooker canning: finished product (Photo from Beth Leonard’s website:

3) Kathy Parsons: Check out our feature article “Galley Advice from 18 Cruising Women”.

Kathy ParsonsHere is some “data” for you from our Women and Cruising website. When we did our “Tell us about your Galley” project (Galley Advice from 18 Cruising Women), 9 of the 18 women participating listed their pressure cooker as one of the top 5 essential items in their galley, so clearly many (but not all) women find them handy aboard.

To read what the women had to say about their cookers, check out the contributions of  Ann Vanderhoof, Kathy Parsons, Lisa Schofield, Sylvie Branton, Barb Theisen, Corinne Kanter, Diana Simon, Marcie Lynn, and Judy Knape (Question 4: What are the 5 items that you consider essential in your galley?)

Stainless steel pressure cooker, with spare valve & sealReading through their answers, it looks like 6-quart is the most popular size, and a number of women (like me) prefer stainless steel. Another feature that I like is the ability to release the pressure by pressing a button on the top. It is awkward to have to carry the pressure cooker to the sink to run water over it to release steam, and besides it would waste water.

By the way, Pam Wall and Gwen Hamlin also mentioned that they had one aboard. Amanda Swan Neal didn’t mention the pressure cooker but I notice she is cooking with a pressure cooker in one of her photos!

On the other hand, both Heather Stockard and Sheri Schneider said that they initially carried pressure cookers but never used them. And 4 women didn’t mention them so we don’t know if they use them.

These days I use my pressure cooker mostly for beans, chilis, stews and stocks (fish and lobster!). All of these would use lots of propane and create lots of heat in the galley if I cooked them without pressure. I am one of those women who find them very useful!

4) Lisa Schofield: I am in the “absolutely must have and use one aboard” category.

Lisa SchofieldOh, boy – anytime someone asks me a cooking and cruising question, I get very excited. And, pressure cooker’s is right up there among my favorite subjects. I am in the “absolutely must have and use one aboard” category.

Now, having said that, I do realize that there are folks who just don’t and won’t use one, or who have memories of Grandma’s cooker exploding in the kitchen, leaving dinner on the ceiling. These days, there are lots of safety features and those accidents are not a worry.

The Captain bought me one about a year before we departed, and it sat for a year in the cupboard at home before I moved it aboard about 10 years ago. I had never used one before, and although my mother had one, she only used it as a big pot.

Fortunately, my husband had also gifted me a pressure cooker cookbook, so once settled aboard, I started perusing the book. It was actually some yummy recipes that initiated me, and once I discovered how easy and fast it actually was for traditionally long cooking meals, I was sold. I remember regretting that I didn’t use it while I was working!

Although I tended to use it less in the very warm places, mostly because soups and stews were less appetizing in those conditions, when I did use it, I was extremely happy that I didn’t have to use the oven, or run the stove as long as I might have with a regular cooking method. In those conditions, I use it for hummus, tuna and white bean salad, spaghetti sauce, curry and risotto, among other things. I find that I prefer the traditional method of preparing risotto, but the pressure cooker method is a reasonable substitute, especially when you don’t have the ability to stand and stir. Provisioning with dried beans versus canned saves weight and space. I even know of people who bake bread in it, although I haven’t yet tried that. When you are in areas that don’t have the finest cuts of meat, the pressure cooker will give you a tender and tasty product.

Now that we are in the cold water climes, I use my cooker so often, I don’t even put in away in the locker. Those type of dishes really hit the spot when you are chilled. We tend to use more propane in British Columbia so my pressure cooker helps with conserving. I’m looking forward to trying some desserts in it this coming season, with bread pudding taking about 1/2 the time it takes in the oven.

Using a pressure cooker (mine is an 8 qt stainless steel Fagor) is also very helpful and convenient during a passage. Food is contained in the pot in bouncy seas, and I usually am able to keep the leftovers in the cooker and transfer back and forth from the frig, just bringing back up to pressure before serving again. The pot is great for steaming seafood (with or without pressure) and I have even “roasted” a whole chicken in it.

Last year, I bought a second pressure cooker to keep at home, so I have one to use during the “off” season!

Read also on this website
More information (external links)
  • Pressure cooker canning. An easy way to have great meals when the shops are few and far between. By Beth Leonard (pdf)

Do you use a pressure cooker aboard?

Let us know. Email or leave a comment below.

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8 comments to Is it worth it to get a pressure cooker?

  • I brought a Presto pressure cooker on board my cruise in 2009 and used it frequently. It really saves time and gas for the stove. I probably would not have used it much if I hadn’t brought along the great Lorna Sass cookbook “Cooking Under Pressure”. One recipe in there, a ziti dish, was one of our standbys as we could substitute different ingredients based on what was on board.

    Our boat was small (only 29 feet) so I got a 4-qt cooker – it just barely fit in our sink. I will say that my husband was afraid that the thing was going to blow up every time I put it in the sink to quick-release the pressure.

    Since our boat was small, the pressure cooker also doubled as our large pot when needed. Overall I would recommend one.

    Many cruisers we met use the pressure cooker for baking bread, especially during long passages. I never did this as we spent most of our time in the Bahamas were almost every island had a local who baked bread for cruisers.

  • We have two and use them most of the time. Canning does really require one for food safety. Daily use saves gas and one pot meals are a snap with a pressure cooker.

  • I have been a pressure cooker fan for 20 years, ever since we first went cruising. It is great for the ‘less than perfect’ meat cuts you get in 3rd world countries, and will make a stringy chicken just fall off the bone in about 10 minutes of cooking.

    Most often, I use it to ‘pre-cook’ stuff I’m going to BBQ… like chicken legs or ribs. Cook 8-10 mins in pressure cooker and then put on the grill with BBQ sauce. Also, when only whole chickens are available, put the whole chicken in the cooker and cook it up–debone everything (easy, it falls off the bone) and use it in your favorite recipe.

    Also, soups, stews, and the kind of stuff you’d put in a ‘slow cooker’ at home. AND doubles as our ‘biggest pot’.

  • Jane Morgan

    I have cruised extensively and been the cook of everyone’s choice on voyages where crew shared all expenses and duties sailing from Austaralia to NYC. Also worked as a charter cook/mate for a couple of seasons in the BVI. A pressure cooker for me is the only kind of large pot to have if you live aboard, passage-make and go to far away places for all of the reasons the other contributers mention. I make great creme caramels, flans, sponges and cheesecakes: both sweet and savoury that make potluck gatherings very special.

  • I had a pressure cooker aboard for three Atlantic crossings and a year of island hopping in between. I used it once, even though I grew up with my mom using it often. I guess I just had enough gas and cooked things that didn’t take much time for the most part. I think I’d use it for soups and stews in cooler climates like this summer in Ireland and Scotland.

    Can anyone share how one bakes bread and makes cheesecakes and sponge cakes in a pressure cooker? I’d love to try that to avoid using the oven.

  • All you need is a nice crock pot. Forget the pressure cooker, you can cook veggies and tons of things on the grill. Have aluminum foil on hand also, to steam and or cook potatoes, vegetables and meats on the grill.

  • My mother used a pressure cooker at home to cook pinto beans and that’s all I new how to cook in it. When my family of four moved aboard for full-time cruising, my mother’s handy pressure cooker came along. I have since learned to cook meatloaf, stroganoff, pork roasts, beef and chicken curries, stews and chowders… you name it, I can pressure cook it in a fraction of the time it takes to bake. Propane conservation and heating up the cabin are major considerations. Breads? You bet! Mix the dough, let rise, punch down, place in a greased stainless bowl that fits your cooker on top of trivet (or inverted tuna cans work well), let rise again, add water to bottom of cooker, cook 15-20 minutes… Viola! How much do I depend on my pressure cooker? When the gasket disintegrated and I couldn’t find a proper replacement(I was in a foreign country), I bought a new pressure cooker.

  • Darroch Tait

    Hi, hopefully someone can help. My best mate and I are circumnavigating over the next four years. We cook with our pressure cooker pretty much every day as our staple diet is beans, lentils and root vegitables.
    I recall reading in a few books (possibly by the Pardey’s) the mention of an old recipe book primarily aimed at cookin beans/pulses in a pressure cooker.
    I cannot remember the name but THE BEAN COOKBOOK rings a bell.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated as all the reference books are aboard the boat (in Greece) and I’m back in the UK for a few months and it’s the best place to do lots of online shopping.

    Thanks in advance.


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