Pressure-cooker problems, and emergency computer power…

Last year I bought myself a new electric cooker, one with solid plates, and for one very good reason, they’re very easy to keep clean. For spoonies, that matters – a lot.

A lot of people, however, dislike solid plates as they’re slow to respond to the controls, being made of cast iron, which is slow to heat up, and slow to cool down. However, in normal cooking it is a simple matter to adjust your technique to suit these characteristics, turning the controls to maximum until just before the desired heat is reached, then quickly turning them down to working temperature. It needs vigilance, which probably explains the unpopularity. The plates can also be turned off before cooking is complete, as residual heat in the plates will continue the process. Nothing difficult about it, as long as you’re prepared to learn.

With a pressure cooker, though, it all falls to pieces, and the risk of over-pressurising the thing and blowing out the safety valve, is very real. Harmless, but annoying. And the food would be ruined. I have, though, found a way round this.

I had, at first, planned to use the gas stove from, my backpacking kit (which, along with a gas-converted Trangia, Petzl head torch, and a Coleman gas lantern, is part of my emergency backup system; in this building, if the electricity goes, there’s neither heat nor light), but this is designed for outdoor use, and I felt that there was a risk of the rubber gas tube melting if used with a big pan, with no breeze to carry away excess heat, so I bought one of these camping stoves instead:-

Amazon, £10.63. Or anywhere up to £30, also Amazon. And they also sell gas, worth bearing in mind as most online vendors don’t. NB: Runs on CP250 cartridges – not the threaded type

These things are widely available, from various manufacturers though I suspect that, in truth, they all come from the same Chinese factory, with different paint jobs for different customers. And can be had for around a tenner which, frankly, is about what they’re worth – they don’t appears to be overly durable, but where it matters, in the gas department, they are reassuringly well put together – it’s the pressed steel case which is flimsy. Still, it should be good for a couple of years (which a look at the warranty – 2 years – bears out).

Anyway, it gets the job done. With it sat alongside, I can bring the pressure cooker up to pressure on the hob, then immediately transfer it to the gas stove, where the heat is very much more controllable.

Even for a spoonie – and this spoonie is getting increasingly weak – the transfer is very easy, as the pressure cooker has handles on both sides. Just take care you don’t get scalded by the steam, which you won’t unless you’re careless.

These things tend to guzzle gas if used to the max, but at the lowish heat needed for this, economy should be pretty good, and it won’t, of course, be in use every day.** It’s very useful to have in the event of a power cut too, always a worry in an all-electric building. In the 16 years I’ve been here, we’ve only had one, but as I’m often up very late – or very early, depending on your point of view – I’ve noticed an increasing number of brown-outs overnight, lately, severe enough to briefly trigger my UPS*** if my computer is running.

**Always remove the gas cartridge when not in use.

***Uninterruptible Power Supply, essentially 230-volt battery backup for your PC – every computer should have one if you’re a heavy user or in an area prone to power cuts –  this is mine. Caution – connecting the battery is a pain in the butt! Needle-nose pliers are a must.

In the event of a power failure these things mostly give you more than enough time to shut down your system without damage. Vastly more expensive ones will allow you to carry on working for some time – your call.

By the way, on Amazon there’s a review complaining that the gas control/ignition knob broke off, rendering it unusable. Well, you’d have to be pretty damn brutal to do that and, even so, assuming it’s the plastic knob that broke,the stub of the shaft can be turned with the fingertips, or pliers, and the piezo-ignition unit can be operated with a finger by lifting the cartidge chamber cover.