Fewer Americans own pressure cookers these days. The market research firm NPD Group gave us some statistical perspective on our cookware choices: In general, we own less of it than we used to. Fourteen years ago, for example, 21 percent of those surveyed said they owned a pressure cooker; in 2005, it was 14 percent. But slow-cooker ownership is on the rise: 76 percent in 1993, 81 percent in 2005.
It appears that most of us would rather "set it and forget it" than "lock on the lid." We asked food luminaries which they would use to cook 10 days of weeknight meals.
-- Bonnie S. Benwick
SLOW COOKER Shirley O. Corriher, food sleuth and author of "CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed":
At one time I had five teenage children at home. I was working back then, on my feet all day. There's no way I would have survived without it. In the morning I would throw a number of packages of chicken in, with cans of soup, a handful of thyme and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. It was all that saved me.
Betty Fussell, chef and author of "The Story of Corn":
Because pressure cookers were designed to cook slow food fast. And I am in every way a Slow Foodie. Time is one of the essential ingredients of cooking, as in flavor blending, as in texture manipulation, as in fermentation of grain or grapes. And how about scenting the kitchen and keeping it warm?
Andrew Zimmern, host of "Bizarre Foods" on the Travel Channel:
Considering my acute levels of performance anxiety, my predisposition to all things taken at a snail's pace and my insanely prominent technophobia, I would take a slow cooker every night of the week, even if the week was 10 days long. Slow cookers provide 12 to 16 hours of mouthwatering aromas and offer simple one-touch culinary solutions to complex problems.
PRESSURE COOKER Christopher Kimball, editor of Cook's Illustrated:
Cooking under pressure not only vastly reduces cooking times but is great for stewing and braising, often in less than an hour. You can also make risotto, great chicken stock for soup, and also cook legumes and grains quickly if you are careful.
Marcel Vigneron, second-season finalist on Bravo's "Top Chef" and master cook at Joël Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas: It has the ability to make my favorite slow food, fast, without compromising flavor. With a pressure cooker, the technique of caramelizing or browning proteins and/or vegetables to release their natural sugars and add layers of flavor can all be done in the same pot.
B. Smith, style guru and owner of B. Smith's restaurants:
I own one slow cooker and three pressure cookers. It's easy to knock out 10 meals and freeze over a weekend. Shopping and chopping is the most work. I do it all at once and place in [resealable plastic food storage bags]. I would give a p.c. as a wedding gift with recipes and 2 hours of my time for show and tell!