Jackpot Readiness: The (Literal) Pressure Cooker

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

And now for something completely different. Commenters to Yves’ post on rationing were discussing how to cook and store food under conditions of “disruption and shortages,” as alert reader Eclair put it, discussing the Amish. It occurred to me that the Jackpot would be the ultimate form of rationing, albeit imposed opportunistically. Reader Hotflash mentioned pressure canning, but that’s too ambitious for me; I’m nervous about the botulism the way others are nervous about exploding cookware. So I thought I’d look to see if pressure cooking — from which pressure canning technology derives — would help with rationing; if it was Jackpot-compliant. As it turns out, it’s not; pressure-cooking will not help you comply with the rigors of collapse. However, pressure-cooking could be said to be Jackpot-ready: The values implicit in pressure cooking will help you to ready yourself for what is to come. Also, the topic is interesting in itself. Full disclosure: I don’t cook food. I buy it. This is neither Jackpot-ready, since I am not sharpening skills, nor Jackpot-compliant, since Jackpot restaurants will surely very, very exclusive.

For those who want to cut to the chase, recipes, reviews, more reviews. And a particularly enthusiastic review:

Everyone in Spain has a Fagor pressure cooker. You can cook everything quicker and get deep, precise, perfect flavors and textures with one tool….

Beans and greens come out super creamy — only this pressure cooker can collapse cell walls like that. The best risotto takes only seven minutes. You can cook the most succulent boiled chicken you have ever had, and get a chicken broth in just 40 minutes that’s perfectly clarified because the pressure cooker automatically stratifies your stock. Even when I make chickpeas, I’ll save the broth because the clarity of flavors in the pot liquor from the pressure cooker is the best.

And a key distinction:

A pressure cooker is not a slow cooker. Slow cookers encourage poor technique — you’re not engaged, and you don’t use your intuition. When you’re using the Fagor, you have to pay attention the whole 40 to 50 minutes because it’s basically a pan with a pressurized top on it. You’re not just dumping a few ingredients into a pot and leaving. It’s an easy way to put really healthy, tasty food on the table that has bold flavor and is immediately satisfying. Sometimes when you cook for your family you’ll make a loveless meal because you’re in a hurry. We’ve all done it. I think this pressure cooker is free love, even if you’re rushed.

Chicken broth that doesn’t take, like days? I’m almost sold!

The pressure cooker opened the Age of Steam. French physician and scientist Denis Papin showed his “Digester” to the Royal Society in 1679. (The last Great Plague in London had ended only thirteen years before, so science was popping after the Jackpot of Papin’s own day.) He published his book on it in 1681. Here’s the cover:

The whole book is at the Wellcome Collection in facsimile; it makes for fascinating reading. Pressure cooker manufacturer Presto says Papin was motivated by a desire to save cooking time; others say Papin sought to enable the poor to extract nutrition from bones; what is clear is that Papin was fascinated by his new addition to the art of cuisine; his book includes recipes for mutton, beef, rabbit, pigeons, fish, “gelly,” sweetmeats, wine, and glue. (In 1681, Papin prepared a well-received meal for the Royal Society using his digester.)

As a scientist, Papin had worked for both Christian Huygens and Robert Boyle, the inventor of Boyle’s Law, which drives the operation of the pressure cooker from Papin’s day to this:

According to David Wootton, author of The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution, the Digester was nothing short of a revelation. A breakthrough in steam technology, it relied on simple but impactful science. “Making the Digester involved understanding that pressure relates to the temperature at which things boil,” he says. “And when things boil, the result is pressure from steam. You’ve got a double process when you put something in a pressure cooker: You’re raising the temperature at which steam emerges, and you’re also producing pressure from the steam.”

Papin’s initial device required a custom-built furnace, which rested directly beneath a series of hollow cylinders—two made from brass, one from glass or pewter. Users placed food and water within the latter. The top of the device was sealed with a lid and kept taught with screws. Most notably, the device featured a safety valve with a weight on its end. When pressure reached unsafe levels, the weight lowered the valve and released excess steam, thereby preventing explosions.

Though bigger than the devices it later inspired, the Digester was strikingly similar to modern pressure cookers both in its basic components and its efficiency. “The principals are exactly the same,” Wootton says. “You’re cooking faster because you’re cooking at a higher temperature, and because you are doing it in steam, you’re not going to burn or dry things out. You’re also releasing marrow while cooking animal substances until you can produce various sorts of broths and jellies.”

Papin went on to develop a piston-based engine where steam was the prime mover; it has been suggested that Thomas Newcomen, the English inventor of the first practical steam engine in 1712, saw the plans, which Papin published in 1688 and 1690. So when you use your pressure cooker, you are also using an important historical artifact!

We must fast forward to the 1930s to see the pressure cooker become an item of mass manufacture:

But it wasn’t until the 1930s that the pressure cooker finally made its way into the home kitchen, with the introduction of Alfred Vischer’s “Flex-Seal Speed Cooker” in 1938, and later a model from the National Pressure Cooker Company (which is now named National Presto Industries and is still very much in the pressure cooker game) in 1939.

Since then, not much has changed, and pressure cooker designs can be classified by generations. The first and simplest “old type” pressure cookers feature a weighted “jiggler” valve that releases and regulates pressure, causing a rattling noise as steam escapes. Today, most pressure cookers you can find are first-generation designs, with small safety improvements like pressure-sensitive locking mechanisms, as well as the ability to adjust pressure by changing the weight of the valve.

Second-generation pressure cookers are quieter, have a hidden, spring-loaded valve, and allow you to choose at least two different pressure settings by adjusting a dial. Some cookers don’t even release any steam while cooking; instead, they have an indicator that displays the pressure level. Overall, second-generation models offer more precision when cooking than do first-generation models.

Third-generation models are a relatively recent innovation. Unlike models belonging to the first two generations, these models all have an electric heat source that maintains proper pressure while cooking. They typically have a timer, and more elaborate models include digital controllers, delayed cooking functionality, and smart programming for cooking certain foods.

Obviously, third-generation models are neither Jackpot-ready or -compliant, since they depend on electricity; first- and second-generation pressure cookers, such as you might find anywhere from estate sales to Amazon — or, in my case, in the confused mass of unused cookware in my mother’s cupboards — are, since they can be heated with flame[1].

So much for the Age of Steam[2]. What about the cooking? The values of pressure cooking are, as it were, immanent in the techology; they all have to do with resource efficiency, including the ultimate resource, your time, and empowerment as a cook. Here is a description from one user:

Today, pressure cookers are very safe and are very easy to use; though I do admit I was a little worried using one for the first time. With a pressure cooker, a rich beef stock can be made in 2 ½ hours rather than 12…

The value of using time efficiently

… making stock-making suddenly economically-viable.

The value of being empowered as a cook

This fact convinced me to give it a go. After a quick rummage in the freezer, I found not beef bones but hogget bones, leftover…

The value of using resources wisely (and indeed Papin’s original use case. Besides softening bones and tough meat, pressure cooking preserves nutrients).

… from the legs I roasted for the podcast and Grigson blog last year (see here and here). The resulting stock was magnificent – richer and more delicious than any meat stock I had cooked before. Then, I tested it out on some pigeons, cooking them pie-style just as John Evelyn had mentioned in his diary [of the dinner cooked for him by Papin at the Royal Society].

(Here is an article from a prepper that takes a more pragmatic view, and recommends using one’s pressure cooker for, among other things, canning, water distillation, and as an autoclave. In addition, if you want to cook without detection, a pressure cooker is sealed.)

* * *

Values are immanent in technology. The values immanent in the pressure cooker are using time efficiently, becoming empowered, and using resources wisely. Those are not such bad values to become Jackpot-ready by practicing in the kitchen. “You are what you repeatedly do,” as Aristotle says.


[1] One could argue that first- and second-generation pressure cookers are not Jackpot-Compliant because they are sealed with a rubber gasket between lid and cooker; it’s hard to imagine a collapsed supply chain disgorging rubber gaskets. Perhaps engineering-minded readers can suggest an alternative gasket material? Or a design for a new sort of pressure cooker that with a lid that does not require a gasket? This antique pressure canner is said to have no gasket:

But it looks a little sketchy to me. Opening seems rather like undoing the lug nuts for a flat tire, except with a blast of steam as the price of a mistake.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. lordkoos

    If the Jackpot happens and electricity disappears we’re going to have a lot more to worry about than which pressure cooker we own, but point taken.

    I bought an Instant Pot pressure automatic electric cooker a couple of years ago (hey, at least it’s not a “smart” appliance) and love cooking with it, but then I love to cook anyway. It is such a basic skill, I think everyone should have at least some experience cooking. Start with something easy like eggs.

    A big innovation in pressure cooking is the use of silicon for the gasket material.

    1. bdy

      Yeah and silicone brags a 20 year lifespan. That said, there’s no such thing as a gasket that isn’t critical. Apparently latex is easy enough to make at home. Just make sure you have a rubber tree and morning glories handy.

      Probabaly a good idea to try this one out ahead of time, to get an idea of the quantities required for larger objects like cooker gaskets. But a half dozen rubber trees on the acreage with a few excursions down the fabrication learning curve would make a body indispensable to their neighbors as pumps, valves and seals start to inevitably fail.

    2. EMHO80

      I have heard the term “The Jackpot” before, does it refer to Heinlein’s “The Year of the Jackpot”?
      Or to something else? Thanks

        1. Anders K

          Agreed, and although I’d have liked Gibson to give Heinlein his due, it might very well have been an unconscious inspiration, or just great minds thinking alike.

    3. BeliTsari

      Nissan’s Thermal cooker and patience? We’d bought an InstaPot (upon infection 18 months ago). Our dried bean, cereal, legume, grain, dehydrated herb & fruit etc. larder had to be cooked contingent with our acquired diverticulosis & brain-fog crankiness. But oat, buckwheat, cashew, date, pistacio, peanut butter, maple porridge just required 4-5 minutes heating and was an absolute godsend, the next morning? Cauliflower, potatoes, soups, or soaking chickpeas & beans is wonderfully different braised or pressure/ slow cooker!

      Nissan is now using the Thermos brand & there are many Chinese brands, I’ve never used. The Japanese & Korean ones, basically last forever and are incredibly efficient.

  2. Wukchumni

    While not quite a cooking pressure cooker, my longtime backpacking partner brings a ‘Kelly Kettle’ which boils 20 ounces of water in a jiffy using little twigs and anything that’ll burn. To purify water just keep it at a low boil for 3 minutes by slowly adding fuel.

    In the backcountry we usually only need hot water for freeze-dried meals and beverages, so its a nice fit, old school too.

    Kelly Kettle, Storm Kettle, Ghillie Kettle, Thermette and Volcano Kettle are trade names for portable devices for boiling water outdoors using twigs and other small combustible materials; these devices consist of a water jacket surrounding a fire chamber which creates an upward chimney draft ensuring efficient and rapid boiling even in windy or wet weather.


    1. Skip Intro

      I have solar oven that works pretty well, without needing any fire. It has a clever insulated oven chamber that allows it to get by with small reflectors. When its ‘sealed’ it gets pretty steamy. Called GoSun Go. Seriously.

  3. Jonny Appleseed

    Pressure cookers also require an evenly modulated source of heat. We use a Swiss one on our hydronic wood-fired range, but it must be artfully moved around the hob to ensure that it is operating in the correct temperature range. This would be even more demanding to use, say, over a three stone fire cooking setup.

  4. David B

    I think rocket stoves are a good item to be ready to go for the jackpot. They efficiently burn fuel to get heat at the outlet. Pretty easy to make/build. I imagine a lot of fences and trees will disappear into fires fast when electricity gets spotty.

    1. jr

      I’m with you there. I recently tested mine, it burns twigs, pellets, and bbq briquettes. The wood fuels will produce a foot tall flame, easy. They generate a ton of heat and you have to watch the surface it rests on as I cracked a ceramic plate I unwittingly used as an ash catcher by overheating it. You definitely don’t need a full load of fuel to heat up a small pot of something but forget about meals that require sustained heat or pressure. A half load of wood pellets, about four cups or so, burned nice and hot for over 35 minutes but when it’s done, it’s like done. The briquettes last longer but aren’t as easy to cook with.

      I spent the other day chopping up an old pile of bamboo someone left in the back yard, that’s another week of fuel in my stash. I purchased a cheap hatchet for more chopping, I wouldn’t use it as a full on swinging hatchet but more of a splitting wedge combined with a hammer. I don’t foresee having to chop down any trees but there is plenty of old dried wood around the neighborhood.

      Be cautious about the pots you place on them, I have a small one and I’ve had to purchase a small cast aluminum dutch oven in which I can heat up a can of beans or a cup of tea. Double-handled is best as a long single handle will tip it over.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I have an idea about how to maybe stretch out the charge of quick heat which a rocket stove makes.
        I have no idea if it would work. It’s just an idea.

        It starts with a perforated vegetable grill pan, for setting on the outdoor grill rack so the vegetables in it will not fall through the grill rack. It has little perforations in it for the grill heat to go up through.

        Then halfway fill it with grill-heat-retention lava rocks, like this.

        Set the cookpot on the lava rocks or lava pebbles. Put some more lava pebbles in going up around the sides of the pot.

        Put the whole thing on the rocket stove so the hot burning rocket stove gas is forced up through the lava rocks or pebbles. They will soak up all the heat and then re-release it slower into the cookpot.
        A hybrid lava-rock rocket stove.

        Or . . . there are soapstone cookwares. Like this . . .
        Maybe you could put a soapstone pot on your rocket stove and burn it as hot and fast as possible to sink the most possible heat into the soapstone pot with food in it. And then let the soapstone re-release its charge of heat slower into the food.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        It looks like commenter Rodeo Clown way below has provided an answer to the sustained heat cooking problem. A quick burn on the rocket stove could be used to heat the “thermal cooker” full of food and the thermal cooker could then be placed in its thermal insulation heat retainer to set and forget to cook by itself for the next few hours on the heat dumped into it from the one quick burn on the rocket stove.

  5. Steve

    We have the modern version of the last cooker. It does indeed work with no gasket. There is a machined bevel on the lid and a matching area on the pot that provides the seal.

    When we first got it (new), the instructions said to lightly oil the machined area before first use.

    1. Hacker

      The All American Pressure canner does have a rubber or plastic overpressure release valve that will dry out over time and prevent it from getting to proper pressure. My wife ran into this last year when trying to use it after many years of sitting idle. Of course, in a real jackpot, one would probably find something to seal that small hole tight enough and just watch the pressure more carefully.

  6. IM Doc

    My wife uses our Ninja Foodi pressure cooker/convection combo almost daily.

    There have been 2 revelations.

    First of all, the roast beef made in this device is like going to heaven. Long gone are the days of the chewy, tough, and stringy roast of my childhood that my mother manufactured with her slow cooker. It is just an amazing difference.

    Secondly, one can cook an entirely frozen turkey breast in about an hour and have it be tender and juicy and delicious. Long gone are the days of tough turkey and basting every 10 minutes. We have turkey now all the time.

    And a smaller discovery – red beans and rice or barracho beans can be done from raw beans in about an hour and they are just incredible.

    I think all the above are very encouraging of a healthier diet as well.

    It has been an incredible investment. I do have to admit being worried that we were going to blow up the house the first time we turned it on though.

    1. Carolinian

      Thank you. I’m no version of a cook but sometimes like to cook non manufactured food in the easiest way possible and my simple stove top cooker can turn out wonderfully tender meat in fifteen minutes while I’m off reading Naked Capitalism. This is often done via a steamer basket so you can cook a potato and vegetables to go with it.

      The non fancy cookers are not expensive at all. Highly endorse.

  7. wsa

    I like to cook and jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon after a few years. More than anything I appreciate that I can decide to make chickpeas or black beans on a whim and have excellent results in not much longer than an hour. I typically make a large batch, and freeze what I don’t immediately need.

  8. grayslady

    Some 20 years ago, I invested in a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. Made by the Swiss, it is heavy stainless steel and loaded with safety features–my primary requirement. It cooks faster than an electric pressure cooker and everything comes out perfectly. I bought it primarily to cook cheap pieces of meat which come out heavenly in the pressure cooker. Chicken is always moist and never has any raw areas. At this time of year, one of my favorite uses is for canning applesauce. With the pressure cooker, you simply dump your peeled and cored apples into the pressure cooker, cook on high pressure for five minutes, and you have perfect applesauce ready to can. Since it’s so easy, I sometimes just make small portions to have around for dinner. Chili and soups are ready in 30 minutes, so I used it constantly when I was working full time. My favorite pressure cooker cookbook is The New Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Pat Dailey, former food editor for the Chicago Tribune. Every recipe in the book is delicious.

    As for parts for the pressure cooker, they are relatively cheap. A new rubber ring for the pressure cooker top is about $20-$25 and lasts about 10 years under regular use. There are only a few other replaceable parts and they are equally reasonably priced, so you can easily put a supply in inventory.

  9. lordkoos

    Here is a killer pressure cooker recipe, this one is more involved than your simple beans or whatever, and it calls for a tone of spices, but the results are spectacular. We love it and I make it every few months.

    The only caveat is that you must soak the basmati rice for 20 minutes in warm water:

    Instant Pot or pressure cooker Chicken Biryani


    1 cup basmati rice, soaked 15-30 minutes
    3 tablespoons ghee
    ⅓ cup cashews, halved
    2 tablespoons golden raisins
    5 cardamom pods
    4 whole cloves
    2 bay leaf
    ½ cinnamon stick
    ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
    ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
    1 onion, thinly sliced
    4 teaspoons minced garlic
    2 teaspoons minced ginger
    1 ½ pounds skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut into quarters

    2 teaspoons coriander powder
    2 teaspoons paprika
    2 teaspoons salt, adjust to taste
    1 teaspoon garam masala
    ¼ teaspoon black pepper
    ¼ teaspoon cayenne, adjust to taste
    ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
    ¼ teaspoon turmeric
    1 cup water
    ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
    ½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

    1 Soak the basmati rice in cold water for 15-30 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.
    Press the sauté button. Add the ghee to the pot. When it melts, add the cashews and
    raisins. Stir-fry until the cashews begin to turn golden. Remove the cashews and raisins. Set aside.
    Add the whole spices and stir. Once they begin to sizzle add the onions. Stir-fry for 6-7 minutes or until they turn golden brown.
    Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
    Add the chicken and stir-fry 6-7 minutes or until the outside of the chicken is no longer pink.
    6 Add the ground spices and mix to coat the chicken.
    7 Dump the rice on top of the chicken (do not mix). Add water.
    8 Sprinkle half the cilantro and mint on top of the rice.
    9 Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 8 minutes at high pressure.
    Naturally release pressure for 10 minutes. Open the valve to release any remaining

    Discard the whole spices. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and mint and garnish with the ghee-coated cashews and raisins

      1. lordkoos

        This was originally an Instant Pot recipe so with other brands of cookers it might be different. The rice part of that recipe is indeed tricky, and different brands of basmati will turn out differently, but it is delicious even if the rice is not perfect. I have had the rice turn out a little wet sometimes but the dish is always great. You can experiment with less liquid as well.

    1. redleg

      I’ve made this, of a slightly different recipe, and will vouch for the speed, delightful layering, and excellent flavor. I highly recommend it!

      I’ve also tried making this the slow way with poor results. As far as I’m concerned, Biryani must be cooked in a pressure cooker.

  10. Pallavi

    I use cooker all the time. Every home in India has a.pressure cooker and I can’t do without one even in the UK so I get my share of cookers couriered every year

  11. drumlin woodchuckles

    About home-making latex, apparently the rubber tree makes a latex molecule uniquely good for rubberizing, vulcanizing, etc. But some other plants make latex which might have a stretchy-bouncy molecule in it which might be just good enough. Many years ago I read about a Southwestern desert plant called guayule which made a rubberizable material and was considered for rubber-use during WWII. Apparently there is a company claiming to make guayule rubber right now today.
    If one lives in the SouthWest, maybe one can grow one’s own guayule plants.

    Mildweeds produce white sap commonly called “latex”. Does it have rubberizable compounds in it? I don’t know.

    Perhaps people with gaskets-needed pressure cookers could pre-buy and stockpile gaskets. Perhaps community organizations, churches, food banks, etc. could pre-buy and stockpile gaskets for the gasket-short future.

    I wonder if thin copper sheeting could be cut into gasket shapes and also work? Just a thought.

    The pressure cooker in the photo is aluminum and the theory is smooth metal pot-rim and smooth-metal lid “counter-rim” to fit exactly on the rim, and the swing bolts hold it down tight enough to prevent steam escaping from the tight smooth metal on metal seal.

    Here is a line of modern day no-gasket metal-on-metal swing-bolt sealing pressure cookers.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Mildweeds produce white sap commonly called “latex”. Does it have rubberizable compounds in it? I don’t know

      Presumably milkweeds? We do have a milkweed expert in the house….

      1. Samuel Conner

        Not an expert, but I would think it unwise to use Asclepias-derived materials in contact with food or food preparation gear.

        The sap/latex contains compounds with, depending on species, are cardio- or neuro-toxic.

        A quick internet search suggests that US attempted to make ersatz rubber from Milkweed sap during WWII. The wording suggests that the experiments did not pan out.

  12. drumlin woodchuckles

    What is the difference between Jackpot-ready and Jackpot-compliant? I gather Jackpot-compliant is stronger , but how are the two words defined exactly?

    1. Hacker

      I’m not sure of the original reference but here’s something relevant I have to say.

      You need to be jackpot-ready, your tools need to be jackpot-compliant. Getting jackpot ready is by far the harder task. If getting an Instant pot (get the brand name with the stainless steel inner pot) helps you get jackpot-ready then it is a wise investment even if it itself is not jackpot compliant.

      To be jackpot ready, you need to know how to prepare foods that might be available without industrial pre-processing. Also, since according to Greer, collapse will happen to different folks at different times and rates, it is best to have a many month supply of food on hand. Buying dry beans and grains in bulk is a great way to do that.

      We have been doing this since before the 3rd-gen pressure cookers were available. Having an instant pot has really cut down on the number of times we just grabbed store bought canned beans and went with our stockpile of dried beans. This helps to rotate stock, is healthier, saves money and forms better habits.

      We’re now growing dried beans. Not enough to feed use through the year, but enough to learn about how to do it. We still have to finish threshing some of the beans from 2020, as it is much easier just to use the one we purchased. Getting the instant pot helped to get us more jackpot ready, and what really matters.

  13. skk

    Many Indian cuisine recipe discuss length of time to cook in “number of whistles” – e.g. “Add chole, bay leaf, and tea pouch in pressure cooker for 4 to 5 whistles.”

    Pressure cookers are very much a key item in Indian lower-middle-class+ households from wayyy back in the ’60s even. I guess they are a fuel saving device too.

    In India, I remember being in the front room studying and hearing the pressure cooker whistles in the back room, the kitchen – and getting a sense a how much further along it was till lunch.

    I got a German pressure cooker in England in the ’80s and still use it. No bells and whistles though. They really work for me. I long ago learn to translate whYeah I know how to translate whistles to minutes. istles to minutes.

    1. lordkoos

      Pressure cookers are popular in Jamaica as well, and I’m guessing a lot of other countries too. They cook a lot of beans there and it’s a real time saver.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      There is an entire “clade” of Indian steam cookers (link here) which I could not get to. There are Afghan pressure cookers too, manufactured in Afghanistan (here, here) which I can’t believe have gaskets, so perhaps they have done some clever machining, as with their village-manufactured AK-47s. Pressure cookers are also good at high altitudes, which I would imagine is one thing driving the Afghan designs. (They are also designed to be hung over the coals, AFAIK, not placed on them, so the heating is more even.)

    3. timotheus

      A pressure cooker is also a must-have item in the Chilean household. In fact, downtown Santiago has a store on a side pedestrian walkway called La Casa de la Olla a Presión, which means The House of the Pressure Cooker. It has no other items for sale and will also repair yours.

      1. newcatty

        Even very experienced cooks using a pressure cooker can have problems with it. I knew an older woman who used it to help feed a large family. One day it exploded in her kitchen. She cooked poultry bones, water and rice into “soup”. Unkindly, I called it gruel. Her kids claimed to love it. The hot mess was of epic proportions. As it happened, I was in an adjacent room. I literally ran in and pulled a kid out of the disaster. Have not ever wanted to use one. Will look into Instant Pot.

  14. Samuel Conner

    I can’t speak highly enough of Instant Pot.

    It saves significant $ in electricity or gas if used frequently to replace the range or oven. My 6qt model uses less than 1 kilowatt-hour to cook ~ half gallon of soup (90 minute cook cycle starting with dried black beans; I find that much less than 90 min is still a bit gassy). The power draw drops to less than 1 watt once the cooker reaches pressure.

    (power consumption measured with a “Kill-a-watt” meter)

    Lambert, if you’re not cooking in order to save time, you may find that “3rd gen” cookers are a good value as the prep and cleanup are quick.


    IP appears to be a useful low-budget alternative to autoclave:



    While not Jackpot compliant, I like to think that subsisting on simple foods is a kind of preparation for future austerity.

    1. Steve O

      The problem I see using Instant Pots for autoclaving is the same as canning–they only go up to 10psi. Canning you often need 15psi, not sure about autoclave.

      1. Samuel Conner

        The linked article reports good results at sterilizing.

        The IP corporation has introduced models that have a “Canning” program. Per this ‘blogpost, the “Max” model does this:


        I think that the “Ultra” does this too.

        Given how hard it is to depress the pressure-activated locking tab when at pressure, I think my “Ultra” must be considerably above 10 psi above atmospheric pressure.

        A drawback to canning at scale with any IP is the smallish size of the pressure vessel. One would get best results with an 8qt model, but those are also priciest.

    2. Hacker

      While not Jackpot compliant, I like to think that subsisting on simple foods is a kind of preparation for future austerity.


      This is getting yourself jackpot-ready.

  15. Rodeo Clownfish

    One of the reasons why pressure cookers are so good at tenderizing meat, beans, etc, besides the heat itself, is that water in the pressure cooker is kept in liquid form above its boiling point. In chemical terminology, this is “superheated water” (n.b., superheated is not the same as supercritical).

    Superheated water has an elevated degree of acid-base self-dissociation. Water at standard temperature/pressure has a very low steady concentration of acid molecules (H3O+) and base molecules (OH-). Superheated water elevates the concentration of each about 40 times. The overall concentrations are still low, but the increase causes an acceleration in water-mediated reactions, such as the breakdown of proteins.

    I prefer thermal cookers, which are like slow cookers but are slightly pressurized and require no release valve. You put all your ingredients into what resembles a camping pot, get it boiling, and then place the pot, with lid, into an insulated chamber that presses the pot lid tightly shut once the chamber is closed. Now clean up after the food preparation and go about your day. No continuous heating needed. The insulated chamber holds in the heat so well that when you return, several hours later, the food will still be piping hot. The sealed lid keeps in all delicate flavors.

    Slow cookers and pressure cookers, in contrast, cook out much of the aromas. The constant escape of steam carries the aromas away. This is why a good chef usually adds most herbs and spices only toward the end of cooking. When the kitchen smells strongly of all the flavors you are looking forward to tasting, you will often be disappointed. Those flavors are not so much in the food because they were volatilized into the kitchen air. One way of compensation is to over-spice the food, as seems to be the case in the slow cooker recipe posted earlier in the comments. This takes experience, or a well-trusted recipe, to get right. I prefer to put just enough spice in the food, and keep it there. Add it late, or keep that lid on tight.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I had not heard of thermal cookers, so thanks for this. And your comment certainly reads like after the food is heated to target temperature, it is then insulation-contained so it cooks down on its own retained heat with no further heat input, with huge savings in both heating energy and time.

      I will look up about how and where to get a thermal cooker.

    2. Isaac

      The Instant Pot does not release the aromas of the food, since it does not release any steam once it is up to pressure.

      1. Rodeo Clownfish

        Thanks for your reply. I will have to read up on the Instant pot. My own pressure cooker is old school, having the typical steam chimney with rocker that you set on top.

        1. Isaac

          I am glad it was useful!

          Our first IP died for electronic reasons unknown and the company replaced it for free. Our Fagor Duo is still going strong. The IP is definitely more convenient day to day, but being more complex it is decidedly less resilience-enhancing.

  16. Alex V

    Good luck vulcanizing latex into anything remotely heat resistant at home. You’ll also need high quality sulfur and carbon black.

    As someone else mentions, a precision machine metal to metal interface, secured with plenty of screws (with a coating of vegetable oil on the mating surfaces, which will polymerize and fill any surface imperfections during heating) is probably the most durable, but also the hardest to repair if damaged somehow.

  17. jefemt

    Not to be a wet blanket, but, boy, I am hearing that most of this relies on a reliable grid of flip of the switch energy.

    I think Jackpot and flip of switch are mutually exclusive? Here’s a longer read (10 minutes) on rocket stoves, their developers, and the significant number of the worlds residents that rely on burning dung, wood, or whatever they can to cook, and the resultant carbon/ smoke. This was written when there were nearly a billion less souls on the erf.


    And another, on delicious dried ‘jerky’ familiar to the African continent, that is made in arid climates
    on screened outdoor drying racks.


    Bottom line… the jackpot is going to be one of the most dreary, depressing and difficult times to endure.
    A bit of deeper thinking about our day to day lifestyles and demands… I shake my head in wonder. billions of us facing the headlight of our own locomotive and head-on long train-wreck.

    Tuck into some dystopian future reads— The Dog Stars, by Heller, or The Postman…

    Fundamentally, nothing will change

  18. Glossolalia

    Thoughts on the best place to live when the SHTF? On a large plot of land where you could theoretically grow your own food? But you’d need to be at a latitude with a long growing season. I’m just outside Washington, D.C. On the one hand in a densely populated are we’d be competing for resources with millions of other people. On the other hand, I’m hoping that continuity of government plans would ensure that food and fuel supplies are directed to the DC area ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  19. petal

    When I was little, my grandmother canned local fruit and veg like a maniac every year(tomatoes, pears, peaches, cherries, among others), and she had a pressure cooker that looked like a naval mine(kind of like in the photo). Ever since then I’ve been too intimidated to even try it. I’d like to learn how, but I’m actually afraid of pressure cookers. I also don’t have her recipes, so I’d likely be disappointed with anything I made.

  20. Jeremy Grimm

    Some survival activities are perhaps best performed as a community. I believe canning and grain milling are exemplars. Canning is a much more recent invention than milling, preceded by drying, and salting, smoking, curing, and pickling — which might also best be done as a community.

    After we hit the Jackpot, I very much doubt Humankind will be able to fall back on much if any of the technology William Gibson describes in his novel, “Peripheral”. After various bursts of intense violence, our Jackpot will be dark, cold, hungry, and thirsty. Without electricity, I suspect our concerns will focus on finding dry firewood to make charcoal and keep warm while crafting skewers to cook whatever we can find or catch to eat. We will cook over the charcoal fires we make in hearth or on ground to hold back the cold — I believe that is a primitive form of what is termed ‘co-generation’ in Grid parlance.

    Rather than worry about canning and fancy ways to cook or preserve our food, I think finding food might take priority. In this regard, I believe the small farming communities in our heartlands might be best prepared for the Jackpot. While killing and making public feasts of any livestock that might not be used as a source of mechanical power, I believe the silos of corn, wheat, and other grains, and silos of soy beans would be seized amd appropriated for the community. Also good to know what wild things we might eat grow around our feet in unkept fields like weeds.

    Without electricity, entities like Cargill or Archer Daniels Midlands will no longer exist. Any communities unable to effect these seizures in the common interest would be destroyed in extremely violent and bitter internal conflicts. Without electricity there will be no money, no banking, no credit, no Internet, no phone calls, texting, Facebook, or Twitter and much of the carefully preserved literature of eclectic genres will begin its slow progress toward degradation and inaccessibility … because our computer hardware will die a slow death with our electronic media.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      People who want to preserve that eclectic knowledge currently digitised might begin re-printing their own personal selections of it onto desktop publishing/printing paper ( hopefully low acid) so some of it will be preserved when the computers all die.

      People and groups might well begin copying as much of it as possible onto microfilm and microfiche which will still be readable when the computers all die.

      People might try supporting their public libraries as hard as possible to keep them alive as repositories of knowledge and information when the computers are all dead. Such people might want to do everything possible to make sure that everyone within a few miles of the libraries is able to keep warm in the winter so they won’t all come to the library to burn the books to keep warm with.

  21. Ana

    I have thought about the “Jackpot” in some form for many years. I too think that the last gasp of government as we know it will direct resources to its centers such as DC or state capitols and large military bases. I live in Sacramento Calif for a reason.

    However, sooner or later the canned goods and bullets will be used up and then what?

    In 1970 I marched off and got an Anthropology degree in pre industrial technology that involved learning how to make paper, ink, parchment, quill and reed pens, spinning, weaving knitting and making bone needles, chipping (knapping) flint and obsidian, forming and firing clay pots, basket weaving including prepping the materials, and so forth. On my own after college, I learned a bit of blacksmithing (to make tools and weapons) and armor making and preserving food by fermentation.

    Timing is everything though, and I was off by some decades. Now that I am elderly I see that these skills will be needed in about 15 to 20 years which is well passed my pull date. I do think though that those who are younger have time to acquire a skill set which will in turn make them valuable enough to have around that their local community (carefully chosen of course) will invest in keeping them alive. Old skill sets will be recognized as essential and those who have them will be as safe as it is possible to be in a dissolving world.

    In summary, I strongly suggest that those with enough time to go find a community by considering climate change and local food growing/hunting/fishing possibilities, to invest in the local community social structure, and to obtain what will be essential skills. Learning those skills is not fast or easy. Start now. And I sincerely wish the best of luck to those who have that journey to undertake.

    Ana in Sacramento

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      You do not live in a jackpot friendly part of our country. If you would be willing to move, now, seems a most auspicious moment. I believe you would be very welcome wherever you chose to move — but chose carefully … for the sake of all. Please most kindly treat your library. And treat the disciples you will attract most kindly. If you are indeed too old for practicing your skills when the Jackpot comes (something I doubt) … you are not too old to teach, nor too old to learn. Remember that some skills may take a long time to perfect but the crucial knowledge is knowing and believing a skill is possible and can be mastered. Our young are almost too bright and too cunning. Often but a hint combined with a powerful need can recreate brute forms of ancient learning. As you say: “Learning those skills is not fast or easy” … but learn and collect libraries to describe those skills. Though a teacher be lost there might remain a library of teachings. The teachings of a solution’s existence with a library of solutions is almost … almost … as valuable as the teachings of a living teacher.

      I hope there are many many such you. You are an asset of inestimable value to the future of Humankind. Preserve and share your Wisdom.

      1. Ana

        Thank you for your kind wishes. You are right about elder folks usually having the time and stamina to teach in detail or at least set younger feet on a path to learning skills which is actually the traditional purpose of grandparents type people. In my specific case though I am about out of time medically so I need to lurk near sophisticated medical facilities and live in a place where the wheels will still go around for awhile – thus Sacramento for a variety of reasons.

        My younger sister is planning a bug out within the year which is wise of her. My library was given intact to someone who has a fascination with pre industrial tech. He and his family have moved to a tiny town farming area where his wife has family. They will fit into the local culture well, and he has a wide variety of hands-on skills already.

        I fear for those who live in large cities. Cities simply are not self sustaining in terms of energy and food needs at city population levels. Growing some veggies on empty lots is just not going to get it done. (Please read that as my frustration, not my lack of knowledge of how much energy and food a city can produce for its residents) Greer is probably right based on how assorted civilizations in the past have lurched downward into lower levels of structure. The lurching is not evenly distributed. The key today is to find a place that will probably support a life we today would still recognize and to get there and burrow in before its beyond reach.

        Seriously. Don’t wait if you have time on the clock in terms of being around in the future. Start working on this now with specifics and timelines for getting it done.

        Ana in Sacramento

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          You will likely live well and much longer than you seem to expect. I am planning a move to a rural area of the Northeast between a small town with the Knowledge remaining of a great industry and a small town around a major University. I chose the area to have a higher elevation and consistent snows and rain — expected to continue into at least the early stages of the new climate. I worry about my two children, but they are unwilling to grasp the full weight of what the future promises. They feel a need to believe the times are not quite so late, not so dire as they appear to my old eyes — they must live. My plan is to make a haven for them, if they can reach it when they must. I have had to postpone my move while I have a few minor medical repairs made — and I keep falling into a pattern of thinking there is more time to make ready than I believe there truly is.

          I do not fully agree with Greer [I believe you mean the Archdruid]. Having sold off its industry and built incredible fragility into the networks supporting the most basic foundations of our Society, the U.S. has made itself an especially rough bed to lie upon. The rapid lurch into a new and very unwelcoming climate at the same time that resources become exhausted and the populations of Humankind far far exceed what will remain to support them after the collapse … Greer is remarkably optimistic to believe decline in the U.S. will be gradual. There are more dangers than just barbarians at our gates.

  22. drumlin woodchuckles

    Part of getting it done might well involve having the tools and instruments for getting it done with. In terms of conservation-cooking, that might mean getting a pressure cooker now, before Deep Jackpot renders pressure cookers unavailable at any price. Likewise for anything else you might want to have for getting things done with.

    Get or make a rocket stove now and learn using it now in order to have it for later when little else exists.

    And so forth and so on.

    Now . . . how will I start a fire when the last match goes extinct?

  23. drumlin woodchuckles


    Another idea did occur to me for several hours of cooking from a one-time burn on a rocket stove. It is a two step idea.

    The first step is: cook your stuff in a pressure cooker mounted on the rocket stove. The pressure cooker will be able to translate more of the blast of heat from the quick fuel burn into heat stored by and within the cooker than a zero-pressure pot will.

    The second step involves something that used to be called a “haybox”. A box ( maybe wood or something else) big enough to put a pot into with a bunch of dry hay put around it for insulation and heat retention. Aprovecho Institute, the inventor of the rocket stove, also did some recent work with haybox concepts.


    Many years ago I made a homemade heat-retention passive cooker box by taking a big box, making a cardboard pot-rest pad for the bottom of it, and then covering the inside of a smaller box with crumpled-up and then decrumpled newspaper and aluminum foil over that with the shiny side facing inward towards the center of the box, so that the smaller insulated and IR-reflective lined box I made could be put down over the hot pot on the resting pad in the bottom of the bigger box. I then closed the bigger box lid.

    Doing this I was able to cook all kinds of things. Black eyed peas got mushy soft even while retaining their shape and appearance.

    A fully heated pressure cooker should have a lot more retained heat to begin with than a zero-pressure pot like what I used. Once it has totally stopped releasing any actual steam, it is merely very hot under pressure balanced by the pressure retainer. If it is put right into the heat-retention passive cooker, it should spend half a day cooking down under its own very-slowly-dissipating retained heat. It will be set-and-forget and you can go away and do whatever for the rest of the day till you are ready to come back and see if it is still hot after all that time. The contents should be very very cooked.

  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    About the old-fashioned swing-bolt lid-screwdown type of pressure cooker, the caution is raised . . .

    “But it looks a little sketchy to me. Opening seems rather like undoing the lug nuts for a flat tire, except with a blast of steam as the price of a mistake.”

    I can think of a possible way around this danger. If one is cooking something in such a pressure cooker and one watches it till the pressure gauge goes up to the level you want it to be at and no higher than that,
    you can turn off the flame and let it cook on its own stored heat till it cools all the way back down. When the pressure gauge is back to “zero” and then the metal body of the pot itself feels room-temperature to the touch, it stands to reason that the contents of the pot should really be at room temperature and should therefor have zero steam to be a hazard upon opening.

  25. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a pressure cooker memory followed by a question.

    Back in the days when eBay was still any fun to use, I used to buy some pressure cookers and other things there. I once saw a bid-on-this offering for what looked like an extremely heavy thick-metal ruggedized pressure cooker. The seller described it as able to attain 800 psi pressure. I thought “that can’t be right. Seller must have slipped a deimal point at the very least.” And with 12 hours to go, I felt there was not enough time to ask seller a question, get a reply, and still bid on it. So I gave up and let the matter go.

    Only later did I realize that even if he had slipped a decimal point and meant to say 80 psi instead of 800 psi, that 80 psi was still 4 times more pressure than any other pressure cooker was described as safely attaining. 80 psi would have been enough to make bones velveeta-cheese-soft with.

    I tried looking up the brand name of the pressure cooker on line to see if they existed new. The only business I could find with that name was a maker of pneumatic pressure tanks and systems for operating jackhammers with and other such things. I speculate that that company decided to take its high pressure containment expertise into the field of pressure cookers, and when no one was interested in an ultra-high-pressure pressure cooker, they left the business and when back to driving jackhammers.

    Has anyone ever heard of such a pressure cooker?

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