Pressure cookers are back in vogue, but Bella’s Housewares 6QT isn’t the traditional unit you’d expect. Not only does it work as a steamer, making it handy for fish and vegetables, it also functions as a slow-cooker for up to 12 hours. It can also brown or sauté food usually cooked on the hob.
Other presets include pressure-cooker programmes for risotto, rice, soups and stews, as well as chicken and meat. A generous capacity makes it suitable for use when entertaining, with most suggested dishes catering for between 4-6 people.
There’s a preference for function over form here. It's a practical design with a stainless-steel exterior and a large, clear control panel. Two sturdy handles either side of the cooker make it easy to move around the kitchen, while the large lid locks into place with a small twist.
On top of the lid sits a valve that can be positioned to cook under pressure or without – when it’s used as a slow-cooker. A condensation collector can be found towards the back of the unit, so it won’t leave drips of water behind.
Inside, a non-stick bowl displays cup markings as well as fifths, coordinating with the instruction manual that has guidance on how many fifths of food you can cook.
The control panel is a riot of buttons. Helpfully, most of them double up on function, with one each for Sauté/Browning, Pressure Cook/Slow Cook, Soup/Stew, Meat/Chicken and Rice/Risotto. Each has default cooking times that can be toggled with plus and minus keys, plus there's also a Warm/Cancel function and a delay timer.
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Helpfully, a quick-start guide and a few recipes get the novice user going. We started with a recipe for Pot Roast Chicken. Setting the cooker to Browning, we added a whole chicken and seared it on all sides. As the pot was quite deep, it was awkward to turn a whole bird. We started by using wooden utensils to prevent damage to the non-stick coating, but had to resort to metal tongs, which left a few scratches on the base.
Once browned, we removed the chicken, added onions and stock to the pot, then replaced the chicken before securing the lid and selecting the Chicken programme. This cooked under pressure for 30 minutes.
The display indicated that pressure was building up and a little steam was released as it did. Once it had reached pressure, the timer started counting down. Once the time had elapsed, we turned the dial to release the pressure. Inside, the chicken was thoroughly cooked; the meat was juicy and came away from the bone easily.
Next, we tried cooking lamb shanks, beginning with the Browning function to sear the meat. Removing the shanks, we added vegetables and stock to the pot and selected the Sauté function before replacing the lamb. Attaching the lid, we selected the Meat function and cooked it under pressure for an hour.
Once this had finished, we removed the meat and used the Sauté function to reduce the sauce. There was no guide to what temperature we should be cooking at, although the sauce soon reached a rapid boil. It still required thickening following 10 minutes of cooking. The lamb, however, was superbly tender and moist, yet could be removed from the bone in a single piece.
Then we placed a fifth of water into the bowl, followed by the steaming rack. Adding asparagus to the rack, we set the machine to Steam for two minutes. While it took a few minutes for pressure to build, which lengthened the cooking time, two minutes of steaming was more than enough. In fact, good results could have been achieved in less time.
Finally, we cooked a beef shin ragu. We used the Browning function to sear the meat before removing it and using Sauté to cook vegetables. They softened in 10 minutes. Adding liquid to the pot and replacing the meat, we put the lid on and selected Slow Cook – a programme that didn’t use pressure. Since the cooking time was available in only 30-minute increments, the finish time was less precise.
We cooked the ragu for six hours, a process that reduced the meat to a meltingly tender consistency that was easily shredded.
Cleaning the cooker by hand was a bit of a chore. While the bowl was straightforward to wash, the lid needed to be disassembled for a thorough clean.
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Ideal for busy households and big families alike, Bella’s Pressure Cooker makes catering en masse simple, both ahead of time and for hearty meals.
A bowl with metric measurements would have been welcome, as would dishwasher-safe parts. That aside, the 6QT offers good value.
However, while its accessories can be stowed inside and the power cord detaches, it’s still a large item to store, so be sure the capacity suits your needs before you buy.
Combining steam, slow- and fast-cooking in one machine, the 6QT Pressure Cooker is a mid-week meal marvel.