Multi-cookers – do they work

I need to be honest upfront — I am a ridiculously keen cook. I have way too many cookbooks and my partner complains about me getting "another kitchen device” all the time. But lately, I have found myself wanting a slow cooker — and as for a pressure cooker, they scare me. I have seen the accidents on TV cooking shows when the pressurised lid comes off, spraying burning hot, tasty liquid all over the bench and the contestant’s face. And honestly, how could you replicate the taste of beef ribs, slow cooked for six hours, in less than one hour? “No way,” I thought.

I get the argument for simplifying cooking — time saving for a busy life — and I have always loved the idea that a single person could create simple, healthy meals without fuss, discouraging the desire to just buy take out. I really wanted to give one a try, really put it through its paces. So, when Philips offered me a sneak peek at the newest model in their range, the Multicooker HD2145, I jumped at the chance.

The box arrives after lunch on a Friday and when I get home, I think to myself, “It’s Friday, I’m tired, this is the perfect time to see what this thing can do.” So, after a quick dash to the butcher and shops, I’m home with beef ribs and some veg.

Let’s throw fear to wind, let’s pressure cook!

Unboxing

Opening the box, I immediately realise this is different. Where is that annoying steam train whistle thing on top? This is a completely enclosed unit and it looks good. The lid locks and unlocks with a very simple mechanism on top, unlike the old pressure cookers you need to a degree to open and close. It also has a non-stick, removable inner cooking pot which makes it easy to manage and clean. A quick wash as instructed, and I am ready to cook.

Some advice: If you are like me and never read instructions, you definitely want to make an exception here. Familiarise yourself with the control panel on the top so you understand the functions and which buttons to press.

Cooking

I look through the supplied recipe book, which is really good. Often, you get a few very average ideas, but this book has a range of pressure, slow, and baked recipes to let you get used to all the modes. With all my ingredients ready to go, I am set to make “Sticky bourbon and honey beef brisket with peas” but I want beef ribs so I substitute. Messing with the recipe, I’m looking forward to it failing.

The first step is to sear the ribs, and this is my first pleasant surprise. The cooker has a sear mode and timer, so it superheats the internal pot, enabling me to sear the meat. Next comes the magic of pressure cooking.

All the ingredients go into the pot, I choose pressure cooking, then “Beef/Lamb,” and the cooker knows the best time and pressure to cook. Then I simply set the timer for 45 minutes. Yeah, right. I gleefully advise my partner that we might need to order pizza.

I am still wondering about that steam train nozzle, and that constant spray of steam turning the kitchen into a sauna. There are about five short bursts of steam as the cooker sorted itself out, then nothing. It sits there quietly, making me even more certain this would be hot mess of half-cooked meat. I hear beeping, and time’s up.

After a few minutes, and the cooker dropping pressure safely, it's ready for the next step. I open the lid and it smells good. I carefully take the ribs out, and — to my shock — they look perfect. I press the sauce thickening button and it begins to boil the liquid in the pot, add some flour and simmer. I return the meat to the sauce to coat, and serve. 

All up, the entire process took just sixty-five minutes. And it tasted incredible. We were eating beef ribs before 7:30pm on a Friday night.

And then…

I will admit it, I was impressed I. But what happened next shocked me more. The cooker stayed on the kitchen bench and I continued to use it several times over the next few days. I tried the slow cooker mode, and made baked beans and a fantastic curry. Setting it up to have food ready after a day at work removes that desire to give up and order takeout on a weeknight. And it’s simple. I’m hooked.

The good

  • It really is very simple, so simple even a nervous cook will love it.
  • The settings for different meats makes it very easy to use.
  • You can add ingredients mid-cook — it brings down the pressure and pauses the cycle, then starts back up after you close the lid.
  • It’s silent, no steam train top, it just sits there.

It’s self-contained and the space saved by having two devices in one just can’t be beat.

The bad

  • On two occasions, the lid wouldn’t open for some time, then I realised it’s a bit like trying to open the front loader before it’s done.
  • It can be a little fiddly to clean, but I advise reading the instructions for this as well.

There is still a place for traditional slow cooking in my kitchen, the smells drifting around all day making you hungrier and hungrier — that can’t be replaced. However, this cooker hasn’t gone into the back corner of a cupboard and I doubt it will.

The Philips Multicooker HD21455 is available in stores now for a suggested retail price of AU$349.

Do you use a pressure cooker or slow cooker and what’s your favourite thing about it?