There’s no doubting that pressure cooking has come back to the fore this past couple of years. You only have to take a cursory glance at shows such as MasterChef
, Great British Bake-Off
, and Guy’s Grocery Games
to see that the chunky stainless steel kitchenwares are everywhere.
For many though, the super-efficient cooking method may appear to be a new and exciting development when in reality, it’s been around for eons. So, if you’re intrigued as to the origins of what is fast becoming an essential in kitchens across the globe, read on as we’ve complied this handy guide to the versatile kitchen appliance that is the pressure cooker.
Whilst pressure cookers may seem like a relic from a bygone age they never really went away, something that is testament to their usefulness and versatility. In fact they’ve been around for a lot longer than you might expect – even pre-dating the era of Fanny Craddock
and formica work-surfaces!
Beginnings - Denis Papin
French physicist Denis Papin is generally accredited with the first pressure cooking attempt in 1679 when he invented the ‘Steam Digester’; an airtight cooking vessel that used internal steam pressure to increase the boiling point of water in order to cook foods faster.
Fast forward a hundred or so years after Papin’s efforts confectioner Nicolas Appert developed a canning process of packing food in jars sealed with a cork and cooking them in boiling water. These early discoveries helped to develop the science of the pressure cooking we know today.
The development history of this new appliance became a rather potted affair
over the next century with disparate manufacturers across the world having a go at creating their own pressure cooking contraptions, many of which we’re large, impractical devices mainly suited to industrial and commercial use.
Flex Seal Speed Cooker - New York World's Fair 1939
Then in 1938, the concept of home pressure cooking took a great leap forward when German Alfred Vischler introduced the ‘Flex-Seal Speed Cooker’ at that year’s New York City Trade Show. Although the name ‘pressure cooker’ had been used in print advertising since 1915, Vischler’s product was the first instance of the ‘saucepan-style’ pressure cooker to adopt it. The appliance certainly captured the public’s imagination but it was the ‘Presto’ pressure cooker unveiled at the 1939 New York World’s Fair
by US firm National Presto Industries that really thrust this new type of pressure cooker into the mainstream.
World War II put an end to the burgeoning pressure cooker revolution as both Europe and the US diverted manufacturing resources to the war effort but come the late 1940s with peacetime in the States and the Pacific the consumer pressure cooker market exploded. At one point, there were over 100 models being sold by around 20 manufacturers worldwide and Tower, established in 1912 was reaping the rewards of its status as a trusted brand and the name became synonymous with quality appliances. As demand for the appliances rocketed thanks to consumers becoming aware of the benefits of pressure cooking – the preservation of nutrients and vitamins and cooking times around one-third less than traditional methods – so did Tower’s reputation.
All Mod Cons - Pressure Cooker's Golden Age
The honeymoon period was coming to an end however. Advances in food preparation and the advent of pre-packed frozen meals and convenience foods meant that global eating habits were changing. It took Europe a while to follow the US’ lead here as consumers in Britain and mainland Europe persisted with their appliances left over from the war (as economic recovery took far longer in the UK than the US). We were now entering the era of ‘mod-cons’ with appliances such as the iconic Teas-made
, Corby Trouser Press, Twin-Tub automatic washing machines and fitted kitchens becoming staples of the new middle class.
It would not be until the late 1960s and early 1970s, which saw an increased awareness of healthy eating, that pressure cookers would begin to once again gain in popularity. By this time, the practice had become the preserve of dedicated chefs only in America but the European and Asian markets bubbled along nicely, with a whole generation of consumers enjoying pressure cooking using appliances from the likes of Russell Hobbs, Prestige and of course, Tower
Nineties Nebula - A New Generation Takes to Pressure Cooking
Come the 90s, the advent of cable TV and an influx of cookery shows saw a resurgence of the appliance that has continued to this very day. In fact, modern digital pressure cookers have proved so versatile and resilient that a whole new generation has become enamoured with the appliance, much in the same way as their parents had decades beforehand. Now, it’s not uncommon to see high-end pressure cookers being used by the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson in their TV vehicles and guest chefs on shows such as Saturday Kitchen
and This Morning
regularly pop out the pressure cooker.
Digital Days - Tower Leads Pressure Cooking Evolution
The most recent development in the history of this resilient appliance is the advent of the digital pressure cooker. Although many manufacturers now offer standalone electric pressure cookers that have their own power source and don’t take up valuable hob space, Tower has been at the forefront of digital pressure cooking.
Our first digital pressure cooker hit the shelves in the 90s and since then we’ve developed a range of appliances with market-leading features and innovation including keep warm functions, cool-touch handles and digitally controlled cooking programs. The latest addition to the stable is the Tower 6L Digital Pressure Smoker and Multi Cooker
, a versatile appliance that can infuse meals with authentic wood-smoked flavour as well as doubling up as a pressure cooker and multi cooker.
It’s an interesting story of an interesting product, we think you’ll agree. If you’d like to get on board with the pressure cooker revolution then we’ve got a whole load of useful products that can help. The Tower range spans a variety of sizes including 4.5L, 6L and 7.5L, so there’s a solution for every home regardless of how many you have in the family. Not only that, there’s a choice of stylish aluminium finish or durable stainless steel. Check out our pressure cooker page
for further information and make sure you visit our Facebook page where we regularly host daily deals on Tower products.
15 December 2014