Pressure cookers in the news

Following Boston, pressure cookers have now become suspicious objects. We have news reports of a student from Saudi Arabia being questioned by the FBI after neighbors reported seeing him carrying one. It turns out that he had cooked some food in it and was taking it to a friend’s house.

Then another man was arrested at Detroit airport because he arrived from Saudi Arabia carrying such a cooker. His nephew says that he had asked his uncle to bring one for him.

Then yet another man was detained at Hilo airport because he had a ‘modified’ pressure cooker. He was released but the cooker was detained and is reportedly being analyzed by the FBI.

We do not own a pressure cooker and have never felt the need for one, but I recall that homes in Sri Lanka often use them. You may think that carrying cooking utensils on overseas travel is strange, but it happens more often than one thinks with immigrants, who are often nostalgic to make the food they remember eating in the native country. I remember an easygoing friend of mine, who cannot refuse even unreasonable requests, quietly grumbling to me that he had been asked by friend to take two large woks that filled up his suitcases. Maybe the cuisine in Muslim countries requires the use of pressure cookers more than other cuisines and hence those countries have more sophisticated versions of those utensils than can be obtained here.

Shoes and any liquids have already become suspicious objects. We can now add pressure cookers to that list.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Of course The Authorities have suspicions about pressure cookers: they’re so PC!

  2. Corvus illustris says

    Maybe the cuisine in Muslim countries requires the use of pressure cookers more than other cuisines and hence those countries have more sophisticated versions of those utensils than can be obtained here.

    It’s been a while, but IIRC European pressure cookers can be set to several pressure levels while our good old US Presto cooker operates at only one. It’s also a little easier to work with the seal on the French model. I don’t think this is a good time to bring one back on a transatlantic trip, though. Curious fact: at least at one time, US urban folklore associated pressure cookers with Jewish cooking.

  3. brucecoppola says

    I remember my neighbors, orgininally from Mysore, bringing one back from India a few years ago. And now I’m hungry for some of Mrs. K’s cooking.

  4. daved says

    These episodes strike me as a particularly idiotic version of “fighting the last war,” which is typical of what has happened during the “war on terrorism.” A terrorist (or group) comes up with a method of attack and uses it successfully. The security apparatus goes into action watching for a repeat attempt, so the terrorists come up with something new.

    But these episodes take the cake. So what if someone even has a pressure cooker on an airplane? What are they going to do with it? Unless they also have explosives. it’s nothing dangerous; about the worst thing you could do is hit someone over the head with it.

    At this point, I think a small group of people could paralyze a major American city just by spending a few hundred bucks, buying a bunch of pressure cookers, and leaving them all over the city in places where they’d be discovered fairly easily.

  5. TGAP Dad says

    Pressure cookers are great! We keep chicken frozen. The pressure cooker allows us to go from frozen chicken pieces to fully-cooked chicken in 7 minutes flat. Potatoes and other vegetables are similarly quick.

  6. invivoMark says

    I suspect that real terrorists and mass-murderers like to take a bit of pride in their work, and value their own creativity. After all, that’s why they often use bombs instead of guns, despite guns being easier to acquire and far deadlier under most circumstances.

    Given that, I would think that pressure cookers would be the safest items in the world right now. Similarly, shoes were the safest items in the world after the shoe bomber, and big bottles of shampoo were the safest items in the world after the incident that led to the banning of liquids.

    Guns, of course, have their own separate appeal, and it isn’t to creativity. Although the next mass-shooter might pick a novel location for his act, there isn’t anything creative to shooting people, and that isn’t the point.

  7. Mano Singham says

    But how does it taste? Is it enough time to absorb the spices and other flavors?

  8. Doug Little says

    Maybe the cuisine in Muslim countries requires the use of pressure cookers more than other cuisines

    I think it comes back to the quality and cuts of meat that are available. Pressure cookers tenderize meat more quickly than slow cooking.

  9. dukeofomnium says

    the cooker was detained and is reportedly being analyzed by the FBI.

    I had a vision of the pressure cooker being wrestled to the ground and subdued. “Ve haff vays to make you wok!”

  10. kyoseki says

    When pressure cookers become outlawed, only outlaws will have pressure cookers!

    … actually, I bought a gun AND a pressure cooker last month, so I’m probably on a list somewhere.

  11. Lofty says

    Pressure cookers are great! Even plain foods taste much better as the natural flavours aren’t leached away by the cooking water. I didn’t realise that vegetables had flavour until I first sampled my wife’s cooking. She uses a pressure cooker nearly every day unless using a steamer.
    Added spice flavours are rapidly diffused throughout the food items in a pressure cooker. My wife does a mean roast in less than one hour, first fry the outside, add spices and pressure cook for 30-45 minutes as required. Chicken similarly. Mmmmmmm.

  12. lochaber says

    I’m pretty sure using a pressure cooker is more efficient fuel-wise (that alone is probably a reason they aren’t popular in the U.S. :/

    I can’t remember the specifics, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them recomended for certain types of camping/off the grid living or such, mostly due to them being more efficient.

    I don’t really know anything about how they affect flavor and what not, I’m pretty minimalist/utilitarian about my cooking – I do it to kill parasites and pathogens. If the food doesn’t turn out horrible tasting, that’s just an added bonus.

    And as to what daved said, you don’t even have to go with pressure cookers, just leave unattended bags lying around. Almost everywhere I go, (public transportation, work place, universities, etc.) there are announcements/signs/messages/emails ad naseum to report ‘suspicious or unattended packages’. Every couple months or so, I’ll run across some account in the news where they evacuated some area, and shot up an abandoned backpack, and after it failed to explode, inspected it, and just found a bunch of (now bullet-ridden) clothing or something.

    The terrorists really don’t have to do anything else. They haven’t had to for the past 12 years or so. They won. The entire U.S. populace is jumping at shadows and willing to dismissing most of the constitution wholesale.

    ‘Land of the free and home of the brave…’ maybe if we keep yelling it loud enough, it will actually come true.


  13. badgersdaughter says

    Taking a pressure cooker through an airport? I admit I’m confused about that. I can make a plausible case for “Mom misses the kind we had at home that you can’t find where we live now”, maybe, but I’ve had European pressure cookers for years that I just ordered online. It’s not like they’re uncommon in the US.

  14. badgersdaughter says

    That said, I don’t see any problem if you want to drag the cumbersome thing along with you while traveling; I don’t think anyone should be harassed for doing it; I just don’t see why you’d actually want to.

  15. Corvus illustris says

    The instruction book that comes with the cooker warns you not to use it to cook anything that tends to foam, and gives beans as an example. They know whereof they speak. At some time, the late first Mrs Corva’s mother (whose native language was not English and who may not have RTFM) attempted to pressure-cook beans, whose foam did indeed clog the weighted vent. The safety valve blew, blasting beans at the ceiling. Marks were still visible when Mrs C and I got together.

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