This time-saving gadget has spooked a generation of British cooks. It’s neither a knife nor a mini blow torch nor a razor-sharp mandoline. Nope, the evil item that might be lurking in your kitchen cabinet doesn’t breathe fire or cut off fingers—this wolf in sheep’s clothing is the pressure cooker, a pressured pot that cooks food in record time without sacrificing flavor.

Tim Hayward, writer for the Guardian’s Word of Mouth food blog, has seen French, German, Berber, and Kenyan cooks putting pressure cookers to use. In his travels, he found that everyone loves a pressure cooker:

Everyone, that is, except the British who, when asked, would gabble incoherently about jets of steam, the terrifying jiggling rattle of the weights on top and, invariably, about the sister of a friend of their mother who was horribly mutilated when one exploded.

His commenters quickly back up this claim. OuLiPo says:

I was in a kitchen once when one exploded. Well, it didn’t actually explode, just shot the weight off the top with a loud bang and filled the room with steam. It could have been nasty if anyone had been hit by the weight or had been leaning over the top when it went off–the jet of steam went straight up. At any rate, this is not something that only happens to a Friend of a Friend. On the other hand, it was about twenty-five years ago and the design may have improved since.

Another firsthand account of a pressure cooker explosion comes from elzbelz:

Ooh, I still remember leek and potato soup dripping from my mum’s ceiling in the seventies when the pressure cooker exploded! She has redecorated, but if you look closely you can still see the stain.

EvilClanger, who also had a pressure cooker in the ’70s, adds, “Using one was always something of an experience and most members of the household gave the cooker a wide berth when it was at full pressure, hissing, rattling and twitching away. It pretty much defined the concept of a bomb waiting to go off.” Even spekki, who is pro-pressure cookers, points out an article about terrorists armed with pressure cooker bombs.

But not everyone is terrified by this potentially explosive pot. Reader Ieuan says, “The pressure cooker is one of the greatest inventions known to man, or woman. A kitchen without one is not a kitchen.” And according to the Digest, there are plenty of Chowhounds out there who are pressure cooking without fear. Are the British the only ones who are afraid of these things?

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