Why We Have an Optimum Pressure-Cook Pro

Published on 21 April 2019

I’m usually pretty skeptical of multi-cookers that claim to be able to cook rice. Corollary: I cannot fathom how anyone can eat the rice that comes out of the Thermomix. But our previous rice cooker was a Tefal 4-in-1 Rice Cooker/Multi-Cooker. It was a rice cooker first, and those other functions second which suited us fine.

Why do we want a rice cooker anyway?

The facetious but frank answer? I’m Asian, and Asians eat rice. Enough rice that a dedicated appliance for it is actually a completely viable thing that kind of goes unquestioned. Just about all Asian households I know have a rice cooker, even if it’s just a small one person one.

I’ll also be honest here, I can’t cook rice unless I have a rice cooker because I grew up always having one. I’ve tried different methods in the microwave and on the stovetop, but the results were never quite right. Why trial and error such a basic thing when you can just buy a thing (pretty cheaply, too) that does it for you.

So why a multi-cooker?

I try to avoid uni-taskers.

The Tefal was an experiment because I needed a rice cooker, and I liked the idea of also having a slow cooker for other things. For a slow cooker, it had a small capacity and only a low-temperature mode, but it did exactly what it was meant to, and I quite liked having the options without the additional appliances.

I consider the experiment a success, and would have kept using it. But while the device itself has been trucking along for nearly 10 years, the surface of the bowl has become pitted and flakey, and as it has long been discontinued, replacement parts are no longer available. And thus, we need a replacement multi-cooker.

Why the Optimum?

After our beloved Tefal, and our less than positive experience with Thermomix rice, we knew we wanted a multi-cooker that was primarily a rice cooker, or at the least had a rice cooking function as an intentional feature, and not something incidental or an afterthought.

We had heard good things about some of those fancy Asian multi-cookers (Cuckoo, Tiger, Zojirushi, etc.) and looked into those as a replacement for our old rice cooker/slow cooker. Problem was, great reviews aside, some of these are crazy expensive. The fancy induction ones are in the AUD500+ price bracket, and even the conventional bottom heating plate types can be upwards of AUD300+.

Looking into the rest of the market, any cursory research into modern multi-cookers is going to throw Instant Pot articles at you. As tempting as it was, and reviews of Instant Pot rice were favourable amongst the Asian food bloggers[1], Australian residents haven’t been able to purchase one since the Great Amazon Geofence of 2018 was implemented[2].

The primary alternatives to the Instant Pot in Australia appear to be the Philips All-in-One (regular and Deluxe)[3], Tefal Cook4Me+[4], and Breville Fast Slow Pro[5]. All pretty strong contenders to the Instant Pot in terms of functionality.

We decided on the Optimum because:

  1. The bowl had rice markings and a rice-specific mode. That’s a good sign that rice wouldn’t have been an afterthought. I also found a review from an Asian food writer/entrepreneur who did a comparison of rice in an Instant Pot and an Optimum which is pretty helpful.
  2. There were informative and detailed reviews on its usage. As multi-cookers like these tend to have a steep learning curve, you are pretty much dependent on the information and recipes that comes with the appliance unless you’re prepared to experiment yourself or find a strong community dedicated to the device. Detailed reviews help with that. I prefer blog posts over places like ProductReview.com.au because they tend to have more detail (and images), and you can also get a better sense of the writers’ experience with the area they're writing about[6].
  3. It uses induction technology. We’re magpies. But is induction actually worth the increased expense over a conventional heating plate? Not sure. Word is that it provides faster and more even heating which in turns results in faster and more evenly cooked food. Some also say that it’s less likely to burn or dry out than bottom heating elements. Guess we’ll find out. Tune in.
  4. The Optimum Pressure-Cook Pro was on sale. Not going to lie, this was a true selling point. It retails for about AUD600 which is comparable to the some of the fancy Asian branded ones. But on sale for AUD249. For that price, I’m going for an induction appliance over the others I listed above. That said, having had the Optimum for a while, I'd still have bought it full price because if it's a choice between an overseas imported brand and a locally sourced one, I'd go local for the localisation (English interface and manual) and domestically available support.
  5. Warranty and After Sales Support. Anecdotally, Froothie, Prestige Home Appliances (the vendors) and Optimum (the manufacturer) have pretty good after sales support. And a two year warranty doesn’t hurt. I’ve had to contact them already as the bowl was damaged on arrival, but this was handled efficiently by Froothie. Even if we didn’t get it on sale, domestic support for appliances is always a good thing.

How do we like it so far?

We like it. It does have a bit of a learning curve, which isn’t unexpected, but with the recipe books provided by Froothie AU and Froothie UK, you get a great foundation to work from. I’ve also been tinkering with Instant Pot and other multi-cooker recipes to adapt them to the Pressure-Cook Pro. Without a manual mode, some of the adjustments aren’t terribly intuitive, but the mode tables for times and pressure provided in the manual (provided with the appliance) give you enough to work with for adaptations. If in doubt, even though the Optimum has 7 pressure levels, the Instant Pot only really has two, low and high. Most recipes I’ve seen (Instant Pot or otherwise) only use high, so just use pressure level 7.

We even bought a second bowl so that we can chain cook. This is particularly handy for when we need to cook a main as well as rice (or some other carb). One thing I would have liked is if they had a regular stainless steel bowl and not just the non-stick one. In part so that I don’t end up with the same problem as with the Tefal where the coating didn’t outlive the appliance. I hear this is in the works though, so very much looking forward to that when it is available.

If you have any questions about the Pressure-Cook Pro, feel free to comment below.

[1] Stereotyping? Maybe. But when it comes to reviews from the general populous when you don’t know their food or culinary backgrounds, I’m putting my money on Asians to know when rice is cooked well.

[2] Amazon UK is where Australian residents would need to source their Instant Pots. Amazon US has been made available to an extent since the Black Friday sales event, but you will need a step down transformer to use US appliances (110/120V) in Australia (240V).

[3] The Philips All-in-One has a rice mode which was demonstrated in a promotional video, but Deluxe reviewed very poorly in general, and the non-Deluxe also seemed inconsistent with respect to build quality. Priced between AUD149-AUD279.

[4] Tefal Cook4Me+ has no rice preset. You have to use Manual mode and measure by weight. Generally positive reviews however. Priced around AUD300.

[5] Breville Fast Slow Pro has no rice mode, but rice directions are provided in the manual. Mostly favourable reviews (not sure about the rice). Priced around AUD300 for the Pro, AUD135-150 for non-Pro.

[6] On review sites, 1 stars for problems that sound like user error, or 5 stars when they’ve only had it a week and used it once dilutes the value of crowdsourced feedback. And there’s also the matter of relevance. I once saw a review for a Moroccan restaurant and a reviewer gave it 3 stars. They stated it would have been 1 because they don’t like spicy food, but they gave it a 3 because they were comped drinks. And there was a 1 star for a rosé on a Dan Murphy’s by someone who said they don’t like rosé. Honestly.