Pressure Cooker Review: Fagor Chef

Fagor Chef Pressure Cooker Review

Fagor’s newest premium pressure cooker line is full of innovative features, sports extra safety systems and is slick, too!

The base is wide and roomy and the features include an innovative double pressure indicator, three safety valves, and a neat timer you can snap out of the lid to take with you, plus much, much more.

Pressure Cooker Review: Fagor Chef

Fagor Chef Pressure Cooker Review

Features: (4 out of 5 stars)

The Chef is made in Spain and all of the sizes in this line come with a tempered glass lid to expand the use of this pressure cooker to other cooking needs.

This pressure cooker’s features put it on par with WMF and Kuhn Rikon.  But one of its features is just not very useful – to the point of dinging the score.

  • Extra-Wide Base –  the pressure cookers in this line have a 10″ wide base (more than the usual 8-8.5″) giving the cook the ability to brown enough pieces of meat to feed six in a single batch.
  • Removable Timer – a separate timer with a magnet in the back that can be slipped in a pocket, stuck on the stove hood or left right where it is.
  • Pressure Selector – selector with four settings: “2” for high pressure (15psi), “1” for low pressure (8psi), a circle with lines coming out of it to release pressure and the circle with slash going through it to remove the valve (for cleaning).
  • Double Pressure Signals – unique two-part pressure signal.  One shows whether there is any pressure in the cooker, and the other shows how much.
  • Short Handles – very small, but short handles let you position the pressure cooker anywhere on the stovetop without worry of bumping into them or having them interfere with another pan.
  • Easy-to-clean valve – just twist it to the selection to remove, and slip it out.  No need for any special tools.
  • Maximum Fill Line– the pressure cooker includes a mark inside the base  to show the maximum fill level.

We like all of these features except one: the very small handles.We’re big fans of short and small handles but this cooker’s handles are very small.  Too small.

The handles of this cooker are ergonomically molded to fit a thumb on top top and the side of the index finger at the bottom.  When the cooker is empty it’s easy to handle this way, but when when it is very full or lidded it’s a different story.

We filled the 8L Fagor Chef with with over 5L of liquid, meat and  bones to make broth and it was a precarious challenge to move and tilt something so large, hot and heavy using only parts of two fingers to grip the handles.

Moving the cooker with the lid on, is even trickier. There is no place to put the thumb so basically you’re carrying the cooker on the tips of two or three fingers in a shallow groove under the handle while the thumbs are  either on top of the timer or slider.

I have medium-small hands and I just didn’t feel like I could get a good grip of this pressure cooker’s handles.

Safety: (4.5 out of 5 stars)

We were very impressed by the triple safety system in this lid – there are more back-up valves in the lid of this cooker than any pressure cooker we’ve reviewed so far but, we noticed something missing in this model: the extra safety vent that is usually in the lip of the lid.  The manual that came with my Chef incorrectly identifies a lid placement nub as the safety vent (here’s our correctly labeled the diagram):

chef_safety_diagram

  1. Primary Over-Pressure Release – Integrated in the pressure release valve, releases pressure in case that it rises above the selected pressure (for example if the cook forgets to turn down the heat once the cooker has reached pressure).
  2. Secondary Safety Valve– Integrated in the first pressure indicator, reduces excess pressure (in case the primary is clogged or the pressure is too high).
  3. Tertiary Safety Valve – In the middle of the lid, reduces excess pressure in case the primary or secondary valves are blocked.
  4. Self-locking lid – The pressure cooker will lock closed when it begins to reach pressure, and will not allow you to open it until all pressure has been released.
  5. Lid Safety Vent (models manufactured February 2015 and after)  – in case the first three safety mechanisms should fail, the gasket will buckle and allow pressure (and some of the contents of the pressure cooker) through the metal cut-out in the lid. Always point this little window in the rim away from you while operating the pressure cooker.

So why didn’t my pressure cooker have a lid safety vent?!?

According to Fagor, the extra (third) safety valve is in place to compensate for the missing vent; and, since the lid placement nub in the lid includes a small cut-out – any steam released by a collapsing gasket would escape from there.

We’re not equipped to test pressure cooker safety systems – so we don’t usually score on how they work.  However, while measuring this cooker’s pressure we cooled it using cold-water quick release.  When the gasket buckled the steam  came shooting out from the handle I was holding and not the lid placement nub. The photo, below, shows that the opening for the lid-locking mechanism is wider and taller than the one for the nub – so it’s logical that the steam would come from there.  We informed Fagor about this issue right away.

Chef inside lid lip detail.  On the left is the correct-placement nub, and on the right is the hole that goes through to the handle.

Fagor Chef inside lid lip detail: On the left is the lid placement nub, and on the right, between two screws, is a hole for the lid-locking mechanism in the handle.

This issue will only present itself if you have the Chef without the additional safety vent and you are holding the handle during the cold-water quick release; or, in the very unlikely scenario, when all three safety valves in the lid are blocked. In other words, the model without this lid safety vent, is still completely safe to use.

The official Hip Pressure Cooking recommendation is to stop using the cold-water quick release -unless you’re testing pressure cookers.

Fagor America’s Project manager told us that..

This month, Fagor will be producing a new design of the Chef to include the safety vent. Even though the current model is safe and allows steam to escape, we felt that the lack of the safety vent would confuse and make a consumer wary since it is present on all our other pressure cookers.

Since Fagor is correcting the “missing lid safety vent” issue immediately we gave this defect only half a ding. Here is a photo of the new Chef lid prototype with the new vent cut-out sent to us from the factory floor in Spain.

New Fagor Chef lid prototype - the updated Chef model with this extra  cut-out will begin production shortly.

New Fagor Chef lid prototype – the updated Chef model with this extra cut-out on the lip of the lid (bottom left of the photo) and they will begin production of this new lid shortly.

Performance: (3 out of 5 stars)

Fagor really out-did themselves with the model.  It not only has three ways to ensure the cooker does not go into over-pressure (see Safety, above) but now there’s two pressure signals.  Plus, they kept all of the things I already loved about their previous model (pressure selection and release). Unfortunately, despite the addition of silicone sleeves over the valves, the Chef is somehow much less powerful than its predecessors (see Under Pressure, below) and the multiple unlabeled mechanisms can be confusing.

Snap-to pressure selection and release

The chef has a large pressure selector right on the lid.  You can snap it into one of four positions to select pressure, release pressure or remove it for cleaning.

Fagor has this selector on a few of models now (Cayenne, Futuro, Chef) and I absolutely love it for the ease of choosing pressure as well for how it releases pressure.  You can snap this selector into the release position and then walk away to do other things. The pressure releases straight up into the exhaust hood where it should go – not in two or more horizontal directions as I’ve documented in other pressure cookers.

Flip the selector to release pressure and then walk away.

Flip the selector to release pressure and then walk away.

Two pressure signals (pressure indicator and pressure-measuring bar)

I criticised Fagor in a previous review for making it difficult to tell when their pressure cooker reached full pressure as the indicator rose when the cooker reached any pressure (even 1 psi) and  if the cook turned down the heat at this point the cooker would not be able to maintain it.  One was to wait until a “gentle” steam comes out of the valve to turn down the heat.  This created endless debates on our website and Fagor’s facebook page about how much steam is  too much.

The double pressure signals on the Fagor Chef solves all of these issues!

The first pressure indicator, a hole between the pressure selector and lid lock slide,  functions  the same way as in the previous models:  a small dot comes up to fill the hole  when the pressure cooker has just begun to build pressure.

The second pressure indicator is where all the magic happens.  The pressure-measuring bar (they call it a gauge),  a medium silver circle with a black dot in the middle,  shows how much pressure is actually inside.  When the bar goes into the correct position it’s time to turn down the heat – easy!  Adjusting the heat is a snap even for beginners because if the heat is turned too low the bar begins to fall.

If the cook selects low pressure (1) the bar rises until the first black line is barely coming out of the lid’s casing and displays one large silver segment.  If the cook selects high pressure (2) the bar rises until the second black line is barely coming out of the casing and displays two large silver segments.

NOTE: Fagor’s DVD and the manual might show the pressure-measuring bar come out a little further from the casing. Apparently, they used a prototype and it worked a little differently than the pressure cookers Fagor produced for retail. I’m told they are in the process of updating the documentation to reflect this.

Under Pressure
We measured the cooker reaching a maximum of  115.8°C (240.4°F) and nowhere near the expected 121°C (250°F)- the equivalent to 15psi.  We were surprised given that all of the valves are covered with special silicone sleeves, or “cozies”,  this pressure cooker still under-performed. 

Three of the four openings at the top of the lid, include extra silicone covers, or "cozies" to stop any steam from leaking.

Three of the four openings at the top of the lid, include extra silicone sleeves to stop any steam from leaking.

The results surprised us so much, that we ran an extra test.  We kept the heat at the maximum setting after the cooker reached pressure, had both pressure signals indicating maximum pressure with the primary valve spewing lots of non-gentle steam; our high-temperature remote logger still did not register any temperatures above 115.8°C (240.4°F) which is about 10.5psi – not the publicized 15.

Fagor_chef_data0

The preliminary results were sent to Fagor right away-  so we could re-run the tests before publishing this review in case our sample had a faulty valve.  But, marketing confirmed that they sent us a perfectly working sample and, despite repeated requests, Fagor did not offer any explanation as to why the unit I measured reached such low pressure.

Circle, circle, dot, dot…

We have to hand it to Fagor for a strong effort towards an innovative and minimalist pressure cooker.  All of the valves and symbols are designed based on a circle – likely inspired by their own circular logo. In fact, the lid has five unlabeled similarly sized dots, holes and circles to signify different functions.

circle-circle-dot-dot

From left to right: pressure-measuring signal,  third over-pressure valve,  pressure selector, pressure-indicating signal, circle to indicate slider direction to lock pressure cooker, circle with slice to indicate slider direction to unlock pressure cooker.

 

I found myself waiting for the pressure-indicator to rise from the wrong hole or squinting down to look at the handle to figure out which dot means what for the slider.

Tricky lid..

Although the Chef has an automatically-locking lid we noticed that sometimes the slider snaps locked while the lid is off. It’s not immediately obvious until you’ve got a full pan of browned food, you’ve just added the liquid, and are in a mad dash to slap the lid on and start pressure cooking but the lid refuses to twist on.

If this happens to you: check the slider.  Slide it to the unlock position and the lid will magically continue turning and snap closed.

tricky_lid

When the lid-locking slider snaps in the “locked” position while it’s off the pressure cooker, the lid cannot be twisted closed. The slider needs to be pushed into the unlocked position to twist the lid closed (and then the slider will automatically snap back to “lock”).

 

The tricky lid is a small but irritating problem and one that I had not experienced with Fagor’s previous premium model. Although the mechanism appears to me nearly identical, Futuro’s lid will twist into position regardless of the position of the slider (if it accidentally snaps locked – it will unlock and re-lock automatically while the lid twists on).

Clean-up: (4.5 out 5 stars)

  • Valve comes out easily
  • Gasket easy to remove and hand wash
  • Lid hand-wash only
  • Base dishwasher safe

The valve is really easy to remove for regular, fast cleaning.

Accessories:

All sizes of the Fagor Chef come with 8.5″ (21.5cm) steamer basket and trivet, 10″ ( 25.5cm) tempered glass lid, instruction manual and DVD .

We don’t score for this but it’s worth a mention that, although Fagor usually puts out very detailed and informative manuals, we found more than a few mistakes in this one.  The mistakes included mis-labeling in the diagram, incomplete or inaccurate information, misrepresentation of the materials (the Chef is not made of partially recycled stainless steel) and other editing issues.  Fagor is combing through the manual and updating it as I type this – we will post a link to the electronic version of the new manual when it becomes available.

Other Details:

  • 18/10 Stainless Steel with aluminum sandwich base (5mm thick)
  • Available Sizes: 6, 8 and 10 L/qt
  • Spring Valve with dial pressure selector (8 and 15 PSI)
  • Maximum Cooking Temperature measured at high pressure: 115.8°C (240.4°F)
  • Universal Base – Safe to use on gas, electric, ceramic, vitro, halogen and induction cook tops
  • 8L Sample Size – Width: (opening) 9.8″ or 25cm (internal base) 9.25″ or 23.5cm; Height (internal) 6.7″ or 17cm; Weight:  (base) 5.2lbs or 2.354k , (Base and Top) 7.9lbs or 3.602k
  • 10 Year Limited Warranty – for defects in material and workmanship (see last page of instruction manual for details).
  • Made in Spain
  • Fagor Chef Instruction Manual
  • Manufacturer Website: Fagor America
  • Recipes on this website using Fagor Chef

Conclusion and Score:

hip score: Fagor Chef 4The Chef’s design is handsome and made with high-quality materials finishes. The extra-wide base lets this cooker straddle the line between stock-pot and braiser and is chock-full of features that makes pressure cooking easier. It’s easy to tell when this cooker has reached pressure and adjust it, the built-in timer can be taken with you, and pressure releases in my favorite way . The three safety- systems in the lid are unparalleled by any pressure cooker we have reviewed so far – Fagor’s quick response to add a fourth system is a shows a company that cares about its products.

The enigma of this premium pressure cooker is the performance (10.5 instead of the promised 15 psi) – had this cooker been as powerful as advertised the final score would have brought this cooker very close to high-end cookers like the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic and  WMF.

The “circle, circle, dot, dot” theme is taken a bit too far to be useful when it’s applied  liberally for different functions – the usefulness handles suffers the most.

We think that Fagor is moving in the right direction with this new model and, overall, we had a great experience using this pressure cooker. But we think that function should be enhanced by beautiful design and not suffer for it.

NOTE: This review was fact-checked by a Fagor America Project Manager prior to publication.

To Purchase:

From U.S.:

We will add a coupon for U.S. readers for the Chef model produced with the extra lid safety vent, sold directly from Fagor, when it becomes available.  If you would like to be informed about this- please sign-up for our newsletter or leave a comment under this review.

From Canada:

From U.K :

Currently not available.

From Germany:

From Italy:

Currently not available.

From Spain:

Currently not available.

Have you used this pressure cooker?

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In the interest of full disclosure, we would like to note that: The pressure cooker was sent to Hip Pressure Cooking by the manufacturer at no cost.  Our relationship with the manufacturer, or lack thereof, does not affect the outcome of the review.

Fagor Chef Premium Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker