Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pressure Cookers: Why Use Them?

Thinking of cooking week after week without the use of a pressure cooker makes me sad!  I am sure those who use a pressure cooker remember the exact time when they realized the potential of these gems.  For years I have used a Fagor Duo 8 qt stovetop pressure cooker (which I have LOVED).  Recently I purchased an electric pressure cooker (Cuisinart) from Costco.  It is a 6 qt beauty!!  After reading many reviews, I took the plunge.  OK, all I can say, is EVERYONE NEEDS ONE!!!  I love it!!! 

The pressure cooker lid, which is fitted with a rubber gasket, forms an airtight seal once it's locked into position. As the contents inside the pot heat up, steam gets trapped and pressure builds. At 15 pounds of pressure (the typical "high pressure" setting on a cooker), water boils at 250°F, almost 40°F higher than in conventional pots. The high pressure and temperature break down food fibers more quickly, shortening cooking time dramatically- in fact, up to 70%!

Many people are scared of using pressure cookers, because they have heard horror stories of their grandmother's lid exploding and food ending up all over the ceiling.  Today's pressure cookers are a far cry from their predecessors.  Today's pressure cookers have many safety mechanisms that work together to provide a very fast, safe, easy, quiet way to cook.

In the years of using my pressure cooker, I've never had a lid fly off or felt unsafe in any way. I have however given one away (a Mirro brand) that scortched everything because it was made of thin metal.

Pressure cookers are best for things that generally take a long time to cook.  Things that cook quickly (like zuchinni, fish, and some pastas) are better cooked with other methods.  However, using a pressure cooker for many things, saves a ton of time!  My favorites for pressure cooking:
  • Grains, such as whole grain wheat and brown rice, which cook in just 20 minutes compared to the usual 45White rice cooks in less than 10 minutes.
  • Unsoaked dried beans, which get plump and tender in less than 30 minutes. There is no need to presoak them.  However, if they are presoaked, they cook even faster (about 18 minutes).
  • Soups, stews, chili's, and long-cooking sauces like marinara, which develop deep flavor in 20 minutes or less.
  • Broths: The pressure cooker is very good at extracting the flavor from bones.  No need to throw the bones away.  Pressure cook them for a wonderful, flavorful broth.   
  • Tough, flavorful cuts of meats, such as short ribs, pork shoulder, beef pot roast, which require long cooking to get tender. A pressure cooker can have fall apart meat in about 60-90 minutes (depending on the size of the roast.
  • Sturdy vegetables, such as potatoes, winter squash and beets. In 13-15 minutes, you will have perfect "baked" potatoes.  Simply put 1 cup of water in the bottom, use a trivet, and fill the cooker with whole potatoes.  Yum!
If you are wanting to save time in the kitchen, have flavorful healthy food, or just want to try something new, then a pressure cooker is the way to go.

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  1. Thanks for the ideas! I love my pressure cooking for canning, but I haven't ventured to use it in everyday cooking yet - but I'm going to give it a try now!

  2. I've been thinking about buying one, and I saw that one at costco...what's the brand name of it? thanks for the info on using them.

  3. The brand at Costco is "Cuisinart". You can also find them at Williams-Sonoma or Amazon (Last time I looked they were about $99 online compared to $69.99 at Costco. And, Costco has a great return policy if something doesn't work right, or if you change your mind! However, I don't think you will.....