Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tips For Better Pressure Cooking

Whenever you get a new piece of equipment, a bit of trial and error are required to see how it works.  Here are some tips that will help make the most of your pressure cooking:
  • Since no liquid is lost when using a pressure cooker, it's a good idea to reduce the amount of liquid a conventional recipe calls for by about 20%.  In no time, you will be able to convert many of your recipes to pressure cooked recipes.
  • The cooking time for most foods in a pressure cooker is one-quarter to one-third of the time it would take by conventional methods. When trying a new food or recipe, consult the manual for a recommended cooking time for the longest cooking item in your dish, or compare your recipe to a similar one.
  • Choose recipes that combine most of the ingredients at the start of cooking or else at the end. Although you can bring the pressure down, add more foods, and bring up to pressure again, when first using a pressure cooker, try things that all cook together.
  • In a pressure cooker, liquid doesn't evaporate as food cooks, and that trapped steam can dilute flavor. To correct this, release the pressure a bit early and let the dish simmer uncovered over low heat. This will also thicken up your food. You can also stir in fresh herbs, cheeses, or other seasonings at this point to boost flavor.
  • Depending on the type and amount of food, it can take from 30 seconds up to 20 minutes to reach full pressure. To speed things up, heat liquids before adding them to the pot. The amount of food in the pot has no bearing on the cooking time; ten potatoes cook as quickly as one. However, a full cooker takes longer to come up to pressure.
  • High pressure is fine for most foods, but use low pressure for tender food, such as chicken breasts or tender vegetables, so they're less likely to overcook. Start timing the cooking from the moment pressure is reached. Automatic pressure cookers do the work for you.
  • Once the pot reaches full pressure, reduce the heat to maintain a constant pressure. For electric stoves, it's helpful to set one burner to high and a second one to a lower heat. Bring the cooker up to pressure on the high-heat burner and then move it to the second burner for the rest of cooking. For gas stoves, turn the flame down to medium-low.
  • For foods that overcook easily, like rice, use the quick-release feature or move the cooker to a sink, tilt the pot slightly, and let cold water wash down one side, away from the vents or regulator.
  • When cooking beans, potatoes, or other foods with skins you want to keep intact, use the natural-release method (take the pot off the heat so the pressure drops gradually). Use it also for beef, which toughens when pressure is released too quickly, and for cheesecakes- Yes, you can cook cheesecake!

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