A couple years ago I was interviewed by a magazine and asked what was it that I couldn’t live without? I replied that other than my husband, I couldn’t live without my pressure cooker -- but it was a close tie. I am so absolutely in love with all of the features of a quality pressure cooker, that I’m out to convert every person who considers themselves a cook, or concerned with emergency preparedness.
When I mention a pressure cooker to most, they have images of one blowing up in their grandmother’s kitchen, or at least making some frightening hissing and clanking noise. A lot of people only think of a pressure cooker for canning. But here’s the good news. You can cook like an absolute pro in no time with a pressure cooker today. They’ve come a long way since their initial popularity during World War II. And the good quality ones are a must in every kitchen. The one that I highly recommend is a Kuhn Rikon. It has 3 safety features on it and has a fabulous quality otherwise. But let’s cut straight to the perks of a pressure cooker. Bottom line, if I had to choose between a microwave and a pressure cooker, I would hands down go with a pressure cooker. You’re reducing the cooking time of at least two-thirds and yet you don’t sacrifice flavor, tenderness, or quality. Here are a couple of examples of cooking times: whole beef or pork roast with the BEST gravy every - 45 minutes. Artichokes - 15 minutes. Whole, long-grained rice - 5-6 minutes. Risotto - 8-10 minutes. Cheesecake - 12 minutes. Frozen chicken breasts - 10-12 minutes (and VERY tender). Mashed Potatoes, 3-5 minutes. Whole lamb, 35 minutes, etc, etc. Do you love a good pot roast? How about creating a fabulous pot roast with the most effortless savory gravy in under 45 minutes? Once you make mashed potatoes in this thing, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. How about getting home from work wondering what in the world to prepare and only see frozen chicken breasts in the freezer? With a pressure cooker you can take those frozen chicken breasts and a jar of BBQ sauce and have a yummy, tender chicken dish in less than 15 minutes!
Pressure Cooker Basics
What a pressure cooker does is exactly what the name implies. It creates a hot sealed pressure within the pan to cook anything inside. You’re creating 8 pounds of pressure per square inch above external pressure. Typical boiling heat is 212 degrees. However, with a pressure cooker, you’re cooking on high at 254 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to the sealed system, your not losing any of the flavor or moisture from your food, in fact, you’re infusing it! You will need less water, less spices, less fuel for heating and less time with your pressure cooker. Here are a few of points that I love to make when it comes to using a pressure cooker.
- You can make so much in a pressure cooker—from roasts, to stews, even to desserts such as cheesecake.
- Even if you have some meat that’s suffered a bit of freezer burn, you can salvage it in your pressure cooker because moisture is infused into it.
- So long as you have sufficient moisture/liquid in your dish, you don’t have to worry about over cooking or burning a dish. A meat dish, for example, may not end up turning out in the consistency you had imagined should you forget about it for a few minutes, but it will still be tasty. It just may determine whether you need a knife or not for the dish.
- I love to dump a bunch of chicken in the pressure cooker, cook it about 7 minutes per pound, and then just use a fork to shred it with—effortlessly. I can then use the broth for other dishes and the chicken for the myriad of casseroles I make. Add just a tad bit of veggies and you’ve got a very inexpensive chicken broth.
- Foods are healthier with a pressure cooker. When you cook green beans, peas, or broccoli, you’ll discover that even though their sufficiently cooked and tender they are still a beautiful green. The reason is the nutrients and color don’t escape with the evaporating steam. It stays in the pan under pressure! The pressured steam actually intensifies the flavor of your foods, so your vegetables actually taste fresher!
- Instead of boiling the pasta, then making the sauce and adding everything else, you can literally throw it all in there and end up with a GREAT dish.
- When you cook potatoes for mashed potatoes dish you will notice a difference when you prepare the potatoes in the pressure cooker. You do not need to cut the potatoes in small pieces. I usually just cut the potato in fourths and then cook them. You will need very little mashing afterwards, and you can easily add garlic to infuse a yummy taste in your potatoes as well!
- When you make a pot roast (or any kind of roast) you can seer it right in the pressure cooker, then add your liquid and seasonings. Cook the meat and then the last 10 minutes you add the vegetables. When you’re done, you will have a YUMMY gravy that’s just the right consistency as it will be naturally thickened with the starches in your potatoes and carrots. And the roast will be fork tender as well! Ooh. I’m getting hungry just writing about this!
- Artichokes typically take about 45 minutes to cook. Only 10 to 15 minutes in pressure cooker though, and they are much more flavorful!
- Rice and risotto cook effortlessly in a pressure cooker as well. And you can really spice things up with small amounts of seasonings too.
- In the event of an emergency, if you need to conserve water, fuel, and personal energy, a pressure cooker will really come in handy. If you bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure, you can turn off the heat source, wrap the pressure cooker up in towels, and then continue to cook the contents for as much as another hour (Not that I can think of anything that takes an hour to make in a pressure cooker). Even in everyday cooking you will find that it takes significantly less fuel or electricity to cook your items.
- Pressure cooker will keep your food warm without ruining it. My husband never seems to come for dinner right when I’m ready. I don’t mind so much when I’ve used a pressure cooker though because dinner will stay nice and warm and meat will simply get more tender. (Although I do hate it when he’s late when I’ve made vegetables… sometimes you don’t want them more tender)
Here’s one of my favorite recipes for a pressure cooker. It’s a luxury comfort food. I like to buy the Italian cheese mix at Costco - it comes in a clear plastic container.
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cups Arborio rice (found in Harmon’s and Target)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, or white cooking wine
- 4-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I use an Italian 4-cheese blend)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- ½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg (optional)
PREPARATION: Combine 1 Tbsp. of the butter and all of the olive oil in the pressure cooker and heat, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onion begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onion or the butter. Stir in the rice to coat the grains with the fat and onion mixture, and cook about 1 minute longer. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed by the rice. Add 4 cups of the broth. Cover the pressure cooker according to the manufacturer's instructions, increase the heat to high, bring the pressure up to high, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and release pressure quickly, according to manufacture’s instructions. Remove the lid. Add the remaining 1/2 cup broth, 1 Tbsp. butter, and the cheese and stir well to combine with the rice. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6
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