Cooking Under Pressure

Pressure cookers are wonderful appliances that significantly cut cooking times.

By FamilyTime


Today's pressure cookers are safe and easy to use. For the busy home cook who loves the flavor and goodness of homemade meals, they are marvelous. Some small models can go in the microwave but most sit on the stove.

These pots allow you to cook dishes that traditionally require hours, such as stews, soups, and pot roasts, in far less time. For instance, a stew might take about 30 minutes and pot roast about 45 minutes.

How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?
The locked lid allows steam to build inside the pressure cooker so that temperatures rise. While boiling water never, never will reach temperatures hotter than 212°F., inside a pressure cooker the build-up of steam can raise the internal temperature to as high as 250°F. This speeds up cooking.

The lid is airtight with a valve system that regulates the pressure. In general, this is indicated by pounds of pressure, with five pounds being low, 10 pounds being medium, and 15 pounds being high.

Cooking food under 15 pounds of pressure takes only a third of the time normally required. Times vary depending on the model, but all pressure cookers dramatically cut cooking times.

Safe and Nutritious
All modern pressure cookers are fitted with safety valves that automatically vent steam should there be a problem. Long gone are the days when the lids could explode off the pressure cooker and hot food spew across the kitchen!

Foods that require moist cooking are best for pressure cookers. They retain all the nutrients so often lost in other cooking methods -- no vitamins will leach from the food into the cooking water, only to be poured down the drain. Instead, the food steams inside the cooker and the vitamins remain with the food. No liquid evaporates during cooking.

Pressure cookers are especially good for naturally nutritious foods such as rice, beans, and soups.

Brown rice, which is packed with fiber and vitamins, cooks in a brief 15 minutes in a pressure cooker. Once they soak, beans cook in about 45 minutes. (Beans must be cooked with a good amount of oil to prevent foaming.)

You and your family can have sweet, luscious applesauce in about five minutes when you cook it in a pressure cooker.

Helpful Hints
Never fill the cooker more than three-quarters full. When rice or beans are in the recipe, the cooker is filled only halfway to allow for natural swelling. Consult the instruction booklet that comes with your model to ascertain exact amounts.

Very often, vegetables are cooked on a trivet, collapsible vegetable steamer, or in a metal bowl to separate them from the cooking liquid. This prevents them from turning soggy and lets them steam to a crisp doneness in minutes.

Cook the dish and then let it cool in the cooker. This means the pressure is allowed to drop of its own accord.

Some recipes call for quick cooling. Setting the covered cooker in the sink and running cold tap water over it usually accomplish this most effectively.

Most importantly, read the manual that comes with your pressure cooker. Follow the instructions carefully.

Once you understand how it works and have a few successes, your pressure cooker will become a trusted kitchen appliance. Best of all, it will eliminate a lot of the day-to-day pressure of getting supper on the table!