Pressure cookers can be designed either for regular stove top use, or as a plug in appliance.
How does a pressure cooker work?
A pressure cooker is a sealed pot with a valve that controls the steam pressure inside. As the pot heats up, the liquid inside forms steam, which raises the pressure in the pot. This high pressure steam has two major effects:
- Raises the boiling point of the water in the pot. When cooking something wet, like a stew or steamed vegetables, the heat of your cooking is limited to the boiling point of water (212°F). But with the steam’s pressure now the boiling point can get as high as 250°F. This higher heat helps the food to cook faster.
- Raises the pressure, forcing liquid into the food. The high pressure also helps force liquid and moisture into the food quickly, which helps it cook faster and also helps certain foods, like tough meat, get very tender very quickly.
The extra-high heat of the pressure cooker also promotes caramelization and browning in a surprising way — we’re not used to food caramelizing when it is cooking in liquid. But the flavors created in a pressure cooker can be really deep and complex — unlike regular steamed foods.
Considerations, depending on what type of cook you are:
Stove top – need to monitor it just like regular saucepan cooking.
Made from stainless steel. Should last a lifetime (rubber seals may need replacing in the distant future).
Electric – can be controlled run by timer and preset temperature settings.
Most have non stick inner pots, though you might find stainless if prefer. Unlikely to last as long as a stove top model.
Takes up bench space which may, or may not be limited in your kitchen.
I have a regular stovetop one as mentioned in Legumes, Starch and Farts 101 but I can definitely see why people might be drawn to electric.
I can’t imagine cooking without one now.
Add what you are cooking, bring to point where pressure is indicated, then turn stove down low, just enough to keep the pressure up, while not enough to burn the pot or its yummies within.
You can’t just take the lid on and off a pc like a normal saucepan. You first will need to remove it from the heat source, then release the pressure valve. If you are in a rush, you can run a bit of cold water over the side of it.
If you open it while there is still a bit of pressure, your lentils will be on the floor, man.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- If you start with well-soaked chickpeas or beans, tip off soak water then cover with boiling water, they should be cooked to perfection in about 15 minutes (instead of imperfection after 40 minutes. Brown rice and buckwheat, same time and technique, but no soaking required.
- Turn the temperature down low and you can do ‘slow cooked’ dishes…fast.
- Great for making winter soups with soup mix in them. Also pumpkin/potato soup. Cube the vegies and add some boiling water with flavouring of your choice. Seal up and check after 15 mins, should be well done. Add green stuff at the end or it will go yellow. Partially blend with a stick mixer (if you have one).to create a variety of textures, otherwise just use your normal blender…be bloody careful the lid doesn’t come off though, when blending hot stuff like this.
- Learn ‘the curry secret’…basically make curry sauce by blending a few old things out of the bottom of your fridge (carrots/capsicums-seeds and all, mushrooms/zucchini/tomato/apple/pumpkin/ginger) etc) together with water, tomato paste, spices and coconut cream or cashews (optional) and cook this gently in your pc as the curry sauce, along with whatever is to make the ‘bits’ in the curry…cooked chickpeas, potato, vegies etc (Before adding the sauce to your pc you might like to fry a few whole spices coriander,cumin, fennel, cardamon seeds, curry leaves etc( in oil first and leave them in there when you add the sauce.) Improve the final taste with the judicious addition of salt and coconut oil.
- Use the steam basket to cook vegies while your rice is cooking, or just cook them over a couple of centimetres of water. Use this water to make gravy or in soup or something.
- Make cauliflower mash…steam a cauliflower until it is nursing home texture, then blend with seasoning of you choice, great for potato dodgers.
- Pasta (and gnocchi) cook much quicker in a pc. Because we all know that vegetarian food = pasta, right kids?!
So be nice to your pressure cooker,
learn what it is capable of
hopefully, it will be very nice to you in return!