The Pressure Cooker: Your New Healthy Eating Companion
At best, the pressure cooker inspires in most home cooks a cocked eyebrow or pursed lips, as they try to remember what it is and what it can be used for. At worst, people run in terror, afraid of the gadget’s complicated-sounding instructions or reputation for being dangerous.
Well, come on back, because we’ve got some good news. The pressure cooker is a time-honored and helpful tool that you should definitely integrate into your kitchen repertoire. Far from being the explosive and impossible pot it’s reputed to be, it can save you hours at the stove and put a healthy, home-cooked, whole-food dinner on the table in a fraction of the time it would take using normal cookware.
What Is a Pressure Cooker?
Some people confuse the pressure cooker with the slow cooker, but they are actually opposites. While the slow cooker relies on time to break down tough vegetable and meat fibers, and usually requires several hours – if not an overnight stint – to get the job done, the pressure cooker is a sealed environment that works very quickly. How, you’re wondering?
In middle school you learned that heat and pressure were related: as one rises, so does the other. The pressure cooker is a sealed pot that operates by creating high pressures. Instead of allowing steam to escape, it traps it inside the pot, therefore causing the temperature to rise. The trapped steam also infuses into food, making it moist and tender in a fraction of the time. Using a pressure cooker cuts cooking time by as much as a third, and can even get it done up to ten times faster. Once cooking is done, the release valve vents the steam until it is safe to open.
Are Pressure Cookers Safe?
To be fair, the pressure cooker’s frightening reputation has a basis in fact: in your grandma’s day, some did explode due to faulty manufacturing. Luckily, the new generation of products is much safer, so as long as you buy yours new – stay away from garage sale “steals”! – and read all the instructions before operating it, you’ll be fine.
What Can I Do With It?
Almost anything. Well, a whole lot, anyway. Pressure cookers can reduce the cooking times for dried beans to half an hour or less rather than a long pre-soak followed by several hours on the stove. Veggies like green beans, carrots or peas cook in a matter of minutes, while cubed potatoes take fewer than 10. You can cook pot roasts and “slow-cooked” chicken in less than an hour, and make savory stews in even less time than that.
In short, a pressure cooker lets you make normal recipes in much shorter amounts of time. However, once you get comfortable with it, you can expand your canning expertise beyond the bath canner, putting up low-acid foods like veggies, fish and meat.
Where Should I Start?
If you’re trying to eat healthy, the main advantage of a pressure cooker is that it allows you to prepare whole food from scratch in much less time. Start by cooking dried beans such as pintos or black-eyed peas, then adding veggies. Once you’re comfortable with easier recipes, you can make almost any normal recipe, adjusting the cooking time from information in a pressure cooker cookbook or doing a quick search online.
So that’s it! Truthfully the pressure cooker is a pretty humble tool, relying on simple forces to substantially reduce your cooking time and make life easier. Start by reviewing smaller models, then move to a larger one if you want to try canning or cooking large portions of meat. Experiment, but don’t rush, and chances are you’ll make a friend for life.
About the Author
Kaitlin Gardner currently lives in Pennsylvania and is married to her best friend. In her spare time, she loves to go hiking , hand with her family and friend and enjoy nature.