Pressure cookers are a great way to save time in the kitchen, but they can be very intimidating. Here are ten things to keep in mind when using a pressure cooker.
1. They aren’t as scary as they seem or as they were.
The first time I ever used a pressure cooker (canner, actually) I hid around the corner fearing the whole dang thing would explode all over my kitchen. Bob has a great story of a very young Bob and his roommate covering their entire kitchen with their dinner that was simmering away in a pressure cooker. It turns out, though, that my fear was unnecessary. Modern pressure cookers are much safer than they used to be, just make sure to keep them in good working order and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean and care for the equipment (oil those rubber gaskets, y’all).
2. But you still need to handle them with care.
It’s very simple: read the owner’s manual before you begin and maybe as a refresher if you’ve put the cooker away for a season or two; properly assemble the equipment; and properly disassemble, clean, and store the pressure cooker when not in use. If you follow the instructions and use some common sense, you’ll be safely cooking (and eating) in no time.
3. Pressure cookers are fast. Ooh are they fast!
When pressure cooking, liquid is heated to boiling in a tightly sealed pot, creating a high level of pressure and temperature. Since the pressure has nowhere to go and less liquid is used, the liquid penetrates the food faster and cooks quickly. Pressure cookers cook many foods in about a third of the time they would take to prepare using the standard stove top or oven methods.
4. Fast cooking makes for better color, flavor, and probably more nutrients.
Fast cooking times and low liquid levels keeps color intact, flavors vibrant, and allows less time for vitamins and minerals to leach out of the food and into the cooking water (which is usually tossed).
5. They can cook a lot of things!
- Vegetables and fruit.
- Beans and grains.
- Meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Soups and sauces.
- Canning and preserving.
6. But not everything.
Beans and grains that have been cracked, split, rolled, or pearled have a tendency to release high amounts of starch which can clog the pressure release valve and cause some serious problems to the product, the equipment, and maybe even you. Steer clear of preparing granular or rolled cereals like oats, pearl barley, and split peas in the pressure cooker. Other items that should be left out: cranberries, applesauce, rhubarb, and many pastas.
7. Read the instruction manual but basically:
- Soak beans or grains in water for a few hours or overnight, then drain off and dispose of the soaking liquid.
- Place the beans or grains in the pressure cooker along with the proper amount of fresh liquid.
- Place the pressure cooker evenly onto a properly sized burner.
- Place the lid onto the pot, close securely, and lock into place.
- Select the appropriate level of pressure (low or high, typically).
- Set burner to high.
- When steam begins to escape from the steam valve, reduce heat to medium-low or low and begin cooking time. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain pressure and a gentle and steady release of steam.
- When the cooking time has completed, turn off the heat and use the proper release method (check the owner’s manual for this).
- After all the pressure has released, unlock and carefully remove the lid.
- Commence eating!
8. Do not do these things.
- Do not use in the oven.
- Do not move, bump, or shake a pressure cooker while it is cooking and be very careful moving a hot pressure cooker.
- Do not fill over two-thirds full.
- Do not prepare the items listed above (note #6) in a pressure cooker.
- Do not open or remove the lid until the pressure has been released.
- Do not put your face, hands, or forearms (or any part of your or someone else’s body) directly over the lid during cooking or when removing lid.
9. Beans and grains in the pressure cooker.
Again, always consult the owner’s manual for your specific model. Whole beans and grains benefit from a few hours up to overnight to soak before pressure cooking (you don’t need to do this with rice or anything else that cooks quickly on the stove top). You can add about 1 Tbsp of oil to help reduce foam. After cooking, letting the pressure release naturally is usually the best bet for properly cooked beans and whole grains.
We are currently in the process of calculating pressure cooking instructions for our beans, grains, and a few soup mixes but typically 1 cup of beans or grains plus 3 cups of liquid set on high pressure. Times vary greatly so consult your owner’s manual or keep checking back with our website.