Pressure cooking is the most energy efficient and most nutritious way to cook. Basically, you add liquid and whatever your recipe calls for, as the liquid heats, it creates steam which builds up and pressure builds up inside the cooker and by keeping constant pressure it cooks food faster. It also does not require as much liquid as regular cooking because there is much less evaporation and most of the liquid is contained in the cooker through the entire cooking process.
Additionally, since very little steam escapes, all the nutrients remain inside the cooker instead of being boiled off in the steam as with regular cooking.
It is very easy and with today’s pressure cookers, there is very little chance of anything disastrous occurring. In the old days, pressure cookers could be dangerous and you heard horror stories about them blowing up. Today’s cookers have built in safety mechanisms that are triggered if the pressure builds up too much and they will automatically vent to reduce the pressure. You can buy stove top cookers or they also make electric ones with digital readouts and all the bells and whistles. I have a small 10 Liter (8 quart) pressure cooker/canner. Until recently, I have only used it for pressure canning my homemade salsa. I don’t use the recipe I have listed in the recipes here on this site, I use an actual canning recipe that I found on the internet as the acid content must be at a certain level in order to prevent bacteria from growing and you must also use a pressure canner to can salsa.
Meat comes out so juicy and tender when cooked in the pressure cooker. Also, spices and things like garlic and onion flavor get infused more into the meat and vegetables so the flavors are wonderful. Things like beans that normally take 6-8 hours to cook are done in about an hour. And they are just as flavorful and tender (if not more so) then if you cooked them all day in a slow cooker or on the stove. You also still get the wonderful smell of cooking, even though there isn’t a lot of steam escaping, it is enough to fill your house with the wonderful smells of cooking.
Pressure cooking can be a bit intimidating at first but if you keep going, follow the directions, and see it through, the results will be delicious and easier than you thought. (My husband hid in the garage last night when I started my Tender Pot Roast, I think he was afraid I was going to blow up the kitchen. He said that he was afraid and he wasn’t afraid to say it!) Just be sure to check the silicone gasket (mine also requires a thin coating of vegetable oil on it before inserting) that goes into the lip of the cover if it has any cracks, tears, or missing chunks DO NOT USE IT. Replace it about every 15 months or when they begin to show signs of wear and tear. Never put the gasket in the dishwasher. Also check the release valve and safety valve to ensure they are clean and free of any debris. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Know the settings for your cooker. Mine has a high setting (which is 15 psi*) and a low setting (which is 8 psi). Most pressure cooker recipes will call for 15 psi, however some more delicate meats and veggies may call for 8 psi. Also beware when buying a pressure cooker. Some models do not go as high as 15 psi (they only go to 13 psi), however 15 psi is required when pressure canning. If you have an old relic on the top shelf somewhere, it might benefit you to invest in a newer model as the older models do not have the safety features found with today’s models.
I have a Fagor/Cook’s Essentials 8 quart pressure canner/cooker. It is quite simple. It has a cover with a lip for the silicone gasket (which makes an airtight seal between the cover and the pot), a pot with a handle. There are groves in the cover and the pot which are aligned and then turning the cover so the handles come together forms the seal. The cover handle has the pressure dial, the lock (always lock the cover when pressure cooking), and the safety release valve. The pressure dial has a high, low, and quick release setting. Depending on the recipe, you may need to use the quick release setting to release the pressure so you can add ingredients or to stop the cooking process. Some recipes (such as pressure canning) will require you to not release the pressure, this is called natural release. As the interior cools, the pressure inside will naturally go down. There is usually a button that pops up when pressure is built up and will go down when pressure has been released. It is safe to open the cooker, once the safety button has gone down. Most of todays cookers will not allow you to unlock or remove the cover when the unit is under pressure. That is another built in safety feature. Be careful when removing the cover, there will still be plenty of hot steam and the lid will have very hot condensation on it. Open the lid away from your face and hold over the pot so the hot condensation runs back into the cooker and not on your skin.
Check out the Recipes Page for Pressure Cooker/Canner Recipies. I will add more as I find them or try them. I have my eye on a cheesecake recipe that I’m dying to try. If you have ever made homemade cheesecake, you know what a pain it is, however well worth it! This recipe appears to be very easy and cooks in the pressure cooker in about 30 minutes. I’ll try it before I post it.
*pound per square inch