Pressure cooking has come a long way since the days of intimidating pots with noisy, steaming gaskets sputtering away on the lid. Today’s pressure cookers are safer, quieter and more versatile than the vintage models of yesteryear. Imagine savory, slow-cooked flavor but in a fraction of the time—perfect for days when you can’t quite get it together in the morning to fire up the slow cooker! Pot roast in an hour? It’s absolutely possible with a pressure cooker!
Pressure cooking is cooking food in a specialized sealed vessel with liquid. As the foods and liquid are heated inside the sealed pressure cooker, steam builds up and creates pressure inside the pot. Because the pot is sealed shut, the temperature of the steam can rise (an open pot never gets hotter than 212°F.) which, in turn, causes foods to cook more quickly.
There are two types of pressure cookers: stovetop models and electric. Stovetop cookers have one function: to cook food under pressure. Electric models do that too but often have other features for performing cooking tasks such as steaming, slow cooking and warming. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on stovetop models. (Refer to the owners’ manual for instructions specific to electric pressure cookers.)
Pressure cooking can seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at how versatile the appliance can be. Here’s a basic snapshot of what’s involved for pressure cooking a 3-lb. boneless beef pot roast:
If you want the vegetables to retain their shape during cooking, keep them in large pieces; if you want them to soften and “melt” into the sauce, cut them into small pieces.
If you’re new to pressure cooking you’ll undoubtedly run into some questions as you get accustomed to the appliance and the procedure. Here are some tips and troubleshooting techniques that may help.
When cooking vegetables, it’s usually recommended to release pressure using the “quick release” method to prevent overcooking. After cooking for the recommended amount of time, remove the cooker from the burner and carefully depress the pressure valve using the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful – this will forcefully emit steam from the inside the pot through the valve.