Have you wondered how to use a pressure cooker?
I used to too.
We all have images in our minds either of real pressure cooker catastrophes that we have seen or those we have heard of. Someone we know once made spaghetti sauce in a pressure cooker or was pressure canning in the kitchen when the lid blew off of the pressure cooker and food ended up on the ceiling.
I, too, was afraid of pressure cookers. My father had told me of a time when his mother, in her small kitchen in Ireland, had a pressure cooker explode while under her care. I think that I remember seeing the stains of the accident on her kitchen ceiling when I stayed with my grandparents during a college trip to the Emerald Isle.
So I never really thought that I would venture into the world of pressure cookers.
About 8 years ago, I started on the then "next path" on my learning curve in the home. Don't we all have learning curves? It can seem completely overwhelming to think about all of the things that we wish to change about our lives and our health and to simply do nothing. We are either afraid of the unknown, afraid of failure, or think that we will "never get there".
Anyway, at that point, the "next step" for me was pressure cooking. I was looking for a way to get things done in the kitchen faster and was intrigued by a cookbook author whom I had not heard about until that time--Lorna Sass.
Lorna has numerous books on pressure cooking and "eco-friendly" cooking on the market and she is a fabulous cook and a great source of information when it comes to culinary issues. One of my favorite books in my cookbook library is Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen: Healthy Meals for You and the Planet.
When I "found" Lorna, our family was almost completely vegetarian, so you will notice this bent in some of her books, but she also has a number of fabulous meat-based recipes.
Lorna seemed from the start to be the kind of person who "researches things to death" (kind of like me) and so when I read her recommendations for purchasing a pressure cooker, I just went ahead and purchased a Kuhn-Rikon, the brand that she recommended at the time.
I also found numerous articles on Kuhn-Rikon that backed up her choice, and I have never really looked back. In fact, now, we have three cookers and one of them holds 8 liters. I sometimes have all three going on our stove at once.
You can purchase these at numerous select kitchen stores, but Amazon carries a nice selection as well including this smaller Kuhn-Rikon Cooker.
Save Time and Energy
Once the cooker is "up to pressure", you can cook brown rice in 20 minutes, beans in 10-12 minutes, carrots in 2 minutes and potatoes in 5 minutes. Food cooks in about 1/3 of the time than with conventional cooking methods.
Think about the energy costs of that! Though pressure cookers can be expensive, you actually can make up the cost with energy savings (and time is money too!)
Today's cookers are extremely safe with some, like Kuhn-Rikon, having 5 different safety releases of the pressure. Gone are the days of Grandma's dangerous pressure cooker!
Lock In Nutrients
Instead of boiling them away, the pressure cooker locks in nutrients and flavor. You have healthier, tastier food.
Seal in Flavor
This is the same principle that applies to the nutrients. Instead of boiling away flavor, it's locked into the food.
This is something that most people don't know about but you can cook so many things in a pressure cooker. When we started to use pressure cookers, we mostly cooked grains and beans, but you can also cook:
- beef, chicken, and fish
- vegetables (winter squash cooks so fast!)
- beans (mentioning them again since you can pressure "soak" them in only 2 minutes!)
- and so much more
Addressing Concerns About Pressure Cookers
As for concerns about the health of pressure cooking, I am well aware of the "slow cooking" philosophy of some whole food advocates.
I'm all for trying to attain to higher goals, but at the same time recognizing limitations.
We homeschool, have a special needs child, one child with life-threatening food allergies, and my husband does not make a six-figure income. Like most of you, we have to cut corners in all arenas of life. I can't always slow cook my food, especially at 4:30 pm when I realize that I didn't think about what to have for dinner!
In addition, I think that the "anti pressure cooker" movement is a bit misinformed and that the benefits actually might and do outweigh any of those concerns.
I sure hope that I have gotten you thinking about a new way to cook and speed up your time in the kitchen.
Let me know what you think! I'd be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have about pressure cooking in general, recipes to try, as well as choosing a cooker.
Bon et rapide (that's "fast" in French) appetit!