I'll bet that you have often wondered how to use a pressure cooker.
I used to too.
Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Reducing pressure using a pressure cooker? Well, it's true.
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”.
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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. Her name is 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 did also look on the internet a bit and saw 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.
Reasons to Buy a Pressure Cooker
1. Save time and energy when cooking. 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 the cookers can be expensive, you will make up the cost in energy savings.
2. Today's cookers are extremely safe with some, like Kuhn-Rikon, having 5 different safety releases of the pressure.
3. Instead of boiling them away, the pressure cooker locks in nutrients and flavor. You have healthier, tastier food.
As for concerns about the health of pressure cooking, I am well aware of the “slow cooking” philosophy of Sally Fallon et al. I very much respect Ms. Fallon and use many of her techniques in the kitchen. However, as in all areas, I am trying to do what I can for the health of my family while being realistic about my 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!
George Mateljan is also a well-respected health foods expert. In his opinion, he thinks that pressure cooking has a role in healthy kitchens and that the main concern is when cooking vegetables, not to overcook them. I agree. I used to cook a lot more vegetables in my cooker than I do now and we suffered from pale green broccoli numerous nights.
In our cookers, I cook a wide variety of dishes, though I stick to a lot old favorites.
Some of the basics I cook all the time in our pressure cooker:
- whole grains
- beans (you can speed-soak in 2 minutes!!)
- bean dishes
- winter squash. Our family loves winter squash and I feel that it is such a hassle to heat up the oven just to cook a butternut or spaghetti squash. This way you can have winter squash any time of year, ready in about 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of your squash pieces. Wow. Carrots are also another vegetable that doesn't overcook easily in the cooker.
Other great stand-bys from the pressure cooker that are made easily and quickly in our home that I will post recipes for later include:
- quinoa corn chili
- split pea soup
- 10-minute potato salad and
- Indian Cauliflower with Peas
You can even bake in the pressure cooker. More on that in another post as well as how to choose the right brand. I am sure that you can tell what brand I really like though.
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 cooker.
Bon et rapide (that's “fast” in French) appetit!