Let’s face it pressure cookers are a little scary – the spout, they hiss, they whistle – but in the end it’s worth it. Imagine cooking a beautiful roast in under an hour, perfect beans in under 45 minutes, fork tender pulled pork in about an hour and a half. The pressure cooker takes meals that would normally require cooking all day and makes them possible any night of the week. It also is a great investment to save money and calories. Since the pressure cooker infuses tons of flavor into meats, you don’t need extra fat in your dishes. And since pressure cookers work great for tougher, cheaper cuts of meat, you can save money.
What You Need:
- 6-8 quart Pressure Cooker
Choosing a Pressure Cooker
Most of us have never bought a pressure cooker – until I bought one the only one I had ever seen belonged to my grandmother and must have been at least forty years old. One of your first choices when it comes to buying a pressure cooker is size. They range from 4-10 quarts but most people will find the 6-8 quart size if right for them. It will fit a roast, soup, or a whole chicken, and normally makes enough to feed 4-8 people. The next feature you will want to consider is the pressure valve itself. Next you will need to think about the pressure valves which come in two forms – spring valves and round weight valves. The spring valve, which is more expensive, essentially runs on it on, while the weight valve jiggles loudly. Both work fine – I prefer the spring valve but they are more expensive. Lastly you are going to want to choose a pressure cooker that is stainless steal and has a PSI (pounds per square inch of pressure) of at least 14-16. The stainless steel, although slightly more expensive than aluminum conducts heat better and will not become stained from frequent use like aluminum will. A higher PSI means things will cook more quickly (the whole point of a pressure cooker) and 14-16 is right in the sweet spot.
Cooking with Your Pressure Cooker
When you cook with a pressure cooker, you can follow most recipes for braising, roasting, and using your crockpot and they will work. You will in most cases want to start by browning your meat in the pressure cooker, then adding your liquid, veggies, and any spices, herbs, or seasoning. A pressure cooker is perfect for dishes that normally require hours on the stove or in the oven. It quickly develops deep and complex flavors and is able to break down tough cuts of meat.
Tips for Using Your Pressure Cooker
There are a few important tips to know when you are using your pressure cooker that will keep you safe and help you make the most of your pressure cooker meals.
- Only fill the pressure cooker 2/3 full (or less for foods that froth or grow a lot like beans and grains)
- Lower the heat as soon as the pressure cooker reaches high pressure to prevent over cooking foods.
- Whenever possible, allow the pressure drop naturally at the end of cooking by removing the pressure cooker from the stove and letting it sit for 5-20 minutes before removing the top. If you need a quicker release make sure to consult your pressure cooker’s directions.