Pressure cookers can speed up the time it takes to cook meals. Soup or stew can take 15 minutes instead of hours. The results you get from using a pressure cooker often also match those you get from slow cookers. Cheap cuts of meat can be cooked quickly and fall off the bone.
They’re also great for those who aren’t super well and don’t have much energy as they cook quick and hearty food with minimal effort. Using meat on the bone or cooking soup using a whole chicken or chicken pieces is also a great way to get all the good stuff into your diet. Making bone broth can add great stuff to your diet which you might not normally get. Tips on making good bone broth and avoiding common mistakes can be found here.
How do they work?
Basically, by increasing the pressure in the pot, the temperature also increases.
This reduces cooking time considerably and as temperatures can easily reach above 100 degrees Celsius. Because of the high temperatures new chemical reactions are generated and this develops a range of flavours that are difficult to access in normal cooking methods.
The sealed lid captures smells and traps flavour of the food cooking, which means that you can often get a better final product.
Pressure cookers are perfectly safe. Many people are scared of them, but accidents rarely occur and when they do it is usually because the person using the device doesn’t know what they’re doing. I have been using a pressure cooker for over 20 years and have never had any problems. I use mine up to 5 times a week.
How to use your pressure cooker and some cooking tips (see below for one or two simple recipes)
ALWAYS FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT COME WITH YOUR PARTICULAR COOKER! Each one is different and must be treated with respect.
- Pretty much anything you’ve cooked in a slow cooker you can do in a pressure cooker.
- You just have to be careful with the amount of liquid used. If you need to thicken sauces after cooking via simmering be careful you don’t over cook your meal. Use less liquid than normal, you can always add more later.
- What I am trying to say is that usually when you cook on a stove with a lid off you lose a lot of liquid through evaporation. Pressure cookers are a sealed system, so this doesn’t happen when you cook using them. This means keep liquid to a minimum. It is easier to add liquid later.
- I’m also too lazy to brown food, so I don’t often worry about Browning meat before I use my pressure cooker. Browning meat does add amazing flavours though!
- In my cooker I find that some foods high in sugars can catch and cause some burning. So try and minimise things like intense tomato sauces. You can add more tomato in the latter half of your cooking.
Emma’s tips on buying a pressure cooker IMHO (by no means gospel!)
- Skip electric – go for manual (my preference). Do you have a gas or electric stove? This could change what you need. Gas is better. And if you’re renting or planning on upgrading your kitchen you might want to plan to buy one that can be used for induction too.
- Pick a brand that is reputable (in the pressure cooker world) and you know will be around for a while to come. If you need to buy parts (ie a new lid seal or something) you don’t want ditch your pressure cooker because the company has gone out of business or they don’t do pressure cookers anymore.
- Expensive doesn’t always mean better.
- Pick one made from stainless steel (or something similar) – it’ll last longer, easier to clean and won’t taint food from one cooking session to the next.
- Make sure it is dishwasher proof. You may not have a dishwasher now, but these things last around 7 to 10 years (if not longer) so your living situation may change. And who wants to hand wash something you can chuck in a dishwasher?
- Pick one with a thick, mixed metal base, as it will disperse heat better and reduce the incidence of the food sticking to the base and catching (which happens sometimes, especially with tomato bases or food that is high in sugar).
- Choose a size around 5 to 7 L. Don’t go too small, bigger is a little better as you can cook bigger pieces of meat, cook for larger groups (or cook more and freeze it), plus you can always use the cooker lid free as a regular pot. Reminder – you will have this for 7 to 10 years, and so it’s worth buying slightly larger. Also, you cannot fill pressure cookers right to the lid (can only fill to 3/4 or 4/5 mark) so keep that in mind when choosing a size. Pressure cookers can not be filled to the brim!
- I personally like the pressure cookers that have one long handle (like a pot). I think you can buy sets that have clear lids etc so when you’re not using it to pressure cook you can use it as a regular pot. Sometimes you I/need to reheat or reduce stuff and a regular lid would be handy. I don’t have one at the moment – but will be looking for something like that next time I buy one.
- Don’t buy an old one. Go new.
- Don’t buy a pressure cooker cook book. Waste of money. So many recipes online these days!
If your pressure cooker doesn’t come with one, purchase a steamer basket. Also check if “extra” normal pot lids are available for purchase, they’re super handy.
My current pressure cooker
I have Raco (not sure they make them like mine anymore) with a weighted valve (which means it hisses as it reaches pressure). This hissing sounds scary to the uninitiated, but it is completely normal!
I’ve had my latest pressure cooker for around 10 years and haven’t had to replace anything (in the past pressure cookers required seal changes)…and I use it A LOT. When it’s time to buy my next one the only thing I think I’ll change is that I’ll one that holds more and pick something with a thicker, mixed metal base and maybe quieter (if that is even an option when the time comes!).
I’ve found these sites which may be helpful:
A couple of easy recipes
Yummy as people usually eat it, or for something different pull it apart and serve it in soft rolls with mayo, dill pickles and pickled chilli!
For each pound – cook it 12 to 14 minutes. So around 30 minutes per kilogram once your cooker reaches pressure.
Rinse your beef once you’ve removed it from the plastic (to get rid of goop that it is stored/marinated in).
- 1 brown onion cut in half (no need to peel)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup of white vinegar
- 1 stick celery – chopped in 3
- 2 carrots – chopped in half
- 10 black whole peppercorns
- Corned beef
- Place everything but beef into your cooker pot
- Add rinsed beef.
- Fill with water until beef is covered (ensure you don’t over fill pot)
- Let your device do its thing (according to manufacturer’s instructions).
- If you have the time, once cooked, turn heat off and let the cooker equalise slowly, by itself (I find the meat is more tender that way). If you don’t have the time to wait, follow instructions on how to equalise and open your cooker. No problems – it’ll still be super tasty.
Note – NEVER buy low sodium corned beef. It’s rubbish (I found that out the hard way).
Large lumps of meat
Any large lump of meat must have liquid added to the pot or it’ll dry out. Timing for big lumps the same as the corned beef. Around 30 minutes per kilogram.
Smaller cuts of meat (ie chicken on the bone)
Chicken on or off the bone or any small meat pieces (ie lamb on bone, chuck steak etc) requires around 10 to 15 minutes cooking time once at pressure. A similar time is needed for one-pot chicken and vegetable soup. Throw all ingredients into pot with stock and allow to cook for 15 minutes at pressure. Soup done!
Peel and chop potatoes into big chunks (ie thirds) of similar size. Place steamer into pot. Add water until reaches steamer base but doesn’t touch spuds. Add spuds. Cook at pressure for 8 minutes. Depressurise, drain and mash as normal. I suggest adding butter, cream and salt. YUM!
As you can see – pressure cookers open up a whole new world of cooking that’ll save you so much time!
Have fun. And if you invent anything new – email me!