Pressure cooking is a great way to cook. Knowing how to use it and what to use it for will benefit all types of cooks. I will explain how the cooker works, how to use it, and what to cook and not to cook. You must understand these things before preparing food this way.
Benefits of a pressure cooker
A pressure cooker uses liquid and steam in a sealed pot to cook food. It cooks food faster while saving energy. The boiling liquid makes steam which is trapped in the cooker which makes the pressure and temperature inside to increase. Vitamins and minerals do not dissolve away after cooking food using this method.
Pressure cooker system
The cooker is made up of a metal pan body with handles and a lid. The lid locks in the steam for cooking. A steam vent regulates the pressure level in the pan. Safety devices on the lid prevent over-pressure or over-temperature of the pot.
Aluminum cookers are less expensive but are not durable. The best cookers are stainless steel, which also have a copper bottom so the heating is more uniform.
How to use the cooker
Start by placing the food into the cooker, either in the liquid or above the liquid. Next select the pressure setting and place on the stove over high heat until the desired pressure level is reached. It is important to wait until the cooker is at the correct level before starting the timer.
If the release valve is opening, then you want to reduce the heating source’s temperature. Continuing to cook on high will allow steam to escape in which the pot loses liquid and in turn wastes energy. Never overheat an empty cooker because it will damage the cooker.
What to cook
A pressure cooker is used for braising or simmering. Foods that can be cooked in steam, or liquids that are mostly water, can be cooked in a pressure cooker. Some recipes call for pre-steaming in the cooker, without pressure, to activate raising agents in the food before cooking to give it a fluffy texture.
You can pre-fry some foods in the cooker such as meat and onions. Start by using oil, butter, or other fat, in the open cooker over medium heat. Once your’re done frying, continue to use the cooker by adding the desired liquid. Cookers are great for making one-pot meals, chicken or beef stock, slow cooked meats, chilis, vegetables, and soups.
What not to cook
You cannot use a pressure cooker for foods that produce very little steam like roasting, pan frying, or deep drying. You can make sauces, but once cooked, remove and thicken the sauce in a regular pot or pan.
Foods like macaroni, cranberries, cereals, and oatmeal are not to be used in the cooker. Those expand after they’re cooked and make the liquid frothy which can block the steam vent when it splatters.
I hope you understand this cooking method and feel confident in preparing food this way in the future.