The pressure cooker is one of those old-timey cooking systems that fell out of popularity due to so many Americans eating out or using slow cookers for everything. However, it’s making a huge comeback. The reason is that a pressure cooker actually produces much tastier food than a slow cooker. Slow cookers often stay on all day and by the time you get home from work, all the flavor has been completely cooked out of the food.
The trick to preparing delicious food is to get it cooked to just the right temperature, while not overdoing it. The pressure cooker can do all this and more. So, how does it all work?
The history of the pressure cooker
A Frenchman named Denis Papin invented the very first pressure cooker in the early 1600’s. He understood the science behind steam and pressure and he knew that these principles could be used to cook food. He tried and failed to invent a pot that could safety do this though. It was years later before technology was invented that could actually make the pressure cooker safe.
Both then and today, a pressure cooker needs a few important elements in order to work correctly. You need a sturdy pot and a sturdy lid that fits down perfectly on the pot. The other important component in old-fashioned cookers is the rubber gasket. If this seal is damaged or worn out, it will not create the airtight seal required for pressure cooking.
My life as a pressure cooker
My mother always used a pressure cooker when I was growing up. It was the most important appliance in our kitchen. Both mom and dad worked so if we were going to get a delicious home-cooked meal that day, somebody had to fire up the pressure cooker. Below, is a brief description of the process used by older pressure cookers that are placed on the stove top.
First, you place the bottom of this heavy pot on the burner. Let’s say we’re cooking a pot roast today. Add about two tablespoons of cooking oil and let it get hot. Salt and pepper your roast, then place it gently into the pot so as not to splash hot oil on your hand. Let the roast brown well on both sides. This is called searing. This puts a nice brown sear on the meat. Next, cover it with water. You can add a little more salt and pepper to the water.
Carefully place the lid to the pressure cooker on the pot. There’s a bit of a trick to getting the top and bottom to fit just right. Place the lid straight down onto the pot at about a 30 degree angle and then turn the top to where the handle on the top and the handle on the bottom line up. You need a perfect seal so that steam doesn’t leak out.
Leave the fire up on high until the water begins to boil. You’ll see steam coming out of the valve in the center of the lid. Now turn the fire down and place the pressure regulator onto the steam valve. It will hiss and wiggle – at least it did on my mother’s old pressure cooker. But as the heat dies down to low, this will settle down as well. Now there’s nothing left to do but go make yourself a nice cold glass of iced tea.
Preparing veggies and side dishes
After your break, you can peel potatoes or shuck corn on the cob – or prepare whatever vegetables you’re having with the roast while the roast is cooking. A four to five pound pot roast only takes an hour or so to cook thoroughly. A whole chicken can be cooked in about half that time. A rack of ribs takes just under an hour. As you practice, you’ll learn exactly how long to cook different cuts of meat.
Once the roast is done, there is an important process to bring the heat down inside the pot. First, turn off the heat completely but leave the pot on the burner. Allow the pressure to cool like this for about 10 minutes, then you can remove the pressure regulator. If you remove it too soon, you might get a big whoosh of steam coming out. So be sure to let the contents of the pot cool on their own before removing the pressure vent.
Once the contents have cooled, simply turn the handle lid to the right a little to break the seal between the top of the pot and the bottom. Carefully remove the lid. If you want to add carrots, onions or potatoes, you can do so now and just cook them for about 15 minutes with the top off. The vegetables will cook fairly rapidly because the pot and liquid are already so hot. It’s not necessary to put the lid back on and bring the steam up again.
Better tasting food, more nutritious
If you’re used to eating food cooked in a slow cooker, you’ll love the way your food looks and tastes when cooked in a pressure cooker. The food doesn’t overcook and the fibers of the meat don’t break completely down. Since the food is cooked just to the right temperature, it retains its flavor, nutrition, and consistency. It’s sort of like the difference between pasta that has been way overcooked and pasta that is perfectly prepared. The ideal flavor and consistency simply produces a much better meal that your family will love.
Today’s electric pressure cookers
Of course, nowadays we have electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot. These types of cookers are much safer to use and they’re much easier. You don’t have to be a mad scientist to get everything to work just right.
I remember as a child, my mom would tell me horror stories of people who took the top of the pressure cooker off too soon, while there was still too much heat inside. Kablooey! The top shot off the cooker and the whole ceiling over the stove was covered in pinto beans (or whatever was in the pot). I’m not sure if these stories were true or not, but they did serve the purpose of causing me to be extra careful when using that old pressure cooker.
Cooking with love
In spite of its volatile reputation, I loved that old pot. Cooking at home in a pressure cooker has always stirred a nostalgic memory in me. It was like, cooking with love and still is today. I can still smell daddy’s beef stew cooking in that old pot. Us kids might have starved to death growing up if it hadn’t been for the old pressure cooker. By the time I was twelve years old, I was pretty good at making beans, chicken and roasts. In those days, families spent time in the kitchen together and made great meals and wonderful memories. With the Instant Pot, they can rekindle that tradition.
Moving into the 21st century
For today’s modern family, where kids often come home from school earlier than parents, the Instant Pot is a great tool. It’s electric, thus eliminating that tricky dance between getting the temperature right and placing the pressure vent on and off correctly. Cooking delicious meals in this cooker is so much simpler. Just a few lessons and the whole family will be gourmet cooks. There are many great Instant Pot recipes too.
One of the amazing things about this pressure cooker is that you really don’t have to plan meals in advance. Just run by the grocery store and pick up some ribs, a chicken or roast, then place this in your Instant Pot, set the program and go directly to the living room to relax. At dinnertime, you can warm a nice loaf of French bread in the oven and serve your meal with whatever vegetables your family enjoys. This is healthy eating at its best.
Instant Pot Features
Though there are many good restaurants available today, families are moving back to cooking at home. It’s cheaper and it offers a family some quality time to spend together. Baking in an Instant Pot is also painless and error-free. There are 14 Smart Programs for preparing cakes, rice, eggs, yogurt, meat, stew, chicken and others. You won’t need a cooking class to use this pressure cooker. It comes in three sizes for large and small families, plus there’s a recipe book and instruction manual. You’ll find dozens of great YouTube videos online for the beginner as well as the expert cook.
The programmable features on the pot utilize today’s most advanced technology. New mothers have discovered the Instant Pot for sterilizing bottles. It really does take the work out of sterilizing bottles and jars for canning. A large blue LCD display makes it easy to see how your meal is progressing. You can turn the cooker off anytime if you suddenly want to leave the house, or you can place the food on warm to eat when you return.
One of the aspects of using a pressure cooker that many people miss is the fact that it contains food odors well. Sometimes at my house, when we cook bacon, broccoli, fish and certain other foods, those odors linger for a day or longer. It’s like, you can never fully get that smell to go away. Some family members may find this nauseating. But the Instant Pot does a good job of containing all those odors so that your house won’t smell like Red Snapper for three days.
Take all the guesswork out of great cooking
15 microprocessor controlled programs take all the guesswork out of your cooking so you can achieve perfect recipes every time. The Instant Pot is easy to clean and dishwasher safe. It’s also energy efficient and affordably priced. The Instant Pot is well-made so that it will serve your family great meals for many years to come.