Pressure Cookers: What’s Old Is New Again
Pressure Cookers: What’s Old Is New Again (By Lori Grossman)
People are in such a hurry these days. Everyone wants to save time, and cooking is one area where most people want to save lots of time. Cooking innovations such as microwave ovens, convection ovens, Advantium ovens and, in a way, slow cookers, have been created in an effort to satisfy the demands of our “hurry up” society. However, there’s been a solution to the problem of preparing food quickly — and doing it very well — for generations. The pressure cooker.
The Presto brand pressure cooker first caught the attention of housewives in 1939 at the World Trade Fair in New York, and Presto has been making them ever since. From the variety of pressure cooker brands and models now available, these appliances are quite popular. Although many people associate them only with canning, pressure cookers are a great way to get a good meal on the table in a minimum amount of time. And with proper usage and care, they are quite safe.
Do you own a pressure cooker? Is it a newer model with loads of features, or the older rocker-valve kind like mine? Whichever one you have, or if you’re thinking of buying one, there are lots of advantages to cooking with a pressure cooker.
Types of Pressure Cookers
I thought my rocker-valve cooker was the only type available, but found that there are two other types: the developed-weight valve and the spring-valve pressure regulator. You’ll know the rocker-valve type by the round metal valve with a hard plastic knob that sits on top of the vent pipe in the center of the cover. As the pressure rises, the valve rocks back and forth. The developed-weight cooker’s vent pipe is usually located on the cover handle. The spring-valve kind has a dial that allows you to choose the level of pressure you need, which comes in handy depending on what type of food you’re cooking.
Just how do pressure cookers work their magic? They use built-up steam that creates pressure and high heat. The food cooks at a higher temperature, so the cooking time is cut way down. Think how convenient that can be when you’re running late and need to fix something quickly. Because it saves you time, you can make more meals (and more healthful meals) at home.
There are a few cautions you need to keep in mind. Never fill your pressure cooker more than half full with food or two-thirds full of liquid, because the contents increase in volume under pressure. Also, be sure you use at least 1 cup of liquid (usually water) so that the pressure can build up and your food won’t burn. Some cookers call for at least 2 cups, so check your owner’s manual.
There are several ways to release pressure, and you’ll need to use two of them in these recipes. Natural release is easy; when cooking time is done, just remove the cooker from the heat and let the pressure drop by itself. For quick-release (depending on what kind of cooker you use, so check your owner’s manual), remove the cooker from the burner and place it in the sink. Run cold water over the top of the cover until the pressure has been released.