Pressure Cooking - an Old New Way of Cooking

By: Susan Fiori

My Italian mother-in-law bought me a pressure cooker earlier this year. She uses hers all the time as her speciality is soups. However I have found it one of the most used utensils in my kitchen - not just for soups, but for casseroles, roasts and sauces. Yes, I use my pressure cooker at least once, if not twice every single week. I have found my pressure cooker so wonderful, I want to share with you my experience.

What is a Pressure Cooker?
Pressure cooking is cooking in a sealed pot (pot with lid) that does not allow air or liquid to escape, causing the liquid in the pot to rise to an extremely high temperature accelerating the cooking of the food while retaining all the nutrients. Miss Vicky (from www.missvicky.com ) says the reason that food cooks so much more quicker in a pressure cooker is because "steam has six times the heat potential when it condenses on a cool food product".

How does it work?
Food is placed in the specially designed pressure cooker pot with lid (with special valve and pressure indicator button) with some amount of liquid (depending on the recipe) and put on the stove. When the liquid reaches boiling point, steam is produced (pushing the pressure indicator button to stick up on the lid), and the high level of pressure of this steam cooks the food. This method of cooking copies the simmering method, but is much much faster with equivalent results.

Now, on completion of the cooking, there is a challenge. You can't simply open the lid. If you do, it can be very very dangerous and the pressure can cause - like an explosion. You need to 'release' the steam / pressure using the special valve on the lid and once all the steam / pressure is released (causing the pressure indicator button to go back down into the lid - thus not stick up anymore) then the lid can be safely opened. The first time I used my pressure cooker, I didn't allow all the steam to be released and all my sauce 'exploded' all over the roof and over my oven and wall (not good). I was very lucky not to burn myself. So it's very important to follow the instructions that come with your pressure cooker and make sure that all the steam has been released (and the pressure indicator button is all the way down) - so basically you can't open the lid until that has gone all the way down and sits flush with your lid).

What can you cook?
Of course you can cook soup, but I also cook my roasts (just add cheap beef, can of tomatoes, 1 cup of red wine, onions (and other vegetables as desired) and when liquid is boiling (button on lid is all the way up and the cooker is making a rattling noise, reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes, then turn off stove, release button on top of lid, wait until button goes back down and there you have - super tender beef with a nice thick sauce). You can also do casseroles as well with only 1/3 to ? the cooking time of simmering. Its fantastic because its a great way of cooking really really cheap cuts of meat - making them tasty and super tender in a short amount of time.

For more recipes, refer to:

References
www.missvicky.com
www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressure_cooker
www.underpressure.com.au/

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