Ten Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Pressure Cooker
Store It Right
• The most convenient and best way to store your pressure cooker after using it is to place the lid upside down, on top of the pot.
• Before storing, always wash the pot, lid and rubber gasket by hand with soapy, warm water; dry well before putting away.
• Always check the safety valves to make sure that they are clean and unobstructed and that the rubber gasket is always pliable and flexible before inserting it under the lid
Always Cook with Liquid:
Cooking under pressure requires less liquid than conventional cooking methods since there is less evaporation. You can always use more liquid than recommended in a pressure cooker recipe, but never use less.
Remember that pressure cookers cook quickly since they use the pressure created from the built-up, hot, trapped steam in the pot.
• Always use at least 1 cup of cooking liquid.
• Never fill the pressure cooker more than ½ way with liquid.
• If you end up with too much cooking liquid after cooking under pressure, simply reduce the liquid by bringing it to a boil uncovered and reduce until the desired consistency.
Never Overfill the Pressure Cooker
Even though steam doesn’t weigh anything, it needs space in the pressure cooker to build up.
• Never fill it more than 2/3 full with food.
• Never fill it more than ½ full with liquid.
Adjust That Heat
The whole concept of pressure cookers is simple. Water or any cooking liquid comes to a boil at 212 degrees F. Once it does it produces steam. Steam is hotter than boiling water and can reach approximately 250 degrees F. Trapped, hot steam builds and builds putting approximately 10 to 13 psi (pounds per square inch) on food, making it cook by at least 25% (if not more!) faster.
For best results:
• Begin cooking under pressure over high heat.
• Once the pressure cooker comes up to pressure, lower the heat to a low burner setting so that it maintains pressure without exceeding it.
• This is easy when using a gas range. If cooking with electric, use two burners: one on high heat to get things going; the other on low to maintain pressure.
• If pressure appears to be dropping, raise the burner up slightly.
It’s all in the Timing
The key to how to cook with a pressure cooker is timing. Timing is as important as developing pressure. Once you have reduced pressure according to the recipe directions, be sure to set a digital kitchen timer for the recommended cooking time.
• All cooking times are approximate and might be understated.
• It’s always better to undercook something than overcook it.
• If food needs to be cooked longer, do so in 1-5 minute intervals under pressure.
• The harder the food, the longer the additional time!
• For consistent results, cut foods into pieces of uniform size to promote even cooking.
• Large pieces of meat, etc., take considerably longer to cook than say smaller cubed pieces. As do pieces with bones.
• When mixing foods, such as meat, potatoes, and vegetables, begin by cooking the meat, say halfway, release pressure then add the potatoes; cook then for 2/3 their recommended cooking time, and at last add the quicker cooking vegetables .
• You may need to follow this “stop and go" routine several times, but it's important so that the food retains its texture as well as flavor.
Browning for Intense Flavors
• For extra flavor, brown or sauté foods first just like you would when cooking with conventional cookware. For instance, brown the meat and vegetables for a stew, before adding other liquids and cooking under pressure.
• Be sure to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits clinging to the bottom with a small amount of wine, broth or even water, so they are loosen, adding flavor to your food, as well as discouraging scorching.
High Altitude Cooking
Increase cooking times slightly at high altitudes
• Things should cook OK if you live at sea level to 2000 feet above sea level.
• After that, a good rule of thumb is to increase the cooking time by 5% for every 1000 feet higher than that 2000 foot base.
Rapid or Natural Release
Unlike your great-grandmother’s pressure cooker, an important safety feature of today's pressure cookers is that they can’t be opened until you completely release the pressure from the pot.
Depending on what you're making, you will release steam, and therefore pressure, from your pressure cooker by either using one of the two following methods
• The Natural Release Method: when cooking tough or large cuts of meat, remove the pressure cooker from the heat source and let the pressure dissipate on its own as the pressure cooker cools down (this can take up to 30 minutes).
• Quick Release Method: when cooking most recipes that contain foods that are softer, read the owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to release pressure as soon as the food is done cooking. The easiest way to do so, is to move the pressure cooker from the stove to the sink and run cold water over the top side of the lid and pot until the all the pressure is released, taking less than a minute.
Adapting Favorite Recipes for the Pressure Cooker:
Even though the pressure cooker is best suited for cooking foods that require long cooking times (soups, stews, beans, etc.), you can cook almost anything in it. The following are a few hints for adapting conventional recipes to the pressure cooker:
• Prep ingredients as called for in the conventional recipe.
• Make sure you are using enough liquid to create steam (usually a minimum of 1 to 2 cups).
• Try and match the conventional recipe to a similar pressure cooker version and adjust the ingredients and cooking time accordingly.
• Cut back on the cooking time at least 25%, up to 50%.
• Remember, you can always go back and cook the food longer if need be, while overcooked mushy food cannot be saved!