Stressed out? No time for cooking? Then, it is time to cook under pressure!

What do you do when you get home from a busy day and don’t have hours to prepare a meal? Order in? Eat out? Instead of these typical, less-healthy options, try cooking under pressure. Pressure cooking is efficient, reduces energy, shortens cooking time and creates less stress in the kitchen. The newer pressure cookers are not your mother’s model.

I know from firsthand experience when my mother put on the pressure cooker, we were afraid to walk near the kitchen. One time, she had a “food explosion” that put fear in us all. Food was everywhere—on the ceiling, cupboards and floor.

Not your mother’s pressure cooker

Technology has taken care of that problem. When following proper instructions, the old hazards are gone, especially with the electric models. You can “set it and forget it” with the new Cuisinart electric pressure cooker ($99 at Williams-Sonoma). I prefer the Kuhn Rikon (Swiss brand) stovetop pressure cooker that has three fail-safe mechanisms:

  1. The lid cannot be removed when pressure is in the system.
  2. A release valve monitors the pressure.
  3. Extra steam will be released through separate venting systems if the pressure exceeds limits.

The stovetop unit requires more watching, but coupled with an induction cooking unit, the control is more precise.

Benefits of induction surfaces

Induction surfaces continually monitor the temperature, unlike a gas or electric stovetop that will continue to crank up heat. Plus, the induction system reduces energy…only the pan is heated. However, the pressure cooker must be induction ready. A magnet must be able to stick to the bottom, indicating that magnetic waves will heat the cooker.

Best foods for a pressure cooker

Foods that take time to cook especially beans, legumes and rice are great for pressure cooking. Meats such as ribs, stews and tougher cuts of meats will come out fork tender and delicious.

Presoaking beans

It is a good idea to presoak the beans, but they can be cooked without soaking. It just takes a little longer. Presoaking also allows the indigestible carbohydrates to soak off.

Higher elevations

Pressure cooking in Denver or at higher elevations can reduce cooking times by as much as a half. At 5,000 feet, water boils at 2000F. Water boils at sea level at 2120F. In the pressure cooker, water will boil and steam at 2500F. Even though you are using a pressure cooker, times need to be readjusted for higher elevation. Above 2,000 feet, decrease cooking time by 5 percent for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation.

Removing the pressure

Once cooking times are achieved, there are three methods to reduce pressure:

  • Natural release: pressure will slowly drop in about 20 minutes when taking the pressure cooker off the heat. This works best for beans and potatoes .
  • Touch method, rapid release: pressure will drop quickly by putting pressure on the release valve with a spatula or kitchen tool. Be sure the area above is vented and that you are standing away from the vent port.
  • Cold water release method: The pressure cooker must be taken to the sink and have cold water run over the lid, but not the valve. This stops the cooking process quickly to prevent over cooking of fresh vegetables, risotto or polenta.

Be sure to read the operating instructions carefully and start out with simple recipes, such as beans and legumes. Proper cleaning, storage and inspecting for cracked or worn gaskets will keep your pressure cooker in top shape and insure a perfect dinner every time.