Modern technology has made its way into the kitchen, allowing people to cook food faster and easier than ever. As convenient as gadgets like the microwave oven and food processor are, they cannot produce results like tried and true devices like the pressure cooker. Before you try your hand at using a pressure cooker, however, it is important that you know what it is and how you can use it safely in your own kitchen.
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Defining the Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is simply a sealed pot that utilizes steam to cook food faster. Invented in the 17th century by French physicist Denis Papin, this cooker relies on liquid, most often water, to build pressure inside the sealed pot, thus cooking the food contained inside in a fraction of the time of other conventional cooking methods.
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As pressure builds inside the pot, so does the cooking temperature. Temperatures inside a pressure cooker can reach as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of minutes. The increased temperature and pressure likewise help retain the food's natural juices and liquids; it will not dry out as it might when it is baked, fried, or broiled. Pressure cooking is an ideal way to cook food like tough cuts of meat or uncut vegetables like whole carrots and potatoes. Within a fraction of the time that it takes to boil, fry, or bake them, these foods will be cooked all the way through and ready to eat.
In fact, you can safely cook just about any type of food in a pressure cooker. It is important, however, that you follow your cooker's safety instructions and also follow the recommended cooking time in the recipe of the dish you are preparing.
Using a Pressure Cooker Safely
Pressure cookers are convenient to use; however, they do require that you pay attention and take care while you are using them. If you fail to follow the instructions that came with your pressure cooker, you could get badly burned and also ruin the food that you are preparing.
To start, you should make sure that your cooker is free from dents or any sign of damage. If it is dented, the cooker may not align and seal with the lid correctly.
Next, you should fill the pot with the recommended amount of water per your cooker's instructions. Older model cookers, sometimes referred to as jiggly cookers, typically require one cup of water while newer models often call for only a half cup of water.
It is important that you avoid overfilling your pressure cooker with water. Plenty of space must exist inside the pot for the steam to build. It is recommended that you avoid putting in more than 2/3 cups of water in your pot or ½ cup if you are cooking legumes or beans. Amounts greater than 2/3 of a cup will leave insufficient room for the cooker to work properly.
After you fill your cooker, you should then close and seal the pot, place it on the recommended size stove burner, and turn the burner's temperature to high. As the pressure builds inside the pot, its pressure gauge will rise. Once the gauge has reached your pot's recommended level, you should then turn the stove burner to a lower setting to maintain that pressure.
While your pressure cooker is being used, you should avoid leaving it unattended. You may have to make adjustments to the burner's temperature to maintain the pressure inside the pot. You should also start the timing of your recipe only after you have turned down the temperature on the burner. To avoid overcooking the food, you should follow the recipe's recommended timing.
When you have reached the recommended time for the recipe, you can then release the pressure inside the pot. It is vital that you follow your pressure cooker's instructions for releasing the steam and pressure. Most pots have a valve that you can turn to slowly release the pressure from within the cooker.
- It is also important that you avoid trying to force the lid off the pot or take the lid off without releasing the pressure first.
- Doing either can result in you being burned severely and also your food flying out of the pot and onto your kitchen walls and floor.
- You can be sure that the lid is safe to remove when you no longer hear steam whistling from the pressure valve.
- You can also check the gauge to ensure that the cooker no longer has pressure inside of it.
Pressure cookers are convenient for cooking foods like fish, roasts, raw vegetables, rice, oats, and just about any other foods your family may enjoy. While convenient to use, these cookers also demand that you follow the safety instructions and pay attention to avoid being burned and your food being ruined. Despite being invented 400 years ago, pressure cookers still have a role in today's modern kitchen.