How to Choose and Use a Pressure Cooker

If you haven’t used a pressure cooker lately—or ever—you are in for a pleasant surprise. This tool can help you create healthy, tasty, and low-cost meals for one person or for the whole family.

Pressure-cooked foods can be so low in fat that they fit into just about any meal plan. And even traditionally slow-cooking choices such as red meat, chicken, dried beans, or brown rice are ready for the table in about one-third the usual time. Steam cooking also softens vegetable and meat fibers, automatically tenderizing inexpensive cuts of meat.

Pressure cookers work by building up steam inside the cooker. That internal steam cooks the food. Some cooks, though they may not admit it, are afraid of a pressure cook­er. Once you understand the built-in precautions, however, you can see that it is a safe addition to your kitchen.

The cooker has a tightly closed lid sealed with a rubber ring. No steam will build up if the lid is not properly closed and locked into position. The cooker also has a vent that releases steam if the pressure inside climbs too high. On the lid is a pressure regulator that shows the internal pressure. While some specialized cookers have a gauge to tell you the pressure, most regulators rock and “chug” along as the cooker cooks, letting you know all is well.

While there arc no tricks to using a pressure cooker, it is important to take a few minutes to read the instruction book that accompanies it. You’ll learn some basics, such as how to lock the lid in place, how to gauge the pressure inside the cooker, and how to choose an appropriate method for allowing the pressure to subside.

You’ll also become familiar with the proper amount of liquid to add. Generally, cookers don’t use much liquid, and over­doing it is a mistake. The plus side is that this kind of cook­ing retains the vitamins and minerals that are often poured down the drain. And. because the cooker takes virtually any kind of liquid from water to soup, you can get a lot of flavor versatility.

There are many pressure cooker models on the market with various features to choose from. However, all are safe and work well when used as directed, so choose the one that suits you best. Do make sure you get a heat-proof handle, however. Pressure cookers come with a removable rack. These racks are useful for setting food above the liquid, if that is what the recipe calls for.

It’s a good idea to buy a large cooker, with a capacity of at least 6 quarts. This allows you to use your pressure cooker for a wide selection of dishes. Keep in mind that instruc­tions will tell you not to fill the cooker to the top—not even more than halfway—so a large cooker might not make as much as you think.

Filed Under: Home & Maintenance


About the Author: Leona Kesler is a head-chef at a very popular food restaurant in New York. Also she is a blogger who shares her experiences, tips, and other informative details about food and cooking. Her recipes are featured on many magazines.

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