Guest host, Laura D.A. Pazzaglia--author of ""Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh and Flavorful"--shares her top tips for making the most of your pressure cooker.
Forget what you might think you know about pressure cookers--these cooking gadgets have come a long way, and their benefits go beyond just cooking food faster. They also preserve more vitamins and minerals than other cooking methods (like boiling and steaming without pressure,) and save a ton of energy, too!
With that in mind, here are my top 5 tips to get the most out of your stovetop or electric pressure cooker:
Older cookers will shake, rattle, and roll onto your nerves, or huff and puff everyone out of the kitchen. Really old pressure cookers are missing back-up emergency valves and key features--like a block to stop the cook from accidentally opening the cooker while contents are under pressure!
So, it's best to purchase a modern spring-valve pressure cooker for whisper-quiet operation with three or more back-up safety systems.
Read the Manual
Each pressure cooker will have its own way to tell you it has reached pressure, which is an important milestone for the cook to know (since that’s when the heat should be turned down, after the cooker has reached pressure.) A bar with rings could rise, a colored pin will jiggle up and then steam will come out of the valve, or it will make a "toot." Only your pressure cooker’s manual will tell you for sure what your pressure cooker is supposed to do--so be sure to read it.
Since all of the safety features of the pressure cooker are in the lid, it is very important not to over-fill the cooker with food that could interfere with these mechanisms. The rule is to keep it not more than ½ full for legumes, grains, or any other food that would expand or foam during cooking, and no more than 2/3 full for everything else. This includes soup in which legumes or grains are just a small percentage of the ingredients.
De-Pressurize According to the Occasion
There are two main ways to release to pressure with a pressure cooker: pretty fast and slow.
The Normal Release uses the cooker’s own button, lever, or switch to release pressure in about a minute. It can be used for most foods (especially veggies,) or in the middle of pressure cooking, to quickly open and check on the food inside.
Natural Release takes 10-20 minutes (depending on how full the pressure cooker is,) and just means that the cook needs to turn off the heat, move the cooker aside, and let the pressure come down naturally. During this opening time, the food is still cooking without any additional heat--making this delicate release method best for meats (so their juices can come down from super-heated to boiling,) and beans (so foam does not spray out of the valve.)
Finish with a Flourish
Pressure cooker food does not have to equate soft, boring, boiled, or steamed food. Many recipes, especially those with meat, can gain magical, “I can’t believe you made that in the pressure cooker!” qualities--especially with a quick slide under the broiler for a nice, final crunchy finish.
Laura D.A. Pazzaglia is a pressure cooker and small appliance expert. She is the founder of Hip Pressure Cooking (www.hippressurecooking), a website of pressure cooker recipes, reviews, and tips. A former IT project director in Silicon Valley, she now lives in Rome with her husband and two children. She moved from computer to kitchen technology after her first child was born, and she needed a way to make healthier meals in less time. Her first book, "Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh and Flavorful," was released on Sept. 2, 2014 by St.Martin/Griffin.
Photos courtesy of Laura Pazzaglia of hippressurecooking.com.