If cooking healthful meals from scratch often requires more time than you have, you might be a prime candidate for a pressure-cooker. This contraption primarily cooks with pressurized steam, leaving most of your nutrients intact, and the rapid cooking process is both convenient and energy-efficient. For example, you may cook a pork roast and vegetables for your family, all in one pot, in well under an hour. To cook the pork without overcooking the vegetables, use a stop-and-start technique.
Check the lid of your pressure cooker, ensuring that the gasket is intact and that the cooker's pressure gauge and safety valves are free of debris and operating smoothly.
Brown the pork roast in a hot skillet, searing it on all sides in a tablespoon of oil or less. Deglaze the pan with a half-cup of water, stirring to get up all the flavorful cooked-on brown juices, then pour the liquid back into a measuring cup. Add water or broth to reach the minimum recommended amount of liquid for 40 minutes of cooking in your pressure-cooker.
Place the rack in the pressure cooker. Position it at least 1 inch above the level of the liquid for steam roasting. Prop it up on balls of aluminum foil to reach the correct height, if necessary.
Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat, then close the gauge and wait for it to come up to its full pressure of 15 psi. At that point, set your timer for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, just enough to keep the pot pressurized.
Cut your vegetables while the pork cooks. Consult the timing charts in your favorite cookbook or on a pressure-cooker website, and ensure that you cut the vegetables to sizes that cook in the same amount of time. For example, most root vegetables require four minutes of cooking time when they're cut into 1-inch chunks,
Release the cooker's pressure when your timer goes off. Use the quick-release vent if your cooker has one, or run cold water over the pot until the pressure releases. Open the cooker and arrange your vegetables loosely around the roast. Reseal the pot and return it to pressure, then reset the timer for the few minutes' cooking time needed for your vegetables.
Open the pot again, using the same quick-release or cold water method, and remove the vegetables and the roast. Let the pork rest for a few minutes before carving, for the juiciest result. If you wish, strain and skim the fat from the cooking juices, and use those as the base for a sauce.
- Browning the pork first is optional but adds greatly to the flavor of the finished roast. Most of the pork's fat will render out during cooking, leaving behind a relatively lean and low-calorie meal.
- Flat roasts cook more quickly than round ones, as they do in the oven, so be conservative with your cooking time. When a cookbook specifies a range such as 30 to 35 minutes, start with the shorter time and add cooking time if necessary.
- If you don't want to cut your vegetables to different sizes, or if there's no convenient way to bring the vegetables to the same cooking time, just stop and start your pressure cooking as needed. For example, if the pork requires 35 minutes, one vegetable require eight minutes and the other four minutes, set your timer initially for 27 minutes. Add the longest-cooking vegetable and return to pressure for four minutes, then repeat the process and add the quick-cooking vegetable for another four minutes.
- If your pressure-cooker is deep enough, place the roast and vegetables in separate flat Chinese-style steamer trays and stack them as you make each addition to the pot.
- Even safe, modern pressure-cookers can be dangerous if you don't observe the manufacturer's safety precautions. Never fill the cooker more than 2/3 full, and ensure that all valves are working freely before you begin to cook.
- When you open the pressure cooker to add ingredients, a cloud of hot steam will escape. Keep your hands and face away from the steam, which can cause a painful burn.
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