The old pressure cooker your grandmother or mother used was an impractical cooking pot. Stories of tragic mishaps occurred when a pressure cooker exploded, leaving someone badly burned. Today, the pressure cooker is safer and it is easier to control the pressure. It is a great way to cook meat or stew quickly, and it keeps more of the nutritional value in the food because of less evaporation. Cooking with a pressure cooker involves learning a few rules, and then you will be ready to make food in a fast, healthy and convenient way.
Check the pressure cooker seal. Before using a pressure cooker, make sure that the rubber seal fits snugly in the groove of the cooker top. Examine the seal and groove for any dried food. Without a tight seal, the pressure cooker will not work properly.
Prepare the ingredients for the recipe. If you are cooking meat, brown it first in the bottom of the pot with a little oil. This will help seal in the juices. If you are cooking vegetables, cut them to the desired size.
Add water. Once you have placed the ingredients into the pot, add water. Do not exceed the marked line inside the pot. Most recipes are fine with 2 cups of water, unless specified. You want enough water, so it doesn't all evaporate before the cooking time is complete, but not so much that the water seeps out over the sealed pot.
Lock the pressure top. Set the top on the pressure cooker and slide into the locked position. You will know when the pressure cooker is locked because the handles on the pot and cover will line up and the cover will be secure.
Set the cooker on the burner. Begin with a medium to high temperature to build up the steam. As the ingredients warm, watch the pressure gauge. Adjust the temperature to the correct PSI (force per square inch) for the desired food. Usually, you will want the heat at low medium to medium. If the pressure cooker does not have a gauge, adjust the temperature so that the regulator rocks at a slow, even pace.
Release the pressure. Once the food is cooked according to the directions for the recipe, take the pressure cooker off the stove and let it cool. You can open the cooker once the pressure is released. A quicker way to cool down the cooker is to run cold water over the top of the cooker for one minute. Some cookers have an automatic release method.
- Sauté vegetables, before using the pressure cooker, for added flavor. If cooking meat and vegetables, cook the meat before cooking the vegetables, so the vegetables are not overcooked.
- Never fill the pressure cooker more than half-full with food and two-thirds full with liquid.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.
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