How Does a Pressure Cooker Reduce the Time Required to Cook Food?

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A hearty vegetable stew or a comforting pot roast from start to finish on a work night sounds like the setup for a joke in which you're the punchline. Under normal circumstances, that type of meal wouldn't make it to the table until you've already put the kids to bed and settled into your pajamas. If you have a pressure cooker, those types of meals on work nights suddenly become a reality. With a little pre-planning, healthy, home-cooked meals come together in the same amount of time it takes to order and receive takeout.

Pressure Cooking 101

Pressure cookers save time by cooking foods at super-fast speeds. Each pressure cooker has a lid that creates an air-tight seal. Before you lock on the lid, you must add liquid, such as water or broth, to create the necessary steam. Since steam can't escape the pan, it builds up. This high-pressure environment surrounds your food with forced heat that penetrates and cooks quickly. Modern pressure cookers have safety valves and locking mechanisms that protect you from a blow-out, making them safer than your grandmother's pressure cooker.

More Vegetables, Less Time

Potatoes, root vegetables and even everyday staples like fresh carrots or corn on the cob take more cooking time than you might have on a busy weeknight. With a pressure cooker, you can provide garden-fresh vegetables to your family in minutes. Try cooking whole potatoes -- which can take over an hour to bake in the oven -- with butter and dried dill dip mix in under 10 minutes in your pressure cooker. In under 5 minutes, you can cook carrots and cauliflower until they're soft enough to mash into a new twist on mashed potatoes. Season the vegetables before you cook them so the flavor penetrates.

Whole Grains and Legumes

Dried beans and whole grains are chock-full of fiber and nutrients, but they often take a long time to prepare. Pressure cookers allow you to cook dried beans from the bag in under 15 minutes. Add seasonings such as green onion dip mix to the pressure cooker. Mix cooked beans with salsa and cheese to make your own bean dips, burrito fillings or nacho toppings. Introduce your kids to whole grains such as millet, quinoa or barley. Toss them with chicken, your favorite cooked vegetables and your favorite salad dressing to make a nutritious summer salad.

Sunday Dinner on Wednesday

Larger pressure cookers can accommodate foods as large as a whole ham or pot roast. Create your own dry rub from herbs and spices or use a package of died salad dressing mix. Place the cooking rack in your cooker, put in your meat, some cooking liquid and your favorite vegetables, and in about a half-hour you'll have a meal that takeout can't compete with. The next day, toss in all the leftovers with some broth and cook until just heated through to create a quick and hearty soup or stew.