An Introduction to Pressure Cookers
What is a pressure cooker, and how does it work?
A pressure cooker uses steam to cook food, shortening the time needed to prepare a slow cook dish. The lid is locked on to make the pot airtight so that pressure builds up in the pot to boil, braise or steam your food more quickly. They are often used to make stews, cook grains and beans, or even bake a sponge cake.
Why use a pressure cooker?
Due to the shorter cooking time, pressure cookers use way less energy than other conventional methods of cooking. Furthermore, pressure-cooked food is much healthier as more nutrients and minerals are retained. Less water is used in the cooking process, so nutrients won’t dissolve. No oil is used either, making it a great option for a healthy and hearty home-cooked meal. You don’t have to worry about your food being bland either because the original flavour of the food will be preserved.
The Hows of Pressure Cookers
You might be scratching your head, wondering how to incorporate the use of this brilliant innovation into your everyday kitchen. It’s easier than you think. By the end of this article, instead of thinking how to use a pressure cooker, you’ll be thinking what you should cook next in your pressure cooker.
How do I know what to cook in my pressure cooker?
Foods that you usually boil, simmer or braise are all approved.
A pressure cooker is able to tenderise tough cuts of meat, and soften hard foods because of the high atmospheric pressure it utilises to cook your food. Use this tip to your advantage to make stews, stocks, pork knuckles, cook dried beans, risotto, carrots and etc. This list is non-exhaustive so be willing to try anything else that might cook well in a pressure cooker. If you’re just starting out, and you’re not quite sure, you could always follow online recipes. There are some free pressure cooker recipes for you to try out at the end of this article.
How do I start cooking food in my pressure cooker?
Regarding any safety concerns you might have about pressure cookers, we assure you that they are now all fail-safe. In the event you forget to lower the heat after the pot reaches full pressure, there will be an overpressure plug to release any excess pressure. Just to be on the safe side, check the sealing ring (or rubber gasket) on your pressure cooker to ensure it can seal the pot tightly. Double check that the overpressure plug is clear as well.
How do I release pressure in my pressure cooker?
These are the 3 methods of doing so:
- Turn off the heat, and allow the pressure to drop by itself (Natural Release)
- Place the pot under running cold water
- Open the steam release valve manually (Quick Release)
Use method 1 for foods like meats and dried beans which can easily fall apart during immediate depressurisation. Use methods 2 and 3 for vegetables and grains since they might get overcooked if left in the pressure cooker for too long.
For a deeper explanation about the different methods of releasing pressure, check out this article here!
A golden tip for you is to always underestimate the time needed to finish cooking. If your food is undercooked, you can reapply heat and pressure to ensure it gets fully cooked. However, once your food is overcooked, there is no going back. So, if your food needs more time to cook, just put the lid back on and simmer for a few minutes, or lock the lid and set the cooker to full pressure again.
Free Pressure Cooker Recipes
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 450g stewing beef, cut into cubes
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 pinch oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, cut into bite sized cubes
- 2 large potatoes, cut into cubes
- 450ml beef broth
- 1 can (280g) of tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tbsp water
- Season the beef with salt, pepper and herbs.
- Drizzle olive oil in the pressure cooker, and add the beef. Cook until brown on the sides.
- Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, carrots, potatoes, garlic, onion and tomato sauce. Stir to mix evenly.
- Lock the lid and close the steam valve.
- On high pressure, cook for 35 minutes. Once done, turn off the heat to carry out a natural release of pressure.
- After about 8 minutes, open the steam valve. While the stew is still piping hot, add the cornflour and water to thicken the stew. Serve.
Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake
Ingredients (Serves one cake)
- 3 large eggs
- 110g cream cheese (room temperature)
- 110g white chocolate
- 1 tsp vanilla/orange extract
- 350ml of water
- Melt white chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals. Mix melted white chocolate with room temperature cream cheese. Stir until a smooth cream is obtained.
- Separate the eggs. Add 3 egg yolks, and vanilla/orange extract to the creamy mixture. Stir to get an even batter.
- Beat cold egg whites to get stiff and shiny peaks.
- Incorporate the beaten egg white mixture to the batter in 3 parts. Be careful to not have any lumps, to get a smooth and fluffy batter.
- Line a cake pan with baking paper. Pour the batter into the cake pan and cover with aluminium foil.
- Pour the water into the pressure cooker, and place a trivet at the bottom of the cooker. Place the cake pan on the trivet.
- Lock the lid and cook for 18 minutes at high pressure.
- Release the pressure naturally. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 125g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 pinch salt and black pepper, to taste
- 500ml chicken broth
- 180g Arborio rice
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- 60g baby spinach
- 100g frozen peas, thawed
- 20g freshly grated parmesan
- Turn on the heat of the pressure cooker and add 2 tbsp butter, garlic and onion. Cook for about 2 minutes until the onions turn translucent.
- Add mushrooms to cook, and stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add chicken broth, rice and thyme to the pot. Stir well.
- Lock the lid and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. After it is done, open the steam valve for a quick release to avoid overcooking the risotto.
- While still hot, stir in spinach and 2 tbsp butter. Once the spinach has wilted, add in the peas and parmesan cheese, and stir for another minute or so.
- Garnish with some more parmesan, and serve immediately.