The pressure cooker: A once-common kitchen tool in the 1940s that conjures images of scalding ingredients blasting onto the ceiling. Everyone’s grandmother had one, and it seemed like everyone was afraid of it.
The scary days of the pressure cooker are long gone and today’s versions have been updated and refined. Lids now securely lock in place, and other safety mechanisms have been added to prevent any potential kitchen catastrophes. Not only is this method of cooking safe, but it is also quick and can turn less-expensive ingredients into meals that taste great and are nutritious.
How Do Pressure Cookers Work?
Pressure cookers typically come as pots with locking lids. Ingredients are loaded into the pot, the lid is locked into place and the pot is placed over high heat. As the liquid inside begins to boil, it produces steam that builds up and creates pressure. This pressure, measured in pounds per square inch (or psi), increases the boiling point of water from 212 degrees to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this high temperature, food cooks in about one-third of the time required with conventional cooking.
Are They Safe?
Almost all modern models of pressure cookers have built-in features to protect against accidents. These include valves and vents that release steam as too much pressure builds. Adding to the safety, the new generation of pressure cookers also has easy-to-read pressure gauges and virtually foolproof locking mechanisms.
What Can I Cook?
Pressure cooking can help manage rising food costs by turning foods that require longer preparation times—dried legumes and grains, cheaper cuts of meats, and collard greens and chards—into quick and easy meal options. A pressure cooker can be used for everything from tougher meats to rich, flavorful sauces. Soups and stews are a natural fit for this type of cooking. Dried beans and whole grains—which can require overnight soaking and hours of cooking—also work really well.
Are There Any Nutrition Benefits?
The pressure cooker can be an incredibly nutritious method of cooking. Because of its tight-sealing lid, nutrients are trapped inside the cooker within the liquid. This makes the liquid a source of nutrition that may have otherwise been lost with other cooking methods. Also, unlike other high-heat, quick-cooking techniques such as grilling, pressure cooking does not produce carcinogenic compounds.