Fast Real CookingPosted: August 2, 2013
Long before the microwave oven became the fastest way to cook anything, well really only the fastest way to cook small things, there existed the miracle invention the Pressure Cooker. You may have seen this big pot with a locking lid in your grandmother’s kitchen and just passed it by as some old fashioned gadget. Unlike a butter churn whose time has passed the pressure cooker is still as valuable today in a modern kitchen. If you don’t own one and passed up inheriting one from your maiden Aunt you have missed a big boat in the world of fast cooking.
A pressure cooker uses a method of cooking any food in a liquid, which gets super heated by being trapped in the air-tight pot thus steaming the food and tenderizing at the same time.
I have to make a chicken tetrazzini for a church supper. The recipe calls for six cups of cooked chicken. I just threw a whole chicken, you know what that is I hope, the cheapest way to buy a chicken, in the pressure cooker with some water and salt and pepper. I locked the lid on the pot and set it on the burner. After about five minutes on high heat the steam release value began to hiss indicating to me that I needed to turn the heat down to medium for the duration of my cooking. A whole chicken only takes eight minutes per pound. That is less than half an hour. If I were going to boil it or roast it in the oven and dry it out at the same time it would take at least an hour and a half.
Pressure-cooking is by far the fastest and most energy efficient way to cook a whole chicken and when it is done it will be more moist and juicy than any other way to cook it. A pressure cooker is great for things like artichokes, which take a crazy long time to steam or boil in a regular pot and even after an hour of simmering are often still tough.
If you have a poor cut of meat a pressure cooker will cook that baby until it is fork tender and you did not have to baste, braise or babysit that meat at all. The most important element in using a pressure cooker is the liquid. It does not have to be water, but could be broth, sauce, wine or any old liquid; it just needs to be something that has enough water or water-like content so it can release steam.
Things like vegetables and rice are done in a record time. There are a few drawbacks to using a pressure cooker; you can’t add anything to the pot once it has started cooking. The reason the top locks on top is to keep the steam in and the food from being blown out of the pot. Once it has finished cooking you need to release the steam and when the pressure inside the pot has dropped enough you will be able to unlock the top. That means no tasting along the way.
If you have a pressure cooker please send me your favorite recipe for using it. If you don’t you can borrow mine. If you ever wonder why your grandmother’s chicken salad tasted so much better than your, she might have used a pressure cooker to cook the chicken. You need to try it yourself.