Dinner doesn’t have to take hours to taste like it did. For me at this time of year, pressure cooking is the best way I can get those braised, slow-cooked flavors I’m craving, without having to spend all damn day in the kitchen. Here are my 5 tips to blow your mind about pressure cooking, without blowing up your kitchen.
#1 Always cook with liquid. Always.
The whole concept of pressure cookers is simple. Water boils at 212 degrees F. Once it does, it produces steam. Steam is hotter than boiling water and can reach approximately 250 degrees F. Trapped, hot steam builds and builds, making food cook at least 25% more quickly. If you are adapting a recipe for a pressure cooker, remember that you will have less evaporation and should generally use less cooking liquid. You should use at least 1 cup of cooking liquid, but always double check your owner’s manual.
#2 Do not over fill.
Pack your pressure cooker with too much food and it won’t cook properly. The entire cooking process is based on building enough steam pressure to pulverize the ingredients inside, thus speeding up the cooking time and breaking down the fibers very quickly. That’s science. Don’t mess with science. Overstuffing can cause liquid to spill out the pressure valve and create less than desirable cooking results that may or may not be fixable. As a general rule of thumb never fill your pressure cooker more than 2/3rds full.
#3 Don’t just be Pro-tein. Be Pro-flavor!
Pressure cooking is a great way to whip up a roast on a weeknight, and it’s commonly used to speed up the protein course. But think outside the box and save time everywhere. I love to use my pressure cooker to make dulce de leche, cook grains or beans in 20 minutes (with no overnight soaking required, because who remembers to do that?) and make mashed potatoes.
#4 Brown it.
This isn’t amateur hour; it’s dinner time. You’re already taking a shortcut by pressure cooking, so don’t blow your cover by serving up sad, plainly boiled meat and veggies. Lock in the flavor (and earn presentation points) by doing a quick sear or sauté. Caramelization is always your friend.
#5 It’s all about the release.
So you’ve turned off the heat, but now what? Well, your food is still cooking even though the machine is not technically “cooking.” For foods such as meats, legumes, and desserts a more natural release is preferred (10-20 minutes). It brings down the temperature to a slothy simmer and keeps the flavor in. Veggies, on the other hand, could turn to mush with a natural release. Choose the fast release option (or as I like to call it, Old Faithful! Whoo-hoo!) to stunt the cooking and keep your vegetables al dente. This is why I happen to love the Breville Fast Slow Pro Pressure Cooker because it lets you automatically set the pressure release to prevent over cooking.
So that’s what I know about pressure cooking. How do you use your pressure cooker? If you don’t own one, why don’t you?? (If you’d like to get one, you can find ours here.)