AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The pace of the holiday season seems to pick up speed with each passing year. Often a holiday meal is the hardest thing to make time for. Save time during the holidays by using a pressure cooker to prepare meals.
Before pulling out the pressure cooker, take time to brush up on the pressure-cooking do’s and don’ts. Janice Hall, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Macon County coordinator, says the most important part of cooking with any pressure cooker is to follow directions.
Pressure Cooker XL, Ninja Foodi and Instant Pots are a few of the big brand names for pressure cookers. No matter the brand name, reading the manual to learn how to use it properly is essential. For any make or model, Hall shares these basic precautions:
- Make sure all vents and valves are clean before and after use.
- Never use less than the recommended amount of liquid the recipe requires.
- Do not exceed the two-thirds-full level. The inner pot will have a maximum fill line.
- Always use a recipe and double check cooking times.
- Ensure the rubber gasket is in place before cooking.
- Use the natural release and/or the quick release method as directed by the recipe.
- Always be sure the pressure has dropped before opening the lid.
As with any cooking utensil, Hall recommends making sure the pot is thoroughly clean before using. Make sure to remove the inner pots from the pressure cooker before cleaning.
“Most inner pots can be safely cleaned in a dishwasher,” Hall said. “However, some should be hand washed with soap and water.”
Let’s Get Cookin’
A pressure cooker can often be intimidating to first-time users. Don’t fret; there is little the pressure cooker can’t cook. Unlike a slow cooker, it is okay to cook meat from frozen with a pressure cooker.
Hall said she often cooks from frozen when there isn’t time to plan ahead. However, she recommends adding an extra five minutes per pound of meat when cooking from frozen.
“Pressure cookers cut the traditional cooking time down by one-third,” Hall said. “It truly is fast cooking.”
Because of its rapid cooking, the pressure cooker retains the nutrients and colors of vegetables. This is another reason pressure cookers are often preferred over a slow cooker. Virtually, there is nothing the pressure cooker can’t cook. However, Hall recommends observing the size or thickness of foods before cooking.
“Thicker consistency foods, such as think soups, tend to scorch in a pressure cooker. That’s why it is important to use a recipe that is tried and true for that pressure cooker,” Hall said.
The following are some of Hall’s favorite dishes to prepare in a pressure cooker:
- Tender Ribs (25 minutes)
- Cheesecake (five minutes)
- Lima beans (four minutes)
- Peas (four minutes)
- Greens (three minutes)
- Chicken and rice (times varying between 15-20 minutes)
- Rice (four minutes)
- Boiled eggs (four minutes)
- Buffalo wings from frozen (10 minutes), then air fried 30 minutes or until desired crispiness and sauced
- Beef and rice (times varying between 15-20 minutes)
- Italian soup and Venison Italian Soup (eight minutes)
- Venison BBQ (50 minutes for a three-pound marinated roast)
- Boiled peanuts (one hour)
- Last but not least… Thanksgiving turkey (50 minutes)
Note. These times do not include the time required to build pressure and may vary by cooker model.
“Sometimes it may take up to seven minutes to build pressure then the dish will cook for the recommended time,” Hall said.
Depending on the recipe, it may call for a quick pressure release or a natural release. For a quick release, release the pressure immediately to prevent overcooking. For a natural release, allow the pressure to cool down and release naturally. The cooker will default to the warm setting during this natural release process.
Do Not Leave Unattended
A common misconception is that pressure cookers are safe to turn on and leave unattended throughout the day.
Hall strongly believes in monitoring all electronic devices while in use for the possibility of unforeseen circumstances. As always, follow the manufacturer’s pressure cooker directions while in use. However, if a pressure cooker is left on and all setting are operating properly, most devices are programmed to default to a warm setting once cooking is complete. This allows the cooker to stop pressuring and keep food warm until it is time to eat.
With the proper care and instructions, a delicious holiday meal for the whole family can be prepared within minutes. For more information about pressure cooker or food safety, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.