AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—For many busy moms and dads, supper time is a last-minute dash to whip up whatever is in the pantry for the nighttime meal. With hundreds of things to grab and hold attention throughout the day, dinner is sometimes an afterthought. Using pressure cookers can be a great way to save time when preparing meals.
Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension food safety and quality regional agent, said there are different ways to pressure cook. However, the device used to pressure cook is a matter of personal preference.
Benefits of Pressure Cooking
According to Hall, there are many benefits to pressure cooking.
“One of the biggest benefits of pressure cooking is how simple it is,” she said. “Cheesecake is one of my favorite things to make in the pressure cooker, but I have also made field peas, lima beans, boiled peanuts, greens, ribs, chicken, soups and wild game.”
Aside from ease, Hall said there are other benefits.
Cuts Cooking Time. While traditional cooking methods may take hours to complete, using a pressure cooker cuts cooking time by about one-third.
Saves Energy. While it may take 2 ½ hours to slow cook ribs in the oven, a pressure cooker may take 15-20 minutes, yielding the same results: tender meat. People should adjust the cook time based on how many pounds of meat they are cooking.
Hall said her general rule is 10-15 minutes at 12-15 pounds of pressure for each pound of meat. The most important concept to remember is to follow the pressure cooking recipe, as these will vary depending on the type of meat being cooked.
Retains Vital Nutrients and Vitamins. A shorter cook time helps preserve these important aspects of a healthy meal.
Retains Food’s Natural Color. When vegetables and other foods are cooked for long periods of time, the color will often fade. A shorter cook time helps food keep natural color.
Requires Less Fat, Salt and Sugar. When pressure cooking, Hall said the small enclosed pressure cooker infuses the natural flavors, resulting in a richer, more vibrant taste.
Instant Pot is a Pressure Cooker
Today, the Instant Pot is a popular form of pressure cooker. Hall said there are many things traditional pressure cookers and the Instant Pot have in common, but the Instant Pot has some additional features that traditional cookers do not. When it comes down to it, the product choice comes down to user preference.
Safety is Important
When using pressure cookers, safety is of the utmost importance.
“Pressure cookers are a great option for making a delicious, home-cooked meal in a short amount of time,” Hall said. “I would caution all electric pressure cooker users to remember the importance of safety.”
Hall offers the following tips to remember.
- Be sure parts are working and intact.
- Be sure vents are clean, not clogged.
- Follow the recipes. Some recipes are for quick release and others for natural release. Quick release methods decrease pressure quickly. Natural release methods are still being pressurized as they depressurize. Look closely at the recipe and directions.
- Pay attention to cook time. If a recipe says cook time is five minutes, the start-to-finish time is not five minutes. Allow pressure to stabilize, cook for five minutes at the required pressure, then depressurize.
Hall said an electric pressure cooker is one you can set and forget.
“Electric cookers are simpler in that respect because you have to closely monitor a stovetop pressure cooker,” she said. “However, the results are the same.”
One of the most important things to remember is the different between pressure cookers and pressure canners.
“While you can use your pressure canner to pressure cook, you cannot use your pressure cooker to pressure can,” Hall said. “It is not recommended.”
She said the canning feature on electrical pressure cookers is not for pressure canning. Instead, it is for food that would traditionally be canned using water bath canning methods—such as jams and jellies.
“This is a common misconception,” Hall said. “For example, many think green beans can be water bath canned. They cannot, they must be pressure canned. Canners must follow canning recipes.”