Contributed By Mary Leigh Oliver
After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, many people do not want to spend a lot of time preparing labor-intensive meals. Pressure cookers are a great way to speed up the process, saving time and energy. However, before pulling out the pressure cooker, take time to brush up on pressure cooking dos and don’ts.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional food safety and quality agent Janice Hall said the most important part of cooking with any pressure cooker is following directions.
Instant Pots, Ninja Foodi and Pressure Cooker XL are all big brand names for pressure cookers. No matter the pressure cooker brand name, it is essential for cooks to first read the manual to learn how to use it properly. For any model, Hall shares a few 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.
Also, as with almost any cooking device or utensil, Hall recommends making sure the pot is thoroughly clean before using. Inner pots should be removed from the pressure cooker before cleaning. Most inner pots can be safely cleaned in a dishwasher; however, some should be hand washed with soap and water.
It’s Cooking Time
While many are familiar with the simplicity of a slow cooker, a pressure cooker is a more intensive cooking process. Unlike a slow cooker, it is okay to cook meat from frozen with a pressure cooker.
Hall said she often cooks from frozen when she isn’t able to plan ahead but recommends adding an extra five minutes per pound of meat when frozen.
“Pressure cookers cut the traditional cooking time down by one-third,” Hall said. “It truly is fast cooking.”
Repid cooking retains nutrients and colors of vegetables. This is another reason pressure cookers are often preferred over slow cookers.
Similar to a slow cooker, the question remains: is there anything that shouldn’t be prepared in a pressure cooker? Hall recommends observing the size or thickness of foods before cooking. She said thicker consistency foods tend to scorch in a pressure cooker.
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)
These times do not include the time it takes 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.
A recipe 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.
Watch The Pot? Or Not?
A common belief with pressure cookers is that they 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, in the event that a pressure cooker is left on and all settings 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.
After filling up on a delicious, pressure-cooked feast, it is important to properly store the leftovers. It is crucial to let the food cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. Hall suggests dividing food into smaller portions, using stainless steel containers and placing the containers in an ice water bath. This will exponentially speed up the cooling process to begin storing. Stir the food frequently while it is in the ice bath to distribute the cold temperatures. As an alternative, simply add ice as an ingredient to the leftovers to cool them down.
Don’t waste time slaving away in the kitchen. With proper care and instructions, people can prepare a safe and quick meal for the whole family within minutes. For more information on pressure cookers and food safety tips, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.