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Pressure Cookers, Part 1

Pressure Cookers at CHEFS Mix
January 14, 2013

We have all heard horror stories about pressure cookers: stories of pressure cookers blowing up or the contents blowing from the pressure valve and coating the ceiling with Aunt Sally’s Swiss Steak and Gravy. Most of these stories are the sad result of cheap and substandard products. Happily, modern pressure cookers have incorporated a number of safety features and technology to make them completely safe and easy to use.

I reached out to the manufacturers of the pressure cookers that you will find on the CHEFS Catalog web site. Since they are the experts, I asked them for information about pressure cookers. Today and the next two days, we will talk about pressure cookers and explore some of the delicious recipes that can be prepared in a short period of time in the pressure cooker.

Special Thanks: Thank you to Cuisinart (history & recipes), Fagor (technical information & video), and Deni (cooking times & recipes) for helping with these posts and the delicious recipes.

History
Home pressure cooking, however, took a major step forward in 1938 when German Alfred Vischler introduced his “Flex-Seal Speed Cooker,” the first “saucepan-style” pressure cooker, at a New York City Trade Show. Although Vischler’s idea was on target, the product that caught the attention of homemakers was the “Presto”pressure cooker, unveiled at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Women were thrilled with this modern saucepan-style pressure cooker because it featured an easy-to-close interlocking cover, eliminating the need for awkward lug nuts and clamps. In the United States, “Presto” soon became the name synonymous with pressure cooking. The depression was over and stores could not keep up with the demand for them. By the end of 1941, pressure cookers ranked among the largest producers of housewares dollar volume in leading stores throughout the country. At that time, there were 11 companies manufacturing pressure cookers.

Then, Pearl Harbor was bombed. World War II brought a temporary end to the manufacture of pressure cookers because aluminum was needed for the war effort. Food and fuel were being rationed along with many other necessities. The War Production Board made steel available for use in manufacturing Pressure Canners for the important victory garden and canning programs. Women were marching off to work in the defense plants and the pressure cooker was gaining more recognition because it made meal planning much easier. Sadly, there weren’t enough pressure cookers to go around, so neighbors and friends began sharing their cookers to get by until the war was over. The pent up demand for pressure cookers was tremendous at the close of the war. Up to 50 or more new manufacturers were trying to cash in on this cooking sensation, many were producing cheap, substandard cookers and selling them to unsuspecting consumers.

In the 50s, the pressure cooker business moved forward with the introduction of stamped aluminum models for the budget minded homemaker and technological advances in the fabrication of stainless steel brought new lines of beautiful, long lasting stainless steel pressure cookers. But, by the late 50s, the bottom began to fall out of the pressure cooker business. The new manufacturers that emerged into this industry with inferior products and consumers that were using the cooker improperly were hurting the pressure cooker’s reputation, and its popularity began to wane.

The 60s and 70s produced a multitude of new “fast food” cooking inventions, yet cooking a quick and healthy “real meal” remained elusive. While all this change was happening, only the reputable pressure cooker companies remained in business, continuing to improve their products and selling to faithful pressure cooker customers who had long understood the benefits of pressure cooking. In the mid 70s, pressure cookers took a key step forward with the development of additional safety features and new contemporary styling. An interlocking cover, that prevented the cooker from being opened unless pressure was safely reduced, and the addition of secondary overpressure devices eased the consumer’s resistance to pressure cooking. As the 80s progressed, cookbooks with new, modern recipes were being developed and pressure cookers, once again, were beginning to entice the interest of new consumers in the marketplace.

The pressure cooker never lost favor in Europe or Asia. So, in the 90s, when the world market opened up, foreign manufacturers came roaring into the United States with many new styles and features, many in the “luxury model” category. The U.S. standard, however, continues to be the weighted valve regulator (or jiggle top). Virtually all of the products on the market today adhere to the basic safety and cooking fundamentals of pressure cooking established by independent testing organizations. In the United States, the pressure cooker’s popularity continues to quietly resurface because, no matter what style you choose, it is still the best choice for providing quick, healthy “real meals,” and so much more.

Modern Pressure Cookers
Modern pressure cookers feature multiple safety valves that allow any excess pressure to escape. Additionally, most models feature a locking lid that cannot be opened under pressure. The locking lid will also prevent the cooker from building pressure if it isn’t properly closed.

Benefits of the Pressure Cooker

  • Energy Efficient: When cooking with a pressure cooker, cooking time is reduced up to 70%.
  • Healthy Cooking: Because foods are cooked under pressure for a shorter time, up to 50% more vitamins and minerals are retained in the food
  • Versatile: All types of food can be cooked in a pressure cooker—vegetables, rice, stews, soups, chicken, fish, meats and desserts

Cooking with the Pressure Cooker
Getting your pressure cooker ready to go, is really a 5 step process. And most recipes will follow the same process:

  • Prep—For even cooking, cut ingredients into similar size pieces. Because a pressure cooker needs space for steam to be created and room for the pressure to build, never fill your cooker more than 2/3 full. Never pack solid foods into the cooker, as it would defeat the purpose of fast cooking.
  • Brown—Because of quick times, flavors do not have a lot of time to meld and build. Brown meats to help build flavors and give color.
  • Add liquid—You won’t need as much liquid. Unlike cooking on a stove or slow cooker, liquids do not have an opportunity to evaporate.  Typically, you will only need 1/2 to 1/3 of the liquid you would typically need.
  • Cook—Once everything is in the pot, turn on the heat. Most recipes will be done in at least half the usual cooking time.
  • Release—Most modern pressure cookers have multiple ways to release the pressure, either by letting the pot stand or releasing a pressure valve. Just make sure you aren’t standing over the release valve, it will be very hot.


Now you are ready to cook with the pressure cooker. Modern cookers are nothing to fear. And if you are using a rice cooker, you are already using a type of pressure cooker. Tomorrow we will look at converting recipes and cooking times. Now for a few recipes to start the cooking process.

Veal Shanks with Mushrooms & Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pressure Cooker

Printer-Friendly Recipe
Makes 6 servings
Ingredients
1⁄2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
6 meaty veal shanks, about 10 to 12 ounces each, cross-cut about 1-1⁄4 to 1-1⁄2-inches thick, tied with butcher’s twine*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1⁄2 cup chopped shallot
1⁄2 cup chopped carrot
1⁄4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1⁄2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1⁄2 cup sun-dried tomato halves (dry, not oil packed)
1⁄3 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock

Directions
In a bowl, combine flour with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the pepper. Dust veal shanks with seasoned flour, shaking off excess.

Select the browning setting and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the cooking pot of the Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. When the oil is hot, add of the veal shanks to the pot and brown well on each side, about  5 minutes per side. Remove browned shanks to a platter and continue until all are browned.

Add the remaining olive oil to the cooking pot and when hot, add the mushrooms. Cook for several minutes until nicely browned. Turn off. Select Sauté setting, and add the shallot, carrot, celery and herbes de Provence. Cook for  6 to 8 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add wine and allow it reduce by half. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and chicken stock. Remove about two thirds of the vegetable mixture from the cooking pot and reserve.

Layer browned veal shanks in the cooking pot. Spoon the reserved vegetables over veal and add any juices that may have accumulated on the platter. Cover and lock lid in place. Select High Pressure and set timer for 5 minutes. When audible beep sounds, use Natural Pressure Release for 15 minutes, and then use Quick Pressure Release to complete. When float valve drops, turn off. Remove lid, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse.

Remove veal shanks and place on a serving platter. Cover loosely with foil. Season sauce with remaining salt and pepper. Select Simmer and cook the sauce for an additional 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Spoon sauce over veal to serve.

Note: *Tie the shanks using butcher’s twine to hold the veal in shape during cooking by tying each shank around its circumference. Remove string before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Cuisinart, Reprinted with permission.

Favorite Pot Roast, Pressure Cooker

Printer-Friendly Recipe
Serves: 6-8 |Pep Time: 20 minutes |Cooking Time: 60 minutes under pressure
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons pepper
3-4 pounds boneless, trimmed chuck
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1-1/2 cups fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped bay leaf
1-1/2 cups beef broth or red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper.  Rub all over the roast.

Heat olive oil in the pressure cooker using the BROWN setting.  Add the roast and brown 2 to 3 minutes on all sides.  Remove from pot and reserve and juices that come out.

Add onions to pressure cooker pot and brown for 1 minute.  Add bay leaf or rosemary and beef broth.  Return chuck and any juices to the pot.  Cover and set to high pressure for 60 minutes.

Release the pressure using the quick-release method.  Unlock and remove lid.  Test the roast with a fork. The fork should go through easily.  If not to desired doneness, cover and cook under pressure for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the roast.  Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

If the gravy isn't thick enough, bring to a boil, and simmer to desired thickness.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove and discard bay leaf. 

Slice the roast against the grain and serve with gravy.
Recipe courtesy of Deni, Reprinted with permission.

Pasta e Fagioli, Pressure Cooker

Printer-Friendly Recipe
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
11⁄2 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced (1⁄2-inch) carrot
1⁄2 cup sliced celery
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons Italian herb blend, divided
6 cups water
1 pound dry cannellini or white beans, rinsed and picked over
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth/stock
2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
11⁄2 cups tubetti, small macaroni, or small shell pasta
chopped fresh parsley
freshly grated, shaved or shredded Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

Directions:
Select Sauté and add oil to the cooking pot of the Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. Heat oil for 3 to 4 minutes. When oil is hot, add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the Italian herb blend. Sauté, stirring for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the water, dried beans, and bay leaf. Cover and lock lid in place. Select High Pressure and set timer for 35 minutes. When audible beep sounds, allow pressure to release naturally, about 20 minutes.

When float valve drops, turn off. Remove lid, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse. Stir in broth/stock, tomatoes and their juices, salt, and the remaining teaspoon of Italian herb blend. Select Brown. When liquids reach boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente. Turn pressure cooker to Keep Warm setting to hold soup until ready to serve. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

Serve in warmed bowls garnished with freshly chopped parsley and grated, shaved or shredded cheese.
Recipe courtesy of Cuisinart, Reprinted with permission.

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice) , Pressure Cooker

Printer-Friendly Recipe
Servings: 8-10 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cooking Time: 10 minutes under pressure
Ingredients:
salt and pepper
2, 4 lb|chickens, cut into eight pieces, with the skin removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 oz chorizo sausage
1/2 cup white wine
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped coarsely
2-1/2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
1-1/2 cup frozen peas
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Liberally salt and pepper the chicken. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pressure cooker, using the BROWN setting. In batches, brown the chicken. Set aside. Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute. Add the browned chicken to the pressure cooker. Pour in the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Remove contents with all juices and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoons of olive oil in the pressure cooker. Add onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Heat until the onion is soft. Add tomato and rice and cook for 1 minute. Add peas, stock, salt, chicken, and chorizo, with all juices. Mix well. Cover and set to high pressure. Cook for 10 minutes.

Release the pressure using the quick-release method. Remove lid. Fluff rice and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Deni, Reprinted with permission.

Cuban Black Bean Soup, Pressure Cooker

Printer-Friendly Recipe
Makes about 10 cups
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces smoked spicy chicken, turkey, or pork sausage
1-1⁄2 cups chopped onion
1-1⁄4 cups chopped red bell pepper, divided
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon coriander
6 cups water
1 pound dry black beans, picked over, rinsed and drained
1 ham hock (about 1 pound) or smoked turkey wing
1 bay leaf
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
1⁄3 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions:
Add oil to the cooking pot of the Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. Select Browning and let oil heat for 3 to 4 minutes. When oil is hot, cook the sausages until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn off. Remove, slice into 1⁄2-inch pieces and set aside until ready to use.

Select Sauté, add chopped onions, 3⁄4 cup of the chopped red bell pepper, garlic, oregano, cumin, and coriander. Sauté, stirring until onions are translucent and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the water, black beans, ham hock, and bay leaf. Cover and lock lid in place. Select High Pressure, and set timer for 30 minutes. When audible beep sounds, allow pressure to release naturally, about 20 minutes.  When float valve drops, turn off. Remove lid, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse.

Select Simmer. Remove ham hock and bay leaf; discard bay leaf. Use a Cuisinart hand blender (unplug pressure cooker first and use blender carefully to avoid scratching nonstick cooking pot) or potato masher to smash beans to desired texture. Slice reserved sausage and add to soup. When hock is cool enough to handle, remove meat from ham hock and shred, adding shredded meat to soup; discard bone and fat. Add cayenne, sherry, vinegar, and salt, simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Turn to Keep Warm to hold soup until ready to serve.

Serve in warmed bowls as desired with freshly chopped parsley, sour cream and diced avocado. Soup may also be served with a scoop of cooked rice.
Recipe courtesy of Cuisinart, Reprinted with permission.

Bar-B-Q Beef, Pressure Cooker

Printer-Friendly Recipe
Servings: 8-10 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 60 minutes under pressure
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6-7lb boneless, rump roast or trimmed chuck
2 cups onion, sliced
2 cups celery, finely chopped
2 cups prepared barbecue sauce
2 bay leaves
dash of Tabasco, or to taste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can (12 oz) beer
1 teaspoons chili powder

Directions:
Heat oil in the pressure cooker using the BROWN setting. Add the roast and evenly brown all sides. Add onions and celery and cook for 1 minute. Take out the roast. Put in the barbecue sauce, beer, and chili powder. Mix well. Place the roast back in the pressure cooker. Cover and set to high pressure. Cook for 60 minutes.

Release the pressure using the quick-release method. When the pressure has dropped, unlock and remove cover. Test the roast for tenderness with a fork. If not tender, cover and cook under pressure for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the roast and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Slice thin against the grain. Serve with barbecue sauce.

Recipe courtesy of Deni, Reprinted with permission.

Pressure Cooking tips and hints. See more blogs on pressure cooking, right here at CHEFS Mix.

1 Comment

  • Kathy Houle Anderson

    Love my Fagor Duo, so many possibilities and with the extra lid the pots can be used as a conventional pot! If you need more reasons to purchase come to the Pressure Cooking class at Chefs Catalog Retail Store, 8 April.

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Tags: Pressure Cooker, Soups, Roast

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