What is Pressure Cooking?
Pressure cooking continues to be one of the easiest, quickest, and most effective methods. This type of cooking has been around for generations, and has maintained its popularity in kitchens across the world. Essentially, pressure cooking relies on what its name entails: pressure. It is a culinary process that was invented by Denis Papin, a Frenchman who sought to combine what he knew about the science of pressure and cooking. He thought that combining steam pressure from his heavy lidded pot could reduce the amount of time it took him to cook something. After years of trying to make the pot and valve combo safe for use, pressure cooking was introduced to the world. From start to finish, pressure cooking is a simple way to prepare food in a delicious and easy method.
The process: To start the process, a small pot with a seal is filled with either water or broth to flavor the dish. Real pressure cookers have a valve-type handle on the top, which allows the steam either to stay in the pot or escape depending on the position of the valve. It is important that the valve be placed in the closed position when the cooking begins. Before closing the lid, food is put in the pot with the water or the broth, and then it is sealed tight. When the liquid is brought to a boil, an intense amount of steam is created, and therefore causes a buildup of pressure. The food on the inside cooks quickly, since the time that it normally takes the liquid to boil is actually cut in half thanks to the steam pressure.
Pressure cooking is different from steam cooking, however, due to the fact that steaming does not offer the high-intensity pressure that is created only when the pot is sealed air-tight and the steam from the liquid is allowed to rise, but to not escape. One surprising result of pressure cooking is that the food can actually caramelize and take on the appearance of having been seared, which gives a profound flavor to the ingredients that are being prepared.
Pressure Cooker Benefits
One method of cooking that has always provided inherent benefits is pressure cooking. Designed centuries ago to combine steam pressure and cooking, this mode of preparation cuts average cooking time in half. It relies on the steam pressure created from sealing boiling water in a pot with its contents, cooking all of the ingredients on the inside. A fundamental benefit to pressure cooking is the time it saves from start to finish. Due to the fact that the temperature inside the pot is so high, the food cooks in nearly half the time, yet does not sacrifice any taste or flavor. Not only does it save people time, pressure cooking also saves them money. With the decreased use of the stove, people have reported a dip in their energy bills thanks to this quick one-pot cooking method.
The flavor of food is also exquisitely preserved in pressure cooking. While cooking food in a conventional way can have the flavor either evaporate with the steam or remain in bits at the bottom of a pan, the flavor of pressure cooked food stays within the pot at all times. This delivers a robust burst of flavor that otherwise would have been lost. One rule of thumb to preserving the scrumptious tastes of meat, for example, is to cook it in oil, remove to a plate, and then pressure cook it again with broth to conserve all of the flavors.
Pressure cooked meals are also extremely healthy, seeing as water and steam heat is really all that is needed to cook the food through and through. No fattening oils and deep-frying are needed to create well-rounded family favorites. Vegetables and other vitamin-rich foods also maintain their highest level of nutritional value. The longer vegetables cook, the more nutrients they lose; therefore the pressure cooker allows them to stay as vitamin-packed as possible. The cleanup is another attraction to the pressure cooker; since the meals are normally prepared only in the cooker, there is just one pot left to clean when dinner is through.
Pressure Cooker 101
The pressure cooker is a stainless steel or heavy-duty aluminum cook pot with a lid fitted with a rubber gasket that can be locked closed. The sealed pressure cooker, when placed over a heat source, builds up pressure as the liquid inside boils and converts to steam. As the pressure builds, the pot expands slightly, causing the rubber gasket to create an airtight seal, keeping any steam from escaping and allowing the pressure and heat to continue to build in the pot.
This method of cooking with moist heat within a pressurized environment has a lot of pluses. Nutrients are conserved because of the closed environment. Flavors are more concentrated for the same reason. The significantly reduced cook times make the pressure cooker a much more energy-efficient way to prepare food. Cooking under pressure requires less fat and salt compared to other cooking methods, making it a more health-conscious way to prepare food.
Long-cooking dishes like stews and braises, soups, and stocks, and ingredients like dried beans and lentils, grains, and firm vegetables like potatoes and winter squash work particularly well in the pressure cooker, yielding deliciously tender results. Artichokes and risotto come out perfect.
WHAT A PRESSURE COOKER DOES
WHAT A PRESSURE COOKER DOES NOT
- Sauté (except as a preliminary step with the lid off)
THE IMPORTANCE OF PSI
The pressure in the pot is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch. At a PSI of 13 to 15, the temperature in the pot will exceed the boiling point of water (212° F) and can go as high as 250° F. It is this super-heated, pressurized environment that allows the food inside to cook at an incredibly rapid rate, in half or even a third of the time compared to other methods. For a stovetop pressure cooker, HIGH pressure is 15 PSI, MEDIUM pressure is 9 PSI. For the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, HIGH pressure is 10.2 to 11.6 PSI, and other models can max out at 8 PSI; LOW pressure for electrics is 5 to 7.2 PSI.
CHOOSING A PRESSURE COOKER
Whether you are buying a pressure cooker for the first time or replacing an older cooker, here are some tips on choosing a cooker that will work for you and your family.
One of your first decisions will be how large a cooker you want, which will depend on how many people you cook for, what type of foods you prepare most, and if you want leftovers. The most popular stovetop pressure cooker sizes are 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, and 8-quart liquid capacities. Electric pressure cookers are usually 6 or 8 quart. Here is a general rundown:
- 4- to 5-quart: The size to prepare a whole meal for a one- or two-person household or to make one side dish for a family, such as potatoes. Any pressure cooker that holds less than 5 quarts will not be big enough to cook a meal for an average size family, or soups, dried beans, or large foods like a roast or turkey breast. This size is nice to have as a second auxiliary pressure cooker.
- 6-quart: This is the most popular size for families of two to six or if you want leftovers. It can accommodate most foods and our pressure cooker recipes, and most books and recipes on the internet, are developed for a 6-quart pressure cooker. Pressure cooker accessories, like the trivet and steamer basket, are designed for this size cooker.
- 8-quart: This size is perfect for families four to eight and if you regularly make stock in large quantity or cook whole roasts or chickens, turkey breasts, ribs, and/or brisket. If you are cooking for a small family, you still might prefer this size for leftovers.
- 12- to 16-quart and larger: These are designed for pressure canning low-acid foods (like tuna or vegetables) or preparing food for a very large group.
Construction and Type of Cooktop You Have
Economy is a big decision here. Aluminum is lightweight and inexpensive. It is a great heat conductor. The drawback is that acid foods, like tomato sauce and vinegar, will pit the pot over time. Also, some cooks have issues about cooking in aluminum and aluminum cookware cannot be used on certain stovetops, like an induction stovetop. (For more information on pressure cookers and different types of cooktops, see pages 8–9.)
Stainless steel is slightly heavier in weight and thickness than aluminum, more expensive, and more durable. If you can afford it, go for 18/10 stainless steel with a three-ply layered bottom of aluminum or copper sandwiched in stainless steel; this will keep the heat even and improve the overall performance (i.e., no sticking or scorching as it comes up to pressure on high heat).
Indian-manufactured stovetop pressure cookers, made of aluminum or a lighter weight, thinner gauge stainless steel, are a good choice for shoppers on a budget.
Pressure Cook Rate (PSI)
Stovetop pressure cookers all can cook at HIGH pressure or 15 PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) but some brands/models of electric pressure cookers cook at a lower PSI, so be sure to check. If you have a cooker that cooks at a pressure rate lower than 10 PSI, you will need to adjust the cook times, adding slightly more time unless the recipe indicates the dish should be cooked at pressure lower than HIGH, in which case the cook time would be the same.
Type of Pressure Cooker
Unlike in the early days of the pressure cooker, you have a number of different options when shopping for a pressure cooker.
Jiggle-Top Stovetop Pressure Cooker
This is the kind of pressure cooker many of us grew up with; it is also known as a "first generation" pressure cooker. They are usually manufactured from aluminum. It features a jiggle-top or weighted pressure regulator (and only one level of pressure, HIGH), and functions in much the same way as a piston in a steam engine. When the cooker comes up to pressure, the regulator will rock and emit steam and quite a lot of noise. This type of cooker is still being made by U.S. manufacturers Presto and Mirro, and for many cooks, it's the pressure cooker they prefer—Julie swears by her Presto jiggle-top pressure cooker.
Spring-Valve Stovetop Pressure Cooker
This type (also known as a "second generation" pressure cooker) operates with a spring-loaded valve (called the stationary pressure regulator) instead of the weighted-top/jiggle-top pressure regulator. Depending on the manufacturer, it may or may not emit steam while under pressure, except as part of a safety override feature. These cookers usually allow for two different pressure settings, which are indicated on the pressure regulator. They are manufactured from heavy-gauge stainless steel with a mixed-metal bottom for even heat conduction, which prevents scorching.
Electric (or Automatic) Pressure Cooker
The newest member ("third generation") of the pressure cooker family is the digital electric pressure cooker. It is a plug-in countertop appliance with a precision thermostat and an internal heating element with an automatic pressure controller that maintains the operating pressure. It also includes a spring-loaded rising indicator rod valve with two heat levels. The cutting edge digital technology and microprocessor controls varying heat levels, temperature, pressure, and cook time plus more safety features.
This machine is growing in popularity due to its convenience, ease of use, the excellent quality of the food it produces, and its more affordable price, under $100. Many users say this is the best type of pressure cooker to start with if you are a novice because you don't need to stand by the stove to adjust the burner to regulate pressure or watch the clock. The directions are so easy to follow that you can take it out of the box and start cooking right away.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS WHEN CHOOSING A PRESSURE COOKER
- Handles: Models have either a long regular handle on one side and a smaller handle on the opposite side, or two small handles on opposite sides. You want a handle set-up that is comfortable for you to manipulate the pot when filled with food.
- Warranty: You want at least a 10-year warranty.
- Instruction manual and recipe book: Most quality pressure cookers come with an excellent reference booklet. Read it immediately to familiarize yourself with the features of your PC and keep it as a reference. There are some fantastic recipes in these booklets.
- Storage space: Consider how much room you have available in your cupboard to comfortably store a pressure cooker.
When shopping for an electric pressure cooker, be sure to check on the maximum PSI it can achieve, as they can range from 9 to 15 PSI, depending on the brand and model; some models will allow you to cook at different pressure levels. You'll want to purchase one that can achieve 11.6 to 15 PSI at HIGH pressure for best results. Many have a nonstick coating on the cooking insert, but there are some brands that also offer as an accessory an interchangeable stainless steel pot, as the nonstick coating can be an issue for some cooks. All brands include a built-in timer; some include Function menus, with choices like Rice, Meat, etc., that you can select instead of entering a specific cook time. Some models include Browning, Simmering, and Sauté functions, and others are multi-function—anywhere from 3 to 6—and can be used as a rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, etc., in addition to its use as a pressure cooker.
Electric pressure cookers cook a bit slower than stovetop models as the heating element needs more time to heat up due to the insulation of the pot and depending on how much is in the pot; it usually takes about 15 minutes for it to reach HIGH pressure. This cooker does not do a good job of cooking foods with short cook times, so if you prepare a lot of vegetables and baby food, you'll want a stovetop model instead. Finally, do not set an electric pressure cooker on a counter under kitchen cabinets, as they can be damaged from the release of steam during cooking.
Microwave Pressure Cooker
Also part of the third generation of pressure cookers, the microwave pressure cooker is perfect for a small kitchen, a kitchen without a stove (like during renovations), dorm room, residency hotel room, or the just plain busy cook. It provides all the benefits of an electric or stovetop model, while having a much simpler design than many stovetop models. On the secured lid is a valve that allows excess pressure to escape slowly while cooking (called the Visual Pressure Indicator, or VPI) and a regulator to show if pressure is still built up inside the cooker. When transferring the cooker, always use oven mitts.
Microwave pressure cookers come in graduated sizes from 2/2½-quart to 4½-quart capacity, with a steamer plate/basket and plastic trivet included. Be sure to coordinate the size cooker you want to buy with the size of your microwave oven so that the cooker has plenty of clearance all the way around; it should not touch the walls of the microwave. They are made from BPA-free plastic and cook at 4 to 6 PSI; the combination of the way the microwave cooks food and cooking under pressure allows the microwave pressure cooker to achieve HIGH pressure with a lower PSI than the stovetop and electric models. The cooker does not work with any heat source other than the microwave. Check the wattage of your oven; as in standard microwave recipes, a higher or lower wattage will slightly affect cook times. Check your manufacturer's manual for timing based on the wattage of your microwave. Brands include NordicWare, SilverStone, and Tupperware.
The pressure canner (which is not the same as a water-bath canner) is a big kettle with handles on both sides designed specifically for home food preservation. The lids have a weighted gauge and/or a dial gauge. Precise dial gauges are very important at high altitudes. Sizes run from small batch 10- to 15½-quart pressure canners to large batch 23-quart; they are usually made from aluminum and come with a canning rack. The 23-quart holds 7 quart jars, 20 pint jars, or 24 half-pint jars, and is deep enough that the jars can be stacked. The new pressure canners have triple safety designs and are similar to the electric pressure cooker in their ease of use. A larger and heavier pressure canner is not recommended for use on smooth-top glass/ceramic cooktops, because the excess weight can cause it to crack.
There are two types of canning—boiling water bath and pressure canning. The type you use depends on the food being canned and whether it is considered low or high acid. Canning is not simply placing food in jars and processing it. Pressure canners are required for preserving low-acid foods such as pumpkin puree, garden vegetables, tuna or salmon, wild game, salsa, and sauerkraut. High-acid foods such as jam, tomatoes, fruit, and whole fruit (like peaches) can be done in a water bath canner. The extra-large pot of the pressure canner can also be used as a large-quantity pressure cooker.
Check dial gauges for accuracy before use each year and replace if they read high by more than 12-pound pressure. Gauges may be checked at most county Cooperative Extension offices.
A 10-quart pressure canner (think 4 jars at a time) is the largest pot recommended for a smooth top range as well as gas and electric and can double as the family pressure cooker. Do not use smaller pressure cookers for canning.
If you are looking for the highest recommended brands, Fissler is around the top, which also includes Swiss-made Kuhn Rikon, Spanish Fagor, B/R/K Germany and Fagor and Presto. The top selling brands for electric pressure cookers are Instant Pot (particularly the 6-quart, with its multiple features), Cuisinart, MaxiMatic 8-quart, Secura, and Fagor; other popular brands include Cook's Essentials and the Wolfgang Puck Automatic Rapid Pressure Cooker. Electric pressure cookers are in demand because you can leave them unattended as they cook and because of their ease of use. All stovetop pressure cookers come with a steamer basket, steamer rack, and trivet basket stand, which sits on the bottom of the pot, holding the steamer basket above the water so it will not touch the food. Different brands of electric pressure cookers offer a variety of pot inserts.
SPECIALTY PRESSURE COOKERS
If you are a pressure cooker advocate, you might want to own more than one or two cookers, depending on how much you use them and the types of foods you make.
- GSI Outdoors Halulite Pressure Cooker. This pressure cooker designed for use on a camp stove weighs in at a mere 2 pounds, perfect for backpacking. It is made from anodized aluminum and comes in 2.8- and 5.8-liter sizes.
- Nordic Ware 2.5-Quart Tender Cooker microwave pressure cooker. It looks like Sputnik and is made by the creators of the Bundt pan. Users give it high marks. Great for dorms with only a microwave. Recipe proportions will need to be scaled back appropriately since the cooker is so small.
- Hawkins Contura Pressure Cooker (2-liter), Futura by Hawkins Hard Anodized Pressure Cooker (available in 2- and 3-liter sizes, with a coating like Calphalon), and Prestige Deluxe Stainless Steel Mini Handi Pressure Cooker, in 2- or 3.3-liter sizes. These adorable small pressure cookers have all the safety feature bells and whistles of the bigger cookers. With rounded bodies, they are designed for greater capacity. The Indian-made Futura has a simpler, sleeker design and is very popular. These are the perfect size for making baby food.
- Instant Pot 6-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker. Made in Canada for the American market, Instant Pot boasts third generation technology, putting in one digital pot the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and the capacity to sauté and brown. The three-ply stainless steel inner pot is extremely durable, a plus for cooks who have concerns about using nonstick coatings. They are adding new models every year.
- Granite Ware Anodized Pressure Canner, Cooker & Steamer, 20-quart, F0730-2 is a heavy-duty hard-anodized aluminum cooker, the lightest weight on the market, with a stainless steel lid with multiple functions specifically for pressure cooking, pressure canning, and steaming. It has 3 adjustable pressures, 5 PSI, 10 PSI, and 15 PSI, to use for safe canning at different altitudes with different foods. A steamer insert converts the canner into a high-capacity pressure steamer to steam large amounts of tamales, crabs and lobster, or vegetables. It has the maximum capacity to hold 7 quart-size canning jars, 8 pint jars, or 24½-pint jars and comes with the metal wire jar rack and steamer trivet.
Manufacturer/brand websites are an excellent source for researching different models and getting recipes designed specifically for those brands, though they can be adapted for any pressure cooker. Another site that is very helpful for research is bestpressurecookerreviews.com.
All brands carry 4- to 8-quart or -liter models, but a few, like Manttra and WMF Perfect Plus, have 2-liter models as well. Kuhn Rikon has a 2-liter braising pan with alternate glass lid for traditional cooking. It also fits the airtight lid and is used for risotto and small amounts of steaming. These smaller models are convenient for making baby food or cooking for one. Calphalon offers a 6-quart cooker with handles on both sides for easy lifting. Many manufacturers offer both stovetop and electric models, and aluminum or stainless steel construction for the stovetop models.
The pressure cooker market is global, a sort of culinary alliance of users. Cooks all over the world use pressure cookers with every manner of heat source. So you will find Magefesa from Spain marketed in Guatemala; Sitram Asia is marketing in China; Manttra from India in the U.K., U.S., and Europe; Italy has Lagostina and Aeternum; and the Swiss brand Kuhn Rikon is sold all over the world.
PRESSURE COOKER ACCESSORIES
Your new stovetop pressure cooker will come with a steamer basket, steamer rack, and trivet. If it is an electric model, it will include a stainless steel or nonstick cook pot insert. Other accessories can be bought separately if you need them. Always measure your pressure cooker when acquiring new accessories to be sure they will fit as you will need to have room around the mold or form to let the vapor circulate around it.
- A steamer basket or perforated steamer plate with a handle (necessary for steaming vegetables and fish). The alternate is a collapsible metal steamer insert that folds inward. We like the silicone version, since it will not scratch. Get the largest size that will fit in your pot so you will have the surface area available to pile in with vegetables or whatever you are cooking. Use the silicone steamer basket in the electric pressure cooker so as not to scratch the pot's nonstick lining.
- A metal trivet to raise up the steamer basket so it will not touch the water underneath. Even though it looks like a hanger, it is made from special food grade metal that will not rust in the presence of acidic or caustic foods such as tomato sauce, salt, and wine. Do not try to make your own.
- A heat diffuser, especially useful when making tomato sauce.
- A digital timer is absolutely essential since timing needs to be exact, not approximate. Electric pressure cookers have a built-in digital timer.
- Immersion blender for pureeing soups right in the pot.
Nice to Have
- A glass lid so you can see into the pot at it cooks. Check to see if the manufacturer of your pressure cooker offers this as an option.
- Springform metal pans, 4 to 7 inches in diameter (for steamed cakes and cheesecake).
- Individual heatproof molds, such as Pyrex custard cups (round and oval), Emile Henry and Apilco ceramic ramekins, 1½- and 2-quart soufflé dishes, disposable aluminum molds, small stainless steel mixing bowls, brioche tins (for puddings and flans).
- Classic tin-plated, decorative pudding steamer molds with clip on lids.
THE PARTS OF THE PRESSURE COOKER
Here is a quick guide to the key components.
A rubber seal ring that fits inside the lid, this is the piece that makes the pressure cooker work, creating an airtight seal when the lid is locked on. It should be clean, dry, flexible (no cracks), and fit snugly. The lid will not close if the gasket is not in place. If you see steam escaping around the pan's lid, replace the gasket. If it is cracked, replace it. If the gasket is in place but the lid won't close, rub the gasket with cooking oil and try again; if it still won't close, it's time to replace it.
WHAT IS A HEAT DIFFUSER?
A heat diffuser (also called a flame tamer) is a flat piece of metal—usually copper or cast iron—or ceramic that you place between the stove burner and the pressure cooker. The plate will even out the heat distribution to the pot. It's a good idea to use a heat diffuser with a less expensive pressure cooker. Also, for electric coil, ceramic glass (smooth), and induction cooktops, which are slower to respond to temperature control changes than gas, a heat diffuser will help keep the bottom of the pot from getting too hot, which can cause burning or sticking. Also consider using a diffuser when preparing foods that tend to scorch, like tomato-based sauces, rice dishes, beans, and foods high in sugar like jams and chutneys.
Using a Heat Diffuser/Flame Tamer
1. Place the heat diffuser on a burner on your stove so that it is centered. If you are using one with a handle, position it so that the handle is not sticking straight out. Make sure the diffuser is mounted securely on top of the burner; you don't want your pressure cooker sliding off it and onto the floor.
2. Place the pressure cooker on the diffuser, making sure to center it evenly. Turn the burner on as directed in the recipe and bring the cooker up to pressure. The diffuser will heat up along with the cooker.
3. Leave the diffuser in place as you cook the dish.
4. At time, turn off the heat, lift the pressure cooker off the diffuser, and place it on an unheated burner to cool down. Allow the diffuser to cool down to room temperature.
Heat diffusers can be washed but should not be subjected to extreme temperature changes, particularly ceramic diffusers, which can crack.
The pressure cooker lid is not like an ordinary pot lid; it is specially designed to create an airtight environment in the pot. Without that, the pot cannot build pressure and cook at the super speed it does. In some models with double handles, the airtight lock is created by first lining up the lid marker with the lid, then pushing and twisting the lid into place with the handles. Other models have a manual lock with a switch you slide into place. Still others have an indicator light window or lock button that tells you the lid is closed and locked. Check the manufacturer's manual for your specific model. If you have not properly locked the lid, you will not be able to close the pot. The pressure will not build up. Never open a lid with steam coming out. As a safety feature, second and third generation pots will not allow the lid to be opened while there is steam still in the pot.
Your model will either have a secure valve built into the lid or a freestanding plug (the jiggle top) that balances on top of the lid. A quality pressure cooker will have valves that are attached to the lid with easy-to-read gauge lines that indicate the amount of pressure. With freestanding valves, it's more difficult to determine when the appropriate level of pressure has been reached. Look for a model with a valve that can be removed and cleaned easily.
Most new models have an easy method for releasing steam by quickly pushing a button or turning a valve. Each manufacturer will include directions in their booklet or read Release Methods.
COOKTOPS AND MANAGING PRESSURE LEVEL
When using a stovetop pressure cooker, the kind of cooktop you have matters. Pressure cookers require tight regulation of the pressure; they cook differently at no pressure, low pressure, and high pressure. You need to get the pressure to a specific level, and then to hold that pressure constant for the duration of the cooking period. Not all cooktops have the same response rate in regard to heating up and cooling down when a burner is turned on, turned down, or turned off. Please see our guidelines below for techniques you may need to employ with your particular cooktop for proper temperature management when using the pressure cooker.
Gas Range Cooktop
The stovetop pressure cooker recipes in books, manufacturers' pamphlets, and on the internet are written for a gas cooktop, which is considered the ideal: immediate on/off regulated heat source, temperature control, the average time to come to and come down to and from pressure. If the recipe does not specify a cook top, consider that recipe is timed and handled for the gas range (this would include a propane range as well). You can use both stainless steel and aluminum pressure cookers on a gas range.
Set the pressure cooker on the burner and turn the heat to high, then lower the flame to the lowest setting to maintain pressure during the cook time. When the pressure is established, start your digital timer as directed by the recipe. For a Natural Release, the pot doesn't need to be removed from the burner (even though in all our recipes we say to remove the pot from the heat after the specified cook time).
Electric Range Cooktop
You can use both stainless steel and aluminum pressure cookers on an electric cooktop. Electric coil burners do not respond quickly to changes in heat level; think slow to heat/slow to cool, so be certain you will be able to lift and move the filled cooker off the still-hot burner as soon as the cook time has finished.
To start the process, place the pressure cooker on a burner set to high heat. At the same time, heat another burner to very low heat. When the cooker reaches pressure, turn off the burner and, holding the handles carefully, gently move the cooker to the low-heat burner and start your digital timer. Do not turn the high-heat burner off and leave the cooker on it. Many cooks with electric stoves use a flame tamer or heat diffuser to help control the heat of the coil element, especially with things like tomato sauce that can scorch. For a Natural Release, the pot will need to be transferred to a cold burner.
You can use both stainless steel and aluminum pressure cookers on this range. Also known as a ceramic cooktop, the halogen cooktop use rings of halogen bulbs to create radiant heat, which heats up the ceramic tile or glass top above it. They are also safe for use by children or the disabled since nothing will burn on it. Use the same instructions for manipulating the cooking process as for the electric coil cooktop with the difference that the halogen can heat up in seconds and turn off immediately, but the ceramic top retains heat just like an electric coil. When the pressure is established, move the cooker to a preheated low heat burner and start your digital timer.
Induction cooking uses a copper coil to transmit a low-voltage, alternating electric current to the cooking vessel, which creates a magnetic field and generates heat. It looks like a regular range with four separate burner surfaces sealed beneath a glass-ceramic cooktop. It also comes as a hotplate with one burner. If you have an induction cooktop, be sure to check with the manufacturer of the pressure cooker you intend to buy to be sure it will work with an induction cooktop, as the base must contain iron—cast iron or high-iron stainless steel (not all types of stainless steel will work).
Induction cooktops are at least twice as fast as gas when bringing the pot up to pressure. When visualizing the time difference, think half the time plus some, like 4 minutes to come to pressure instead of 10 minutes. An induction cooktop concentrates heat in the base of the cook pot. They are also the coolest method of cooking, which means the liquid inside the pressure cooker will come to a boil, generate steam, and come to pressure before the pot is even hot. When the pressure is established, start your digital timer to time the cook time as per recipe instructions. Adjust cook times by adding 2 minutes. When turned off, the heat descends a bit faster than gas. If the recipe cools by the Natural Release method, add 5 minutes to the total cook time.
COOKWARE AND INDUCTION STOVETOPS
Materials Compatible with Induction Cokking
- Stainless steel with a magnetic base
- Enameled cast iron and regular cast iron
- Enameled steel
- Medium- to heavy-gauge stainless steel pressure cookers
Materials NOT Compatible with Induction Cooking
- Tempered glass
USING A JIGGLE-TOP PRESSURE COOKER
1. Prior to using the cooker, look through the vent pipe to make sure it is clear and not blocked by a piece of food left over from your last recipe. Clean the pipe if necessary with a pipe cleaner.
2. Fill the pot as directed by the recipe.
3. Close and lock the lid. Place the weight (regulator) on the top of the pressure cooker lid when you close the lid or the minute the cooker emits a continuous jet of steam; check your owner's manual. If you place it later, the water might completely evaporate, resulting in the cooker as well as the gasket burning dry.
On the Presto brand cookers, the weight will sit evenly on the lid but it will be loose. If you touch the plastic handle on top, it will jiggle; that's okay.
4. Place the pot on the burner and turn the heat to high. As the steam in the pot builds to full pressure, the round metal pressure relief valve will pop up and stay up, and the plastic overpressure plug will also rise and stay in place. The weight will begin to rock back and forth as the pressure builds. When the weight is rocking and steam is escaping with a hiss, full pressure has been reached. This is the moment to start the timer for whatever the recipe recommends.
5. Reduce the heat under the pot to maintain a gentle hiss of steam and a gentle but steady rocking motion of the regulator. Stay close and keep adjusting the heat under the burner as needed to keep the weight rocking gently and steadily throughout the cooking time.
With the old-style Presto cookers, the inner gasket (the sealing ring) and the plastic overpressure plug should be replaced periodically, especially if they are hard, sticky, cracked, or damaged in any other way. If you are adopting an old jiggle-top pressure cooker from a friend or relative or have bought one at a garage sale, it's best to play it safe and replace the parts, or better yet, we recommend that you buy a new model.
6. At the end of the cook time, you can release the pressure with the Natural Release or Quick Release method (use the cold-water method for the jiggle-top, whichever is indicated in the recipe.
7. When the metal valve and plastic plug have dropped back flat against the lid, you may open the cooker. Remove the lid by sliding the top handle to the right and pulling off the lid away from you to avoid the steam.
USING A SPRING-TOP PRESSURE COOKER
1. Prior to using the cooker, pull up on the valve cap so that the pressure regulator is free to move up and down. Check to see that the lid gasket is tucked under the lid rim.
2. Fill the pot as directed by the recipe.
3. Close and lock the lid by turning it clockwise to line up the handle or grip on the lid with the handle or grip on the bottom pan. When the handles are lined up, the lid is locked.
4. Place the pot on the burner and turn the heat to high. As the steam in the pot builds to full pressure, the valve stem will move up. The first red line is low or medium pressure (8 PSI; many cooks use this pressure level to cook vegetables). The second red line indicates 15 PSI has been reached. Both red lines need to be visible for the entire cook time. Once the appropriate level of pressure has been reached, this is the moment to set the timer for whatever is indicated in the recipe.
5. Reduce the heat under the pot to the lowest level that still maintains a gentle hiss of steam. Stay close and keep adjusting the heat under the burner as needed to keep the second red line visible throughout the cooking time.
6. At the end of the cook time, you can release the pressure with the Natural Release or Quick Release method, whichever is indicated in the recipe. For Natural Release, lift the valve cap and rotate to Stage 1. For Quick Release, use a spoon and press on the valve stem to let the steam escape. Stand back, as this happens immediately.
7. When the metal valve stem has dropped back flat against the lid, you may open the cooker. Remove the lid by sliding the top handle to the right and pulling off the lid away from you to avoid the steam.
USING AN ELECTRIC PRESSURE COOKER
There are two different electric pressure cookers, both with sophisticated integrated energy-efficient heating elements located within an insulated housing. One is designed just for pressure cooking, the other is a multi-function cooker, with anywhere from 3 to 7 options that can include slow cooker, rice cooker, and/or yogurt maker as well as pressure cooker. Many models have delay timers and a built-in smart cooker with preset cooking programs, but most cooks like to set the timer themselves
1. Plug it in and fill the cooker pot insert with the ingredients. The LED display will light up. On some models, you will need to press for Pressure or Pressure Release. Be sure the function is selected for Pressure.
2. Close and lock the lid by turning it to the left until it clicks shut. Press the Start/Cancel button (or the Menu button), then the LOW or HIGH pressure option, then the Time button. Set the timer. Press Start/Cancel to begin the cooking. The cooker will automatically start. The pressure cooker will come up to pressure, level off, then the timer will Auto Start and begin the cook time countdown. There is about 30 seconds of escaping steam between boiling and the pressure seal popping up; other than that, the cooker is silent. The machine will automatically set and maintain the pressure designated for the time or food programmed.
3. When the cooking time is done, the cooker beeps, cuts the heat, and enters a Keep Warm function to start a Natural Release of pressure, which will take a bit longer than on stovetop. As with the stovetop models, pressure is released by one of three methods: Natural Release, Quick Release, or a combination of the two.
To effect a Quick Release of pressure with an electric pressure cooker, first hit Start/Cancel. Then, depending on the model you have, there is a little protrusion on the side of the steam valve that you will gently and carefully lift or shift to pressure release. It is a small protrusion; use tongs or the tip of a spoon or knife to lift it. It's easy to do but pay attention; the steam that is released is insanely hot—keep your hands and face clear of it. Be extra careful when releasing steam in this way with foods that tend to foam when cooked (beans, lentils, grains) and liquids like stock. After the steam is released, unplug the cooker.
4. To turn off the machine completely, unplug it. When the red float on the lid goes down, the pressure is gone and the lid is safe to remove.
Electric pressure cookers collect an excess of condensation that can drip when you open the lid. You can purchase a collector cup that snaps onto the back of the lid that will catch the excess instead of it dripping onto your counter.
You can reset functions or cancel the timing at any time by pressing the Start/Cancel button.
Using the Preset Cooking Features in the Electric Pressure Cooker
Use the preset browning feature to sear meat before pressure cooking. Plug the cooker in to light up the LED display. Press Menu, then Brown, then Start. Add oil to the pot and let it heat up without the lid on. Brown the food as directed in the recipe. An added benefit of this is that hot food will take less time to come to pressure. Use the Sauté feature to precook vegetables, and the Simmer feature to preheat liquid before pressure cooking. When using these functions, when you are done, press Start/Cancel to end the cooking, then let the machine cool down a few minutes before locking the lid. Then you can set the timer and press Start to begin pressure cooking.
When the cooking time is done, the cooker will beep, then cut the heat. After the release is complete, if the liquid is too thin, transfer the protein and vegetables to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon, then select Brown and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to the desired consistency.
The Brown feature is not all that great on some models. You might find it easier to do your browning or sautéing in another pot, then transfer everything to the pressure cooker. At the end of cooking, transfer the contents to another pot to reduce the cooking liquid, if you desire.
USING A MICROWAVE PRESSURE COOKER
Here are the basic steps, but refer to the manufacturer's booklet for specific instructions.
1. Do not overfill the cooker. The food should never touch the mesh assembly for the steam release. Like traditional stovetop models, they should never be filled more than two thirds or they can explode and ruin your microwave (please see the fill chart on page 16, and underfill it slightly from what it indicated).
2. After filling the cooker, secure the lid. Make sure the lid is on tight and the latches are secured. Move the steam release valve to see if it feels gummy; if it does, clean it. If it does not, it is working correctly.
3. Place the pressure cooker in the microwave.
4. Program the microwave for your recipe's recommended cook time. There is no warm-up time, since the microwave is at maximum cooking heat immediately. Most recipes will cook for the same amount of time in a microwave pressure cooker as in a traditional stovetop version. Cook on HIGH power on your oven.
To determine whether the pot has come up to full pressure, look for the pop-up red pressure indicator, which for most brands and models of microwave pressure cookers is located on the lid. It will raise up when the pot is at pressure; also steam will be released and there may be a hissing sound.
5. When the timing is completed and oven shuts off at the beep, let the pressure cooker sit in the microwave for several minutes. This lets the rest of the steam escape and allows the pressure to drop inside the cooker. At this point, you can either allow your cooker to continue to rest (Natural Release method) or remove it from the microwave and press the pressure indicator with the back of a spoon to release the pressure. When depressurized, the cooker will be quiet, with no steam escaping, and the pressure indicator will have dropped. With the Natural Release method, this can take 20 to 30 minutes and the food will continue to cook during this time, so don't rush the cooling process if Natural Release is called for—this can result in food that is not cooked properly. Always handle the cooker and remove from the oven with oven mitts.
6. Once the regulator drops showing that the pressure is gone, remove the lid. Always wait until the cooker is completely depressurized to open it or you may be at risk for steam burns. Open the lid away from your face for the same reason.
USING A PRESSURE CANNER
The following steps are the same for all pressure-canned foods. Refer to your manufacturer's guide for specifics for your canner. Do not use a regular size stovetop pressure cooker for pressure canning. Be sure to use recipes specifically developed for pressure canning (they will come with your pot) and follow the directions exactly for success; don't ad lib or adapt.
1. Prepare the jars. Most cooks prefer the wide-mouth canning jars. Use half pints for jams and chutneys; pint jars for marinated artichoke hearts, pickled vegetables, brandied cherries; quart size for marinara sauce, canned tomatoes, pickles, and fruit halves. Do not use leftover jars from commercial foods such as applesauce. You need heat-resistant jars specifically manufactured for home canning, such as from Ball Company. Heat 3 inches of water in the pressure canner with the lid ajar. Set the jars in the canner to sterilize with the lid loosely in place (no pressure needed here).
2. Prepare the food you intend to can.
3. Remove the hot jars one at a time from the canner pot with a jar lifter. Using a funnel where appropriate to keep the rims clean, fill the sterilized jars. Pack with your fingers if needed. Add the hot liquid or brine as specified in the recipe, leaving the directed amount of headspace. With a thin spatula, thin knife, or canning tool (known as a bubble freer), remove the bubbles. Add more liquid if needed and wipe the rim with a clean cloth. Place the lid on top and screw the band on the jar tight enough to be able to turn it another ¼ inch so that some air can escape to make the proper seal. Place the jar back in the canner before filling the next jar.
4. Place the last jar in the canner which still contains the water used to sterilize the jars; you should have about 3 inches of water, which is enough to create steam but only comes a short way up the jars. Lock the lid of the canner in place. Turn the burner to high. When steam escapes, reduce the heat to get a moderate steam flow. Let the steam vent for 10 minutes. Adjust the weights on the pressure regulator as specified in the recipe. Set the pressure regulator on the vent to plug it. When it starts to rock, adjust the heat to keep it steady. The safety valve will pop up when pressure is reached. DO NOT open the lid. Set the timer.
5. When the timer sounds, depressurize by turning off the heat. You can leave it on the burner. DO NOT open the lid. Wait until the safety valve drops to show that canner is no longer pressurized and is safe to open. Remove the regulator. No steam should escape. Open the canner by unlocking the handles and open the cover away from you to avoid the blast of steam.
6. Let the jars stand in the uncovered canner to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the jars with the jar lifter and set on a wire rack or folded dishcloth to cool on the countertop. Do not tighten the lids. Let cool 12 to 24 hours. When cool, test the seals by pressing on the lids with your finger. They should not be flexible, popping up and down, but indented. Refrigerate any unsealed jars to eat immediately. Store sealed jars in a cool cupboard.
NEVER LEAVE A STOVETOP OR MICROWAVE PRESSURE COOKER UNATTENDED!
Make sure you are in the same room and paying close attention once a stovetop or microwave pressure cooker (and a camping pressure cooker as well) is under pressure. You may need to make adjustments to the heat level to keep the pressure level from getting too high and cook times are often very short. The only pressure cooker you can leave to cook on its own, with no monitoring, is the electric cooker, as it has an automatic override system that will automatically shut it off and switch it to Keep Warm for a Natural Release.
HOW TO TELL YOUR PRESSURE COOKER IS UP TO FULL PRESSURE
This will depend on the type of pressure regulator you have and it can also vary from brand to brand, depending on the specific design and type of the cooker. Your first resource on this information should be your owner's manual. On average, with a stovetop model set on a burner at high heat, it will take about 10 minutes for the pressure to build up inside the pot. Once the appropriate level of pressure has been achieved as directed by your recipe, you will begin the timing for the recipe.
Here is how to tell when your pressure cooker is up to pressure and ready to start cooking:
- Spring valve: The spring-loaded valve will pop up with the pressure to give a visual aid as to when the pressure is established. The first ring is LOW pressure and the second ring is HIGH pressure. Start timing when the appropriate ring pops up. These models are considered the most accurate in gauging temperature.
- Jiggle top: The weighted valve will rhythmically rock when the steam starts to escape; this is when you start your timer. You should place the pressure regulator when you lock the lid or the minute the cooker emits a continuous jet of steam; see your owner's manual. If you place it later, the water might completely evaporate, resulting in the cooker as well as the gasket burning dry.
- Whistling pressure: This is characteristic of stovetop pressure cookers manufactured in India. When steam begins to escape, the 15 PSI stationary weighted valve is put on the lid. As the pressure builds, the steam lifts up the valve to release the pressure in a blast, making a hissing or whistling sound. The first whistle takes the longest to occur, about 7 minutes, and indicates the cooker is fully pressurized, after which the heat is reduced to lowest level possible to still maintain pressure. The hissing, or whistles, occur every 3 to 5 minutes allowing you to time the pot. It is an auditory cue rather than visual with a timer. The Natural Release method is used with these pressure cookers.
- Electric pressure cooker: The digital face will show a lighted P and/or Beep to indicate the contents have reached pressure.
TIMING IS IMPORTANT
Because of the super-hot, über-pressurized environment in the pressure cooker, minutes (make that seconds) matter. Use a digital timer with an alarm when you pressure cook. As soon as the cooker comes up to pressure, set the timer as directed in the recipe and keep close so you can hear it when it goes off, then immediately remove the pot from the heat or unplug it if you're using an electric pressure cooker.
- Microwave pressure cooker: Look for the red pressure regulator indicator, which for most brands and models of microwave pressure cookers is located on the lid. It will pop up when the pot is at pressure; also steam will be released and there may be a hissing sound.
After the cook time is completed, the pressure needs to be brought down in the pot before it can be opened. There are three methods for doing this, Quick Release, Natural Release, and a combination of both. No matter what release method you use, always carefully remove the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the super-hot steam.
Natural Release Method
To use this method (which can be used with any kind of pressure cooker), remove the pot from the burner and let the pressure drop naturally as the pot sits and cools down; for an electric pressure cooker, simply unplug the machine. With this method, the food will continue to cook in the residual heat and in our recipes that is taken into account in the cook time. In most all of our recipes, we will tell you how long to let the cooker stand off the heat before opening.
HOW TO TELL WHEN THE PRESSURE HAS BEEN RELEASED ON STOVETOP COOKERS
For a jiggle-top, the regulator will stop releasing steam (and the hissing will stop). For a spring-valve pressure cooker, the pressure indicator pin will drop all the way down.
Use the Natural Release method for whole grains, cereals, beans, peas, lentils (so they don't split apart when pressure is released), stocks, applesauce, custards, rice puddings, and bread puddings. Natural release should also be used with hard vegetables such as artichokes, celery root, whole beets, and winter squash. A partial Natural Release (followed by a Quick Release for the remaining steam) is used for certain meat and poultry stews, pot roast, chilis, and soups.
Quick Release Method
This method is used to drop the pressure in the cooker as fast as possible to stop the cooking process.
For non-jiggle-top pressure cookers and electric pressure cookers, this is done by moving a lever or pushing a button on the lid, which will release all the steam. On some models (and for all electric pressure cookers), you will turn the pressure selector dial on the lid to the Release position and the steam will release. Check your owner's manual.
For jiggle-top pressure cookers, Quick Release can be accomplished using the cold-water release method. Carefully remove the pressure cooker from the burner, place it in the sink, and run cold tap water gently over the lid until the pressure indicator is lowered and the pressure is completely released. With the handle, tilt the pressure cooker so that when you run the water over the top of it, the water flows away from you; also be sure not to let the water make contact with the pressure regulator. Once the pressure has been released, place the cooker on a folded dish towel or a cold burner before opening. Be sure to open the lid away from you for safety. The jiggle-top is the only type of pot you can do a cold-water release with. For obvious reasons, do not attempt it with an electric pressure cooker.
Use the Quick Release method for seafood, meat and vegetable stews, lamb shanks, fruits, and vegetables, especially greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn on the cob, green beans, turnips, rutabagas, and zucchini.
RULES OF THE PRESSURE COOKER POT
Before You Begin to Cook
- Make sure your stove is compatible with your pressure cooker. Aluminum pressure cookers cannot be used with induction cooktops but stainless steel models with three-ply bottoms are fine.
- Read your owner's manual before using your pressure cooker. You need to understand the particulars of your specific model.
- Inspect the gasket. For older pots and pots that are used regularly, replace the gasket every year or when it becomes hard, cracked, or sticky-soft. When in doubt, replace the gasket. Keep an extra gasket in reserve so it's there when you need it.
- Check that the vent pipe is clear before every use. Hold the lid up to the light to check. If a jiggle-top is blocked, use a wooden toothpick or bamboo pick to clean it out. For the spring-valve model, press the rod to be sure it moves freely.
Cooking in the Pressure Cooker
- Do not use metal utensils with the cooker. Metal will scratch and if you hit the rim of the cooker with a metal utensil, you can dent it, which will affect the gasket's ability to seal the pot properly. Use heat-resistant rubber or silicone or wooden utensils.
- Do not add salt to the bottom of the pot as it will corrode the stainless steel. If using salt, sprinkle the salt on top of the liquid.
- Do not cook acid foods like tomatoes in an aluminum pot.
- When steaming, lightly oil the trivet and steamer basket or rack to prevent sticking or scorching.
- Do not place the pressure cooker on a burner larger than its bottom dimensions. You want the heat centered under the bottom.
- If using a gas range, do not let the flames get so high that they go up the side of the pot; otherwise you might melt the gasket.
- For added flavor, you can brown meat and poultry lightly before pressure cooking. Be careful not to overbrown, though, as flavors intensify when pressure cooking.
- Precooking vegetables, such as onions, before pressure cooking is not necessary to develop flavor. A quick turn in the pot before adding the other ingredients is all that is needed.
- Be careful with adding salt to the pot before pressure cooking as the flavor will concentrate under pressure. Always add salt at the end of cooking for beans and grains.
- For the same reason, be careful adding spices and dried herbs. If converting a conventional recipe to the pressure cooker, use half the amount you would normally use, then add more to taste after pressure cooking.
- The high heat of the pressure cooker destroys the flavor and texture of fresh herbs. Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking for the best flavor. Some cooks use both dried and fresh herbs together to accent the flavor.
- When cooking leafy greens, which in their raw state will fill the entire pot, use a saucepan lid from your regular cookware, one without a plastic knob, and place it on top of the greens to weight them down, then close and lock the lid. This will keep the greens from clogging the pressure valve as they cook.
- Beans and legumes need a tablespoon or two of oil drizzled over the top before locking the lid to keep them from foaming up as they cook, which can block the pressure release or steam vent.
- There are other foods that can foam in this way: cranberries, rhubarb, oatmeal, and pasta.
To keep the pressure release/steam vent clear, when cooking these foods, don't fill the pressure cooker more than half full. And where appropriate add a tablespoon or two of oil, as for beans.
LIQUID IS THE KEY
No liquid in your pot, no steam. Adding sufficient liquid to cook the ingredients in the pot is the key to success and safety. You do not want your pressure cooker to boil dry while cooking under pressure. This can happen if the food has cooked too long at too high a pressure or if the gasket is leaking. And it can happen if you shortchange the amount of liquid asked for in a recipe.
The amount of liquid needed depends more on how long you are cooking rather than how much food is in the pot. Generally, use a minimum of 1 cup liquid for both stovetop and electric cookers. Figure that 1 to 1½ cups liquid are necessary for the first 15 minutes of cooking, then ¾ cup for every 15 minutes thereafter. This assures there is enough liquid to create the proper amount of steam for cooking. A minimum of ½ to 1½ cups of liquid is used for steaming vegetables (like corn or potatoes) and 2 cups for steaming puddings and cup custards. For braising and stewing, recipes will call for the solid ingredients to be partially or fully covered with a liquid.
Wet ingredients such as tomatoes and ingredients that give off liquid (like onions and celery) when heated count as liquid when combined with regular liquids like water, juice, broth, and spirits. If you end up with excess juices at the end of cooking, you can thicken them, if you like. But better safe than sorry.
- Do not use just tomato sauce or pureed vegetables as the cooking liquid; there is not enough water in either one to generate steam and they will burn.
- Do not thicken liquids with flour, potato flakes, potato starch, or a vegetable puree before pressure cooking. This step will remove the precious liquid needed to generate steam and will affect the overall quality of your finished dish. Use thickeners after pressure cooking and simmer a few minutes with the lid off to thicken.
- Do not use high-alcohol liquor as the liquid in the pressure cooker because it can create vapor that can ignite. Add it at the end of cooking if you must. You can use wine, champagne, or beer, or a few tablespoons of liquor, as a liquid with no problem but bring them to a boil to evaporate a little of the alcohol before locking the lid.
- Don't try to cook dumplings in the pressure cooker. It just doesn't work. Make them after the stew is cooked and simmer them with the lid off.
- When using wine as an ingredient, such as 1 cup plus, it is important to note that it will not evaporate under pressure. Raw wine is not tasty (especially in stews and risottos), so add the wine to the pot before pressure and let it come to a boil before adding the rest of the ingredients and locking the lid.
Filling the Pressure Cooker
Fill the pressure cooker pot no more than one half to two-thirds full of ingredients. Foods expand under pressure and if the cooker is overfilled, you run the risk that the vent pipe can become clogged. Certain foods require different fill levels. UNDERFILL IF POSSIBLE. Follow this guide religiously:
- Meats, one-pot meals, and vegetables: No more than two-thirds full. When making stocks, the bones cannot extend above the two-thirds level (consider a super large pressure cooker if you make lots of stock from a turkey carcass or leg of lamb bone). This includes all the ingredients plus the liquid.
- Pasta, soups, and stews: No more than one-half full, including the liquid. These foods swell a lot as they cook.
- Dried beans, lentils, rice, cereal grains and whole grains: No more than one-third full, including the liquid. These foods expand the most and produce foam. If you prepare large quantities of these items regularly, consider getting a larger model, such as an 8-quart.
GUIDE TO FILLING YOUR PRESSURE COOKER
Cereals, grains, beans, lentils, rice 1/3 full including liquid
Soups and stews ½ full including liquid
Vegetables, solid meats, stocks, one-pot meals 2/3 full including liquid
- Before closing the lid, wipe the rim of spills with a moist cloth.
- Make sure the lid is locked firmly and securely into place before heating to bring the food to pressure. Double check your manufacturer's booklet for directions specific to your model for locking the pot.
- After turning up the heat, it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, with the average about 10 minutes, to bring the boiling liquid up to pressure depending on the type of food and amount of food in the cooker.
- Do not allow your pressure pot to overheat, as it can warp. Do not leave an empty pressure cooker on a hot element or allow it to boil dry.
- Never leave a stovetop pressure cooker unattended on the hot stove. An electric pressure cooker countertop appliance can be left unattended, but you should still be in the house.
- Always use a digital kitchen timer (every second counts), as exact timing is often necessary when cooking in a pressure cooker, especially for fish, vegetables, and fruits. When the proper level of steam is reached, start the timer for the cook time. Be ready to set the timer, as a few seconds can make a difference when cooking some foods.
- When doubling or tripling a recipe, the cook time stays the same.
- Never open or try to open a pressure cooker when it is under pressure.
- Only hold a pressure cooker by its handles and use oven mitts for extra protection.
- Always lift up the pressure cooker to move it from the burner or coil, as sliding the cooker will scratch the cooktop.
- The difference between cooling the cooker immediately with the Quick Release and letting pressure drop on its own with the Natural Release is determined by the food being cooked. With the Natural Release, the food continues to cook in the residual heat.
- Pressure has reduced when the jiggle-top stops releasing steam (the hissing will stop). For a spring valve pressure cooker, the pressure indicator pin will drop all the way down.
- Be very careful when opening the lid after the pressure has been released. The steam is still scalding hot. Never put your face over the pot when opening it. Make sure the cooker is on a heatproof solid surface and open the lid away from your body. The food will also be very hot.
More Pressure Cooker Tips
Since their invention in the 1600s by a Frenchman, pressure cookers have been known for around the world to prepare quick, healthy meals that rely on steam pressure to cook, caramelize, and sear various types of foods. Yet in using the pressure cooker there are different tricks that you can tuck into your pocket to help you make the most of your pressure cooking experience.
The first rule of thumb is not to add too much liquid to the pot. When normally boiling liquid, the pot is kept open or a light lid is placed on top with the expectation that some of the water will evaporate. This is not so for the pressure cooker: because the lid is sealed shut, no water can evaporate out of the pot. It is therefore recommended that you use less liquid than you would when you usually cook. That said, if too much water is added to the pot and you have already put the food in, you can simply decrease the amount of liquid by boiling it without the lid on.
The process of pressure cooking should always begin with very high heat. Then, when the liquid boils, the heat is turned down to a low level. That way, the pressure is regulated and maintained while the food continues to cook, and will not exceed unsafe levels on the inside.
Timing is also an essential component to pressure cooking. When following directions, it is recommended to time the cooking according to the exact instructions on the package and not much longer. Overcooking food can happen quite easily with this method, so it is crucial to be as accurate as possible. The harder and more dense the food, the longer it will take to cook.
Finally, an important rule when it comes to pressure cooking is the size of the food. If your recipe calls for ingredients that are chopped or cubed, be sure that all of the pieces are roughly the same size. This ensures that all of the food is cooked to the same degree of completion, and that nothing comes out either under-or overcooked. And with all modes of using your pressure, it is imperative to open the valve and the lid slowly to account for the pressure buildup.
Pressure Cooking at High Altitude
The higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure. This means that for cooking, the higher the altitude, the lower the boiling point of water (and other liquids) and the faster the water evaporates. When you get above an altitude of 2,000 feet, this can be significant.
While the sealed interior of a pressure cooker helps make up for the lower atmospheric pressure, You'll still have to make some adjustments if you live in the mountains. Most pressure cooker manufacturers recommend increasing cooking times by 5 percent for every 1,000 feet above 2,000 feet (so a dish that cooks under pressure for 20 minutes at sea level would cook for 21 minutes at 3,000 feet or for 22 minutes at 4,000 feet). Some manufacturers also recommend slightly increasing the amount of liquid.
ADJUSTING SEA LEVEL COOK TIMES FOR HIGHER ELEVATIONS
Altitude (feet) Increase Cook Time (CT) Calculation
3,000 5% (1 minute per 20 minutes CT)
4,000 10% (2 minutes per 20 minutes CT)
5,000 15% (3 minutes per 20 minutes CT)
6,000 20% (4 minutes per 20 minutes CT)
7,000 25% (5 minutes per 20 minutes CT)
8,000 30% (6 minutes per 20 minutes CT)
The pressure canner uses a different method for high altitude canning guide due to the weight-gauged lid. Be sure to use recipes that have been scientifically tested, dated 1988 or later. Pressure canners come with excellent manufacturer's booklets that include guidelines for operating them at high elevations.
ADJUSTING SEA LEVEL COOK TIMES FOR PRESSURE CANNERS FOR HIGHER ELEVATIONS
Altitude (feet): Weighted Gauge: Dial Gauge
0–1,000 10: 11
1,001–2,000 15: 11
2,001–4,000 15: 12
4,001–6,000 15: 13
6,001–8,000 15: 14
8,001–10,000 15: 15
ADAPTING CONVENTIONAL AND SLOW COOKER RECIPES FOR THE PRESSURE COOKER
Once you get familiar with your pressure cooker, you will want to use it to make your favorite recipes.
The four key elements to be considered are:
- amount of liquid
- the volume of food being cooked versus the size of the pressure cooker
Slow cooker recipes convert easily since both methods use pressurized steam to cook the food and basically most of the ingredients are loaded in the pot at once, so all you have to adapt is the cook time. Recipes that convert from slow cooker to pressure cooker perfectly are soups, stews, and braises.
Amount of liquid. Your recipe must contain at least 1 cup cooking liquid in order to generate the amount of steam needed to get the pot up to pressure and to keep the contents from burning. Slow cooker recipes use about the same amount of liquid as a pressure cooker but the liquid in a conventional recipe may need to be adjusted downward since no evaporation takes place. What you put in before cooking and what you have after cooking will be the same. A pressure cooker without liquid will not create pressure.
Cook time. You have to adjust the cook time since the pressure cooker cooks two-thirds quicker than conventional recipes and in a fraction of the time compared to the slow cooker. For example, a conventional braise recipe that takes 3 hours stovetop or in the oven will take 1 hour. A conventional soup recipe that requires 60 minutes stovetop will take 20 minutes. Brown rice, which normally takes 40 to 50 minutes, will take 15 minutes. Basmati rice, which cooks in 20 minutes, will take 4 to 5 minutes in the pressure cooker. Tender vegetables like cauliflower and bell peppers take just 1 to 3 minutes under pressure. The longest cooking vegetables—hard squashes and roots like potatoes, turnips, and sweet potatoes—will take just 5 to 8 minutes at pressure, depending on whether they are cubed or sliced.
The biggest time saver is with dried beans. Generally presoaked beans such as black, pinto, or kidney cook in just 8 to 10 minutes at pressure; unsoaked, they will take 25 to 30 minutes at pressure, still a huge time saver. Soaked garbanzo beans, notoriously the longest bean to cook, take just 14 to 18 minutes at pressure. Always follow your pressure cooker manufacturer's directions for exact cooking times for particular foods or liquid requirements because the strength of pressure cookers may vary depending on the brand.
Here is an approximate guide for translating timing in recipes for the slow cooker or conventional cooking to the pressure cooker. You can also refer to a recipe similar to what you want to make as a reference.
- If a slow cooker recipe calls for a cook time of 4 to 6 hours on LOW and 3 to 4 hours on HIGH, that translates to 30 minutes stovetop or 10 to 12 minutes in the pressure cooker.
- If a slow cooker recipe calls for a cook time of 6 to 10 hours on LOW and 2 hours on HIGH, that translates to 45 minutes stovetop or 15 to 18 minutes in the pressure cooker.
- If a slow cooker recipe calls for a cook time of 8 to 18 hours on LOW and 4 to 6 hours on HIGH, that translates to 1 to 3 hours stovetop or 20 to 60 minutes in the pressure cooker.
You must look at the total amount of food in the original recipe and make sure it will not fill the pressure cooker more than half to two-thirds . You might have to adjust the recipe proportions so it doesn't overfill your pressure cooker.
Flavors are intensified in the pressure cooker. The first time you prepare a recipe you've adapted for the pressure cooker, you might want to cut back on the seasonings and adjust them after cooking, if need be.
PRESSURE COOKER CLEANING AND STORAGE TIPS
The pressure cooker needs to be washed after every cooking session.
- As soon as the pot cools down, remove the gasket.
- Clean the vent after each use to remove any collected food residue.
- Never put the lid or gasket in the dishwasher.
- Hand wash the pot bottom and gasket in warm water after each use with mild dishwashing soap (never use an abrasive cleaner) and a nonabrasive sponge. You can soak the pot if need be. Towel dry.
- Do not immerse the lid in water or place in the dishwasher; wipe it clean using a nonabrasive sponge, mild dishwashing soap, and warm water. Towel dry.
- To remove starchy deposits on the pot left from cooking lentils and beans, take this tip from The Happy Cook, Dolores Kostelni: Wet the surface down with hot water. Squirt some Original Scent Dawn dishwashing liquid on the spots. Wet a red Weiman cooktop scrubbing pad and rub away the spots.
- To remove burned-on foods from the pot, pour in 1 cup cold water, heat over medium heat, then scrape the food up with a plastic spatula. Do not use steel wool or Brillo pads.
- To polish a stainless steel pressure cooker, use Bar Keepers Friend.
- To store the pressure cooker, place the clean, dry gasket back on the lid or hang it until the pot's next use (follow the directions in your owner's manual). Store the lid upside down on the pot bottom, with a paper towel or clean dish towel in between to prevent scratching, or store the pot and lid separately and leave the pot open.
- Never store the pot with the lid locked in place.
- Store your pressure cooker in a cupboard so there is space around it.
- Replace pressure cooker parts regularly. In general, the sealing ring, overpressure plug, and rubber gasket from the air vent/cover lock should be replaced about every two years or sooner if the part is not functioning properly. Remember, pressure cooker parts are not interchangeable. Use only the parts made for your cooker. Refer to your manufacturer's instruction manual.
Homemade Stocks and Broths
One of the most wonderful foods a pressure cooker can make is homemade stocks, reducing hours of simmering to literally minutes of cook time.
To make stock, you need to use at least a 6-quart pressure cooker. If you make stock often and want large amounts, use an 8- to 10-quart model.
Why make homemade stock? You have full control of the ingredients, the sodium content, and the flavors, from simple to complex. Also, properly prepared, meat stock is extremely nutritious, containing minerals dissolved from the bones, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables in a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw the mineral ions, particularly calcium, magnesium, and potassium, into the broth.
While stock and broth are basically the same when you are talking canned, with homemade there is a slight difference. Stocks are made from bony parts, meat scraps, vegetables, and some form of aromatic (like parsley and garlic) cooked until all their flavor is extracted. They are usually unsalted and contain lots of gelatin, released from the bones. Refrigerated, a meat or poultry stock will become a semi-solid, like Jell-O, because of that gelatin. That translates into incredible flavor and a rich silkiness on the tongue. Broth is lighter in taste and texture, requiring a shorter cook time. Technically speaking, a stock or broth listed in a recipe can be used interchangeably.
Whether you're making stock or broth, always remember to keep the total amount of solids and liquid below the two-thirds maximum-fill mark on your pressure cooker for efficient cooking. If you fill it more than that, there will not be enough room to create the cooking steam.
Cold water usually produces a stock with a clearer color and more intense flavor in standard recipes, but in the pressure cooker, you can use cold or hot water with equal success since the liquid comes to a boil so quickly.
What looks like a lot of stock in the pot when you start will be a bit less after you strain it. Use a small saucepan or large ladle to transfer the still-warm stock (ideally around 160° F) into a cheesecloth-lined colander set in a larger bowl. You might need to use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove bones first. Do this over the sink, since there is the chance of splashing. After straining, let the stock cool to lukewarm, uncovered, then refrigerate until cold. Do not put hot stock directly into the refrigerator, as the heat from the liquid will raise the temperature inside the refrigerator to an unsafe level.
After a few hours of chilling, if this is a meat or poultry stock, the fat will coagulate on top and be easy to lift right off with a large spoon. Leave the fat on while you store the stock in the refrigerator (it provides an airtight seal), but remove it when freezing. Some people do not skim off all the fat; leaving a few tablespoons contributes to the overall flavor.
Always reboil stock in whatever recipe you add it to. Homemade stocks are a tasty powerhouse of minerals, just like a liquid vitamin pill. Add a bit of salt and pepper and you can savor a bowl of this on its own, poured over toasted country bread, with some tortellini or gnocchi, or with the addition of some noodles, pastina, orzo, or rice for a great lunch.
Pressure cooking problem: Sealing ring smells like 'insert any food item'. How can you get rid of the odor?
A few things work to keep the sealing ring from retaining odors:
Remove and wash it each time. But don't forget to put it back before cooking again.
Prop the lid on the side of the pot to allow both pot and lid to air out.
Run a vinegar-water steam cycle in your pressure cooker for 10 minutes.
Set the sealing ring out in the sunshine to dry.
Soak the ring in denture cleaner (how do you know this, you wonder?).
Dedicate one ring for making sweets and another for preparing savory dishes.
Note, however, that just because your ring smells of something doesn't mean your food will taste of it. Personally, Use one ring to cook them all, and you haven't noticed any transfer of flavors.