There was once a time where pressure cookers were angry beasts in the kitchen. Everyone has a horror story about a pressure cooker gurgling and boiling over or grandma sending the chicken rocketing up to the ceiling. After all, pressure cookers have been around for over 300 years and have not always been convenient to use.
But today, pressure cookers are for more convenient and quiet than they have ever been before and can be quite valuable cooking tools if used properly. But knowing what to look for in a pressure cooker might not be the easiest thing in the world to know.
A guide to help you know what to look for in a good pressure cooker can be the difference between chicken on the ceiling and a gourmet meal.
What is a pressure cooker and what does it do?
As mentioned, pressure cookers have been around for three centuries and were actually quite popular until around the second world war. They faded from popularity because, to meet the growing demand, manufacturers began producing faulty and sub-par quality pressure cookers. This led to things like explosions occurring and scaring users away from using them.
But with the progression of technology, especially in the culinary field, pressure cookers have made a comeback. Manufacturing them has become easy enough that the days of exploding pressure cookers are now a thing of the past.
Pressure cookers use steam pressure in a sealed pot to cook the food inside. There is liquid underneath the aforementioned pot and when you heat up the pot, the liquid boils and then turns into steam. The steam then gets trapped in that tightly sealed pot and the overall pressure begins to build in the pot itself.
So how does this cook your food? The pressurized steam works to cook that food by transferring the heat energy that is generated by the steam pressure and water underneath the pot into the food itself. This can result in a faster cook than using an oven without the mess that can be involved, too.
Pressure cooking is a faster way to cook
Pressure cooking is a consistently quicker way to cook foods because of the high pressure involved. It cooks faster for two general reasons:
An increase in the boiling point of the liquid. When at a standardized pressure, when the liquid rolls into a boil and then becomes steam, the liquid will then stay at the same overall temperature regardless of how long you let it boil. But by adding pressure, you can increase the overall temperature past the boiling point. This will cook the food faster under that added pressure using the newly extra hot steam.
The second reason is that it forces that extra hot liquid into the food itself. Steam is very effective when it comes to the transferring of heat. When it comes to pressure cooking, there is an additional force that pushes this fast and extra high heat energy into the food, resulting in a faster than usual cook.
How do you cook with a pressure cooker?
Being able to use a pressure cooker might sound like something only a culinary expert might be able to pull off, but the process is actually quite simple. You would add the liquid and the food to the pot, close the lid and make sure that the valve is set at the correct overall position.
Most pressure cookers have options built into them that allow you to customize the time, pressure, and other features of the cook. You would then set those features -- things like the pressure and the time of the cook. There is then a short wait for the pressure to build upon the inside of the pot before the cooking begins. Some pressure cookers will display a cook time countdown while others will use a start timer to implement the cook.
Releasing the pressure is the final step. The one real disadvantage about using a pressure cooker to cook your food is that you really don't have the ability to adjust, inspect, or taste the food as it cooks. For this reason, make sure that you follow the recipe. If it says cook for ten minutes, follow it to a tee. You can stop the cook by quickly reducing the overall pressure in the pot and then opening the lid if that is required.
What is generally cooked inside a pressure cooker?
If you have some level of experience, you can cook almost anything in a pressure cooker. That said, most consumers will use a pressure cooker on foods that take a long time to cook. By using the pressure cooker, one can cook those foods far more quickly and get to enjoy those tasty meals sooner rather than later.
Foods like stews, beans, tougher cuts of meat, artichokes, lentils, soups, squash, whole chickens, mashed potatoes, and homemade stocks are some of the more commonly cooked foods inside of a pressure cooker. Best of all, you can use a pressure cooker to cook in a number of different ways. Use the pressure cooker to steam, boil, brown, poach, braise, steam roast, roast, or stew foods. You can even bake in your pressure cooker these days, meaning that your pressure cooker is one of the most versatile cooking tools that you have in your kitchen.
You can also take your pressure cooker when you go camping. As it efficiently uses the available energy it cooks fast, making it perfectly suited for outdoor cooking and you can find many pressure cookers compatible with outdoor cooking.
What to look for in a good pressure cooker
Ultimately, a "good" pressure cooker is up to the consumer. Different people use different features and have different preferences. But there are definitely a few things to look for in a pressure cooker when buying one that will set you up for success.
Generally speaking, a stove-top pressure cooker seems to be the preferred variation. This is because they come with thicker, heavier heating discs at the bottom as well as straight sides. This ensures even heating and that there is no interior scorching. You want to cook your food quicker, not roast it thoroughly.
A more flat, wider pot is generally better than a tall pot simply for the ease of use factor. The wider cooking base also means that you will have the ability to use a larger than normal burner. This means that browning can be handled far more easily before the adding of liquid and sealing the cooker. If you are using an electric stove in your kitchen, make sure that you buy a pressure cooker made of compatible material.
It is also key to make sure that the indicator is easy to see what pressure the cooker is at. There are other cookers out there that have less-than-optimal indicator features and that makes for a more difficult time when cooking with the pressure cooker.
Make sure that you get a cooker that will prevent evaporation during cooking and will minimize steam loss to ensure that your food won't burn while inside the cooker. Again, cooking quicker is great, but not if you are torching your food in the process.
How do I choose the right pressure cooker?
As stated before, it is ultimately up to the user to choose what features and options that best suit their needs in the kitchen. Most pressure cookers will come with the same basic features and functionality, this way you can be sure that you are properly using the pressure cooker without worry.
If you consider yourself to be something of a novice in the kitchen, finding an indicator that makes the process easier for you is a must. If you don't have the experience with a pressure cooker to be able to ballpark a cook time, it is important to stick to recipes and the outlined times. Having the right indicator can make it easy to set that time and not have to worry about potentially overcooking or burning your food.
That's not to say that you want a less-than-optimal indicator even if you are more experienced, it just becomes less important if you have an array of experience in your corner. Ultimately, no matter what your level of experience, you will want a pressure cooker that is easy to use and makes the entire cooking experience easier than ever before.
When shopping for a pressure cooker, make sure to do your homework. See what other users have experienced when using that pressure cooker and the positives and negatives that they experienced. This will allow for fewer surprises when making your purchase and to know how others handled situations where there was something wrong.
A pressure cooker, when you choose the right one, can change the way that you cook your meals. You will find yourself able to prepare meals that you had previously considered impossible in a far easier and more convenient manner.
Pressure cookers can make the cooking process not only quicker but far more effective in preparing your favorite meals. Take away the hassle of preparing meals for dinner when you can cut down on the time spent in the kitchen by using a pressure cooker to take care of the heavy lifting for you. Become the culinary expert that you always dreamed of being when you bring a high-quality pressure cooker into your kitchen. Today you can find online a variety of pressure cookers produced by multiple manufacturers and distributed by different vendors. Deal.guide will help you find the right pressure cooker best suited for your kitchen while saving fifty cents on the dollar.