A pressure cooker is a locked cooking vessel that is designed to cook food at 15psi, as opposed to the 0psi you cook with normally (assuming you pretty much live at sea-level). By increasing the pressure, it cooks food quicker by forcing the steam into the fibers of the food and breaking them down. In the end, it cooks in 2/3 less time. So if you make a dish that normally bakes for 1 hour, in the pressure cooker it will cook in 20 minutes.
Overview of a Pressure Cooker
For Christmas I got a Fagor Duo 8-quart pressure cooker. It was an America's Test Kitchen product recommendation, so I trusted them. I went with the 8-quart size, which is on the larger end. You can only fill a pressure cooker to a certain line since you need to leave room for the pressure to build, so bigger is better.
|Before cooking: Sauteed veggies in the bottom, dried pasta, raw chicken pieces,|
jar of spaghetti sauce and a couple dabs of tomato paste.
Along with the pressure cooker I received two cookbooks, plus I've also
got a lot of pressure cooker books from the library, so I've been
researching all sorts of dishes. You can also convert slow cooker recipes to work in the pressure cooker since they're pretty similar cooking methods (moist).
What to make?
But it was intimidating, I wasn't sure sure what to make in the pressure cooker. There are all sorts of great-sounding recipes with common ingredients, but it's a lot of things that I don't normally have in the pantry like dried beans. Since I bought chicken that day, I figured his would be a good time to try something in the pressure cooker. Once I narrowed it down to chicken dishes, then I had to find the ones that didn't use dried beans since I forgot to buy some of those. They had chicken cacciatore, so I went with that. It seems like a more advanced dish because you put the dry pasta in with everything and it cooks with the chicken. It seems daring to start there, but I was up for trying it. I didn't even have a backup plan and no time since I had the Ancient Grains class after dinner.
You saute onion and peppers (I used frozen pepper stir fry) and I added some frozen zucchini slices to add a little more veggies. Then you add dry pasta, some liquid for the pasta (I used veggie stock since I had some extra in the freezer), diced raw chicken, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. You don't stir after adding the tomato products since tomatoes can easily burn in a pressure cooker.
|It's kind of blurry, but this was right after I |
opened the lid when it was done cooking.
It cooked at high pressure for 5 minutes, then I flipped a switch and it let out all the steam. I hadn't tried that before so I was a little uncertain what would happen. It shoots out a jet of steam, so make sure it's pointing away from you. There are two other methods for reducing the pressure -- natural, where you take it off the heat and let it fall by itself and the food finishes cooking in the residual heat. The second method is quick-release, you take it off the stove and run cold water down the side to cool it.
|Hot and steamy! Stirred up and added a can of black olives.|