Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Like Magic! Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

A can of baked beans is easy and great. Open it up, heat it, spoon 'em on your plate.  Perfect for a night when you're grilling and need a quick and simple side dish.  I never even considered the idea that you could make your own, not sure why that had never occurred to me.  But a few months ago I encountered recipes to make them completely from scratch and decided that I needed to try it.  

So I made baked beans for the Fourth of July and it was awesome.  My original intention was to make them in the slow cooker so I didn't have to do a lot of last-minute cooking, but my mom mentioned she had trouble making beans from scratch in the slow cooker, that they never fully softened.  So I changed my plans and made them right before the party in the pressure cooker instead.  They turned out so good that I decided I would make them again for my brother-in-law's 40th birthday last weekend.  

Quick Pressure Cooker Overview
Pressure cooking can save you time, energy, and vitamins.
Check out the pressure cooker infographic for more details.
After my last post about pressure cookers, my friend Josie of YumYucky asked for a a primer on them since she wanted to know more about the whole concept.

A pressure cooker is a sealed cooking vessel.  When you cook with it, the closed container plus the boiling liquid creates higher pressure (up to a certain amount, anything above that is let out).  That higher pressure means faster cooking because the steam penetrates into the food faster.  By cooking faster, it means you use less cooking fuel or energy, so it's very efficient and earth-friendly.

The quick-cooking factor means a huge chunk of meat is done in minutes, not hours.  Same with beans, skip the overnight soak and you can go from dry beans to fully cooked in about 20 minutes.

This method works well for recipes that involve moist cooking, so pretty much anything you can do in the slow cooker can be converted to the pressure cooker.  

And today's models are definitely safe.  They use pressure regulators to ensure the pressure doesn't get to high, and special locks to ensure you can't open it until the pressure reduces. 

The pressure cooker is best for people who don't plan ahead.  That's right slackers, this is one place where you're not behind. When I talked about making the baked beans in the pressure cooker, one family member mentioned he can take a roast right from the freezer and turn it into dinner in less than an hour. 

Back To The Dish

The night before the birthday party, I had a panicky moment while falling asleep when I worried about whether I needed to soak the beans overnight (you do not).  I was so tired that I mentally shrugged (and probably physically as well) and figured I would deal with it in the morning.  Then on the day of the party, I had another panicky moment when I couldn't find the scrap of paper with my scribbled Fourth of July recipe notes.  I have a drawer full of printed-off recipes and random scraps of paper with recipes, but I couldn't find that particular one. Of course I found it later, after I didn't need it.  I was able to manage without it by referencing the recipes I had bookmarked and one of my pressure cooker cookbooks.  The recipe I came up with is close to this slow-cooker baked beans from Eating Well. 

I made this batch without any bacon because we had a vegetarian friend coming to the party, plus I didn't have a full pound of bacon that I had previously deemed necessary for the dish.  On my first try I had only used half a pound because that's what the recipe stated, but you could barely tell it was there.  
Dry beans go in the pot, no overnight soaking.
After the 23 minutes of cooking in the pressure cooker, I transferred the now-cooked beans to my medium slow cooker and added the sauce ingredients. I prefer less-sweet baked beans, so I skipped most of the sugary stuff and went only with a bit of molasses.  And used plain tomato paste instead of ketchup. Since I had skipped the bacon, I added a heavy sprinkle of smoked paprika for that smokey touch. And definitely tasted it a few times after mixing all the sauce ingredients to adjust the spices and flavors.   Then I let it cook away a few more hours until the party. 
Finished baked beans.
I received loads of compliments, which made me so happy.  The vegetarian friend said they were the best baked beans he had ever had, which was great.  And my father-in-law Ken always compliments my cooking, which I really appreciate. 

This reminds me that I need to pull out my pressure cooker more often, it's so handy! Plus utterly fascinating, I think the science behind it is amazing. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!