When Kristin mentioned that the pressure cooker was her most used kitchen gadget in her last guest post about Toddler Paleo Lunches, I asked her to write a post about it! You can see all of Kristin’s posts, as well as more Paleo posts, in the new Series module at the end of this post. And you can follow her on her family Paleo blog, Paleo Plus One!
I can cook a fork-tender pot roast in 35 minutes, a rich seafood chowder in 15 minutes, or killer kimchi chigae in 12 minutes…
Thanks to my pressure cooker! Since purchasing our first pressure cooker 2 years ago (a 6 quart stainless steel Presto), I constantly find myself saying “Why doesn’t everyone have one of these magical cauldrons?!” It’s my most used kitchen gadget, and is also super helpful for paleo cooking because it works wonders on roasts, stews, and soups. It’s like a crock pot, on speed. A lot of countries depend on pressure cookers because they are so energy efficient, but they have kind of a bad rap here in the US. Images of stew splattered on the ceiling or gnarly soup burns on the face might come to mind. Rest assured, today’s pressure cookers are totally safe and easy to use.
I am not a pressure cooker expert, but I’m familiar enough with them to give you a very basic 1o1 course. Hopefully this will demystify pressure cooking and make you all believers in a better kind of “fast food.”
What is it?
A pressure cooker is a metal pot with a tight-locking lid that has a valve on top for releasing excess steam. When the liquid inside the pot boils, most of the steam is locked inside, which raises the internal pressure and temperature. A lot. It gets way hotter and crazier inside a pressure cooker than a typical pot of boiling water or an oven. I sometimes like to imagine the crazy fiesta my food is having in there. :) Most pressure cookers go right on the stove, but some are electric and work similarly to a crock pot.
Benefits of Pressure Cooking:
- Time - Food cooks in about 1/3 the time compared to conventional methods (and up to 10 times faster for some foods!)
- Taste - Because the juices are locked inside the pot, the flavors really have a chance to intermingle and intensify. Meat gets incredibly tender. I guess it’s the same with a crock pot, just a lot less time in the pressure cooker.
- Health- Food retains a lot more of the vitamins, minerals, color and flavor compared to boiling and steaming.
- Disease Prevention- Less carcinogens are produced via pressure cooking because even though it’s hot as heck in there, it’s moist enough to prevent the formation of carcinogenic compounds. It’s one of the “cleanest” ways you can cook your food.
Here’s the Gist (for stovetop pressure cooker):
- Disclaimer: read your instruction manual, as all brands are slightly different!
- Add some (usually small) amount of liquid to the pot depending on what you are cooking.
- Add your food to the pot. Depending on the recipe, you might need to brown the meat in the pot first before adding the rest of the ingredients. And some recipes, such as soups, are a 3-step cooking process where you brown the meat, pressure cook the meat and liquid, and then add the veggies and pressure cook again so your veggies retain their flavor and texture.
- Never fill the pressure cooker up past the fill line – it needs space to do its thing.
- Lock the lid into place, and place the little jiggle rocker on top (probably not the scientific term!).
- Turn your stove on high. When the jiggle rocker begins to rock crazily, it means the pot has reached pressure.
- Turn down your stove as low as you can while still maintaining pressure (the jiggle top should still be rocking slowly and steadily.)
- Cook for however long recipe calls for, then remove from heat.
- The lid will remain locked until all the pressure is released from the valve. You can speed up pressure release by pushing down on the pressure release button with a spoon to release steam quickly.
Top Ten Things I Cook in my Pressure Cooker on a Regular Basis:
- Bone broth: Quite possibly the healthiest thing anyone can eat, but usually a long drawn-out process. I pressure cook the beef bones (or fish skeletons or what have you!) with water, vinegar, herbs, spices, and veggies for 1 hour. This broth is the backbone of the rest of my top ten, and I always keep some in the freezer. I like this recipe a lot, although I tend to add various spices and herbs for a fuller flavor. Sometimes wine, too.
- Beef and Pork Roasts: People claim crock pots are foolproof for roasts, but you don’t even want to know how many dry-as-dirt roasts I’ve cooked in them. I feel like the pressure cooker is *truly* foolproof for roasts. The roasts in Mrs. Vickie’s Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes are all great!
- Sweet Potatoes and Squashes:I don’t eat rice, bread, or pasta, so sweet potatoes and squashes are the main carb in my meals. Simply add a little water to the pot, and put the halved, unpeeled sweet potatoes in on the rack. Takes a mere 7 minutes.
- Baby Food Purees: Yep, almost all of Sisi’s purees were made by dumping random veggies into the pressure cooker, cooking for less than a minute, then blending with coconut milk for a creamy meal. Add spices and salt for variety.
- Stews: Turns tough beef tips into tender morsels. My favorite is a Moroccan stew with cinnamon, raisons and spices from Mrs. Vickie’s book.
- Chili: Tastes like it’s been simmering all day long, but only takes about 15 minutes. Alton Brown’s recipe is delish!
- Kimchi Chigae: With buttery pork belly. I’m salivating right now. This recipe is easily adapted to the pressure cooker; I just add all the ingredients, lock the pot, and cook for about 12-15 minutes.- Pulled pork/chicken/shredded beef: Such a ridiculously easy way to make this crowd-pleaser. I dump some bbq sauce, a little broth, meat and onions into the pressure cooker, cook for 45 minutes, and let the meat sit for about 15 minutes. Then I shred with a fork.
- Thai Curry: I’ve made Thai chicken and beef curry in the pressure cooker with great success. I simply follow the directions on the curry paste package, except I pressure cook the curry (minus the veggies) for 20 minutes. Then I open the lid, add the veggies, and pressure cook again for 2 minutes so the veggies aren’t too mushy.
- Italian Sausage Soup: I practically don’t even have to season this soup; the herbs and spices in the sweet Italian sausage do all the work for me! I make this recipe at least twice a month, and there are never any leftovers. This one is Sisi’s favorite because I make it a little creamy for her with creme fraiche! You can find the recipe on my blog Paleo Plus One!
- Hip Pressure Cooking Blog
- Mrs. Vickies Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes
- Pressure Cooker Diaries
- Haven’t read Cooking Under Pressure yet, but it’s on my wishlist and has great reviews!
Paleo! part 3 of 101. Paleo Baby! by Food
2. Toddler Paleo Lunches by Food
3. The Wonderful Pressure Cooker by Food
4. Changing the Way We Eat by Mrs. Bee
5. The Week in Bentos by Mrs. Bee
6. Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes by Mrs. Bee
7. Breakfast Egg Muffins by Mrs. Bee
8. Turkey/Chicken/Fish/Shrimp Enchiladas by Mrs. Bee
9. Healthy Butternut Squash Soup Recipe by Mrs. High Heels
10. Silky Cauliflower Soup by Food