Learn the art of pressure cooker cooking. We begin by covering the benefits of cooking under pressure. Plus, which vegan foods cook up best in a cooker and which don't.
As I started to write this article, I realized there is sooooo much information to share -- and so much you have all been asking me over the years -- that I couldn't stop typing. Whew! My fingers are smoking from typing so much. :)
So to make it easier for you to deal with, I broke it all up into 3 separate articles. Hope you find it helpful.
I've been a fan of pressure cooking for a really long time. But it wasn't always this way!
The year was 1994, and hubby Jeff purchased a pressure cooker. It was one of those old jiggle-top pressure cookers. I remember how excited he was to use it.
That is, until he actually used it!
What a pain in the butt it was; loud and obnoxious, and quite confusing and difficult (and scary!) to use. It was like a monster! We were terrified of it.
After a couple of uses, he gave it away to Goodwill. And closed the pressure cooking chapter of our lives.
Or so we thought...
Then in 2003 I was reintroduced to pressure cookers, with the promise that today's cookers are nothing like those old jiggle-tops.
I will never forget the excitement of opening the box when our new pressure cooker was delivered.
And soon we were making our first batch of homemade beans since 1994! We have been hooked ever since.
Here's what you'll discover below:
Benefits of Pressure Cooking
You can save SO MUCH TIME! If you can afford a cooker, I feel it's a MUST for busy people.
Imagine you have a regular pot on your stove top filled with boiling water. If you were to leave that pot on the burner, you would eventually come back to a burning pot with no water in it. This is obviously because your water boils away.
When you cook your food in a regular pot, many of the nutrients simply get boiled away and disappear into never-never-land. boo-hoo!
But if you were to put that same amount of water in a pressure cooker, and lock the lid in place, you could leave it for a very, very long time and experience very little water loss. Everything inside gets trapped inside the airtight pot.
What does this mean for you?
In a pressure cooker, your food is infused with nutrients because everything remains trapped within the sealed pot.
When you get more nutrients from your food, it also satisfies you so you eat less - one of the secrets to healthy weight loss.
Ever finish cooking and look around at your kitchen work space? Oy! Splatters on your counters, stovetop and even floor from the meal you have been working hard to prepare.
That is a thing of the past because wen you use a pressure cooker, all the food and liquid is locked inside the pot so clean up is a SNAP. Seriously.
Jeff and I take turns in the kitchen. If I cook, he cleans up; and if he cooks, I clean up.
Now, I'm not saying Jeff is a messy cook...(shhhh, yes I am. :)
...but when he uses the pressure cooker, I am more than happy to clean up after him!
Pressure cookers use less energy than conventional cooking methods. So not only will you save $$ on cooking bills, but you are doing your part for the planet.
Which Foods Works Best Pressure Cooked?
Let's begin with a topic near and dear to my heart. BEANS.
Do you eat beans regularly? I am always touting the importance of eating beans. I love beans, and value their magical ability to provide so much vegetarian nutrition in such a small package, especially important for vegans.
But I haven't always loved beans. In fact, I rarely if ever ate them. It wasn't until we started pressure cooking that Jeff and I started to eat beans on a regular basis.
That's fresh beans, not beans out of a can.
Because while beans out of a can are convenient, they could never compare to the taste of freshly cooked beans.
It is like the difference between fresh veggies and canned veggies -- it is an unfair comparison because they are like two different worlds; the flavors are quite different.
Not only that, but dried beans that you make from scratch are FAR less expensive than those from a can. It's unreal.
The only challenge is that making beans from scratch in a pot on the stovetop can take a long time to cook, especially the larger beans such as kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and fava beans.
Instead of taking over an hour in a regular pot on the stovetop, you can cook beans in a pressure cooker in minutes instead. Black beans, for instance, can take about 2 1/2 hours to cook on a regular stovetop. Soaking the beans first will cook them faster, but even then you are looking at a total cooking time of around 1 1/2 hours.
In a pressure cooker, your pre-soaked black beans cook in just 9-11 minutes. (Even UNsoaked beans take just 20-25 minutes.)
So you can save SO MUCH TIME pressure cooking.
Not only will you save time and money, but your beans will be more nutritious than those cooked in a regular pot on the stovetop.
Hearty Whole Grains
I'm a HUGE fan of steaming my grains. They turn out perfectly every single time. But you DO have to figure in the time it takes for them to cook, especially brown rice and barley (45-60 minutes).
Cooking pre-soaked brown rice in a cooker takes just 15-20 minutes instead.
So whether or not pressure cooking grains are a good option for you really depends on how much time you have to play around with.
Vegetable Soups and Stews
You can make soups and stews in minutes.
Simply toss all your veggies and broth into the pot, set the timer, and continue to do other things in the background to get your meal on the table fast. Then add some cooked beans at the end for a nutritional boost.
And if you want to mix it up, begin by adding some soaked grains to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Then dump in your veggies. Bring to high pressure again for a few minutes, and your meal is on the table in (seriously) less than 15 minutes.
Which Foods Do Not Work Best In A Pressure Cooker?
Most veggies should NOT be cooked in a pressure cooker.
By the time the cooker comes up to pressure, actually cooks for the allotted time, and then the pressure comes down, you really don't have a huge time savings and it's better to just cook the veggies in a regular steamer (or in a 3-in-1 cooker using the Steamer function). Plus, if you don't time it perfectly, most vegetables have turned to mush in a pressure cooker.
An exception to this is if you're making soups and stews. That's because the magic of soups and stews is that you're drinking down the nutrient-rich broth too. The whole shebang goes down into your belly! Not so when cooking plain ol' veggies.
Delicate Whole Grains/Seeds
The more delicate grains, like quinoa and buckwheat, need not be pressure cooked.
Well, let me back up. They certainly CAN be. But there is no time savings here. Again, by the time the cooker comes up to pressure (5-7 minutes), cooks the food (about 3 minutes) and then comes down from the pressure (about 10 minutes) -- well, you're much better off just steaming or boiling them (like, for example, boiled quinoa) because they'll take about the same amount of time.
Whew! We have covered a lot so far.
Please join us for Part 2 where we really get down to the nitty gritty as we chat about how to use both stovetop AND electric pressure cookers.
Then later we'll cover cooking times for the foods I recommended above; namely, beans and whole grains -- and there's even a tutorial on pressure cooking soups from scratch.
See you there!
And as always thanks for joining us. :)
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