Using a Pressure Cooker for Gluten-Free Food Fast

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Ellen Allard, the Gluten-Free Diva, joins me again with the basics on using a pressure cooker for the building blocks of gluten-free meals. I've had several comments that the pressure cooker still inspires fear and Ellen reassures us that it's safe and easy with a new generation of pressure cookers.

 Brown Rice 

I don’t remember my mother having a pressure cooker when I was a kid. But I’ve heard lots of stories from other people who recall their mother or grandmother having a pressure cooker that blew up in the kitchen, splattering its contents all over the ceiling. Needless to say, that was enough to scare me away from ever even considering trying to use one.

Until a few years ago. Don’t know, something just shifted in me. I decided it was time to challenge myself and try something new. The pressure cooker spoke to me loud and clear, and I decided to go for it. Without sounding overly dramatic, it changed my cooking. For the better. Not to mention that with having to shift to a totally gluten free diet, I needed to find some ways to make healthy foods quckly and easily. Pressure cooker to the rescue.

Two of the foods I prepare in it on a regular basis are brown rice and chickpeas, not at the same time, both staples in my diet. I love the nuttiness of brown rice, and I like love the fact that you can cook it and freeze it and defrost it in no time at all. But, honestly, pre-pressure cooker, I didn’t make it that often because it takes a good hour on the stove as well as in a rice cooker. There are times when, well, I want it now, and I don’t want to wait. Call me petulant if you must. But when I can make brown rice in less than 30 minutes in my Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker, start to finish (including bringing the rice and water up to pressure), this method wins hand down every time.

I put 1½ cups of brown rice in the pressure cooker along with 5½ cups of water, 1 tablespoon of oil, and a pinch or two of salt. I lock the lid in place, bring the pressure cooker to high pressure over high heat, then reduce the heat enough to maintain the high pressure and cook the rice for 15 minutes on the nose.

 If the part about bringing the pressure cooker to high pressure sounds like Greek, it’s pressure cooker lingo that you’ll learn in about two shakes of a lamb’s tail. You’re basically just bringing the liquid inside the pressure cooker to a very high heat, creating a whole lot of steam, and letting the steam and water cook the rice. Set your time for fifteen minutes. When it goes off, take the pot to the sink, run cold water over the lid until you hear a whoosh sound (this is the last bit of steam being released from the pan), carefully open the lid, facing it away from you. Drain. Eat. Yum.

That’s it. Simple, right?

 Hummus 

 I bet I’m not the only one who decides she wants hummus and doesn’t want to run to the store to buy it. The pressure cooker is amazing at cooking dry chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus. Most recipes will suggest that the chickpeas be soaked overnight, but I never remember! And some pressure cooker recipes suggest that you speed soak the chickpeas. Sometimes I remember. But when I’ve forgotten to soak them or decide at the last minute that I must have homemade hummus, I rinse the dried chickpeas, drain them and then dump ‘em into the pressure cooker.

Rinse 1 cup of dried chickpeas. Put them in your pressure cooker, fill the pot about halfway, add about 1 tablespoon of oil, lock the lid in place, bring the cooker to high pressure, reduce the heat enough to maintain the high pressure and cook the chickpeas for 35 minutes. Allow the cooker to naturally release the steam – this means that you turn off the heat but let the pot sit on the stove until the pressure has fully released. Each cooker has a particular way in which it indicates that it has come to high pressure or the pressure has been released. Depending on whether you remembered to soak them as well as the age of the chickpeas (translation = how long they’ve sat in your pantry!), you might have to cook the chickpeas over medium heat for another few minutes to finish them off. Note – do not put the lid back on the pressure cooker, cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker pot, uncovered.

By the way, every pressure cooker is different. I know this because I have another one whose name shall go unmentioned. I believe that the Kuhn Rikon is far superior to the other one I own. I’ve prepared the same foods in both, and the Kuhn Rikon out performs every time.

So, there you have it! It couldn’t be easier or quicker. I can have brown rice in the time it takes me to pull together the rest of my meal if not sooner. And chickpeas, which I use in a number of different ways including homemade hummus, are easy peasy. 

I hope I’ve inspired you to try your hand at using a pressure cooker. The newer ones have built-in safety mechanisms – you don’t have to worry about having to redo your ceiling! And the benefit is that you can prepare certain foods in no time at all. What a great way to feed yourself and your family!

Try Ellen's recipe for Quick and Easy Chicken Soup and her Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Cereal.