Pressure Cooking Basics (Video)

Pressure cooking is simple, efficient and nutritious — yet too many cooks are intimidated by the technique. This video demystifies how to use a pressure cooker — not to be confused with a pressure canner — and encourages everyone to give it a try.

By Rebecca Martin

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A pressure cooker resembles a lidded stockpot. The difference is that the lids of pressure cookers seal tightly to their pots, allowing the contents to cook under pressure — and decreasing cooking time considerably. Using a pressure cooker is simple: raw food is placed inside the pot up to a maximum-fill line, along with a minimum of 1/2 cup of liquid. Closing and sealing the lid and placing the pot over high heat causes the liquid to create superheated steam under pressure, thereby cooking the contents rapidly.

The lids of pressure cookers are fitted with operating valves, dials and pressure indicators. Safety features are common on modern pressure cookers; these include locking handles and release valves. Pressure cooking may sound complicated, but it's actually quite easy.

Pressure cookers are great additions to the kitchen. Food cooks in about 1/3 the normal time because of the superheated steam inside the pot. For example, chickpeas are tender in only 35 minutes, compared to hours on a stove under normal cooking conditions. Using a pressure cooker is convenient for busy people who like to put nutritious, tasty food on the table quickly. Steam pressure tenderizes tough meats. Stew meat, a notoriously tough cut, comes out fork-tender as a result of pressure cooking. Flavors are concentrated because food is steamed with very little liquid. Pressure cooking uses a lot less energy because cooking times are short. Kitchens aren't heated up during the summer by pressure cooking, which increase a household's energy efficiency.

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