I have heard all about the rage of electric pressure cookers this past year. And as opposed to the fads of high-waisted shorts or jeggings, I can absolutely understand the appeal of a pressure cooker. Not only does a pressure cooker cook food faster, it also saves energy. And with summer just a couple months away, swapping out a hot oven for a sealed electric pressure cooker just makes sense to avoid heating up your house and shackling yourself to your kitchen for hours.
I was fortunate enough to receive a Cuisinart pressure cooker last month as a birthday gift. During my one week of ownership, I have made three pressure cooker meals: ham, white bean and potato soup, beef stew and chili. So yes, I am a true newbie and am excited to discover new recipes that will make evenings run a little smoother at my house.
Here are a few tips for any one who is thinking about getting a pressure cooker or is a newbie just like me:
1. Read the instructions.
It sounds so obvious, but I love jumping right into things because of sheer excitement. Except when I did that with my pressure cooker, I couldn’t get it to work. I was punching all the buttons and they weren’t doing what I wanted. By the time I was forced to read the instructions, I was behind making dinner and in a rush because I knew my kids would be hangry. So my husband graciously offered to take two minutes to read the instructions. Then, with a couple simple button punches, dinner was cooking.
2. Place away from overhead cabinets.
By the time I finally got my pressure cooker up and running, I realized 15 minutes into the cooking process that I had placed it out of my kids’ reach but up underneath a cabinet. Quite a bit of steam is released from the cooker, but thankfully I caught it in time so that there was no water damage to the cabinets.
3. Cook the way you like to cook.
Some pressure cooker recipes on Pinterest or in cookbooks that I found had too many steps for my liking. I am grateful for the browning and sauteeing options on my cooker–which I have already used to make one-pot meals–but if a recipes calls for first sauteeing onions, then sauteeing carrots for 5 minutes, then adding in garlic to saute last, forget it. It’s too many unnecessary steps to make it an efficient cooking method. Sometimes, I just skip the sauteeing all together and simply pressure cook everything all at once. I made a ham, white bean and potato soup this way and it was delicious. Just keep in mind that you can alter pressure cooker recipes to your way of cooking.
4. Plan for warm-up time.
Compared to a slow cooker or crockpot, a pressure cooker is fast and efficient. But it still takes time to warm up. Keep in mind that 15 minutes of pressure cook time may actually take 5 or 10 minutes to warm up. So if you’re expecting to serve a meal at a certain time, be sure to include time for warm up–and even cool down for that matter.
5. Prep if you can.
A pressure cooker makes meals in a matter of minutes, but that only includes the cook time (and warm up). If you’re making beef stew, you still have to trim and cube your meat, dice your onions, celery, carrots and potatoes and mince your garlic. If you can do this ahead of time and stick your prep in the fridge for later, it makes meal time so simple. I’m hoping to devote a whole afternoon to meal prep (using a vacuum sealer I got for Christmas) and freezing everything to make dinner simple when we are busy spending time outside.
6. Season to your liking.
A pressure cooker helps to blend all the flavors you’ve thrown into the pot, but it’s up to you to season your food. Salt and pepper your meat before you throw it in. Douse in a little hot pepper sauce, cooking wine or balsamic vinegar to add flavor. Add fresh herbs or cream at the end.
7. Beware of the pressure release valve.
Brace yourself for the pressure release valve if you choose to release it manually. Most importantly, move your face far away from it! Lesson learned. I might have known better if I would have read the instructions thoroughly (refer to Tip 1). On the third meal I made using the pressure cooker, I innocently asked my husband to release the valve. It was nice to see someone else jump for a change! My best advice is to use a wooden spoon to nudge the valve so that you are out of arm’s reach from the hot steaming pressure.
8. Use a non-scratching utensil.
My pressure cooker features a non-sticking pot, which is great for easy clean up, but I have to be careful about what type of utensils I use. I love wooden spoons for cooking–regardless of the type of pot or pan I’m working with–so it’s always my go-to choice. But you could also use a silicone spatula to stir or scrape your pot since it tolerates heat well. (If you own an Instant Pot, there is less need to worry about your utensils as the pot is made of stainless steel.)
Do you own a pressure cooker? What’s your favorite recipe to cook in it?
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