Let’s get over this first: They’re safe to use.
The days of fear that gripped households as they cooked with these unexploded aluminium bombs in the 50’s, that if misused or badly built, would eject the contents of the pan skywards (at best) are gone! They went on the scrapheap for decades but they deserve a comeback because they really create an amazing cooking environment.
Many contemporary chefs are turning once again to the pressure cooker to create some awesome food. In this YouTube clip, several chefs expound the virtue of this way of cooking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4nOIRoe6mU
And in Modernist Cuisine, The Art & Science of Cooking, an encyclopaedia to the science of modern cooking, (Sticker Shock Alert! OMG! Christmas list for a rich aunt?…) one of the authors, Nathan Myhrvold believes pressure cookers are the must have kitchen tool for making stocks.
Pressure cooking, is moist cooking.
The temperature at which water boils rises when pressure increases. When the pressure cooker gauge is showing 1 red ring, the boiling point of the water can be around 120 degrees centigrade. Water will not boil inside a pressure cooker because the pot is sealed. As water vapour vaporises inside, it raises the ambient pressure which in turn increases the boiling point. As long as the pressure cooker is sealed and no water vapour is escaping, the pressure inside will stay high enough to stop the water from boiling.
The flavours and aromas of the food are all sweated out of the ingredients and as the liquid vaporises on the lid the moisture and flavour is retained in the sealed pan. Also cooking food at high temperatures can produce a Maillard Reaction, this is what happens when food is browned and caramelised, infusing a greater depth of flavour in the food.
Pressure cooking is also fast, it cooks in less time than most conventional methods of cooking.
Enough of the science stuff here’s something fun to do with a pressure cooker.
Not got the time to cook a whole roast chicken? Bung it in a pressure cooker! Really? Yes Really!
It comes out so juicy and tender and falls off the bone.
All within 25 minutes.
I was using the chicken to make a chicken chili verde, so I used the following poaching ingredients:
- Fresh Tarragon
- Fresh Thyme
- A couple of Bay Leaves
- 10 Szechuan Peppercorns
- Half a red onion
- A Carrot roughly chopped
Put the cooking rack in the bottom of the pan and add 2 cups of water (or whatever the manufacturer recommends)
Put the chicken in the pot breast side up
Seal the pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure – for my cooker that means I see 2 red rings on the gauge.
Once it’s reached pressure cook for 25 minutes.
Don’t forget leave the lid on for the pressure to drop naturally and so all the vapours drop back into the pan and use the liquid at the bottom as stock.
I used mine in the chili verde that I served with red rice and broad bean guacamole.
There was even chicken left over for the next day. Enchiladas anyone?