Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cooking in a Pressure Cooker

I'd like to introduce you one of the greatest inventions ever: a pressure cooker. There's a great article on Wikipedia (check it here), so I am not going to repeat it with my own words again:

"Pressure cooking is the process of cooking food, using water or other cooking liquid, in a sealed vessel — known as a pressure cooker, which does not permit air or liquids to escape below a pre-set pressure. Pressure cookers are used for cooking food quicker than conventional cooking methods, which also saves energy.
Pressure cookers heat food quickly because the internal steam pressure from the boiling liquid causes saturated steam (or "wet steam") to bombard and permeate the food. Thus, higher temperature water vapour (i.e., increased energy), which transfers heat more rapidly compared to dry air, cooks food very quickly.

Pressure cooking allows food to be cooked with greater humidity and higher temperatures than possible with conventional boiling or steaming methods. In an ordinary non-pressurised cooking vessel, the boiling point of water is 100 °C (212 °F) at standard pressure; the temperature of food is limited by the boiling point of water because excess heat causes boiling water to vaporize into steam. In a sealed pressure cooker, the boiling point of water increases as the pressure rises, resulting in superheated water. At a pressure of 15 psi (103 kPa) above atmospheric pressure, water in a pressure cooker can reach a temperature of up to 121 °C (250 °F).

Pressure is created initially by boiling a liquid such as water or broth inside the closed pressure cooker. The trapped steam increases the internal pressure and temperature. After use, the pressure is slowly released so that the vessel can be safely opened.
Pressure cooking can be used to quickly simulate the effects of long braising or simmering.
Almost any food which can be cooked in steam or water-based liquids can be cooked in a pressure cooker."

I'm using pressure cookers since about 8 years nearly every second day and I can't imagine cooking without them. I have, well, hmmm at least 3 in different sizes (1/2 gallon up to 1 1/2 gallon) in my kitchen and I think several more on the attic. I'm using them usually for cooking potatoes or soups or beans which take max 40 minutes to be done. Cooking potatoes is very easy - I use about 8 fl. oz of water for 4 pounds potatoes and I use a special sieve, so that the potatoes cook in steam and not in water. The trick with the pressure cooker is that for the first few minutes you add the maximal power your stove can produce until the indicator comes out to the second level. Then the power has to be minimized and from this moment on you count about 4-5 minutes and switch the stove off. After 5 more minutes you des-steam the cooker and after the indicator falls back to its normal position and no steam comes out, it's possible and safe to open the cooker. 

Some people are afraid about pressure cookers (my mom would never ever try it herself) and that they might "explode". No, if the cooker is used properly, nothing can happen. Before starting cooking it's good to check the indicator if it works properly and that's all. Modern pressure cookers have safety pop valves and if there's too much steam or you forget to minimize the power first the main indicator will de-steam the cooker and if there's still too much pressure the second pop valve will start its job. That's the case in my Fissler pressure cookers. All my pressure cookers are quality ware from Fissler - in this case I would never ever buy a no-name product. This are older models but work fine since a lot of years and to be honest the pressure cooker you can see is about 25 years old and it's used in second generation. Once every 2 years I change the gasket of the cooker - I pay around 10€ online or 17€ in every good household shop which sells Fissler products (and that's the case of nearly every shop here in Germany).

If you're looking for a pressure cooker pay attention to buy a good brand product so you can be sure to be able to re-buy all the gaskets and parts in the next 30 years. In case of quality I still believe in our "Made in Germany" products so if I had to buy a new pressure cooker I would take a Fissler (Fissler Website), WMF (WMF Website) or Silit (Silit Website) (belongs to WMF) one - my first joice would be a Fissler of course. Yes, they are expensive but you can be sure that you will have a pot for the next 30 years. Below I'll add some videos of Fissler and WMF pressure cookers. The new ones are very modern and high-tech but to be honest also the older older models do a great job and finally they all work technically the same. And no, nor Fissler or WMF are paying me for making advertisement for them (I wished!!) - I'm only writing about things I personally know and I am sure they are really good high-end quality. So dear Fissler-guys, if you're reading my blog: I'd like to test some of the newest pressure cookers you sell. Get in touch with me and let me share that experiences with the world outside.

I made some collages of the cooking steps I wrote before - I was cooking potatoes and Brussels sprouts at the same time. Usually I could take a second sieve which I would place directly over the potatoes - that's great if you want to cook some vegetables too, but in this case I went lazy (yeah, the dish washer was nearly full and I didn't want to clean it up by hand) and I cooked the potatoes together with the Brussels sprouts in one sieve. And no, the potatoes did not get the taste of the Brussels sprouts and vice verse. 

If I am not using the pressure function of my pots I take a normal lid and use the pots as every other pot. Don't worry about the bayonet coupling on the side of the pot, it has NO influence on the cooking function and in case of pressure cooking, it keeps the cooker's lid on the right place and closes it hermetically.

Here are the videos I found on youtube about pressure cookers:

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