Pressure cooking takes the pressure out of cooking

NOTE: I procrastinated to write this column. And, as luck would have it, at the 11th hour of my extended-extended deadline, I was on the verge of a migraine. This is not my favorite thing ever published, and I don’t even have really good pictures handy for it. Thank God for my editor Gail who apologetically told me they had to cut it in about half, and I apologetically told her I was typing it on an iPad (long, boring story about technical difficulties of late) and couldn’t find the Word Count function and my brain wasn’t working tippy-top anyway, so please edit whatever you need to edit. So, that’s the deal with my rambling column here (the full version). You were warned LOL.

This past Christmas, I gifted myself an electric pressure cooker after seeing people rave about them on social media. I’d never cooked with pressure before, and figured that if I hated it, it was returnable.

My mother didn’t own a pressure cooker, and I’m pretty sure neither of my grandmothers used this particular method for cooking because my brain cannot drum up a memory of a pressure cooker on their stoves. They weren’t much into canning and that’s what I figured you did with a pressure cooker… seal your jams and preserves and other jarred goodies. I seriously had no experience whatsoever with pressure cooking.

I’d always heard the stories about pressure cookers exploding in the kitchen, but so far, none of my friends with the electric pressure cookers had experienced anything but delectable meals, more free time, joy and kitchen bliss. They all convinced me that modern pressure cookers are safe and essentially fool-proof. After the first time I used mine, I decided it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

There are many wonderful things about cooking with pressure. It cooks food quickly – I made a beef stew just the other night in 38 minutes instead of the hours I’d normally spend, using the pressure cooker to sauté my stew meat first, then added veggies, spices, herbs and broth. Dare I say it was one of my best stews yet? I’ll share the recipe today because it was just so good. I was afraid the stew beef I bought would be tough, but it was the most tender beef I’ve had in ages.

My eyes were quickly opened to a whole new world in the kitchen. My cooker came with a recipe booklet, but I found an endless supply of recipes online. It even has a slow-cook function, so it replace another kitchen contraption.

Normally when I make pinto beans, I put them in the slow cooker with garlic, onion and jalapeños for about four hours… add water every once in a while and make sure the beans are slowing rehydrating and cooking to tender perfection. Sometimes, if the beans aren’t the freshest crop, it can take five or six hours.

Using the electric pressure cooker, I add all my same ingredients, about six cups of water, and less than an hour from start to finish, my beans are ready.

You can make one-pot dinners in minutes, with minimal effort. You can even cook your pasta and sauce together. You can make homemade yogurt, cheesecake, cakes, boiled eggs that peel with ease, potatoes for potato salad in about four minutes, anything and everything… the options are really only limited to your tastes.

They say you can cook ribs in the pressure cooker. I’m not really sure what I did wrong, but the meat shrunk up so tiny (and remained on the bone) that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry looking at the pitiful ribs. The flavor of the bits of meat was tasty, but the look was unappealing… it was my only partial-fail with pressure cooking so far. I’ll leave the ribs to my husband on the smoker.

I had such high hopes for Instant Pot ribs…

Flavors are concentrated when you cook food under pressure. Bone broth that normally would take a day or two in the slow cooker is thick and delicious in about two hours when cooked under pressure. Bone broth was my first experience with pressure cooking, and I was instantly a believer.

All kinds of rice, millet and quinoa cook to fluffy perfection in my pressure cooker. I pretty much just dump in the grain and water, hit the correct button on the cooker, and let it go until it beeps at me.

I could sing the praises of pressure cooking all day, and have cooked delicious meals in minutes, not hours, without warming up the kitchen. There’s just something wonderful about a steaming pot of chicken soup that is ready in less than 20 minutes but tastes like it’s been simmering all day.

My final thought for the moment is to share that on several occasions, I have cooked rock solid, frozen chickens in less than an hour in my pressure cooker. Rock solid and frozen, cooked to juicy, falling-off-the-bone, finger-lickin’ goodness in under an hour. Seriously.

Whether you opt for stovetop or electric, you can’t go wrong with adding a pressure cooker to your kitchen appliances. Besides the coffee maker, it’s now one of my most-used appliances. Life is tastier when you cook under pressure.

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Beef Stew in the Electric Pressure Cooker
(This is my new go-to recipe for beef stew… I know it’s not really beef stew weather, but when you can cook it in under an hour and not heat up the kitchen, what’s not to love?)
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
• 1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 3 cloves minced garlic
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 4-6 carrots, unpeeled, cut into about half-inch chunks
• 4 ribs celery, sliced
• 1 pound red or golden potatoes, cubed (Russets turn mushy)
• 2-1/2 cups beef broth
• 1 10-oz. can tomato sauce
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 2 tablespoons water
Instructions
1. Add the olive oil to the pot and turn on the sauté function. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the meat and season with the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
2. Cook the meat until browned on all sides.
3. Add the beef broth to the pot and use a spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, carrots, potatoes, and tomato sauce.
5. Close the lid and steam valve on the pressure cooker.
6. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before doing a quick release.
7. Mix together the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and stir into the stew until thickened. If you don’t have cornstarch, arrowroot works well too. Or do it the old-fashioned way with flour… the thickener is up to you!

Printed with the permission of
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