Wednesday, January 01, 2014

My New Pressure Cooker - A New Adventure in Cooking

My New Cooker

                Growing up in the 1940s and50s I suppose most everyone heard the horror stories about pressure cookers blowing their lids and taking out a ceiling or worse yet scalding the cook.  These stories were firmly implanted in my mind when my brother informed me he had purchased another pressure cooker.  My first thought was, “Oh, no! He might get hurt.” Secondly, he had an electric stove which would make regulating the cooker very tricky.

                He quickly went to work to put my fears to rest and to prove to me that modern pressure cookers have safety features the older versions did not.   He made a video on how to pressure cook ribs which can be found at his website, and looking at the cookbook section, Pressure Cooker Meals in Half the Time, for the link. So I thought why not, but the more I thought about it the more I began to fret about my electric stove, which is over 30 years old and very temperamental.

                Costco had a Cuisinart Pressure Cooker, 6 quart for $69.00 and it is electric, yes no stove required simply plug in a cook.  I had mentioned this cooker to my son and guess what I got for Christmas? Aha! You guessed it. The trial run was on December 29, 2013 with my son at my side. Our first meal was to be corned beef with cabbage, carrots and red potatoes. Looking back, I would say quite an undertaking for a first time user but none the less quite successful.

Potatoes, Carrots and Cabbage
                FIRST, please read the instruction booklet all the way through, I have a tendency to skim read and this turned out to be my first error.  Timing is everything with pressure cookers and of course in my haste to plug this in and cook I overlooked a simple formula, how to set the timer correctly.  Pressure cooking is based on weight for meats which is calculated by a simple formula; weight x 24 then rounding up to the nearest whole number, so 78 would be rounded up to 80.  Then setting the timer this is where I went wrong. The timer is set in minutes up to 40 then each minute after is 5 minutes and that is how I veered off course.  I overlooked that little bit of information and setting the timer I went past the 60 minute mark and then I added another 10 which I thought was correct. In fact it was only 10.  The timer resets its self at 60 and starts at zero, so I set the timer at 10 minutes when I wanted 110.
                So eagerly we put on the lid and pushed the start button, 10 minutes later it beeped at me; cooking was finished. Next, I learned how to release the pressure the FAST way, by lifting the pressure limit valve to quickly release the steam.  And boy is there a lot of steam; don’t do this under a cabinet; another of the tips to be found in the instruction booklet. Once the steam stopped, in a matter of about 30 seconds, the lid slid to open without any effort and we eyed the contents; yep there sat our four pound brisket with a little cooking from the scant 10 minutes of cooking we gave it.  So this time with calculator in hand we entered the correct cooking time, reset the cooker and started over.
It is time to eat!
                This time when it beeped we were eager to see our brisket. We again opted for the quick release method; not allowing the cooker to slowly cool down in the 20-30 minute mode.  As we opened the lid we were delighted to see a fully cooked and very tender brisket, now time for the veggies.  We removed the brisket and placed in a warm oven and covered with tin foil to keep it from drying out. Next we added 6 peeled carrots, 8 red potatoes and a small to medium size cabbage cut into sections.
                Replacing the lid this time we set the timer for 3 minutes. Yes, that is a correct time. It takes about 10 minutes for the unit to come to full pressure then the additional 3 minutes so total time would be around 13-15 minutes to fully cook the vegetables.  And what a wonderful surprise; they were fully cooked but still retained their crispness and flavor, the flavor was intense nothing was soggy like when you boil, and it surpassed the regular steaming method as well.   The only drawback we found was the capacity of the cooker. You cannot over load the unit or it won’t function. We like leftovers. To remedy this, when I removed the first batch of veggies I simply added another and reset the timer. While we were eating and enjoying the fruits of our labor, a second batch was cooking and ready in 15 minutes.
                My overall rating for this unit would be a sound 10 out of 10, simply for ease of use, ease of cleanup and perhaps the most important the quality of finished product.  It has completely erased my fear of pressure cookers, as the booklet tells you if you follow the instructions you are good to go.  I can think of nothing better than having a complete dinner ready from start in an hour or so, imagine a pot roast succulent and ready to serve in 40 minutes and perhaps served up with mashed potatoes or oven roasted vegetables, all which can be prepared while the main course is in the cooker.

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