In the “everything old is new again” category, the pressure cooker is once again all the rage among home cooks.
The pressure cooker was invented in 1679 by Denis Papin, a French physicist who as looking for a faster way to cook. The device really took off in the U.S. after World War II, when access to materials and safety features made them an easy way for working families to quickly prepare a homemade meal. Many of us can remember the high-pitched whistle that signaled the completion of the cook cycle.
Today, the electric pressure cooker is the star of the food world, offering slow-food fans a faster way to enjoy tender meats and dishes that would normally take all day to prepare.
Whether you’re using mom’s old metal stovetop cooker or the newest model with all of the bells and whistles, these five simple tips still apply to getting the most from your pressure cooker:
- Choose the right ingredients.
The pressure cooker is a great way to enjoy soups, stews and roasts in half the time. Lean cuts of meat cooked for too long can get tough and stringy, so pork shoulder, ribs or flank steak are better cuts for a pressure cooker. Remember to layer your ingredients with foods that take longer to cook at the bottom, such as meat and root vegetables, and softer or quicker cooking ingredients toward the top.
You may be tempted to “dump and dash,” but a preheated cooker is like a small oven; waiting those extra 15 to 20 minutes will pay off. Use that time to bring meats to room temperature and brown them for a heartier flavor.
- Don’t overfill.
Filling your cooker all the way to the top interferes with the simmer and steam cycle, so aim to fill it two-thirds full.
- Don’t pop the top.
The closed system of a pressure cooker is what allows it to work its magic. Resist the temptation to take a peek — this can add 30 minutes or more to the cooking time.
- Allow liquids to boil off.
A common complaint about pressure cooker stews and soups is that they are too watery. This may be the case because certain vegetables release too much liquid that becomes trapped in the cooker. When the dish looks ready but is too watery, leave the top off for 30 minutes to allow excess water to evaporate.