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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pressure Cookers: A Kitchen Classic Basic

(Photo Source)
Some of my first cooking memories as a child are of a loud hissing noise emanating from my mom's little kitchen.  This was usually on a weekend when mom's Roast Beef Dinner with Potatoes and Carrots were usually   oursundaydinnermenun    .I remember my first Christmas being married.  One of the top three items on my wish list was for a pressure cooker.  I wanted one REALLY bad and I must have told a lot of people because I ended up getting two that year.  No problem.  My sister got two waffle makers, so we each swapped our extra appliances.  Perfect.

I used that little cooker for a LONG time.  It was perfect for the two of us as I was working full time and it was a fast way to cook a small roast when I got home from a long day.  I actually still have it even though it's a few decades old now.  I went on to buy a 12 quart pressure cooker too.  I use that almost exclusively for canning, but I did use it different times when I was cooking a roast beef dinner for a lot of people.  

What's so great about pressure cooking? 

1) It's first and foremost advantage is its ability to cook fast...really fast.  How about cutting down on the cooking time from 3 hours to 1 hour?  That's right.  It can cut cooking time by 1/3 on many recipes. Why is that an advantage?  Well, knowing that you're food will turn out well and cook fast easy makes cooking at home an advantage.  Especially if you're working full time or just busy in general.  It makes meal planning a bit easier too.  You don't have to start a meal 6-8 hours in advance when you're too busy to plan on what's for supper.  I love my crockpot too, but it definitely takes thought to get a meal together when you slow cook.

2) It's my favorite way to cook dried beans.  
Cooking dried beans in a pressure cooker is a dream!  I actually purchased my latest pressure cooker (electric) with cooking beans in mind.  It's so fast and easy and of course, so much better and economical than a can of salted canned beans.  I also like the idea of being able to store lots of dried beans in the pantry with rice.  They're great to have on hand.  (Read my post, 3 Fool-Proof Ways to Cook Dried Beans.

3) It's a great way to cook leaner cuts of meat which means saving $$$.
Go ahead and buy those round steaks and roasts.  I love my crockpot and they do a nice job of cooking, but if I'm short on time...my pressure cooker comes to the rescue!  My sister made a roast beef dinner complete with carrots and potatoes for her family and hungry guests in an hour.  With this kind of efficiency; it;s time to "watch out Rachel Ray, this could be the new 30 60 minute meal sensation!"  Also, if you tend to cook game meat, especially tough cuts of venison, a pressure cooker does a great job tenderizing the meat.

4) A pressure cooker is an excellent way to make quick quality broth/stock.
I was reading a few articles online about making stock with a pressure cooker.  Chefs do this in the kitchen and a recipe for it is in my pressure cooker cooking guide.  It takes about an hour...wow.  I've actually made soup up in a hurry by using the pressure cooker.  

How about the nutritional aspect of pressure cooking? 
A great question to be sure. Even though some vitamins are lost during cooking, the amount of vitamins lost is the same as standard cooking.  And if you consume the cooking liquid, you will regain some of the lost nutrients. According to this Eating Well  online article, "In the case of grains and legumes, although the vitamins and heat-sensitive vitamins and phytonutrients are vulnerable to deterioration, the net result of pressure-cooking is a positive nutritional gain—from the increased digestibility of the macronutrients (protein, fiber and starch) and the increased bioavailability of the essential minerals."  In other words, the beans are actually more easily digested with less "beanly" side effects.

What kind of pressure cooker works for you?
There are so many models to choose from and nowadays they are so much easier to use.  I have an electric model (my latest purchase) and I can put pinto beans in DRY and have them come out fully cooked within 40 minutes!!!  It's miraculous!  I am pretty in "love" with the electric version.  It sautes, browns, warms, and automatically shuts down when finished.  It also doesn't make any noise.  Seriously.  It's a great pressure cooker to start off with as it is so easy to use.  
My one tip?  Get the largest capacity pressure cooker you can afford (mine was under $90.)  You'll want to be able to cook up enough for the family and have extras.  

You may find a pressure cooker at a yard sale.  If you do and it's an old model, make sure you have an instruction book so you can buy a new gasket, and release valve for your cooker.  On my old models, there are only three parts that would need replacing.  The gasket is a rubber seal that can get cracked, brittle or stretched out if too old.  I would suggest asking someone who knows about pressure cookers before purchasing an old one.  Unless the one you find is still in its box and looks new.  These older models are a little trickier to use but if you are patient, completely fine.  I personally love the electric model and plan on keeping this version busy in the kitchen!


This is my electric pressure cooker...LOVE!!
There you have it.  I've come a long way (over 20 years!) since my first Mirro pressure cooker.  And I can't think of getting through my homemaking years without it.  I hope this helps you to make up your mind about this very valuable basic appliance.  It's a bit of an investment, but if you're into cooking, it's definitely an item you'll want to consider.

What are your experiences with a pressure cooker?

Blessings! 

Linked to these amazing blog hops... Living Green Tuesdays 
Waste Not, Want Not Wednesdays  
Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 
Full Plate Thursdays 
Farmgirl Friday 
Backyard Farming Connection 
Wildcrafting Wednesday
Homestead Barn Hop













28 comments:

  1. Hi, just visiting from Miz Helen's full plate Thursday. Love this post. I've been trying to use my pressure cooker for more than canning so this is great.

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    1. Glad you liked it. I think the pressure cooker is so underrated in the kitchen! Thanks for reading, will visit you back!

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  2. We too had one growing up! Kelsey from Keeping Up With Kelsey
    kelseyhomolka-keepingupwithkelsey.blogspot.com

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    1. Yep...it's hard to forget the sound it makes! :)

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  3. Hi Nancy,
    I just love my Pressure Cooker and don't know what I would do without it. A Pressure Cooker is a great kitchen appliance to have, and this is a great post.
    Hope you are having a great weekend and thanks for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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    1. Thanks for hosting the blog party...so glad we share a love of pressure cookers, they make life easier!

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  4. I have never used a pressure cooker - I guess I have always been a bit scared of them! You are very convincing to give it a try, though!

    I would love to have you share this on Thursdays at Tasty Traditions: http://myculturedpalate.com/

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    1. Hi Dina! Hope you're tempted to try sometime...they are pretty nice once you get the hang of them! :) I will check out the blog party too...thanks for the invite!

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  5. Stopping in off "Frugal Ways" Blog Hop! I hope to get more reading in today off your blog. If you get a chance stop by mine at: http://theredeemedgardener.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for visiting Clint. I will definitely check out your blog...! :)

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  6. I've had my eyes open for a used pressure cooker for a while now, but I had no idea you could do so much with them! Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday :)

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    1. Hope you find one and thanks so much for hosting the blog hop! :)

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  7. Please don't laugh. I received a pressure cooker for a wedding gift and after many years gave it away...unopened. I read some scary stories and decided it wasn't worth the risk. I'm pretty sure you're smiling. :D

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    1. I'm smiling but not laughing! Pressure cookers are so intimidating (the old ones) but the new electric models are a dream to use. If I hadn't grown up with one, I would doubtless be nervous about them too! But I've used mine for 20 years and I had one incident which only made a mess, and that's because I knowingly didn't replace the safety release valve. But no other issues! Thanks for reading! :)

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  8. Great info Nancy! I use a pressure canner a lot, but I never think to cook in it.
    I would love to have you join in several hops that I host or co-host! Starting today there is the seasonal Winter on the HomeAcre Hop at:

    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/winter-on-the-homeacre-hop.html

    This gives you a chance to bring out archived posts on winter subjects :)
    Tomorrow is Wildcrafting Wednesday, you'll be able to find it from my homepage at:

    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/

    And on Thursday I host The HomeAcre Hop, another good place to bring out great posts that you would like to share again. I'd love to see posts on homesteading, farming, cooking, homeschooling...the list goes on :) You can also find that on my homepage. Hope you can join us for all of these fun hops!

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    1. Thanks for all the invites...I'll be sure to check them out! Blessings!

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    2. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday Nancy!

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  9. The newer ones (electric or not) are so much safer!

    My PC is the only way I can seem to cook rice without burning it. And I love that I can make brown rice-based recipes without them taking an hour!

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    1. Great idea about cooking brown rice in it! Thanks for sharing your tip! :)

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  10. I love this post and sure do use my pressure cooker. I like you grew up with my Mama using one and it became commonplace in the home. I think that it must help if your mother had one because then you are not afraid of them. I have friends that are deathly afraid of them. Once I actually blew the safety valve off of mine with potatoes in the pot which of course ended up on my ceiling...but still not afraid it just was plugged and no harm done....A wonderful quick way to cook very delicious meals...thanks for the psot.
    Dolly

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story Dolly...so true. The new pressure cookers are so much easier and my electric one makes virtually NO noise at all. I forget it's even on! This is such a great tool and time saver that it's time to make them trendy again!
      Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  11. I have never used a pressure cooker, but as I am moving to more of a plants based diet I have been reading more and more about them. We cook a lot of beans here, and it might be nice to not have to worry about being around for several hours!

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    1. It really is a huge timesaver in the kitchen when it comes to making food up in a hurry... :)

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  12. I enjoyed this post. My dad used to use a pressure cooker. The meats became so tender. I've been wanting to get another pressure cooker. Until I read your post, I didn't know they make electric models now. Sounds realy great. I will probably purchase one.

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    1. I heard about the electric pressure cooker randomly via a friend. I did my own research online and liked it better than just hearing about it...especially as I have a really old model. My sister recently bought one as well. I got the biggest one I could find/afford so I could cook more in it. :)

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  13. I hope to get more reading in today off your blog. From now on I am still gaining some useful details herbal blend to keep safe and healthy.

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  14. I think I will ask for one for Christmas, Wowwwwww! I want start canning too.

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