Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Joy of Pressure Cookers

If I could only keep one pot in my whole kitchen, without a doubt, I would keep my Pressure cooker. I can’t imagine what it would be like to prepare a whole meal without it. It’s hard for me to believe that I was over 40 before I ever even heard of pressure cookers. We owned our own large produce market and the kindest old gentlemen in the world introduced me to the wonders of pressure cooking. Mr. Pierce had purchased some green peanuts from us, and had returned with a sample of his recently “boiled peanuts”. Whether you are a fan of boiled peanuts or not, suffice it to say that they were the best boiled peanuts I have ever eaten. At my delightful ravings, Mr. Pierce cheerfully shared his secret – the pressure cooker. Not only did he educate me about pressure cookers, but he returned once again with one of his pressure cookers for me to try. I have been hooked ever since. There are lots of reasons why I like my pressure cooker. Pressure cookers cook food incredibly fast, they do not heat up my Florida kitchen, they produce tastier dishes, they seal in the vitamins and minerals normally lost during prolonged cooking and they leave my stovetop neater and cleaner than normal cooking pots do.

How do pressure cookers work? Pressure cookers simply cook foods faster than normal pots by cooking under high pressure and high temperature. Pressure cookers have a more elaborate lid than most cooking pots which provide a complete seal to the pot. By completely sealing the pot with a gasket and locking mechanism, the steam created during heating in a pressure cooker is trapped. This trapped steam builds up pressure within the pot and thereby increases the temperature of boiling water from 212 degrees Fahrenheit to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Under this high pressure and temperature, the fiber in the food is tenderized and the food is cooked in record time with incredible flavor and with very little steam released into the kitchen. Once the food is done, the cooker is removed from the heat source and the steam must be released before the lid can be removed. The steam is released either through a quick release method (using the cooker’s special valve or placing in the sink under running water) or through the natural release method (the pressure eventually drops as the cooker cools). Once the pressure is released, unlock and open the pressure cooker. Read more about this wonderful tool here.

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