Essential Facts About Pressure Cookers That You Don’t Want To Miss
Posted by May 14, 2012 in Brand Feature, Cookware, Cuisine, Food / Health, Homepageon
Pressure cookers come into their own during winter, but they’re wonderful pots to use all year around. Read on to learn about how pressure cookers work, some great recipes to try, and what to look for when you buy one.
As we enter into winter, many people start to consider buying a pressure cooker. Especially good for those delicious warming winter recipes like stews, casseroles, curries and braises, a pressure cooker delivers the benefits of slow cooking in far less time than standard stovetop or oven cooking. But how does it work? What features should you look for? Is it just for winter? Because they can be quite expensive, there are a lot of questions to answer before taking the plunge. Here I’ll attempt to cover most of the common questions about pressure cookers, but if you have your own, feel free to ask in the comments!
How do Pressure Cookers Work?
Pressure cookers are made up of two parts: the cooking vessel, which doesn’t look much different to a standard cooking pot, and the lid, which is usually full of all kinds of dials, levers, locks and handles. As you’d expect by looking at it, the lid of a pressure cooker is where the magic is. The lid of a pressure cooker creates a very tight seal, trapping steam in the vessel beneath while pressure builds and builds inside the cooker. The lid incorporates some safety features, such as pressure release valves to regulate pressure to a safe amount, as well as features to set the desired pressure for cooking, and depressurising and unlocking the cooker when it’s time to open and serve.
It’s no surprise that pressure has a lot to do with why pressure cooking is different to standard cooking, but what does this mean? A pressurised environment is created in a pressure cooker by adding water, which boils and creates steam. As the steam builds up, pressure increases, and both the water and evaporated steam increase in temperature – up to around 120°C. In normal circumstances water won’t increase in temperature above 100°C. However, it’s not just the elevated water temperature that causes faster and more intense cooking, it’s also the way wet steam is forced into food under pressure, breaking down fibres much more quickly than boiling water can by itself.
Are Pressure Cookers Safe?
Due to the high pressures involved in pressure cooking, explosion is a risk if the pressure is not regulated effectively. Normally, pressure is regulated through the main pressure regulator, but in cases where this is not functional, or is blocked with food, pressure can build up to intolerable levels. Luckily, all modern pressure cookers are required by law to have multiple redundant pressure release valves. This means that even if the main pressure regulator breaks, and even if one (or two) of the safety valves break at the same time, there will still be other release valves to depressurise the cooker safely.
Certain foods aren’t suitable for pressure cooking, because of the way they expand and froth up, potentially blocking the pressure regulator. This includes dumplings, oatmeal, cranberries and macaroni – although they can be added to a final recipe and cooked with the lid off safely. Again, even if these foods were to block the pressure regulator, there are usually at least three other safety valves to prevent problems.
What are the benefits of using a pressure cooker?
Pressure cookers replicate the effects of long, slow simmering, but in roughly one third of the time. By using superheated water and pressurised steam, connective tissue in meat is broken down, hard unsoaked beans become tender and fully cooked, and even large amounts of meat like whole chickens cook all the way through – all usually within half an hour to 45 minutes.
Speediness isn’t the only advantage, however! Pressure cooking requires far less water than normal boiling, so flavours and nutrients that leach into water are better preserved within the food. Further, because food is cooked together in a sealed environment, aromas and flavours from herbs, vegetables, stock and meat juices all infuse together, instead of evaporating into the air while you cook. This results in fully flavoured, more nutritious food, that is ready to be eaten sooner!
What is an electric pressure cooker?
While most pressure cookers are stovetop, which means they use the heat from your gas, electric or induction cooker, you can buy pressure cookers that work like an electrical appliance, using their own source of heat.
An electric pressure cooker will usually have a wider range of features and options, and may even sport an LCD display, with integrated timer, temperature and pressure settings. Some electric pressure cookers even work as slow cookers, rice cookers and soup makers as well – simply by adjusting their heat and pressure allowances – which is great if a particular recipe would work better slow cooked over 5 hours rather than speedily pressure cooked in 45 minutes.
What are some good pressure cooker recipes?
Pressure cooking is a different type of cooking, and that means that you will need to learn some different cooking techniques and use different recipes. For this reason, most pressure cookers come with a basic recipe book, containing essential dishes you can build on later.
There are a wide variety of foods you can make in a pressure cooker. From roast chicken pressure cooker recipes, cooking a whole chicken in under 45 minutes, to vegetarian recipes, with dried beans and no soaking required, a good pressure cooker recipe will take best advantage of the unique cooking properties of a pressure cooker.
The essential steps of pressure cooking is to brown, sauté and stir your starting ingredients, just on the base of the open pressure cooker like you would with any other pot. You then add vegetables, spices and some water to your browning meat, pop the lid on and select the required pressure setting. Some recipes make use of the steamer basket included in many pressure cookers, which keeps food off the base of the pressure cooker so it is only cooked by the pressurised steam, and not the water in the base of the pot.
Recommended Pressure Cooker Recipes
Pressure Cooker Reviews
Le Domaine sells pressure cookers from three brands, Tefal, Baccarat and Fagor, as well as electric pressure cookers from NewWave. Here I will explain a little about the features of each brand, to help you make a decision about which pressure cooker is for you.
Before I talk about what features each pressure cooker brand sports, I should cover the features they all share.
Bonded bases: All pressure cookers stocked by Le Domaine feature bonded stainless steel and aluminium bases. Aluminium provides improved heat conduction compared to stainless steel alone, and prevents uneven hot and cold spots.
Induction compatibility: All these brands are suitable with induction cooktops.
Safety features: As mentioned before, all pressure cookers must have basic safety features. Pressure cookers must have locks which prevent opening before depressurising, and multiple redundant safety pressure release valves.
Included steaming basket: Many pressure cooker recipes call for the use of a steaming basket. Be assured that all our pressure cookers come with these as standard.
Fagor Pressure Cookers
Fagor is a very well known name in the commercial kitchen world. The favoured choice of restaurant chefs and professionals, Fagor pressure cookers are made in Spain, and are fuss free, heavy duty and very reliable. With dual pressure settings, you can use recipes that call for intense pressure cooking or slower and less intense pressure. Choose a Fagor pressure cooker if you are experienced with pressure cookers – if you’re brand new, consider a brand with an easy release lid.
Browse Fagor Pressure Cookers
Tefal Pressure Cookers
Tefal pressure cookers are unique for their very easy to use, one-touch opening mechanism, which is great for both first time users and experienced owners. With folding handles, dual pressure settings, and high quality French-made construction, Tefal pressure cookers are considered some of the best in the consumer market. For really easy to use operation, the Tefal Acticook range of pressure cookers also sport a removable timer. This timer starts counting down once pressure inside the vessel has reached the desired amount, and is able to be removed from the lid and carried around with you.
Browse Tefal Pressure Cookers
NewWave Pressure Cookers
NewWave Multicookers are electric pressure cookers – as well as slow cookers, rice cookers and soup makers! Because they are computer controlled, they have great flexibility and control in how they are used. Set the temperature low and the pressure normal, and you have a great slow cooker for long, 5 hour+ meals. Or, set the temperature high, seal the lid and enjoy all the benefits of pressure cooking! They won’t be for everybody, but if you’re after a little more functionality with your pressure cooker, an electric pressure cooker is a choice worth looking at.
Browse NewWave Kitchen Appliances
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