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Extension Agent: Pressure cookers save time, money, energy

By By Erika Bochat
July 3, 2012 at 2:03 a.m.


It's baseball season. The time when hundreds of youth take the field and wreak havoc with meal preparation time.

Did you know that you probably have a cooking utensil in your kitchen right now that can save you time and energy when you need it most?

It's your pressure cooker.

Surveys indicate that more than half of all households have a pressure cooker, but not everyone who owns one takes advantage of all the pluses it offers. And in meal preparation, technique often has to take a back seat to convenience and time.

Fortunately for modern-day cooks, pressure cooking hasn't changed much in the last 300 years.

A pressure cooker is easy to use, energy-efficient, safe and very versatile.

Almost any food that requires moist-heat cooking is an ideal candidate for pressure cooking. It's great for hearty stews, mouth-watering roasts, succulent vegetables and delicious desserts.

Plus, pressure cooking means that even the busiest of cooks can prepare meals from scratch and still adhere to the "fresh is best" philosophy of cooking.

When water or any liquid in the cooker boils and produces steam, the super-heated steam in the sealed pressure cooker builds pressure inside the pot.

Under pressure, cooking temperatures are raised much higher than under normal stove-top cooking conditions.

All those menu mainstays cook three to 10 times faster and foods cook quickly, evenly and deliciously.

You don't need special recipes to cook with a pressure cooker, either. It's simple to convert your favorite conventional recipes to this wonderfully fast and easy method of cooking.

While experience is the best teacher, a good rule of thumb to follow is to decrease the length of cooking by one third. For example, if your favorite chicken cacciatore recipe calls for 30 minutes of cooking time, it should only take about 10 minutes in the pressure cooker.

The amount of cooking liquid used may also have to be adjusted because there is little evaporation in pressure cooking. In general, you can decrease the amount of liquid called for in the recipe so there is only about one half of a cup more than desired in the finished product.

Remember that there must be some water or other cooking liquid in the pressure cooker to form the necessary steam used in preparation. Wine, bouillon, fruit juices and water all make excellent pressure cooking liquids.

To help you discover all the joys of pressure cooking, the Presto Pressure Cooking Institute has a website that you'll want to check out on how to use the cooker, whole meal magic, and frequently asked questions pages that walk you through how versatile the pressure cooker can be. Their website also includes some fantastic recipes you can try. If you do happen to need more information, they have pressure cooking experts who can answer any of your emailed questions.

When the pressure is on to eat right and you must balance that with concerns about health, nutrition and food safety, you can't cook healthier, tastier or faster from-stove-to-table meals than you can with a pressure cooker.

Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent-Family and Consumer Sciences.

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