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The comeback (pressure) cooker.

The pressure cooker has been out of vogue longer than most modern cooks--or their children and grand-children--can remember. Perhaps its reputation as the source of kitchen nightmares--a hissing, spitting pot threatening to erupt its contents everywhere but on the serving plate--is to blame. Fortunately, today's pressure cooker has overcome those kinks, and is in fact, well-suited to today's demand for healthy, flavorful cooking that saves money, energy and time.

Back to the future. Though mom's (or grandmother's) first-generation pressure cookers are still available, the safety features, simplicity and versatility of newer models make the upgrade the clear choice. The characteristic "jiggling" valve, which indicates when the pot has reached pressure, has been replaced by a simpler, quiet pop-up spring valve, along with a quick-release button that releases steam and pressure, along with several safety features to protect against a blowing lid. No longer made of aluminum, new pressure cookers are usually stainless steel with triple-ply bottoms, which makes them functional for regular stovetop cooking without the lid, and allows for a quick saute of ingredients before pressure cooking.

Anything that requires liquid can be cooked in a pressure cooker, because it's the steam produced by the boiling contents that cooks the food. Trapped inside the pot and unable to evaporate, steam increases the pressure above the 212[degrees]F boiling point. Pressure cookers vary in pressure from between five and 15 pounds per square inch. which brings cooking temperatures to between 220[degrees]F and 250[degrees]F--the higher the pressure, the shorter the cooking time.

Pressure perks. Since the first cast iron pressure cooker was made in France in 1679, it has been used for many purposes, but primarily canning. Recent adaptations have moved it more into the mainstream. "It's the modern appliance that's really become modern," says Jill Nussinow, M.S., R.D., pressure cooker expert and author of "The New Fast Food." Less time spent in the kitchen is one of the reasons behind the pressure cooker's comeback, explains Nussinow. It's also an energy-efficient way to cook that can help save money and preserve nutrition.

Home cooking can be challenging in today's busy lifestyle, which is one of the main appeals for using a pressure cooker. Not only is it ideal for cooking one-pot meals, but most dishes cook in one-third to one-half the time of stovetop cooking. Beans (presoaked) take an hour on the stove, but only six minutes in the pressure cooker. Whole grains, such as wild rice, barley or spelt take no longer than 25-30 minutes in the pressure cooker, compared to an hour on the stove. A whole chicken cooks in 25 minutes. Shorter cooking time saves the cook's energy, as well as gas or electricity consumed. It can also mean savings when cooking with dried beans and whole grains, which are less expensive than canned products.

Nutrition boost. The pressure cooker's quick-cooking method also preserves foods' healthy nutrients. A study in the March 2007 The Journal of Food Science found pressure-cooked broccoli retained 90 percent of its vitamin C compared to 78 percent when steamed, and 66 percent when boiled. By using very little water to cook, built-up steam stays inside the pot with the food and all of the beneficial nutrients. If there is water left when the food is done, it can be consumed with the meal, or used for making stock, sauce or stew so those vitamins and minerals are not wasted. Not only is pressure cooking a healthy choice. Nussinow says, "Your food is going to taste great." The lack of air keeps the flavors intact and colors vibrant. Nussinow adds, "I believe the pressure cooker could revolutionize peoples' eating and cooking."

TURN THIS *                                        INTO THIS *

1 c steel cut oats. 3 c liquid,dried fruit, nuts,  Oatmeal
cinnamon                                           Breakfast in
                                                   only 3-5

1 c pre-soaked pinto beans, 4 c chicken stock,     Bean Soup in
onion, tomato, green chilies, cilantro, cumin      only 10 minutes

1 whole chicken, 71 cup broth, sage, rosemary,     Chicken Dinner
thyme, lemon zest, pepper                          in only 25

4 medium russet potatoes, 1 cup broth, milk.       Mashed Potatoes
chopped herbs, garlic                              in only 4
2 tsp olive oil
1 c white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 c vegetable stock
3 cloves minced garlic
1 large bunch greens (kale, chard or spinach), chopped (3-4 c)
1 lemon (such as Meyer), zested and juiced
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat 2 tsp oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the
onion and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans and vegetable stock.

2. Lock on the lid. Bring to high pressure over high heat, then lower
heat to maintain high pressure. Cook 6 minutes. Let the pressure come

3. Remove the lid, tilting it away. Add the garlic, greens and lemon
zest and bring to high pressure.

4. Reduce heat to maintain high pressure. Cook 1 minute and then
quick-release cooker. Remove lid, tilting it away. Stir and add lemon
juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings
Nutrition Information per Serving: 257 calories, 4 grams (g) fat, 439
carbohydrates, 15 g protein, 15 g dietary fiber, 34 milligrams sodium
Recipe adapted courtesy The New Fast Food, by MI Nucsinow, MS., R.D.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pressure Cooker Primer

Follow these easy nps to cook with a pressure cooker.

1 Add ingredients to the pot.

2 Lock the lid onto the pot.

3 Place pot onto stovetop burner, and set on high heat to bring contents to boil and the pot to pressure.

4 Set timer and lower burner heat just enough to maintain pressure.

5 When timer goes off, remove the pot from heat.

6 Release the steam using a quick-release button or knob, or allow the pot to come down from pressure naturally-10-15 minutes.

7 Open the lid carefully, as the pot and contents will be very hot.
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Article Details
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Author:Zanteson, Lori
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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