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Pressure cookers gaining steam in home kitchens to cut cooking time
[February 27, 2013]

Pressure cookers gaining steam in home kitchens to cut cooking time

Feb 27, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Dorothy Boyd has put dinner on the table using a pressure cooker for more than 40 years.

"I am going to be 90, and I don't cook much anymore, but I have two pressure cookers that I still use probably once a week," Boyd said. "I probably wouldn't even know how long to cook potatoes any other way." She also loves the convenience and speed of cooking foods such as carrots and buttered beets in her stove-top pressure cookers.

And she is not alone in her adoration of the device. Pressure cooking is a method that's experiencing a recent revival, and sales of the kitchen tools are spiking.

Just imagine making a pot of beans in about 45 minutes. Or a pot of vegetable beef barley stew in under an hour.

Boyd said she got her first pressure cooker when she married in 1947. At that time, many home cooks relied on this cooking method to put food on the table. After World War II, demand resulted in more than 80 competitive brands of U.S. pressure cookers.

But the invention of convenient frozen dinners and, later, microwave ovens made pressure cookers nearly obsolete. They also got a bad rap through tales of explosions and steam burns caused by lower-quality models.

"I know a lot of people who won't use pressure cookers at all, but I have never had one blow up, and I have never had any problems," Boyd said. "You can tell if you feel like steam is getting out and the gasket is getting old. I used to go to the hardware store to buy new gaskets to replace them." Barbara Brown, a food specialist and associate professor with the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Oklahoma State University, said she has heard many of these stories from people at the pressure cooker seminars she teaches.

"These stories are mostly secondhand. People will say, my grandmother was peeling beans off the ceiling for three weeks after it blew up," Brown said. "There were all these horror stories that promoted this fear." But with some education -- and safety precautions -- newer pressure cookers with their multiple safety features and improved vent systems can be perfectly safe.

A pressure cooker preserves flavors and nutrients, tenderizes meats, and cooks foods three to 10 times faster than traditional methods, Brown said.

The pressure cooker is a saucepan with a special lid that locks in place. A tightly sealed pressure cooker traps steam, which builds pressure inside the cooker. Under pressure, internal cooking temperatures rise above the normal boiling point of water, causing foods to cook quickly.

Pressure cookers or saucepans are not the same as pressure canners, Brown noted. Pressure canners are used to safely process low-acid, home-preserved foods.

Chefs in restaurants and home cooks alike are rediscovering the benefits of pressure cookers.

"It allows you to do some things a microwave does not but still allows you to do things quickly," Brown said, adding that she believes the struggling economy is helping contribute to the resurgence.

"People are choosing to use some cuts of meat that take longer to cook, and (pressure cookers) allow them to speed up the process," Brown said. "Most people no longer have the luxury of many hours to cook." She said pressure cookers also provide additional nutritional benefits. "It allows you to cook in an enclosed area at high heat and retain some nutrients," Brown said.

For example, boiled broccoli loses 34 percent of its vitamin C, and steamed broccoli loses 22 percent. Broccoli prepared in a microwave or pressure cooker retains all but 10 percent of its vitamin C.

"The only problem with pressure cooking is there is a much greater risk of overcooking because it is enclosed and you can't see it," Brown said.

But the water used to cook foods retains the nutrients and can be reserved for other uses.

Brown said food can also be stacked and cooked at the same time. The flavors won't blend if they are not in the same cooking liquid.

There is a learning curve, as Boyd said there always is when a new device enters the market, for those who haven't been using pressure cookers for decades. "It may take a little time, just like it did for your mom when she got her first microwave," Brown said.

BARBECUE POT ROAST 1/2 cup ketchup 1/2 cup apricot preserves 1/4 cup dark brown sugar 1/4 cup white vinegar 1/2 cup teriyaki or soy sauce 1 teaspoon crushed dry red pepper 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1/4 teaspoon pepper 4 to 4 1/2 pounds beef eye of round, bottom round, boneless chuck roast or pork loin roast 1 1/2 cups water for beef or 2 cups water for pork 1 large onion, sliced 1. To make barbecue sauce, mix ketchup, preserves, brown sugar, vinegar, teriyaki, red pepper, mustard and pepper. Place roast and barbecue sauce in a large freezer bag. Refrigerate overnight.

2. Place water and cooking rack or steamer basket in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Cover rack of steamer basket with half of the sliced onions. Remove roast from sauce (reserve sauce). Put roast on onions and cover with remaining onions.

3. Close pressure cooker securely. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe. Cook at 15 pounds pressure, with regulator rocking slowly, for the following doneness: 8 to 10 minutes per pound for rare; 10 to 12 minutes per pound for medium; at least 12 to 15 minutes per pound for well-done. Cook pork 15 minutes per pound until well done. Let pressure drop of its own accord.

4. While meat cooks, place reserved barbecue sauce in saucepan and simmer, until reduced by about one-half, stirring occasionally. Remove meat from pressure cooker and keep warm. Discard cooking water or use for making soup.

5. Puree onions in a blender or food processor and add to reduced barbecue sauce. Serve sauce with sliced roast.

- courtesy of Barbara Brown of OSU SOUTHERN SOUP BEANS FOR PRESSURE COOKERS 1 pounds dried beans (pinto preferred, but almost anything will work) 1 ham hock (salt pork, ham bone or other salty pork) 1 small onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tablespoon butter or 1 tablespoon bacon grease 6 cups hot water 1. Follow directions on bean bag for presoaking the beans. Drain and rinse beans, set aside.

2. In the pan of the pressure cooker, melt butter (or bacon grease) over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until soft and lightly brown.

3. Add beans, ham hock and water to pressure cooker. Put on lid and seal. Bring heat up to high.

4. Once pressure has been reached, reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the pressure cooker from heat and release the pressure with a quick release method. Remove the cover and test beans for doneness. If necessary, cover and return the pot to pressure and cook for another 5 minutes.

6. Remove the ham hock from the soup. Discard the skin and bones. Chop the remaining meat and add it back to the soup.

7. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot with corn bread.

- adapted from GREEK-STYLE GREEN BEANS 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil 1/2 cup chopped onion 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 pound fresh green beans, cleaned and stemmed 3 cups chopped tomatoes 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 cup water 1. Heat oil in 4- or 6-quart pressure cooker over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in oil until tender.

2. Stir in green beans, tomatoes and water. Close cover securely. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe. Cook 2 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Cool cooker quickly. Season with salt and pepper.

- courtesy of Barbara Brown, OSU CHICKEN CACCIATORE 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut up 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil 1/4 cup diced salt pork or bacon 1 1/2 cups sliced onions 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons minced parsley 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dry oregano 1/2 cup chopped carrots 1/2 cup chopped celery 1 (1-pound) can Italian tomatoes, chopped 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 1. Coat chicken in mixture of flour, salt and pepper; set aside. Put oil in a 4- or 6-quart pressure cooker. Saute salt pork or bacon until crisp. Add onions and saute until light brown; remove and set aside.

2. Brown chicken a few pieces at a time; set aside. Pour off excess drippings; stir garlic, parsley and oregano into remaining drippings. Return chicken and onion to pressure cooker. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, pepper and white wine or chicken broth.

3. Close pressure cooker cover securely. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe. Cook for 8 minutes, at 15 pounds pressure, with regulator rocking slowly. Cool pressure cooker at once.

4. Place chicken on warm platter. Stir tomato paste into sauce in pressure cooker. Simmer until thickened. Pour over chicken.

- courtesy of Barbara Brown of OSU PRESSURE COOKER CHILI 3 POUNDS STEW MEAT (BEEF, PORK AND OR LAMB) 2 teaspoons peanut oil 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer, preferably a medium ale 1 (16-ounce) container salsa 30 tortilla chips 2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, chopped 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers in adobo) 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl and toss with the peanut oil and salt. Set aside.

2. Heat a 6-quart heavy-bottomed pressure cooker over high heat until hot. Add the meat in 3 or 4 batches and brown on all sides, approximately 2 minutes per batch. Once each batch is browned, place the meat in a clean large bowl.

3. Once all of the meat is browned, add the beer to the cooker to deglaze the pot.

4. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the meat back to the pressure cooker along with the salsa, tortilla chips, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomato paste, chili powder and ground cumin and stir to combine.

5. Lock the lid in place according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the steam begins to hiss out of the cooker, reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a very weak whistle. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully release the steam. Serve immediately.

- adapted from Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459 ___ (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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