International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

All Hail the Pressure Cooker

Pressure cooker

Image Creative Commons by Joe

I've had a pressure cooker for years. My dad gave it to me as a birthday present. He has a huge garden and always does tons of canning in the late summer. Dad passed the passion on down to me, and I've used my pressure cooker over the years for preserving many a batch of fruits, vegetables and beans. One thing I have rarely used it for is cooking dinner. My meal last night reminded me why that's a bad oversight.

It was a chill, rainy day and the night looked to be positively frigid. What better time for a pot roast? I was fantasizing about it all day long at work. Only problem is, a good pot roast can require up to 3 hours to get meltingly tender. I got off around 5. And after a commute, picking up the kids from daycare, and changing diapers, that put us eating around 10 p.m. Not a good idea.

So I decided to try pressure cooking. By increasing the pressure inside the pot, pressure cookers also increase the temperature. So food that normally takes 3 hours to finish can be done is as little as 45 minutes. Some people are afraid of pressure cookers with visions of exploding pots and food on the ceiling (think Breakfast at Tiffany's). But that's an outdated vision; cookers these days are much safer and more well built. I pulled out my trusty Mirro.

I based my roast on the brasato al chianti recipe. First I seared the meat and then sautéed some onions, mushrooms and carrots. Next I added a little tomato sauce, some red wine, a little oregano and rosemary, salt and pepper. I popped on the lid and followed the instructions for my particular cooker.

An unbelievably heavenly smell permeated the whole house. About 45 minutes later I turned off the heat and let the pressure drop. When I opened the lid a beautiful sight lay before me. The meat, a cheap and tough beef chuck roast, practically melted as I sliced into it. The vegetables were cooked through but not mushy. And the sauce? Wow! I never get a sauce that flavorful when I braise the regular way. It really was amazing.

Moral of the Story: Fabulous homemade, slow-braised comfort food can be made quickly and served to an appreciative family when made in a pressure cooker. It works for beef, pork, chicken, chili, beans, stews and more. Invest a few bucks in a good quality cooker. Your tummy will thank you for it.

What wonderful meal have you cooked in a pressure cooker?