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A pressure cooker is an essential appliance for the enthusiastic home cook who has little time to spare. It allows you to create recipes that would normally take hours in a fraction of the time. Make stock in just over an hour, prepare your pork shoulder in as little as 45 minutes and cook dried beans in as little as 20 minutes. Anything you can do in a slow cooker or in a covered pot on the stove top you can do in a pressure cooker, but in less time.
You heat source (gas, electric, ceramic, induction) will determine the time it takes for your pressure cooker to pressurise. You can accelerate the heating process by using boiled water instead of cold.
Regardless of what you are cooking, start with the element on high and the pressure valve set to the highest pressure. This will help to build pressure faster.
To know when the pressure cooker is pressurised look for a slow steady stream of steam flowing from the valve. If the steam is bellowing out or liquid is spluttering turn the element down, if the there is no steam or it is not flowing consistently increase the heat.
Cooking time starts from the time the pressure cooker reaches the required pressure.
To check the progress of your recipe while it is cooking slide your pressure cooker off the heat and gradually lower the pressure setting on the valve until all the steam is released. Only then can you remove the lid safely and look inside.
For casserole and stew recipes with diced meat, cut the meat a little thicker so that it maintains its shape in the pressure cooker. Smaller cuts can fall apart completely during the pressure cooking process.
Depending on your pressure cooker you will have different settings, but most if not all pressure cookers will have an option to fully open the steam valve during cooking. Doing this allows you to use your pressure cooker as a slow cooker instead as the pressure will naturally escape from the pan while keeping the majority of liquid inside the cooker.
Slow cooked recipes tend to be more stewed in texture, a little bit more caramelised and cooked foods are softer with a deeper flavour. Pressure cooking on the other hand drives moisture into the food so while meats are tender and come apart easily, their texture is much more firm. Sauces in a pressure cooker need some reduction after the pressure cooking portion of preparation is finished to become thick, but some people prefer the thinner consistency of sauces from a pressure cooker.
The TEFAL Secure Neo pressure cookers and Breville Fast Slow Pro are available now at The Essential Ingredient Rozelle. For pricing information and current stock levels please contact the store.