Tuesday, November 11

Under Pressure

If you are considering buying or using a pressure cooker (and if you don't already own one, you really should consider it), there are a few things you ought to know.
  1. You'll need one about twice the size of whatever you might want to cook
  2. Want to make a gallon of chili? You'll need an 8-quart cooker. Because the cooking method requires pressure to build up within the covered pan, you can't fill it to the top.
  3. Only fill your pan halfway
  4. Repeat after me, "Only fill it halfway up." If you fill it too full, the steam valve will get clogged, the pressure won't build properly, and you'll end up with a pot full of burnt, half-cooked chili. Ask me how I know this.
  5. When working properly, the cooker hisses, spits steam, and the weighted cover on the steam valve rocks back and forth
  6. The first time you use it, you may think it's going to explode. It won't. If the steam valve is getting louder and the valve cover stops rocking, turn down the heat a little bit.
  7. Make sure you add enough water to produce steam pressure
  8. This may result in a slight thinning of some recipes. To counteract that, after the pressure has dissipated, uncover your pan and drain or boil off excess water.
  9. You can't open the lid before releasing the pressure
  10. Most (all?) cookers on the market today have a quick-release button. Take care when using it, however, as steam will come shooting out of the pot and can cause injury. Do not use this pressure release method with soups and stews, as superheated liquid may escape with the steam.
  11. Do not try to cook pasta or fry foods under pressure
  12. Oil does not produce steam and if heated to a high enough temperature, will catch fire. Pasta needs time to rehydrate and adding pressure does not speed up the process.
Pressure Cooking The Easy WayIf you're trying pressure cooking for the first time, I would recommend using a recipe designed specifically for use with a pressure cooker, like the one below. If you decide to make pressure cooking a regular habit, I'd suggest investing in a pressure-cooking cookbook. We have a couple different ones (also owned by Adam for more than five years); I've found Pressure Cooking The Easy Way to be most helpful.

And now for the best part, my 25-minute bean recipe!

Refried Beans in the Pressure Cooker

2 c dried pinto beans
2 T salt
2½ qt water, divided
2 T oil
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 2 T)
2 T chili powder
2 T cumin
  1. Add dried beans, salt, and 1½ qt water to cooker
  2. Bring pressure up over high heat, reduce heat and cook under pressure 5 minutes
  3. Let pressure reduce and drain beans and set aside
  4. Sauté onions and garlic over medium heat until soft (do this in the bottom of the pressure cooker)
  5. Add spices, remaining water, and beans
  6. Return to high pressure and cook 15 minutes
  7. Let pressure reduce and mash beans with a potato masher or the back of a fork
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 c (334 g)
Serving per Recipe 6
Amount per Serving
Calories 235 Calories from Fat 50

% DV
Total Fat 5.5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 287mg
Total Carbohydrates 37g
Dietary Fiber 11.5g
Sugars 3g
Protein 11g



  1. I have a pressure cooker on the tippy top shelf in the back of my pantry that hasn't seen the light of day in over 5 years. My mom uses hers ALL the time. I'm not sure why I haven't made better use of it.

    Thanks for the tips. I'll have to dig mine out and dust it off. The cookbook looks like a great idea!

    And thanks for stopping by!


  2. I used to have a pressure cooker and I was scared to death of it. My mother-in-law explained it all to me and I ended up being convinced that I would likely blow up the kitchen and myself if I tried to use it. So I never did.

    I know, I'm pathetic. But I watch you with admiration as you do these things.


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