cooking under pressure

Presto pressure cooker

(with accompaniment by the Piano Man)

Within the real food movement, pressure cookers are not as controversial as microwaves, but not nearly as beloved as crockpots.

Health-wise, what we know is that pressure cooking destroys lectins, a class of anti-nutrients, found in grains and beans. reference

Personally, I find a pressure cooker just ROCKS my kitchen.

You have to learn to pace yourself Pressure You're just like everybody else Pressure You've only had to run so far So good But you will come to a place Where the only thing you feel Are loaded guns in your face And you'll have to deal with Pressure You used to call me paranoid Pressure But even you cannot avoid Pressure You turned the tap dance into your crusade Now here you are with your faith And your Peter Pan advice You have no scars on your face And you cannot handle Pressure All grown up and no place to go Psych 1, Psych 2 What do you know? All your life is channel 13 Sesame Street What does it mean? (I'll tell you what it means) Pressure Pressure Don't ask for help You're all alone Pressure You'll have to answer To your own Pressure I'm sure you'll have some cosmic rationale But here you are in the ninth Two men out and three men on Nowhere to look but inside Where we all respond to Pressure Pressure All your life is Time Magazine I read it too What does it mean? Pressure I'm sure you'll have some cosmic rationale But here you are with your faith And your Peter Pan advice You have no scars on your face And you cannot handle Pressure Pressure Pressure One, two, three, four Pressure

Technically, one could cook in a pressure canner, but honestly the thing is so big and heavy that washing it would be a pain. I never use my pressure canner except to can, where I pretty much never have anything to clean out of it but mineral deposits from my hard water (a glug of vinegar during use does that handily). So while I've known you could cook in a pressure canner, it always seemed too much hassle to me just cause I wouldn't want to clean the thing.

So I got a cheapo Presto pressure cooker. I got the 4-quart because I figured with just two of us, the 6-quart was overkill. However, you can only fill it 2/3 of the way and with my tendency to cook in big batches, I regret not getting the 6-quart.

My pressure cooker comes with a base that goes on the bottom to keep foods from sitting right there and burning. I never use it. Basically, foods cooked in a pressure cooker are braised, rather like a crockpot or in a long slow oven. And I prefer my meats and veggies browned before braising. What I do is put some coconut oil, bacon grease or butter in the bottom of the cooker, brown whatever veggies or meat I'm cooking in batches, then add my liquid (broth or water), beans or rice or potatoes or whatever else I might want, put on the top and bring to pressure.

You can invent recipes easily as it comes with a little booklet that tells you how long to cook various things. Look up your longest cooking ingredients and now you know how long to cook the whole pot. Even dried beans (if soaked) cook in 10-15 minutes. And after a while, you'll just get a feel for how long to cook things.

With my pressure canner, I tend to do canning at dinner time, bring it to pressure, set a timer, then turn it off and let it sit overnight. It's a pain to do load after load cause the pressure canner has to come back down after each use, so I only do one load at a time.

But with the pressure cooker, you pick the pot up off the stove, stick it in the sink, run cool water over it and in less than a minute, the pressure is gone. You cooked in 10 minutes and you have it ready to serve a few seconds later.

I wish I'd had this when I was working full-time, as you could thaw a chunk of meat before work and still have a hot homemade meal on the table in under a half hour when you got home.

As it is, because my fatigue is variable, I might thaw a chunk of meat and not be sure when I'm going to cook it. And if I have a few bad days, I wind up with this meat in my fridge giving me the evil eye, threatening to go bad.

(It was happy-go-lucky meat when pulled from the freezer, but now it has fallen in with a bad crowd and is saving up for a leather jacket and plotting to paint it's room black.)

So worse comes to worse, I can pressure cook the threatening meat plain with just water, no seasoning or veggies, pop it in my trusty pint-sized plastic containers and freezer it for later.

Like braised or crockpot meats, pressure cooked meats make their own broth. You will need to add some water to keep it from burning, but you will get more water than you started with. Also, it's very easy to overcook meat in a pressure cooker, so stick to your instruction manual at first and if you need to adjust, raise time very gradually. Overcooked meat goes past the luscious tender falling-off-the-bone stage right to dry and stringy, you don't want that.

And speaking of broth, that is a whole 'nother awesome use for a pressure cooker - really fast, really good broth.

If you cook a whole chicken or a roast in the pressure cooker, you get some broth automatically, same as with any braised dish.

But you can also throw just bones or a chicken carcass in there with the same glug of vinegar and water you'd do in a crockpot or stockpot and you get broth FAST. Not only is it fast, but it's thorough. Even ham and beef bones get soft, and poultry and lamb bones nearly disintegrate.

I consider my best broths to be the kind that forms three layers when refrigerated - the bottom has this thickened layer of dissolved minerals, the middle is a big layer of gelled broth and the top has a nice fat cap on it. Don't get me wrong, ALL broth is good, but sometimes it's better than others. And the pressure cooker wins hands down, nearly always making the highest quality broth.

IMO, broth is always yummier if the bones have been browned first, so I tend to use bones leftover from other cooking (or if doing beef broth from bought bones, I brown in the oven one day and make broth the next).

But you can do the whole thing in the pressure cooker. Make a nice braised chicken and veggie dish like coq a vin, then after picking the meat off the bones, throw the carcass back in with water and vinegar and bring to pressure for an hour and make broth. You get the best broth out of that sucker.

I've only had my pressure cooker a few years but barely remember how I got along without it; I want to go back in time and give it to my younger self.

She liked rocking out to Billy Joel while cooking too!

>sample recipes

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pressure cooker chili

Keep in mind, we're wimps. If you like your chili hot, swap out the bell peppers for jalapenos or serranos and double up the cayenne.

Category: dinner
Cooking Method: pressure cooker
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 cup dry pinto beans
  • 1 TB vinegar
  • 1 TB sea salt
  • 1 TB coconut oil or bacon grease (optional)
  • 1 lb pound ground beef, pork or lamb
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 quart canned tomatoes
  • 2 TB oregano
  • 1 TB cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper


  1. The previous night, place pinto beans in a bowl with a quart of water; add vinegar and salt and let soak.
  2. Drain and rinse beans in colander.
  3. If meat is very lean, heat 1 TB coconut oil or bacon grease in bottom of pressure cooker over medium heat.
  4. Cook ground meat, onions and peppers with occasional stirring until meat is cooked through. Add garlic and continue cooking another minute.
  5. Add drained beans, 1 1/2 cups water and all remaining ingredients.
  6. Place lid on pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook 10 minutes.
  7. Place pressure cooker in sink and run cold water over it until pressure is released.

pressure cooker beef stew

Category: dinner
Cooking Method: pressure cooker
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 TB coconut oil or bacon grease
  • 1 lb beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup dry red wine (or water)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 small potatoes, quartered
  • 4 large carrots, cut into chunks


  1. Heat 1 TB coconut oil or bacon grease in bottom of pressure cooker over medium heat.
  2. Cook beef with occasional stirring until browned on all sides. Add wine, onion and seasonings and bring to pressure.
  3. Cook at pressure for 10 minutes; then place in sink and run cold water over it until pressure releases.
  4. Remove lid, add potatoes and carrots. Replace lid and return to pressure.
  5. Cook at pressure for 3 minutes; then place in sink and run cold water over it until pressure releases.
Disclosure: Affiliate