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Archive for Wednesday, February 17, 1999

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February 17, 1999

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When using my pressure cooker, is it OK to release the pressure after cooking by tipping the pan on its side and allowing the pressure to escape through the vent pipe?

No! Although it is easy to use pressure cookers to save time in the kitchen, we need to respect the "cooking under pressure" method of cookery. Here's how a pressure cooker works. When water (or any liquid) boils, it produces steam. A tightly sealed pressure cooker traps this steam, which then builds pressure inside the cooker. Under pressure, cooking temperatures can be raised significantly higher than possible under normal conditions. If you are using 10 pounds of pressure, the temperature inside the cooker has raised 28 degrees these higher temperatures cooks food quickly, but can become unsafe if directions for use are not followed correctly.

These five easy steps can serve as a simple guide to using a pressure cooker. They are not intended, however, to be a substitute for the manufacturer's instructions which accompanied your pressure cooker.

1. Check the recipe for specific cooking method and cooking time. Pour required amount of liquid into the pressure cooker, then add food. Use the cooking rack if desired.

2. Hold cover up to light and look through the vent pipe to make certain it is open and unclogged. Then, place cover on pressure cooker and close securely (cover handle should be directly above the body handle).

3. Place pressure regulator firmly on the vent pipe. Heat the pressure cooker until the pressure regulator begins to rock slowly. Adjust heat to maintain a slow, steady rocking motion. Cooking time begins at this point.

4. Cook for the length of time specified in the recipe, then reduce pressure as specified. When recipe states "let pressure drop of its own accord," set the cooker aside to cool. When recipe states "cool cooker at once," cool immediately under a faucet or by pouring cold water over it.

5. Pressure is completely reduced when the air vent/cover lock has dropped. Remove the pressure regulator. Then, remove pressure cooker cover and serve food.

Can conventional recipes be converted for usage in the pressure cooker?

Generally, yes. But remember, there must always be water or some other liquid in the pressure cooker to form the necessary steam. When converting recipes, experience is the best teacher. A good rule of thumb to follow is to decrease the length of cooking time for a conventional recipe by two-thirds. The amount of liquid used may also have to be adjusted because there is very little evaporation from the pressure cooker. Generally, decrease the amount of liquid so there is only about a half cup more than desired in the finished product.

What is the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates?

Not all carbohydrates are the same! Starches, sugars and dietary fiber are different kinds of carbohydrates.

Sugars (simple carbohydrates) do occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and milk but more than half of the sugar in the American diet comes from refined or processed sugars such as table sugar (sucrose), honey, maple syrup, molasses and corn syrup. These simple carbohydrates are made of one or two sugar units.

Simple carbohydrates such as those found in sugar convert quickly to energy. Think about the speedy -- though temporary -- boost you get after eating a candy bar. This is the work of simple carbohydrates.

While sugar contributes some short-term voltage, it provides none of the nutrients we need for ongoing good health. Candy bars and many other common sugar sources do the body double disservice because they're high in fat.

Starch and most types of dietary fiber are complex carbohydrates, complex because they are made of chains of many sugar units, not just the one or two units found in simple sugars. Starches are found in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, dry beans and peas, potatoes and corn. During digestion, starch is broken down into sugar units and used by the body for energy.

The major share of our diets should include complex carbohydrates, which provide time-released energy we can use all day. They are so important that U.S. dietary guidelines now call for six to 11 servings of grain foods each day.

Dietary fiber is found in whole-grain breads and cereals, dry beans and peas, vegetables and fruits. The links between the sugar units in dietary fiber are not broken down by human digestive enzymes so fiber passes down the intestinal tract and forms bulk for the stool.

-- Susan Krumm is an extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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