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Archive for Monday, June 4, 2012

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Go Green: Pressure cooker a worthwhile investment

June 4, 2012

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This is what I remembered about the pressure cooker: I remembered the hissing dial on top, its menacing rattle. I remember my mother warning my sisters and me not to go anywhere near it or we would make the top blow off and scald ourselves beyond recognition.

Several years ago during Nancy O’Connor’s Bean Cooking Basics class at the Merc, I expressed this fear. Other class members’ mothers had scared them of the pressure cooker, too.

O’Connor said that for cooking beans — and many other things, it turns out — the pressure cooker would become essential, our best friend.

She reassured us that the appliance has come a long way since our childhoods. Seals are stronger. Safety mechanisms let you know when it’s safe to remove the lid.

After tasting the difference from the sad canned beans I’d been eating and the meaty tasting ones she prepared that night, I conquered my fear and went right down to Weaver’s the next day to buy my own 8-quart pressure cooker.

Yes, the initial investment of between $75 and $200 can be daunting, but mine has more than paid for itself. For some of the most economical, practical and the greenest cookware around, you needn’t look any farther than the pressure cooker. Following are some reasons to add one to your kitchen.

  • They conserve energy. In 15 minutes, you can cook most things including beans, root vegetables, the hardest squash imaginable, brown rice and even meat. Less cooking time truly does add up to lower electric bills. Also, in the heat of the summer, you can have a meal ready in less than 30 minutes, and you’ll keep the heat of the cooking process inside the pot so you don’t put a strain on the air conditioner — simply put the cooker outside to release steam. Even with a small, 8-quart cooker like mine, you can easily can small batches of the summer’s windfall of fruit and vegetables without heating up the house.
  • Pressure cookers save money. As you probably already know, bulk dried items like beans are far cheaper than the canned variety. Without a pressure cooker, dried beans take almost forever to cook. The pressure cooker can also make tender, delicious work of tougher but less expensive cuts of meat like brisket and stew meat.
  • They decrease packaging. Buying food in bulk eliminates the waste of raw materials used for cans and other packaging.
  • You can’t beat the taste. You’ll be eating food with far more flavor than processed foods that lose taste, texture and body during the long journey from harvest to packaging. Unless you know someone with a pressure cooker who will invite you over for a taste test, you’ll just have to trust me on this.

At the bean class, O’Connor told us two pieces of cookware she wouldn’t want to live without: a cast-iron skillet and a pressure cooker. Mother knew best, after all.

— Kelly Barth can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

Comments

Robert Rauktis 2 years, 6 months ago

Beans and toast are a student and poor man's breakfast staple in Great Britain. Yet the major food outlets have no dried navy (haricot) beans, requiring Internet searches or using the "tinned" (canned) version which are soggy beyond the recognition of a boat's bottom. Baked beans are tomato soup and the aforementioned... pretty vile even for a hungry, desperate student. Like overcooked pasta, way past "al dente", probably the necessary downside of industrial food preparation. Delay from ground to mouth invariably sacrifices taste and textural quality.

For bean dishes, overnight soaking and slow cookers are the alternative not requiring much drawbacks of an open flame. This destroys the "spontaneity" of recipes, but is the only alternative to keeping "bean-i-ness" in the beans.

Stuart Sweeney 2 years, 6 months ago

Tender meat, quicker beans, faster cooking time, I have used one for years and heartily agree!

canyon_wren 2 years, 6 months ago

I received a 4-quart pressure cooker from my parents back in 1969 when my husband and I first moved to a fairly high altitude. I have used it faithfully over the years. I would have to disagree with the idea that food cooked in it has a better flavor. I don't think that is true of some things, like meats, though it certainly applies to beans. I use mine most frequently for fresh and frozen vegetables, which just take a few minutes to cook. I finally had to replace my good original Presto cast aluminum one with a newer one from Presto and it is not nearly as satisfactory, but better than nothing.

melott 2 years, 6 months ago

If you have a slow cooker and a microwave, why would you need a pressure cooker?

canyon_wren 2 years, 6 months ago

A slow cooker serves an opposite purpose from a pressure cooker so both are very useful. I seldom use my microwave for cooking foods--just for warming up leftovers, etc.--as I am not pleased with the results when cooking with one. Nor do I use mine for defrosting, except in an emergency, as the thawing is usually "uneven" and meats are partially cooked in spots. I have found all three items handy for very different reasons.

introversion 2 years, 6 months ago

Pressure cookers are a huge asset to any kitchen. A few points not mentioned in the article:

-Douglas County Extension Office usually has a pressure cooker safety check. Haven't heard about it this year, but the service has been offered many times in the past.

-Also, we're all aware of the evils of BPA's in plastic water containers; they're also a huge part of tin can linings for canned vegetables. Buy some mason jars, start canning and skip all those BPA's in your store-bought tin can veggies.

shadowlady 2 years, 6 months ago

I remember just after I had my first child, I was in Mom's kitchen, (which was small), and she had something cooking in her pressure cooker, when it blew up. Needless to say it scared the living daylights out of me and I screamed to high Heaven, and I remember food hanging from the ceiling and food all over the place. So I don't care how safe they are today, I'm not buying one.

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