Guest Post

Pressure cooking saves time and tenderizes

by S.K. Ammerman

Susan AmmermanPressure cooking will never replace roasting, but it definitely has its uses.

I cooked a 5.85 pound whole chicken in the Instant Pot in two 15-minute ‘poultry’ sessions. If I’d been more ambitious I’d have added vegetables and continued on the ‘slow cook’ option. Two-thirds cup of water made ample steam.

If you’d like to know: The secret to safe pressure cooking is to limit or avoid the foods that can clog the vent: beans, rice, barley, other cereals and pasta. If the small particles rise high enough a blockage can occur. It’s good to have a healthy respect for the limits.

The instructions and recipes cover safe use of these foods, but generally never fill the cooker more than 1/2 full of foods that froth when expanding. And check the timing chart to avoid overcooking (and fragmenting) the cereals.

I’ve previously learned to cook grains in a smaller vessel set on a trivet inside the pressure cooker. This works quite well. Add measured water to the grains and more water to the cooker itself. The recipe book has charts giving measures and cooking times for each type of grain or bean.

The whole business becomes easier after a few runs. Most of the grains are safely used in soups. You can saute in the cooker, but not fry food. The gasket won’t like the oil. Non-frothy contents, such as soups and sauces, can fill the cooker up to 2/3.

Failure to seal is more of an inefficiency issue. Replace the gasket and plug if they seem to be aging, stiff and cracking. The parts, including the regulator, are sold at hardware and home stores. A supple plug is the part you want to blow in the unlikely case of a blocked vent. The cooker shouldn’t explode.

Pressure cooker safety tipes:

Stonefield SheepSusan Ammerman and her husband Bart Ellison moved to northern New Mexico from New Orleans in 1999 to retire and raise a few sheep. Ammerman set out to raise easy care sheep as a quieter alternative to power lawn equipment. The project evolved into preserving the Navajo-Churro sheep breed and raising flavorful meat lambs for the local market. Ammerman is a Houston, Texas, native who is a University of Houston journalism graduate. She studies sheep and chicken genetics, social cognition and horticulture.

Photos: Courtesy S.K. Ammerman

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