Embrace the return of pressure cooking

Soon after pressure cookers’ first appearance generations ago, they acquired scary reputations. Horror stories circulated about how some people had suffered horrific accidental scalding. Kitchen ceilings occasionally wore the messy results of mishaps. Many cautious cooks feared and avoided them. The burn victims often blamed the devices rather than admit to having failed to follow manufacturers’ directions.

About five decades ago I had several neighbors who’d used pressure cookers all their adult lives without incident. Their secret? They closely adhered to all the product manufacturer’s recommended steps. If these are followed precisely, the resultant cooking experience produces quick, safe and savory meals often surpassing those produced through traditional methods.

Microwaving seemed to supplant pressure cooking for some time, but lately that bombardment of radiation is growing in disfavor among conservative, health-conscious people.

Fast food chains continue to ply Americans with tempting choices that increase suspicion of excesses in sodium, fats, and weight gains.

Today’s growing popularity of cooking shows on TV would indicate that families occasionally want tasty home-cooked dinners, and a break from calorie-laden bacon burgers. The reality of limited hours in busy cooks’ schedules clamors for something speedy, yet nutritious.

How much time would you expect to spend making a potato salad from scratch? Even in a microwave, potatoes would probably take longer to cook, and come out with an almost rubbery, unpalatable consistency.

Within seven minutes in a quality pressure cooker, they’d turn out better than what took grandma over 40 minutes using a large, covered soup pot. The trick is to use red potatoes, (considered healthier than white,) wash, and cut them into quarters first. Next put them into the pressure cooker with about two cups of water, set the cover securely in place, and turn on the heat. It can be on “high” setting at first, but lowered to medium when the cap starts to sway gently. About four minutes later, shut the heat off, and carefully move the pot from the hot burner. While it was cooking, and now that you’re waiting for the cooker to cool, you can be mixing the ingredients in the bowl you’ll use to serve the potato salad. These can consist of oil, herbs, fresh vegetables, mayo, vinegar, and spices you prefer.

Modern cookers’ lids hold indicators to signal clearly when it’s safe to open the pot. (Some are designed not to budge until it’s safe.) At that point, remove the lid, and carefully transfer the cooked potatoes into the bowl you just prepared. Gently stir your salad that’s now ready to serve.

The cooker I bought earlier this year, (after having used an older model for over 30 years,) is a six-quart, stainless steel Presto. Priced under $80, it retailed for less than my old one did originally. Simple to clean, it cooks a huge variety of recipes much faster than regular pots or ovens. I like it so much, I haven’t used my microwave since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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