Cooking in a Pressure Cooker
In any disaster situation, energy is a premium. If you are cooking over a fire – every second of heat is paid for several times over with work finding, carrying, chopping, and stacking firewood. If you are using a petroleum based fuel you have to rely on your supply – which is something you may not be able to replace easily.
Therefore, anything you can do to cook your food faster is something to consider. Besides energy costs – time saved cooking is time gained to take care of other things (which is useful outside of a disaster).
Today’s article talks about one such time saving method of cooking. For simplicity sake we are going to use potatoes as our video example – but as you can see from the chart below – cooking in a pressure cooker works with all manner of foods.
Cooking Times Chart
Obviously many factors will influence you cooking times. Use this information as a guideline, but the actual cooking times may vary depending on your pressure cooker, heat source and the quality and/or quantity of the food.
All times are for 15psi pressure using a cooking rack.
For most vegetables, the cold water release method is recommended for tender-crisp results, and the quick release will produced a more ‘cooked’ result. Dense vegetables like whole potatoes and yams, or winter squash can benefit from the natural release. For instructions on the release method please look at the instructions at the end of the chart.
Cold Water Release Method
This is the fastest method, used to immediately stop the cooking process by lowering the heat AND the temperature. If an immediate release of pressure AND temperature is desired, the pot is carried to the sink and cold water run over the lid (but not the valve).
Always position the cooker in the sink so that it is tilted at a slight angle. Let the cold stream of water run over top of the lid, but not directly over the vent pipe or valve, letting it rundown the side of the cooker to cool it quickly.
If your faucet is too short to allow water to run over the top of the cooker use the sprayer attachment if available, otherwise partially filled with sink with cold water before setting the cooker in it.
This method is mainly used for food with very short cooking times, or where it is essential to stop the cooking process as fast as possible. Use this method for serving fresh, tender-crisp vegetables, or delicate seafoods. Owners of electric pressure cookers do not have the cold water option, and that limits some of the foods and recipes they can cook.
Precautions for the Cold Water Release Method
NEVER run water directly over the pressure release vent or valve when using the cold water release method. Direct the water to the outer edge of the lid so that it runs down the side of the pot. A variation on this method is to fill the sink with several inches of cold water and then sit the pressure cooker in the cold water bath. (When the pressure cooker is removed from heat the air molecules inside the pot begin to cool and contract, and if the vent opening is blocked by the stream of water, then no air molecules can get inside to replace the volume. The air inside the cooker rapidly contracts as it cools so there is less air pressure inside the pot than outside. This creates a very powerful vacuum that can actually cause the lid (or the weakest area of the metal) to collapse as the vacuum sucks it down inside the pot.)
Quick or Touch Release Method
Some pressure cookers with this option can vent the pressure without lowering the heat of the food. There is a special release valve on some new pressure cookers that allows for the rapid release of pressure by just turning a knob or pushing a button.
Precautions for the Quick or Touch Release Method
Do not use the quick release method for foods that increase in volume, froth or foam, or those that are mostly liquids, like soup or broth because the contents could foam, or boil up and vent through the release valve.
Owners of jiggle top models are cautioned never to tilt, lift or tip the pressure regulator weight in an attempt to lower the pressure more quickly. If the weight comes off the vent pipe the contents of the cooker can be vented through the opening in the vent pipe.
(Puffed cereals are made in HUGE versions of this type of device – cooked rice in a hot pressurized container is suddenly vented to normal atmosphere and the difference in internal pressure and external pressure causes the rice to puff – I wonder if this can be done in a cooker with this feature?)
Natural Release Method
This is the slowest method to gradually drop the pressure and the temperature to finish the cooking process. (This is the only method to use when you are CANNING)
In this method you remove the pressure cooker from the heat source and to allow the pressure to subside naturally. If you are cooking beans, potatoes, or other foods which have a skin that you wish to remain intact, this is the preferred method.
Use this release method for foods that increase in volume, froth or foam, or those that are mostly liquids, like soup or broth. Most meats and other long cooking recipes are finished this way to complete the cooking process.
If you own an electric model, keep in mind that the heating element will retain heat and that will prolong the cool down period which may result in foods that are overcooked.
Precautions for the Natural Method
The food inside the cooker continues to cook throughout this slow cool down process. This method is commonly used for finishing large cuts of meat; foods that foam froth or expand during cooking; and foods that are mostly liquid, such as stock or broth. The natural release method should not be used for delicate vegetables or fish, or any food or recipe with very short cooking times.
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