Saturday, December 1, 2012

The best $30 I ever spent

If you follow my recipes, you've seen that I frequently talk about using my pressure cooker to make roasts and chicken. I was given my first pressure cooker almost twenty years ago. It was used, but I didn't care. I'd tasted a roast that my mother-in-law had made in one and I knew this was a pan I needed in my kitchen. Now, my former MIL wasn't one of those women who enjoyed cooking and did it for fun. She was what I call a cook-for-necessity woman. It wasn't that she was a bad cook (although don't get me started on the horrible burrito pie she tried to make me eat once. Bleh!), she just didn't enjoy it. She did it for function, not fun. That being said, the roast she made in her pressure cooker was the best I'd ever tasted and I told her as much. So when she discovered a pressure cooker at a garage sale, she picked it up for me along with a replacement seal from the local hardware store and I was on my way to fork-tender roasts in no time.

Speaking of time, that's the best thing I love about using one: it takes a fraction of the time to make dinner using a pressure cooker when compared to regular cookware.

When I've told people the secret to perfect roasts and killer chicken broth, the one resounding response is "I'm afraid of pressure cookers. I've heard horror stories about them blowing up!"

Here's the thing: they won't blow up. Believe me, I've tried.

Have they? Sure. Forty years ago before numerous safety mechanisms were added to prevent it from happening.

As long as you follow directions on the enclosed instruction manual (or a cookbook specifically designed for pressure cookers, such as this one that I own: Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass) you'll be fine. And, just in case you're not, the safety valve (which is slightly smaller than the eraser on a pencil) will burst first and send screaming steam to alert you. You turn off the heat, let the pan cool off and you're fine again. You replace the little valve piece and you're on your way again. (See? I told you I've tried!)

Something awesome about pressure cookers is there are so many to choose from and you don't have to buy top-of-the-line cookware to get good results. Like I said, the one I bought cost me $30 at Target. Of course, they also sell them for upwards of $200. For my family of four, I've gotten by with my 5-qt just fine, though I could easily use a larger one, too. Find one you like, try it out and see what you think. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be posting more pressure cooker recipes to show you how easy it is. In the meantime, put 4-5 frozen chicken breasts in a 5qt PC with 2 c of water or broth (and veggies like celery and carrots, if you like). Bring to a boil (the steam will cause the valve to toggle and hiss). Turn down the heat just enough to make it stop hissing but still wobble on the knob. Cook for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat completely and let set until the pressure button releases and you can open the pan safely. Shred the chicken and return to the broth. Cook frozen noodles according to package directions and mix with the chicken & broth. Perfect chicken noodle soup. Every time.



  1. Confession: I'm one of the fraidy cats terrified of exploding pressure cookers. I even have one in the back room that I have yet to use - silly, huh?

  2. ALY!!!! I'm so disappointed! I thought you, of all people, would have a dozen recipes or more for this thing!

    Get it out, follow the instructions and make yourself something this weekend. Seriously.