Make easy budget-friendly meals fast with a pressure cooker.
Even though I have cooked professionally for more than 30 years, it was my Spanish teacher, Patricia, in Quito, Ecuador, who
convinced me that a pressure cooker could make my life easier. She explained that they are indispensable for preparing bean
and whole-grain dishes quickly. I realized that a pressure cooker might help me incorporate these longer-cooking healthy
foods that I often don’t have time to prepare into my diet more often. So I decided to give pressure cooking a try.
Pressure cookers have come a long way since their heyday in the 1940s and ’50s. Modern pressure cookers are equipped with
multiple safety features. The design of the lid-locking system makes it impossible for the lid to be removed when the pot is
under pressure. New-generation pressure cookers, equipped with spring-valve pressure regulators, are quiet, streamlined and
A pressure cooker works by trapping steam inside the sealed pot. This causes the atmospheric pressure to rise, which
increases the boiling temperature of water. So, instead of cooking food at 212°F (if you are at sea level), you cook it at
250°F, resulting in dramatically faster cooking times. And this translates into major energy savings. Depending on the type
of food and whether you cook on gas or electric, a pressure cooker can help you green up your kitchen with an energy savings
of up to 60 to 80 percent, according to manufacturers.
Cooking with a Pressure Cooker
On my first attempt, I was sold—I cooked up a pot of creamy cannellini beans in just about 15 minutes, instead of an hour or
more! I quickly gained confidence and experimented with other foods. I found that inexpensive cuts of stewing meat tenderize
beautifully in a pressure cooker in far less time than they normally would. In addition, the sealed environment intensifies
the flavor of the braising liquid. A practical pot roast, which used to be reserved for a leisurely Sunday, is now an option
for a weeknight meal. And everyday basics like whole-grain brown rice cook in just 15 minutes—instead of the traditional 50
Pressure cookers are not as popular in North America as other convenience appliances, such as the microwave oven and slow
cooker, but I think their time has come. They can help you get an economical, healthy meal on the table in record time, while
you reduce your energy bill.
A Note for High-Altitude Cooks:
If you live at an altitude of 2,000 feet or higher, a pressure cooker may be your best friend in the kitchen. The lower
atmospheric pressure at high altitudes allows water to boil at lower temperatures than at sea level. By increasing the
pressure, a pressure cooker raises the temperature at which water boils, thus helping to compensate for the longer cooking
times caused by high altitude. Discoverpressurecooking.com recommends adjusting pressure cooking times according to the
following formula: For every 1,000 feet above 2,000 feet elevation, increase the cooking time by 5%.
Patsy Jamieson is a former food editor and Test Kitchen director at EatingWell. She revisits the magazine’s Test Kitchen
regularly to prepare food for photo shoots.