WHATEVER type of pressure cooker you own or hope to buy some day, it will save time, cook meats and vegetables to perfection and preserve fragile vitamins more efficiently than any other method of cooking. A pressure cooker is the most expensive saucepan you ever expect to buy—therefore you’ll want to get the most out of it.
Before trying it out, even if you’ve seen a demonstration, sit down in a comfortable chair and carefully read all the manufacturers’ instructions.
When you’ve finished reading your lesson study the instructions again, following each step in the procedure with your cooker. Pour a cupful of water in the pot to make the experiment real and try the saucepan on the stove.
You’ll notice the instructions call for a full column of steam before adjusting weight or rocker on the vent pipe. The manufacturer means just that too. The first little spurt of steam and water bubbles is NOT the signal to adjust the weight. Allow sufficient time, a minute or so, for the air to escape, bubbles of water to stop bouncing out of the vent pipe, and a real column of steam to flow.
If the pot hisses and spits a bit, don’t worry. These noises are the natural result of air or steam passing through a narrow opening, much like the hiss of escaping air when you put your finger on the valve of a bicycle tire.
All cookers are fully protected from any possibility of danger in more ways than one. Pressure is built up to 15 pounds before the weight indicator reaches “cook” or the rocker begins to jiggle; when the pressure goes above this, the weight lifts, allowing excess steam to escape. If by any chance the
vent pipe becomes clogged, the safety plug (which is replaceable) will blow out, releasing the pressure. The worst result of such an accident is a mess in your kitchen—and if you keep your vent pipe clean this should never happen.
Always reduce heat immediately the weight indicator reaches “cook” or the rocker begins to jiggle. If you leave the heat on full, the food may burn.
Be particularly careful about regulating the temperature with foods that “froth”—oatmeal, meat stock, milk, etc.
Always wait till the pressure is completely reduced before attempting to remove the cover. Simply take the cooker off the fire (for meats, etc.) or run a stream of cold water onto the sides (for vegetables). Do not try to force the lid or remove the weight before the cooker is cooled; the cover is easily removed when the pressure has been reduced to normal.
Split-second timing is essential, especially for vegetables. The times indicated by the manufacturer may not cook vegetables and meats exactly as you like them—but they’re an excellent guide. It’s a good idea to remove the timetables from your book, cover them with “Cellophane,” then hang inside a cupboard door or some other accessible spot. Make any alterations, indicated by your tastes and preferences, on the list.
Remember that all foods cooked in a pressure cooker are cooked by moist heat; roasts are therefore pot roasts, fowl is braised—not baked. But the resulting dishes are superior of their kind—stews and vegetables being outstanding in their flavorfulness, as well as their ease of preparation.
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