About Pressure Cookers II

This is a consolidation of information from a very informative website that has compiled data from several pressure cooker manufacturers as well as their own test. I use this site when I add pressure cooker recipes to the site. This post pertains to the use of a pressure cooker.

Pressure cooker info website.

When first starting to use a pressure cooker (this pertains to stove top type which I have), think simple items first, like a side dish or beans. Learn the basics, get comfortable using, and the basic mechanics of how it is used.

For beans, different beans have different times, same applies with dry or soaked beans. As I go through and prepare various types of beans, I will add a recipe here with the verified times. So far I have made pinto and red kidney beans, and the times I state in my recipes are perfect, and from the link provided at the top of this post.

For meats, different cuts have different times, stew beef is a different time from say an entire roast, as well as types of meat may have different times.

Your pressure cooker is a time saving tool, what I hate to see is pressure cooker chili recipes that call for canned beans, yes, canned beans. Well, that sort of defeats the purpose of using a pressure cooker to simple heat a pot of chili. How you should approach this is to use your pressure cooker to cook dry or soaked beans (dry red kidney beans takes 22 minutes on high pressure, and soaked takes just 8 minutes). Now you have flavorful beans for say a pot of chili. Drain the beans, now use the pot to brown your beef, add what ever you like, add the beans and just simmer in the pot without the lid, perfect.

Think about the time on pressure when you come across an internet recipe, does it seem right?¬†When in doubt, check the time on the site at the top of this post. A few days ago I came across a recipe for Rajma, an Indian kidney bean curry. First thing I read is the reviewers comments and see what they say and what they changed. Many people said very bland, mushy, horrible, things they did to make it flavorful, etc. So I read through the ingredients, those seemed ok, and then read through the instructions, and one item seemed very odd “place the lid on the cooker and bring to high pressure for 40 minutes, then reduce to low pressure for another 15 minutes, then allow a natural release of pressure.” That seems extremely long for red kidney beans, that were soaked as well! So when in doubt, double check the time! 40 minutes on high pressure would certainly result in bland and mushy beans. I wrote the recipe to use 8 minutes on high pressure.

You need a liquid in the pressure cooker. Say you want to pressure cook beets, I use 1 1/2 cups of water and as many beets as I want, as long I do not go over 2/3 full on the pot. The liquid provides the steam to lock up the cooker, after that, the heat and pressure do the cooking. When the cooking is done, the liquid amount is nearly what you started with.

There is no taste and adjust using a pressure cooker. Once the lid goes on and on high pressure, go for the time indicated, once the pressure is released, you can taste and adjust, most times you will adjust and just simmer for a few minutes without the lid then serve. If an item is not done, say beets are still not fork tender or beans are not tender, place the lid back on and bring up to pressure again (it is faster this time since the water is still hot) and cook for another minute or two, then let pressure release and check again. This can be caused by the type of heat source, your elevation, misread the time required, and the weight on the vent – meaning 12, 13, 14, or 15 pounds depending on your model of pressure cooker.

Stay near the pressure cooker. I have a Thai family, some are quite curious to see what I am cooking and are lid lifters. Since they cannot open the pressure cooker when it is locked up, I do not want them removing the weight, as that results in serious burns and the contents of the pot on your kitchen ceiling. So I stay near it when using it, I just go about prepping or cooking other items, and keep the family away from the cooker.

Once comfortable with using the pressure cooker and understanding how it works, then work your way to cooking an entire meal, say a stew for example.

About Pressure Cookers I

This is a consolidation of information from a very informative website that has compiled data from several pressure cooker manufacturers as well as their own test. I use this site when I add pressure cooker recipes to the site.

Pressure cooker info website.

I have a good friend I get lots of advice from, as well as the tables on the link above. As I prepare items in my pressure cooker, I add what I find as a recipe. The following info is based on my stove top (old school) 9 liter (9 1/2 quart pressure cooker.

Some info on how a pressure cooker works:

1. Water at sea level boils at 100 C (212 F), a open pot sitting on your stove boiling water will not and cannot get any hotter than 100 C (212 F). As you go up in elevation, the temperature decreases .5 C (1 F) every 500 feet in altitude. At 8,000 feet, water boils at 92 C (197 F). (Science is amazing)

2. At sea level you have approximately 15 pounds (lbs) of pressure on you, and as you go higher in altitude, you have less pressure on you. The 15 lbs is what is called 1 Bar, bar is a measure for atmospheric pressure.

3. Stove top pressure cookers typically work in the range of 13 to 15 lbs of pressure. Some older models the weight used has different openings and can operate at 10 lbs which is considered low pressure, and 13 to 15 lbs is considered high pressure.

4. The increase of pressure, just as you might have guessed it, increases the temperature of water, and the water is not boiling when the cooker is at high pressure, food items can certainly be sticking out of the water or even on a steamer rack. The water in the pressure cooker at high pressure can reach 250 F, VERY HOT and results in serious burns if the cooker ruptures or vents to atmosphere rapidly.

5. Electric pressure cookers, by their design, operate at 10 to 12 lbs, foods cooked in those takes a few more minutes than a stove top pressure cooker.

6. Food is cooked faster with a pressure cooker, and keeps the flavor in the food, not boiled away like in a pot of water on the stove.

Safety with a stove top pressure cooker:

1. Pressure cookers are probably the most dangerous kitchen item ever invented, your model of pressure cooker should have an instruction book and a list of safety precautions.

2. The basic features of most stove top pressure cooker model today are:

  • Pressure vent. This is the working part that has a weight which maintains the constant pressure. The weight normally jiggles and turns as it vents. On my model I have a cover on the pressure vent that is slotted, I remove that cover and hold the vent to a light source and look through it before each use.
  • Seal vents. There is 1 to 2 vents, just slots on the lid that will relieve pressure if the seal (gasket) fails, such as it breaks. The slots will be normally opposite the handle and are designed to direct steam downward and away from you, so keep the handle pointed towards you. Before each use, remove the gasket and feel for cracks, if smooth all the way around, place it back in the lid and continue with what you are going to cook.
  • Soft plugs. Think of these as emergency relief valves. There is normally one or two of these devices on the lid, also away from the user. These can be a popup type that works with a spring or a physical plug that will blow out when the pressure is too high. If a soft plug blows out or lifts, it is very loud, and creates a lot of steam, and pretty much any liquid in the pot will come out of the soft plug. When the soft plugs release pressure the water will boil violently and is extremely hot as well as the steam.
  • Lid lock. On modern stove top models now, most have a device that will lock the lid when there is pressure inside the sealed vessel. Mine is a pin that lifts upward into the lid handle. Some are just a simple pin, some are colored. The main thing to be aware of if the pin is raised, it means there is pressure inside and the handle is locked. The raised pin is NOT an indicator of high pressure, just an indication there is pressure inside.
  • Level of contents. For items like rice, beans, pastas, no more than 1/2 full. The reason is these items swell or foam when cooking, ALWAYS add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the pot as well to reduce the foaming, if foaming reaches the pressure vent it may block that (foam goes up the sides and across the lid). For items like meats, vegetables, no more than 2/3 full.
  • Use good charts for timing, such as the link at the top of this post or from recipes I have verified times on. Take notes on what works well for you.

Advantages using a stove top pressure cooker:

1. First, less time. Dry beans, soaked beans, whole frozen chicken, fork tender beef and pork, etc. There is Pressure Cooker sub-categories on many of the categories I have listed.

2. Flavor. The flavor stays in the food item, not simply boiled away like an open pot on the stove.

3. Less energy used. With less time, comes less energy. Think of it this way, beets. To cook beets on the stove in a pot of boiling water can take what, 30 minutes, 45 minutes? There is two factors that cause that, the amount of water you need to bring to a boil, and the water, at sea level, never gets hotter than 100 C (212 F). With my 9 1/2 quart pressure cooker, I add 1 1/2 cups of water and place the beets on the steamer tray, bring it up to pressure on high heat, does not take long to boil 1 1/2 cups of water, then the lid lock raises and the boiling stops another 1-2 minutes, at high pressure, then I turn the heat to low to maintain the pressure for 8 minutes, just 8 minutes.

4. Simplicity. With proper use, the only item to replace is the gasket, those are cheap, and some of my friends have operated their pressure cookers for many years with no failure with the gasket. If you lose the weight, that is easily replaced and low cost like the gasket. The advantage, you have a nice big thick walled pot to use without using the lid if you like. The electric models, just too many things to fail on those, and if you lose power, they cannot be used, unlike a stove top model.

Freezing Cheese

Freezing cheese is a great option for those like me that can only get specific real cheese is certain locations. I buy blocks, they freeze well.

Now if you need a particular cheese is shredded form, shred first then freeze, as frozen then thawed cheese tends to crumble instead of shredding.

I can only comment on freezing unopened blocks, not opened, used a little bit then frozen, just stick with freezing whole blocks in the original packaging.

Dice with a French Fry Cutter

I am talking about the simple handheld cutter that you would stand a potato up on your cutting board, place the cutter on the top and use both hands to push the cutter down to the board, perfect french fries. Works like a champ, easy to clean, very inexpensive kitchen gadget to have.

I made some soups recently, two called for diced potatoes and carrots, and one for diced sausage (Vietnamese pork sausage, Cha Lua). So I decided to use the french fry cutter.

Use the cutter to make “fries” with the potatoes, carrots, and even the sausage, then just lay the fries on their side and complete the dice with a knife. This saves you a few minutes in the kitchen, and the slicer is quickly washed.

Lemon & Lime Juice Measurements

Nearly all the recipes posted here (except for Thai recipes), lemon and lime juice measurements are commonly ‘juice from 1/2 lemon’ or ‘juice from two limes’. For the readers, this works well if you have regular size lemons and limes where you live.

Here in Thailand, however, lemons are not that common, and limes are small, just a bit bigger than a golf ball. So for those viewers in Thailand that want to use a recipe that calls for the juice of a lime or lemon, use this as a guide, you can still use fresh limes and lemons, BUT measure the quantities.

These are average amounts:

1 lemon yields: 3 tablespoons of juice.
1 lime yields: 2 tablespoons of juice.

Curry Paste vs Curry Powder

When I add recipes, I am clear with stating either curry powder or paste.

The difference is paste is mainly a Southeast Asia item (normally red) and powder is an Indian item (normally yellow).

You can certainly interchange the items but the dish will change in flavor. Powder has turmeric, paste does not, that is the major difference.

Casserole Dishes

I had to research this today as a recipe I am going to add calls for a 2 quart casserole dish, I don’t have any Pyrex dishes that are ‘casserole’ dishes, I just have standard state of Kansas dishes, so I looked up the size of casserole dishes. I do use Pyrex dishes for nearly everything I bake.

Casserole Size and the Baking Pan Size in inches

1 1/2 quarts = 9x5x3 loaf pan
2 quarts = 8 inch square cake pan OR 7×11 cake pan
2 1/2 quarts = 9 inch square cake pan
3 quarts = 9×13 cake pan
4 quarts = 10×14 cake pan

Several good references are here:

www.almanac.com/content/substitutions-baking-pan-sizes

www.craftybaking.com/howto/baking-pans-substitution-chart

Flour Measurements

When baking it is always best to weigh your flour than using a cup measurement. Humidity is a big factor, weighing the flour provides the most accurate way to measure. I use a digital scale for all flour measurements when making bread.

All Purpose Flour

1 cup = 128 grams = 4.5 ounces
3/4 cup = 96 grams = 3.38 ounces
2/3 cup = 85 grams = 3 ounces
1/2 cup = 64 grams = 2.25 ounces
1/3 cup = 43 grams = 1.5 ounces
1/4 cup = 32 grams = 1.13 ounces
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) = 16 grams = .563 ounces

Bread Flour

1 cup = 136 grams = 4.8 ounces
3/4 cup = 102 grams = 3.6 ounces
2/3 cup = 90 grams = 3.2 ounces
1/2 cup = 68 grams = 2.4 ounces
1/3 cup = 45 grams = 1.6 ounces
1/4 cup = 34 grams = 1.2 ounces

Rye Flour

1 cup = 102 grams = 3.6 ounces

Digital Scales

When I ordered an electric meat grinder, I also ordered a digital scale, after all, the goal was to grind meat so I needed to weigh it out. And I will say, this little device is a life saver!

The best feature of a digital scale over a conventional scale is the tare feature, which removes the weight of the bowl or plate you are using to hold the item being weighed. Very useful when weighing ground meat or flour. To use the tare feature, normally you would just turn on the scale, let it zero out, place say a plate on the scale and it will show that weight, then press the Tare button, and the weight is removed and goes back to zero, then you add what you are weighing and you have the accurate weight.

Ground meat is easy, I pack everything into 500 gram (1 lb) packs and freeze those. Very handy and convenient.

Now the perfect use for a scale, flour. I am a firm believer in weighing flour for breads and pastries, not using a measuring cup. And as I go through my recipes, I will change cup measurements to grams and will list the cup measurements as a note. Measuring flour with a cup does not take into consideration how the cup is packed or the humidity of the flour, weighing is the most accurate measurement, this is very true for bread and pastry formulas.

Zip Lock Bags

This may seem like an odd post but I thought this was warranted. Zip lock bags were not available in the town near us for about 3 years, now they are stocked and we get them often. These surprisingly are labeled as 1 Gallon bags, with expanding bottoms as well. Only this size is available here, smaller sizes would be nice but I won’t complain as I have them now.

If you are grinding your own meat, these are a bonus to you, put the meat in, roll up, seal, and label. I keep these at 500 grams of ground beef or pork per package.

Think of marinating some meat for the grill or cooking later, add everything to the bag and the meat, squish it up a bit to mix it in, roll to get all the air out, seal, and refrigerate, easy.

If you buy vegetables on sale, such as bell peppers, dice the peppers and bag what you think would be needed in a recipe and freeze.

Very versatile.